Tim Matherly's Uncle Got Him Into Mustangs, But He Makes Them Work
From the November, 2010 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords / By Michael Johnson / Photography by Michael Johnson
When someone asks me what I do for a living, I simplify my response by saying, "I write about cars." However, the longer I do this job, the more I realize I don't write about cars-I write about people.
At least, that's how I look at it. Cars come and go. It's the people behind the cars that are more important, and a story should be about the person, not the car. The car is just part of the bigger story, the story of how the owner got to this point in life. That's what makes the car special.
If you've been a follower of 5.0&SF magazine, you already know about Tim Matherly's Mustangs, and his track record. However, you probably don't about the man behind the wheel.
"Dad wasn't into cars at all," Tim says. His dad was a Ford man, but beyond buying them, he didn't do much else to them. Tim's brother was 14 years his elder, and he was the one to plant the automotive seed.
However, Tim's life hasn't exactly gone the way it's supposed to go. He lost his mom in 1981, his brother in 1985, and his dad in 1990. Sure, some people have had much worse happen in their lives, but more of us have had it way easier. But Tim's not bitter about life's curve balls. He's taken the hits and kept on going.
Tim's Uncle Dennis had the biggest impact on Tim from an automotive performance standpoint. His summer consisted of spending summers with Uncle Dennis and his Shelby Mustangs. That's where Tim fell in love with Mustangs. Then he met his wife, Lisa, while in high school. When they first met, Lisa wasn't old enough to drive, but her love was for Mustangs with four legs and one horsepower. She easily made the transition to multiple-horsepower Mustangs, so Tim decided to keep her around, and she's still by his side today.
Thanks to family examples, Tim's first Mustang was a '69 Mach 1 with a 351 Windsor. Though it's not the same car, Tim currently has a '69 Mach 1 in the garage at home. Lisa's first car was a '66 Mustang that the couple put together. Lisa did much of the work, even building a 302 for it. "(She's) pretty handy around the car when she needs to be," Tim says.
Lisa's second Mustang was a '70 Mach 1. By that time Tim had moved up to a '70 Cougar Eliminator with a 428 SCJ. However, Tim traded the Cougar for a '93 Cobra. One would think the Cobra was the car to set Tim on the path to quarter-mile domination, but that's not the case. What started that successful run was a nitrous-injected '85 GT that ran 12.20s. Following the GT, Tim had an '87 GT that ran 11.20s on the spray. He ran that one season in Fun Ford Weekend's early days.
After the GT came the infamous '87 coupe with the trademark Tim Matherly paint scheme, applied by Curtis Cook at Cook's Customs in Chilhowie, Virgina. The coupe ran big-inch Windsor power with spray for the longest time in the early Pro 5.0 days. Back then, Tim battled it out with Vic and Jimmy Keen, Matt and Jay Scranton, Billy Glidden, Les Baer, Doug Mangrum, Greg Brittingham, Ken Boomsma, Jon Bennett, Ronnie Crawford, Willie Figueroa, George Greco, Steve Grebeck, and Elias Delatorre, among many others. Despite the heady competition, Tim carried the number one designation into the first year of Pro 5.0.
During the mid-'90s, most Pro 5.0 cars were converted street cars, and Tim's '87 coupe was no different. At the end of that car's gestation period, it featured a turbocharged Four-Valve, but that combo was short-lived before the car was pushed into a corner at MV Performance, which is where it remains today. It's screamin' for a nostalgia Pro 5.0 class.
After a few years off from organized drag racing, Tim was ready to get back into the mix in 2003. Pro 5.0 had gone off the charts as far as budgets go, so he looked for a class his customers could identify with, a class that would bring him and MV Performance much-needed publicity. As you know, he settled into the NMRA's then-fledgling Real Street class.
With Joe Charles' New Edge body-in-white sitting in the corner and Joe unable to finish the car, Tim capitalized on the opportunity and built that car into his first Real Street ride. Packing a ProCharger-urged Two-Valve under the hood, Tim won the Real Street championship in 2004, 2007, and 2009-not bad considering his first Real Street race was the 2003 Bowling Green, Kentucky finals. Tim and Lisa haven't missed a race since. With Tim in the class, Real Street took on a more serious, professional persona. What had been a regular-guy class all of a sudden turned into a class of drivers and tuners-a racer's class.
Since coming into the Real Street class, Tim has been a force to be reckoned with, but as with most good racers, he wasn't about to rest on his laurels. He knew it would take an updated car to stay on top of the class, so Tim set out to build this car.
His old Bullitt-themed Real Street car had done its job, and he was approached with the idea of putting together a '10 Mustang body-in-white. Tim jumped at the opportunity. As you've been able to read in the last couple issues, Tim had to get the car together in a hurry, but the finished product is both stunning in appearance and performance.
It wasn't without its challenges, though. Tim had hoped to use a Three-Valve engine, but he doesn't have enough experience with that combination, so he swapped in his proven Two-Valve combination. Tim says the Trick Flow Two-Valve heads he uses flow better than the factory Three-Valve heads, therefore that combo makes more power. Obviously, the optimum combination will get the nod every time. For now, that combo is the Two-Valve with the Trick Flow heads and intake. Additionally, the S197 chassis brought with it a three-link suspension, which differs greatly from its four-link predecessors.
Tim says a lot has been learned since Robin Lawrence first raced his '05 Mustang in Real Street, but Tim is also working with Racecraft's Mark Wilkinson, just like Robin did with his car. The experience from Robin's car has helped Mark and Tim with adjusting the new chassis. So far, 60-foot times have been comparable to his previous car, which shows the new chassis is working properly, but Mark and Tim are still sorting it out. Plus, the car has already run in the 9.40s in competition. If 60-foot times drop even more, 9.30s are well within reach.
New race cars are always a challenge, but just like in life, Tim will keep going till it's all worked out.
'10 Mustang GT 5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain Block Ford Racing Aluminator 4.6 Crankshaft Cobra Rods ModMax Pistons Ross Camshafts MV Performance-custom Cylinder Heads Trick Flow Two-Valve Intake Manifold Trick Flow Throttle Body Ford Mass Air Anderson Ford Motorsport Power Adder ProCharger P-1SC-2 Fuel System Weldon 2035 fuel pump w/custom lines, Trick Flow injectors, and UPR Products fuel rails Exhaust Ford Racing short-tube headers, Bassani Xhaust X-shape crossover, and Flowmaster mufflers Transmission Liberty-prepped Tremec TKO w/RAM clutch, RAM flywheel, and Hurst shifter Rearend Strange Engineering 9-inch w/4.71 gears, Strange Engineering axles, and center section
Electronics Engine Management Stock Two-Valve computer, DiabloSport tune Ignition Coil-on plug w/MSD DIS-4 and NGK spark plugs Gauges Auto Meter
Suspension And Chassis Front Suspension K-Member Racecraft Control Arms Racecraft Caster/Camber Racecraft Struts Strange Engineering Springs Racecraft coil-over Brakes Strange Engineering Wheels Holeshot Racing Wheels Revolver, 15x31/2-in Tires Mickey Thompson E/T Front Rear Suspension Shocks Strange Engineering Springs Stock Control Arms Racecraft Brakes Strange Engineering Wheels Holeshot Racing Wheels Revolver, 15x10-in Tires Mickey Thompson E/T Drag slicks Chassis Stiffening Jim Bremer-built 25.2 rollcage