Father/Son Turbo LS S197 Mustang built for Drag and Drive

Enjoy the following write-up by Steve Trance about his and Dustin’s Father and Son S197 Turbo LS Mustang built to compete in Drag and Drive events like Hot Rod Drag Week!
“Dustin and I are a father and son team, Dustin started racing quarter midgets at 8 years old and champ karts until he was 16. He has driven dirt bull rings, asphalt ovals, and even Daytona. In addition to driving our Mustang Dustin has an Infinity G35 drift car with a G37 swap that fulfills his occasional need to drive sideways.
Graduating from karts our first Drag Week was in 2012 with our LS swapped 79 Malibu that finished 2nd in SS/SB/NA with Dustin driving.
The Mustang came about in late 2015, Dustin had moved from home in Florida to Colorado, so I took on building the Mustang as my 60th year project. Originally, I intended on racing in Coyote stock but the competitive weight breaks for automatics never came to be so I turned to Drag Week 2016 as the goal.
Being an NA guy and experienced with LS engines I considered an S197 LS swap might the best of both worlds. The Cobra Jet spec Mustang chassis works great with just bolt on’s and the LS was very cost effective compared to the Coyote.
At the Daytona spring car show I came across the AJE booth and they had a prototype cradle for an S197 LS swap on display, that’s all I needed for motivation.
In February 2016 the car was just a gutted bare body shell from a salvage title Mustang on my rack with no parts on order.
The chassis is basically a Cobra Jet clone with CJ specific parts from Strange, S&W, TRZ and BMR.
The chassis, motor, trans, diff, headers, wiring etc. were built entirely in our home shop with the exception of welding the Wolfe Racecraft chromoly 8.50 cage. In 4 months it made it’s first pass.
The performance was so so mostly due to my choice to run a Powerglide, I flew Dustin in to co-pilot and I drove all the tracks finishing a respectable 5th on SS/SB/NA.
As for the LS swap its not common in the S197 and we do get some heat from Ford guys that are still butthurt about LS fox body’s, we just tell them its a two valve.
In 2018 we returned to Drag Week this time with a trick TH350, gear vendors, and a 4.86 rear gear with Dustin driving we finished 3rd in SR/SB/NA.
In 2019 Dustin returned home to Florida, we wanted to do another Drag Week but both of us wanted to go faster. My head was still wrapped around NA classes, and I started putting feelers out to my old NASCAR contacts for an SB2 motor. Dustin was thinking turbo and convinced me to go that way. We already had a couple of turbo builds between us and a lot of the NA motor and Holley system could be reused.
The real decision maker was cost, 30K to build a competitive, high maintenance NA SB2 or about 8k to go turbo using a lot of the existing parts.
Our aim was SR/SB/PA, we started the changeover in March and made the first hits and license passes in July. Because of the Florida summer rains testing was very limited, we went into Drag Week 2019 with only a handful of passes on the car. Finished a conservative 5th and made every mile so it was a win and a learning event for us.
Got to thank Joe Jennings for teaching me how to tune the Holley Boost Builder, these events are never short of people willing to help if you ask.
Our return to Drag Week 2021 was with every intention to win SR/SB/NA, the car was repeating 8.50’s in testing like clockwork but we were back to running the Glide with a Gear Vendors and having to push the motor much harder than I wanted only to get mediocre 60fts.
In July I built a TH400 to replace the Glide, ditched the Gear Vendors and went with 3.25 gear. Sonnax engineering provided some heavy duty hardware and good build advice. Our first test pass with the TH400 off the trailer was an 8.504 with 4lbs less boost and we picked up .5 in the 60 with a very soft launch ramp.
We went into Drag Week 2021 with three 8.50ish test hits, 30 drive miles, and an unproven tranny.
We won after a week long battle with Honk [Honk if parts fall off], much respect for that guy and the fight he gave us. The largest gap during the week was .009 and the win was by an .006 margin.
Consistency did not come easy, the trans started erratically overrunning the 1-2 shift by 600- 700 RPM on day 2 and Dustin was manually shifting. We found out later the trans had fragged the intermediate piston seal but otherwise it survived the week.
Indy threw us for a loop when I overlooked resetting the shocks from street to race and the car power wheelied for about 300ft. Great YouTube video by 1320.
The tune was the same as we went 8.50 at Norwalk the day before, so go figure. Overlooking the shock mistake, we started retuning the boost and our 8.50 went out the window. Later we realized what was wrong but it took 4 passes that day.
Funny part is we have a detailed drive to race conversion procedure taped inside the trunk lid and “set shocks” is on the list. Drag and Drive events can really challenge your focus.
The best part of winning Drag Week was the surprise after party given to us by friends Willard Howard, Meric O’Grady, Bob Benson, and Jim Barlow. Disguised as a dinner they presented us with a huge $8.50 winner’s check, hand made banners, play money, and paper crowns. They were so confident we would win that they started planning on Wednesday. With the exhaustion setting in were a little overwhelmed at that point but that is what drag and drive does for friendships.
We repaired the tranny and installed an air shifter to win the Gainsville 352 Shootout Limited Street title in October right after Drag Week. It’s run on an 8.50 index and it was great to back up our Drag Week win.
Unfortunately Dustin tested positive with Covid two days before Sick Week so we had to bail, we were both really down about it because we know we have a solid package.
The motor is a 419″ LS based on a Texas Speed large bore sleeved GenIV block with 1/2″ head studs. Pistons are CP Bullet with Lunati crank and rods. Heads are Trick Flow 255’s, the hydraulic cam is a custom ground spec’d by Martin at Tick Performance with Comp short travel lifters and 1.8 Comp rockers.
It is fitted and assembled in our shop.
We use a large Treadstone air to air intercooler that takes up every inch of space behind the bumper.
The turbo is a VS Racing Next Gen 88/103, another a real solid company to deal with and zero problems with their product.
The turbo system is made from Holley manifolds that I extensively ported.
To answer your question about our Drag and Drive mentality, we have kept the car as simple as possible to maintain the ET goals. No dump valves, smartwires, tigged tubing, billet bling, and other elaborate stuff that can complicate tuning, parts sourcing, and repair.
I’m sure we are giving up a some ET and appearance points with the simpler systems but it is rock solid reliable and easy to maintain.
I see a lot of racers caught up in the bling and tech race that don’t make it past day one or are out of their element tuning or repairing a complex car.
Our car has a huge Mishimoto OE fitment radiator, we use a 7 blade GT500 fan, OEM reliable but easy to find a stock Ford GT fan or radiator on the road.
We use E85 through a dual pump fuel system, an A1000 with a speed controller for the road and the primary race pump, a 4303 gear pump comes in at 3 lbs. boost.
Grant Farmer at Fuel Injector Services provided the genuine Bosch 210 injectors and valuable advice how to keep them in good shape with pump E85.
The transmission has two big Derale coolers with a thermostat and an AFT charge pressure regulator, we can round robin and stay at185f and never get hot on the drives.
I kept the stock LS mechanical front belt drive including water pump, power steering and 140amp alternator, again not as pretty as the racy stuff but parts are easy to find and the engineering of the OE stuff is proven.
The power steering assist provides less fatigue on the drives, being class competitive means often we are late leaving the tracks, driving late at night anything to reduce fatigue is a big plus.
The car is wired with a Ron Francis early GM kit, it’s as simple as a 60’s Camaro and all the wires are marked every few inches. Again no fancy smart wire stuff, it’s super easy to diagnose, find parts, and fix.
EFI is a Holley HP with the CAN expansion module, a hold over from the simpler NA days but gets the job done.
Basically our idea is to not get wrapped up in all the tech and pretty stuff unless there is a clear advantage for ET or safety. Function over appearance is at the top of the list.
Our tuning strategy is different than most 8.50 cars, can’t talk about that.
We pull a trailer because we don’t want to run the Hoosier DR compound drag radials on the road, for safety reasons and we like to keep the track tires as fresh as possible plus with E85 we carry a lot of fuel reserve.
At Drag Week 2016 the car got the attention of Hot Rod and we spent the morning of day one being interviewed and rewarded with the events opening news feed article.
https://www.motortrend.com/features/cobra-jet-killer-can-use-textbook-2016-drag-week/ “
Thank you Steve for the awesome detail!! We will follow along as the boys compete on Hot Rod Drag Week 2022!