First To The 3’s: Ziff Hudson’s Barrier-Breaking 275 Radial Mustang

Anybody can talk a big game in racing, saying they’re going to break this record or win this race, but it takes a determined individual to back that talk up, and Ziff Hudson has proven himself to be just that. The North Carolina native has always pushed the boundaries of what people thought was possible, and he lets his beautiful turbocharged Mustang do most of the talking these days.

Hudson was the first to break the three-second barrier on a 275 radial tire, doing so in Darlington, South Carolina, in April with a run of 3.990-seconds at 198.59 mph, thus bringing to a crescendo years of hard-fought effort by both he and other challengers to the history-making barrier. And he has no plans of stopping there.

Ziff wasn’t always the king of the 275 tire or a kingpin in the heads-up racing world; his racing career began like so many others: in bracket racing. Those years spent worrying about running dead on a dial-in and cutting good lights provided him with the foundation he would need to experience success in the brutal world of heads-up racing. “I did the bracket racing thing for about two years or so because that’s all I had the money to do, and I wanted to race. I got into heads-up racing after I had a car that could compete, and I was hooked,” Ziff says.

We chased it and worked at it, but most thought you could only go in the four-teen range on that tire, never in the 3.90s. -Ziff Hudson

That taste of the heads-up racing world set Ziff on a path toward history. “My first experience of heads-up racing came behind the wheel of a 1970 Nova with a small-block nitrous motor. I raced in a local class called Pure Street that ran at three or four different tracks in the region, and I did that for a few years to get some experience. After Pure Street faded away, we jumped into the local Super Street class with the same car and kept the engine pretty much the same. It was crazy because everybody was trying to go 5.99. That was a struggle back then, compared to how fast we’re going these days,” Ziff explains.

Over the span of a few years, Ziff competed in the Super Street class in the North Carolina region until the birth of his first child. After taking some time off to spend time with his daughter, he was hungry to get back into racing and make some noise behind the wheel.

“When I came back to heads-up racing, it was in a class called True Street that ran at eight different tracks locally. We started racing in True Street with a Chevy II that had a big-block nitrous engine in it and set the class record almost right off the bat. We changed the car up from a leaf spring to a four-link and kept winning in the class and had a lot of fun. I ended up selling that car and buying the Zephyr, then dropped all the driveline in to run X275 when it started,” Ziff shares.

Ziff immediately made an impact in the X275 world, running at the front with his Mercury and laying down some impressive passes along the way. At Lights Out 5, he had an unfortunate crash with the Zephyr, but was able to repair the car and continue on, with no real plans to move to a different car at the time. But all of that changed when he decided it was time to step up his program.

“To be honest, I had no plans after I wrecked the Zephyr to go to another car. It was still working fine, overall. The Mustang came into the picture because of parts. You just can’t find any aftermarket stuff to take the car in the direction I wanted, like a carbon fiber nose or doors. We had to hand-make pretty much everything on that car, and we just couldn’t make it as light as I wanted to get it,” Ziff explains.

The trajectory of Ziff’s racing career was forever altered when a friend and fellow racer who was debating on jumping into X275 experienced a change of heart. “A friend of mine named Andy Mural bought the Mustang up in New Jersey originally, and it really was a nice car when he got it. He planned on running X275, so he added some carbon parts, re-did the front end, and lowered it; but he’s a Pro Mod racer, so he decided to sell the car. I knew how nice it was, so I sold the Zephyr and purchased the Mustang from him,” Ziff says of how he acquired his Mustang.

After taking possession of the Mustang, Ziff went to work preparing it and added all of the running gear from the Zephyr to his sleek new ride. The car was heavily campaigned for nearly a year without any issues, but Ziff had some big plans for the car, literally, and it required some additional modifications. Little did he know that this choice in changing the car up would be the catalyst for his run to the three-second zone.

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“I ended up sending it to Racecraft to have them change the back half of the car so I could fit a 315 tire under it. When I took the car to them for the back half, they approached me with the deal about doing the entire car, and it was a really good deal. They changed everything on this car from the headlights to the taillights. It got a brand new, state-of-the-art, jig-built chassis,  steering setup, rearend, front end, carbon fiber interior, the tubs, the paint; it was all done in-house there. They changed the suspension around to really help the car hook and added their newest 4-link bars. Everything about the car is just super nice,” Ziff comments.

Getting the single-turbo Mustang to crack into the three-second barrier on a 275 tire wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took all the experience that Ziff had gained over his years of racing and a lot of testing to get the job done.

“To make something like this happen, it really is like putting a puzzle together, and you need to have all the right pieces for it to work, starting with the car, the engine, the converter, the fuel injection, boost control, right down to understanding the power management,” Ziff explains. “The power management is really the biggest part outside of the hard parts of the car. It has taken a lot of time, experimenting, and beating on radial tires to understand how much it can take and when.”

1990 Mustang Specs

Engine: TKM-built 527 cubic-inch engine with a Callies crank, GRP rods, and Wiseco pistons that uses Brodix heads with T&D rocker arms

Intake: Thompson Motorsports

Electronics: FuelTech 600, FuelTech Spark, AMS 200 Boost Controler, Racepak dash and sensors

Injectors: 800 lb Billet Atomizer Injectors

Fuel System: Waterman Mini Bertha fuel pump and Aeromotive regulator

Turbo System: Customs By Bigun

Turbo: 118 mm Precision Turbo

Blow Off Valve: ProCharger

Wastegate: Turbosmart

Transmission: Rossler TH400

Torque Converter: Cameron Torque Converter Services

Suspension And Chassis: Racecraft

Shocks: Menscer Motorsports

Brakes: Strange Engineering

Ziff believes that the power was always there, but he never had enough chassis to really harness what was being produced. Now that he has the platform to use all the power available, he’s ready to turn the wick up, bit by bit. “We plan on making some changes to make even more power and don’t plan on giving up on this single turbo deal yet. My main goal is to go bottom to low 3.80s on the big tire (he’s been a best of 3.93) with this car because people said it can’t be done. We made some changes on the bigger tire and the car seemed to like it, so we’re now going to apply those changes to the small tire to go even faster on the 275,” Ziff explains.

The changes that Ziff plans on making aren’t anything major, but when you’re at this level of racing, any gain, no matter how small, will make a big difference when you pick up your time slip at the end of the pass. “We going to do some work on the turbo to fix some small back-pressure issues. We’ve got some stuff we plan on trying with the FuelTech system and on the converter side of things, as well. A new set of heads is in the works, too. We’re going to play around with what we have to see if we can gain even more power,” Ziff says.

Our goal was to be the first to go into the three-second zone on the tire, and we did it.  -Ziff Hudson

If you ask Ziff, his future is packed with a lot more racing, championship hopes, and more records. “I think next year, we’re going to shoot to win the Radial Wars title in the NMCA. Most of what we’ve done has all been local stuff and big events, but we’ve never run for a points series. We’re working on trying to go after the quarter mile record on a 275 tire, too. I’m thinking the car will go in the low six-second range and be around 230-240 mph in the quarter. I don’t know what it will do, and we’re just going to have to find the limit of the tire. It’s going to be something nobody has ever tried. I’ve never made a quarter-mile trip, so it should be fun. I’m not worried about going that fast … I’m more worried about stopping!” he shares.

For Ziff, this has truly been a magical ride and something that he’d always dreamed of accomplishing. There was never a doubt in his mind it would happen, and the final result was well worth the wait when he picked up that three-second time slip at Darlington Dragway during Wooostock this year.

“Oh man, it was the greatest feeling ever, setting the record. We chased that deal for about four or five years and to finally get there was like winning a world championship. It’s something that nobody can ever take from us. The next big step for us is we really want to run some Radial vs The World stuff and get into the low 80s with the car. I really don’t think we’re done. I want to put the single turbo record so low that somebody really has to work for it to take it from me,” Ziff explains.

One thing’s for sure, despite every reason to do so, you won’t see a ton of chest thumping or talk from Ziff Hudson, because he’s a man of action. His track record (literally and figuratively) speaks for itself, marking him squarely among radial tire racing’s elite. His plan is simple, and that is to keep working harder to go faster and prove wrong any of the doubters of his ability to deliver results on the track.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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