Saturday, July 3, 2010

Speeddemon - Not Just an E-Mail Name

It's the 4th of July weekend, and our holiday plans got all cattywumpous on us. What was going to be the traditonal celebration of the twins' birthday at the lake house, was turned by kids' schedules, work schedules, and exes' holiday plans, into a hodgepodge of different activities. Donna ended up there eventually with some kids, and the rest of the time we filled very easily (imagine that!)

Among other things, it allowed us to pull something from the 'one day' list and plug it into the schedule: Friday night street drags at Island Dragway. For a while, I had run every car I owned no matter if it barely broke 75 mph in the quarter-mile. The '88 Mustang easily the fastest with a 14.21 sec / 96 mph best, until I traded it in on a baby girl in '93. I never had anything else that quick, and I haven't been back to the strip for a while, but with a new Mustang in the stable, it was time for that to change. It took a year and a half.

The two things I knew about this car before I even drove it was that the shifter was supposed to suck, and it the overhead cam 4.6 was supposed to be stronger than the old pushrod 5.0 I had. They were right about the shifter, but the engine didn't really feel like an animal compared to the old one. Lively, but not overly impressive. Now we'd find out the truth.

On the first pass, the car was spinning the tires through second gear, but still seemed to be getting on down there in a hurry. At the finish line, it looked like an honest 100 mph on the speedo, and at the timing shack, the slip showed a 13.81 sec / 102.5 mph run. Humbled the old car, right out of the box. No traction, no finesse, no knowledge of what the car wanted, and precious little cooldown time. Damn!

I mention that, because with modern EFI cars there is a huge difference in performance between a cold engine and one at operating temperature, for a number of reasons. You would spend many hundreds of dollars on go-fast goodies to double the improvement that a bag of ice and some patience would give you for $1.99. The old car had been run many times, and had put up its best numbers in November.

Today, I did try to leave some cooldown time, but I 'm not very patient. I made a bunch of runs, but never got the car to go quicker than the 13.41 that it clocked on the second pass. It did run 102 mph effortlessly, and hit 103 and change a couple times. Chalk the variance in ET up to minute driving differences in the first 2 seconds of a run, and a balky shifter. Clearly, I was dead wrong with my seat-of-the-pants evaluation. This car is potent, but in a deceiving way.

The part I enjoyed the most, was a result of the sparse car count that night. For 2010, the Mustang engine has again become 5.0 liters, by enlarging the SOHC 4.6 that's in mine. I don't like the the restyled look, and if I was really obsessed with going fast, I'd be driving a late-model GTO instead. Anyway, when some guy showed up and started hot-lapping an electric blue 2010 GT, I figured it was time to see how much difference the extra motor made, and if a good driver could overcome it. I watched him take a few runs to figure out the car, and despite steady improvement, I hadn't see him run any quicker than me. So, I did what a man's gotta do.

I came down out of the stands, went to my car, and lurked. When I saw him coming up the return road, I pulled out and headed for the staging lanes right in front of him. He followed me up to the tree, we staged the cars, and I left on him so bad at the green that Donna thought I red-lighted. Had him by a train length, and then the 2-3 shift failed. AGGGHHH! THAT GODDAMN SHIFTER!!! I tried and tried, ultimately deciding to drop it right into 4th and, all I could do was watch the bluebird motor on bye.

I followed him right on through, and we lined 'em up again. By now, he's running consistent 104+ trap speeds, indicative of his slight edge in power, and his ET's keep dropping. I gotta get him. The tree flashes green, and we drop the hammers. As we get them up into 3rd (ever so gently...) things settle down, driving gets easy, and its a just a matter of who's reeling in the finish line faster. I know that's him, but he's back there pretty far and will run out of racetrack.

He does. The red win light comes on in my lane, and when we get to the timing shack, I see that he covered the 1/4 mile a couple hundredths quicker than me, but I was out of Dodge first at the green, and negotiated the first 60 feet quicker, too. Ha!

I'm assuming he will follow me back for a tiebreaker, and he does. We pull in front of the stands together for the third time, and carefully put the cars in the beams.

A hard launch, and with the tires operating just beyond the edge of traction, I yank second, gritting through the crunch and countersteering through the sashay. This time, in second gear, I could see that powder blue SOB in my peripheral vision. I wondered if I was dead meat. I hit third, looked over for real and saw that any lead I might have was small, and shrinking. By the time we got to the stripe I was pretty sure the win light would blink on in his lane.

The tale of the tape showed we both had good reaction times, but his was noticeably better. I out-finessed him through the first two gears to make it up and then some, but I couldn't get far enough in front that he wouldn't be able to eat up the difference in time. He nipped me by 3 hundredths of a second, which was probably as close as two cars went through the traps all night. But a win is a win. And he had two of them.

As much as I want to go out and put a transmission in this car, the monotony of commuting back and forth to work in it will soon shove me back into reality, and it will be forgotten.

Until I see another electric blue Mustang.

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