Twenty-two years ago, while cruising in a pickup truck that he will only identify as a “hoopty,” Kevin Sievers spotted a ’70 Cougar on the side of the road and nearly locked up his brakes to stop and look at it. Upon talking to the owner, he learned that the car was originally from Arkansas, and while it had traces of Arkansas dirt on it, it had no rust.
“I bought it and drove it as a daily driver,” said Sievers, who lives in Livonia, Michigan, with his wife, Laura Sievers, and has been a dynamometer technician at Ford Motor Company for twenty years. “It had the original 351 cubic-inch engine with a two-barrel carburetor and automatic transmission, and at the time, my job was wiring telephone systems and I would pack the trunk of the Cougar with wire and a collapsible ladder and go to work. I drove it for one year and then I took it to Detroit Dragway, where I ran a 15-flat the first time out and blew the transmission the second time out.”
In addition to pulling the transmission for repair, Sievers and his dad, Phillip Sievers, pulled the engine and gave it a bump in compression from 10.5 to 1 to 13.5 to 1 with pop-up pistons and made it a 358 cubic-inch engine with four-barrel open-chamber heads and an Edelbrock Torker four-barrel intake manifold. When that was said and done, he netted a thirteen-second timeslip. After making tweaks the following four years, the engine eventually carried him to 11.8-second passes at Detroit Dragway, where he was bracket racing and where he got his first two wins. Wanting more, he gave his converter to A-1 Performance Trans and Converters to be worked over and the result was an 11.20 timeslip.
In 1999, Sievers hired Chris Holbrook of Holbrook Racing Engines in Michigan to build a 514 cubic-inch engine topped with Trick Flow heads, which propelled the car to 9.20s.
“The engine was a stock-block 460 that was punched out to a 4.44 bore and 4.150 stroke crank,” said Sievers. “I ran that combination for three years and then Milan Dragway in Michigan started a heads-up program, and in that program’s All-Motor class, at the first race, I ran 9.48, in 2003. It was slower than I had been running, but we had to add a couple hundred pounds per the rules. We were in the middle of the pack and I wanted to step it up.”
Step it up he did, in 2007, when he again commissioned Holbrook to build a 638 cubic-inch engine, with a CNC Motorsports all-aluminum block and IDT Eliminator heads and collected a series of 8.2-second timeslips.
“I like the sound of a nice, crisp high-compression naturally-aspirated engine,” said Sievers. “I continued to run in Milan Dragway’s All-Motor heads-up class and I went to the NMRA and NMCA Super Bowl in Illinois and made exhibition passes there instead of entering the race, because I was running Q16 fuel and that wasn’t permitted.”
A few years ago, because Sievers eventually switched from a Cubic Flow Modifications’ 1600 CFM single carburetor to two Cubic Flow Modifications’ 1150 CFM carburetors — which were not permitted in Milan Dragway’s All-Motor heads-up class — and began running the Cougar in Milan Dragway’s Outlaw 10.5 heads-up class. With the switch from the single carburetor to two carburetors came 100 more horsepower and low 8-second timeslips.
“On the dyno, we made 1250 horsepower with a single carburetor and 1320 with dual quads,” said Sievers. “I tried to get sponsorship, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to help because it was a ’70 Cougar and Ford dealerships said ‘We don’t sell ’70 Cougars anymore,’ so at that point, since I had the car for twenty-two years, I thought it was time for a change.”
He sold the Cougar, which had been known as Cat Scratch Fever, two years ago to a buyer in Maryland, after removing from it the engine, transmission, front suspension, wheels, tires, gauges and fuel system, and he also sold his super-clean ’67 fastback Mustang. Helping him to stop lamenting how he had “sold the farm” for his next project was the acquisition of a 2010 Mustang as a body-in-white from Ford Racing in early 2010 and he wasted no time before taking the car, nicknamed Stranglehold, to Billy Gilsbach at Gilsbach Racecraft in Michigan for some chassis magic.
“We had talked about doing a chassis for the Cougar and for aerodynamic reasons, I thought it would better to do a new car,” said Sievers. “I was thinking about doing a Fusion, but I couldn’t get a body-in-white Fusion. After dropping the body-in-white Mustang off at Billy’s shop, my friend, Joe Kabara, and I would go there to do some grunt work, like grinding off the spot welds and removing as much weight as we could. It was a good learning experience for sure, because I had never done anything like that. I had no idea it was going to be that involved. Billy built the chassis and put it on his jig and he and the guys did their magic on it.”
While the Mustang wears the same front struts, brakes, wheels, tires and rack and pinion that were on the Cougar, Gilsbach fabricated a 9.5-inch rearend for it with a Strange center section stuffed with 3.90 gearing and Strange axles. The rear suspension boasts Santhuff coilovers and a custom anti-roll bar by Gilsbach. Weld Aluma Star beadlock wheels in back are wrapped in Mickey Thompson tires, as are the American Racing Torq Thrust wheels in front.
“We were going to do some carbon fiber but we found out how much it was going to cost,” said Sievers. “Every panel on the car is factory except for the hood. It had steel fenders and doors, and the rear quarter-panels were never cut. It has the stock deck lid, stock front fascia, stock grill and it has the chin spoiler by Classic Design Concepts. For the rear fascia, we took two of them and made one. It has stock taillights and headlights, and they all work. Well, maybe the blinkers don’t work, but I don’t need those, right?”
While the engine that’s in the Mustang is the same one that was in the Cougar, it was taken to Holbrook to be freshened up with new rods and rings, and it was honed and the block re-decked. It sports the same solid roller cam, which is in the .900-lift range, and 16.75 to 1 compression. Seievers also runs Spaghetti Menders wiring. He wanted the same combination he had in the Cougar, but he also wanted to work with it to see what kind of power he could get out of it. For people who were used to seeing Sievers under the hood of his car picking and choosing which jets to put in his carburetor, his switch to fuel injection managed by Big Stuff 3 came as a surprise.
“When I bought this car, I was looking more toward the future, and I figured we could start playing with fuel injection now and get a handle on it,” said Sievers, who adds that the build of the Mustang would not have been possible without the help of Billy Gilsbach and his colleagues at Gilsbach Racecraft, Chris Holbrook of Holbrook Racing Engines, Ford Racing, Ford Motor Company, Varsity Ford, J and H Performance Transmissions, Tom “Musky” Stiles, who built the headers, Dennis Ridgeway Enterprises (DRE), Aeromotive Fuel Systems, Weld Racing, Strange Engineering and Santhuff’s. He also wants to thank Ron Lange from RAD Coatings, who powder-coated a plethora of parts on the car, as well as the chassis; Tom Pearson for wiring the car, Blaine Ramey who shares a trailer with him, Kevin Cody, who checks the car over at the track and his wife, Laura Sievers and his dad, Phillip Sievers.
Fresh out of the shop, Sievers took the Mustang to a track rental at Milan Dragway on August 4, where he ran an 8.13 at 165 mph to the 1000-foot, and the following night, he entered the car in Milan Dragway’s Outlaw 10.5 class and posted a series of 8.0′s. While he endured a first-round loss at his first race, he progressed to the second round at his next Milan Dragway Outlaw 10.5 effort with a 7.92.
“When I got back to the pits, everyone was yelling and hooting and hollering,” said Sievers. “I thought I won Indy!”
After that, he ran 8.01 in Super Street 10.5W at the NMCA race at Milan Dragway and 7.99 at a Passtime event, also at Milan Dragway, and proving that the car is easy on the eyes is the fact that it won first place in the Pro Stock category at the Meguiar’s 60th Detroit Autorama in February.
Sievers soon will work with Motorcity Solutions on a weight reduction program for the car in the form of carbon fiber products, and for the ’12 season, he plans to enter some Milan Dragway Outlaw 10.5, NMCA Nostalgia Pro Street and other races.
While he refers to his crew as the “Benny Hill Crew” when things in the pit area are less than orderly, he’s happy with how the car has run so far, but that doesn’t mean that he’s done tuning, for he has his eyes on the mid-7′s and doesn’t plan to stop until he gets there.