Mention the name Paul Svinicki and regular readers will form an immediate mental picture of the genial owner of Paul's High Performance flying headlong down the quarter-mile, wringing every last possible iota of performance out of one of his various Cammer-powered drag Mustangs. We, too, tend to think of Paul as a straight-line guru, and we've put his well-documented piloting abilities to work for us in drag testing both the '03 Cobra and the Mach 1. More than just a razor-reflexed shoe, Paul also possesses the mechanical and electronic savvy to develop an ongoing stream of parts and tuning strategies that help keep e.t.'s low and trap speeds high, and he puts his theories to the test on the 1,320 almost every summer weekend. It's safe to say that many modular racers have this guy to thank for some of their quarter-mile quickness.
So it should come as a complete surprise to all of us that the PHP project car pictured here could care less if it ever sees a dragstrip's Christmas tree. In fact, in a move that would seem nothing short of a sacrilege to most Mustang drag racers, Paul actually unbolted the car's factory live axle and substituted an '03 Cobra's independent rear suspension--intentionally. OK, we'll give you a moment to catch your breath.
Horse Sense: The Ignitor's body wears a Mach 1 chin spoiler, Bullittsidescoops, C-pillar trim, and rockers, all embellished with CDC'sShaker hoodscoop, fuel door, sequential taillights, fog/driving lights,and signal side mirrors. The wing is stock, painted black.
The project began with a new '02 GT and a plan to gussy it up for the Las Vegas SEMA show. Perhaps feeling a little pigeonholed, Paul had decided to do something to break out of his drag-racer mold. Don't get us wrong--Paul loves quarter-mile competition, but he also enjoys turning left and right every once in a while, so he plotted out a multidiscipline Mustang, one using as many Ford parts as possible and that would be equally at home on the street, road-course, or, if need be, the strip. The result is what Paul--taking a bit of liberty with the dictionary--calls the Ignitor, a theme based on its yellow hue and reflected in the subtle flames that decorate the hood panel surrounding its CDC Shaker.
Though all may look stock beneath that Shaker, Paul yanked the GT's cast-iron 4.6 and replaced it with an alloy Cobra block stuffed by Steve Stratton at Hillsdale Performance with a ModMax stroker kit, for a more manly 5.0 liters of displacement. Fox Lake ported up a set of PI heads, topped with ModMax street-grind cams, and Paul chose a Bullitt intake to nestle in between. The alloy manifold was Extrude Honed and hand ported. The 24-lb/hr injectors on tap are supplied by a PHP fuel tank and pumps--the latter setup likely a bit of overkill, but you never know when the urge might strike Paul to add a little giggle gas. The fuel rails, throttle body, and high-flow filter box are also PHP bits, while the exhaust is all from Bassani. To tune the combo, Paul used his recently developed ability to flash program the EEC V--a skill that will become ever-so-important as the factory does away with the option of chip-tuning in upcoming models. The result at the wheels is 325 hp and a butt-thumping 347 lb-ft of torque, as measured on the PHP Dynojet.
The suspension is an interesting conglomeration of OEM parts. Up front, Bullitt struts, brakes, and sway bar work with '00 Cobra R springs. For the rigors of road-course use and potholed Michigan streets, Paul chose to leave the factory stamped K-member and A-arms in place, though a switch to weight-saving Maximum Motorsports tubular counterparts may take place before Paul hits the oval at the Mustang 40th anniversary bash at Charlotte. To control the IRS, he went with Cobra R springs and shocks, and then tied the bow and stern together with PHP subframe connectors having an integral driveshaft loop.
We got to spend some time in the Ignitor both on the street and on the tight road course at Waterford Hills. Though it has no cage, its Sparco Evo buckets and PHP rear-seat delete kit make it feel sort of like a race car--a feeling that continues while circulating the track. Pared down to 3,100 pounds, and with the better fore/aft balance afforded by its all-aluminum powerplant, the Ignitor feels surprisingly light and responsive at race speeds, and it displays tremendous grip, even on '03 Cobra-spec street Goodyears. For rear stability, the IRS is much more track-worthy than a stick axle--at least one on stock-style suspension. The crisp 10.5:1 compression ratio of the Ignitor's stroker hauls it quickly out of one corner, while the stock Bullitt brake setup hauls it down equally well for the next one. On this note, we can't help but think just how far Mustang brakes have come since the underachieving Fox days.
Interestingly, this impressive track poise doesn't seem to take anything away from its street manners, which are such that we could happily drive it every day, potholes and all. Says Paul, "We've been able to take some trips in this car and were rewarded with 24-plus mpg at 75-90 mph." Fuel efficiency may not be something you'd expect a guy such as Paul to give a hoot about, but it's a nice bonus on a car as streetable as this.
Now, Paul wouldn't be Paul if he didn't take a car down the strip at least once, and we're happy to report the Ignitor was capable of sprinting to a 12.29-second pass at 109 mph, with a 1.70 60-foot time on drag radials. So, let's see--a 12-second e.t., 24 mpg, undeniable good looks, and reflexes like a road racer. The Ignitor has us all fired up.