The Cars Of The $10K Drag Shootout: Team Bigun’s 1986 Mustang GT

Team Bigun came into Horsepower Wars $10K Shootout with their eyes, hearts, and hopes resting on acquiring one of the two Fox-body Ford Mustangs up for grabs to the four teams. They were rewarded by earning the first selection, setting themselves up for a relatively smooth 10 days of building that largely matched their best laid plans.

“Our planning for the competition started on the day we found out that we qualified to be a part of the show,” says Eric Yost, team leader for Team Bigun. “We developed our plan way ahead of the actual build. The entire team discussed what we thought would be the best scenario of vehicle, power adder, and how to make it work within the rules and budget.”

Team Bigun is made up of a cross-section of exceptional builders, tuners, and racers — Yost, Lyle Barnett, Peter Harrell, Jason Smith, Chad Reynolds, and Chris Bailey — who worked cohesively as a team, each using their individual skills in the construction phase of the competition.

The Car

Plan A was to score that Mustang. The team did have contingency plans if they would need to work with another car, but they laid so much hope into getting their body of choice, they actually brought Mustang modification templates with them. If they could get a Fox-body, they could quickly and easily modify the wheel tubs, front engine bay, and suspension areas.

Each team for the competition is given $3,000 cash and $7,000 in Summit Racing allowance to complete their entry. The teams could search for new and used components with the cash money and develop their best purchases from the Summit catalog and website, with overnight shipping.

“We had discussed plan B and C options if we were dealt another body type, but the Mustang would be our best hope for getting the horsepower goal we had hooked to the dragstrip with the budget,” Yost explains. “Each of our guys has some form of experience racing or building a Mustang. We knew from our pre-planning efforts; we could get this car well under our 3,200-pound minimum weight. Then, we could move weight around in the car where needed for chassis adjustment.”

Their motivation for car choice paid off as Team Bigun won the Horsepower Wars $10K Olympics — an episode one competition between teams to determine who could choose first from the lineup of cars offered.

Our planning for the competition started on the day we found out that we qualified to be a part of the show. -Eric Yost

The Powerplant

Their body choice is where their loyalty to Ford ended, though. The team also knew ahead of time their powerplant of choice was going to be a complete 5.3-liter LM7 long-block with the intent of using factory block, heads, LS rods, and crankshaft.

“We carefully went through the engine with new Clevite bearings and adding the supplied MAHLE custom pistons, wrist pins, and piston rings,” Yost says. “Pretty much, we are banking that all of the other factory engine components can take the abuse for this race.”

Team Bigun did rely on the massive bolt drawers filled with supplied Automotive Racing Products (ARP) fasteners to rebuild their engine combo along with assorted gaskets provided by MAHLE. Engine builder Peter Harrell also half-filled the block with Home Depot sourced concrete. Some key components for the team’s self-ported LM7 aluminum heads were scored and purchased used through some online scouring. A used performance camshaft and used beehive springs helped to stay on budget. They also invested in some new components where they felt necessary, such as ordering some COMP Cams 3/8-inch Magnum pushrods and an LS rocker arm bearing kit from the Summit Racing Equipment purchase budget.

The Power Adder & Induction

One of their significant investments came with the power adder and induction side of their powerplant. A Borg-Warner 75mm cast wheel turbo is mated with a Holley Performance EFI system using a Holley HP engine control module. “The first time we put our engine together on paper, we blew our budget within five minutes,” jokes Yost. “We made it a goal to save money by going after used intake tubing, a used 44mm wastegate, used performance fuel injectors we found, and no intercooler so we could afford the EFI system we wanted. We’re taking a chance that the used wastegate functions correctly.”

In lieu of an intercooler, the team chose a small, used nitrous injection system to cool the intake charge and add some additional horsepower at the same time.

Another point unique to Team Bigun’s build theory was their financial investment in the rearend assembly. While others were welding spider gears for a makeshift spool and hoping for the best with stock axles, these guys decided the rear differential was not going to be a place to cross their fingers and hope for the best. They ordered a Strange Engineering kit with alloy axles, 5/8-inch wheel studs, C-clip eliminators, and a new spool from their $7,000 budget from Summit.

Fuel System & Cooling

Some of the building blocks for their electrical system and engine cooling system came from a place you don’t usually consider for your race car construction. Yost describes, “We planned from the start to build our low-dollar cooling system from a five-gallon Coleman-style drink cooler and a marine bilge pump. We picked both up from the local Wal-Mart.”

Fragola Performance Systems supplied hoses and fittings for the unique cooling system. They also chipped in the plumbing for their fuel system. The Mustang received a Walbro 450 fuel pump and lots of Summit Racing Equipment fuel system components including their EFI pressure regulator, LS1/LS2 fuel rail kit, and a Summit brand three-gallon fuel cell. The engine will burn the race-spec VP Racing Fuels C16.

Electronics & Ignition

While in Wal-Mart for their unique cooling system components, Yost tells us of another of their department store innovations. “We also saw a 99-cent plastic pencil box which made a great flip-up hinged mount for our Ron Francis Wiring switch panel that was part of our supplied electrical system harness.”

They won a Performance Distributors Dyna-Batt Lightweight Battery during of one of the show’s team competitions. Their electrical system is completed with a Moroso Performance supplied battery box and safety shut-off switch.

The Drivetrain

While several of the teams ordered up a new transmission for their build, Team Bigun saved big money by building their entire Turbo 400 transmission themselves utilizing a used core they scored for a mere 150-bucks. “Instead of spending $1,500 for the tranny, we built our own,” said Yost. A Summit Racing valvebody and performance rebuild kit were ordered along with a new TCI Automotive 10-inch torque converter. Along with the complete roll cage kit supplied by Rhodes Race Cars, the team also received a Rhodes transmission crossmember to custom fit the GM transmission in the Mustang.

Some unique team engineering went into the front end and steering, as well. “Since we built our own transmission, we decided to use some of the internal Turbo 400 bushings; we replaced as bearings for our fabricated steering column,” Yost adds. “The saying that went around with all of the teams is that seven passes are all we need (laughs). We carefully welded the steering wheel right to the shaft, and it’s done.”

Suspension & Rubber

The front end received some extensive removal of excess weight. The factory crossmember and A-arms are retained, but the team invested in QA1 Performance high-travel springs, Strange Engineering single-adjustable shocks, and a Mustang coil-over kit ordered from Summit.

All the rolling stock is supplied by Mickey Thompson Tires. The grip is provided by ET Street Radial Pro 275/60R15 while the Bigun team utilized M/T 26 x 4.5 ET front tires. Like every team, their used parts search greatly extended their budget as they found previously owned Weld Wheels Drag Lite wheels for cheap.

Not to spare on safety, Baer Brakes supplied the front disk brake kit, and Mustang spindles were purchased from O’Reilly’s for the project. A trip to the local auto parts store completed their brake system with a Mustang replacement master cylinder coming from their allotted cash budget.

With a very conservative tune-up, timing, and fuel programs, we ended up making right at 890 to almost 900 horsepower. -Eric Yost

Since the factory Mustang rear suspension design has a proven dragstrip track record, Team Bigun fabricated a modified version of the factory design. Team Bigun scored used Koni shocks and rear coil springs, while their day-trip to the local junkyard brought them some bits and pieces to use. A used anti-roll bar kit finished the rear suspension. The upper control arms are BMR Suspension adjustable arms while the team fabricated the lower control arms from a tubing kit and rod ends ordered from Summit Racing.

The driver’s compartment of the ‘Stang received a Summit Racing safety harness, Kirkey aluminum seat, and Stroud Safety supplied window net. The guys found a used Cheetah shifter and Grant steering wheel to put in driver Lyle Barnett’s hands. Summit offered their own brand of roll bar padding and transmission blankets as a part of the supplied safety equipment. Finally, a Summit Racing engine diaper kit made sure the engine bits didn’t spill over the track in case of an emergency.

Photo gallery


Royal Purple supplied all the necessary fluids for the engine, transmission, differential and various assembly lubricants. Bigun picked Royal Purple’s 10-40W XPR (Extreme Performance Racing) synthetic motor oil which is specifically formulated for the demands of drag racing or really any performance racing. XPR combines the quality of synthetic base oil with Royal Purple’s proprietary Synerlec additive technology. E3 Spark Plugs ignition also was a key supplier by providing each team with ignition components like the Mustang’s LS ignition coils, and plug wires.

The Dyno

The team is making good on their tuning theory as the Mustang GT was completed in time to take advantage of a chassis dyno session. “Since we were first to fire our engine, we were first on the chassis dyno,” Yost says. “With a conservative tune-up, timing, and fuel programs, we ended up making right at 880 horsepower.”

Completion of the Mustang under deadline also afforded them time to scale the car carefully. “We scaled it out, and it was right at 60-percent on the nose,” Yost explains. “We have a little more than 175-pounds available to move around the car and adjust the launch. This kept us at our 3,200-pound weight minimum (Team Bigun earned a 25-pound weight reduction during one of the build contests, allowing them to race at 3,175-pounds). We also had time to carefully adjust the pinion angle and suspension exactly where we want it to be. I expect to run 1.10-second 60-foot times with what we have come race day.”


Our conversation on strategy fell back to their engine control system. “Our choice with Holley from the get-go is based simply on our personal experience,” Yost details. “We have a bump box, a boost controller, an LS timing baseline, and a closed loop correction that we are all experienced in tuning. If that gets us to our needed tune-up to outrun the others right off the bat, it will be worth the budget we used right there.”

Yost finished the conversation by saying, “With what we ended up with, I see three great things. A good car we built, good power numbers on the chassis dyno, and with Lyle in the driver’s seat, we are ready.”

Beer Money Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle: 1986 Ford Mustang GT
Weight: 3,175 lbs

Electrical/Wiring: Ron Francis Wiring Kit, Switch Panel
Battery Box: Moroso Performance, On-Off Switch
Battery: Performance Distributors – Dyna Batt, Lightweight
Roll Cage: Rhodes Race Cars 10 point mild steel
Fasteners: Automotive Racing Products (ARP), Head Studs, Fasteners

Engine Block: GM Factory 5.3L
Crankshaft: Factory
Pistons/Comp Ratio: Mahle Pistons PN 930218400

Comp Ratio: Top Secret
Rings: Mahle
Rods: Factory LS Varient
Rod/Main Bearings: Clevite MS 2199H/Clevite CB 663P8
Head Bolts/Studs: ARP
Harmonic Balancer: Factory
Cylinder Heads/Porting: Factory LM7/Pete Harrell hand ported
Camshaft: Used
Lifters: Factory LS7 used
Pushrods: COMP Cams 3/8 Magnum

Rocker Arms: Factory with Trunion kit from Summit Racing
Valves: Factory
Valve Springs: Used Beehive springs
Head Gaskets: SCE copper
Starter: Summit starter
Flexplate: Summit Flexplate


Intake: Summit Sheetmetal LS intake
Carb/Throttle body: Factory

Fuel injectors: Bosch Green Tops injectors

Fuel pump: Twin Walbro 450 lph fuel pumps

Fuel Regulator: Aeromotive

Spark Plugs: E3

Coil(s): E3

Engine management:  Holley HP EFI Control Module

Exhaust system: Custom by Bigun

Power Adder

Nitrous System: Zex dry fogger

Blower/Turbo: Used T6 75mm BorgWarner

Wastegate: Used Tial 44mm wastegate

Blow Off Valve: Mama didn’t raise no bitch!!!


Transmission: Turbo 400, built by Bigun. Turbo 400 Summit Valve Body

Converter: TCI Street Fighter 10-inch
Driveshaft: Stock modified

Shifter: Cheetah

Rear End Gear/Ratio: 3:73 used

Rear End Housing: Factory 8.8-inch

Axles: Strange Engineering 35-spline

Spool: Strange Engineering 35-spline


Front suspension: Stock

Front shocks: Strange Engineering adjustable

Rear suspension: Customs By Bigun, BMR upper control arms

Rear Shocks: Used Koni

Front Brakes: Baer SS-4

Rear Brakes Stock

Front Wheels: Weld 
Wheel Drag Lites used 15 x 4

Rear Wheels: Weld 
Wheel Drag Lites used 15 x 10

Front tires: Mickey Thompson 26 x 4.5

Rear tires: Mickey Thompson 275 Pro

About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
Read My Articles

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