This story originally appeared in the Summit Racing catalog and first appeared on SummitRacing.com on 2/22/2010.
“When I pulled up to the burnout box, people grabbed their cameras. Tons of flashes were going off when I lit ’em up, lit ’em up big! Everyone went crazy!” Ken Belanger says with a smile. The memory was still fresh in his mind and the crowd’s response was the perfect pay off for completing his 1967 Ford Mustang coupe.
Ken sacrificed a lot of time to reach the finish line of this project. There were plenty of pitfalls and speed bumps along the way, but nothing slowed him down. He had a mission.
“I didn’t want to cut corners. I wanted it done right,” Ken said.
His final product is a just-right combination of race and show while holding on to the roots of a classic musclecar. Ken’s hard work didn’t go unnoticed at the 2009 Detroit AutoRama, where his Mustang earned the Best Super Gas Vehicle and the Most Outstanding Competition Vehicle awards.
Every gearhead remembers when they discovered their passion for speed. For Ken, it was a day at the track watching his cousin race.
“Just being at the strip, I caught the fever!” Ken said.
Years later, Ken discovered his drag car of choice—a ’67 pony that was retrofitted for racing in the early 1980s. For two seasons, this modest Mustang was his workhorse. Round after round, his passion for the sport grew. Before beginning his third season, Ken reached a turning point. “I was young and naïve. I made mistakes and eventually blew my engine,” Ken said. “But it fueled me to build something faster.”
He started on the ’67 by removing the body from the old roll cage and chassis. Ken already knew his way around a welder, so he began fabricating a new 14-point chromemoly roll cage from S&W.
“There was a lot of trial and error getting the cage and body to fit just right. I had a big pile of scrap chromemoly in the corner of my garage when I was done,” Ken said.
After wrapping up fabrication, he had Finish Specialties powdercoat the cage a vivid Metallic Silver. Next up was the chassis. Ken put a Mustang II style coil-over suspension up front with custom fabricated A-arms. Out back he added a beefed up Ford 9-inch rear end worthy of his engine’s power production. To up the ante on show-quality looks, Ken went a step further than most and had the chassis components powdercoated with a Silver Vein finish that contrasts the metallic cage perfectly. The Mustang’s equipped with Weld Racing Draglite 90-Series wheels wrapped with classic Hoosier slicks, so there’s only one place for the power to go—straight to the pavement!
With the cage and chassis complete, Ken recruited the help of his close friend Bob Clark for the paint and body work. From the custom front air dam to the shaved rear gas cap, Bob transformed Ken’s ’stang into a streamlined show stopper. And that Shelby front nose?
“Nothing beats that front end on a coupe. It’s so aggressive,” Ken said.
Well, we couldn’t agree more. To top off the pristine work, the Mustang was painted a striking Dupont Chromabase with classic dual black racing and side stripes.
Ken wanted the ultimate powerplant—one that could back up those aggressive looks—so he spec’d out all of the engine components and relied on his friend Joey Ciccalo to bring the monster to life. Joey took a Ford 460 block and an arm’s length list of performance goodies to produce a 900-horsepower, track-worthy engine. A set of custom headers from PF&E Exhaust Shop give the engine a bark as big as its bite.
With the exterior done and a powerplant firmly in place, Ken and fellow fabricator Steve Loef got to work on the interior.
“I can’t even count the hours we spent stuck in there,” Ken said.
But the end result was worth the struggle. From the custom aluminum floor pans to the sleek VFN fiberglass dash, it’s simple, clean, and complements the show quality exterior. It’s also packed with top-notch pilot toys—a Turbo Acton Cheetah SCS shifter, a Racedata I50 Plus digital dash display, and a Biondo delay box just to name a few. But the best interior feature is an added touch from Ken’s wife.
“She hid a lucky penny in there when I wasn’t looking. I have no idea where it is,” Ken said.
After completion, the Mustang was a far cry from what it once was. When Ken finally got to take his pride and joy to the track, it turned heads and got every bit of attention it deserved. And when the Christmas tree shined green, the Mustang unleashed a stampede of power and Ken reveled in the moment.
“In my early days, I got used to an eleven second quarter mile pretty quick. Going down to running mid eights, that really puts you back in the seat,” Ken states, “But it’s like my Dad always says, ‘there will never be a fast enough,’ and I couldn’t agree more.”
Ken Belanger transformed a classic muscle car into an award winning, 900-horsepower racing machine that’s equally at home in a car show and at the track. So what was his favorite part of the whole project?
“The support of my friends and family. I wouldn’t have made it to this point without them lending a helping hand and pushing me when I needed it most,” Ken said.
This show-stopping race car is a true testament that with a little passion, support, and good old-fashioned elbow grease, anything is possible.
Horsepower (approx): 900 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque (approx): 850 ft.-lbs @ 5,500 rpm
Best ET/MPH: 8.80/155 miles-per-hour
Frame: Custom built 14-point S&W chromemoly roll cage fabricated to 2-inch x 3-inch frame rails, powdercoated Metallic Silver
Frame Fabricated By: Owner
Rear End: Ford 9-inch with Strange Engineering 33-spline axle shafts, Strange Pro Drag Racing 4.29:1 ring-and-pinion set, Mark Williams yoke
Suspension: ART ladder bar rear suspension, Koni double adjustable racing rear shocks, Hypercoil front and rear springs, Mustang II style front suspension with custom made A-arms, Strange front shocks
Brakes: Aerospace Components disc brakes front and rear
Wheels and Tires: Weld Racing Draglite 90-Series wheels (15 x 4 fronts, 15 x 15 rears) wrapped in Hoosier Drag Racing slicks (26 x 4.50-15 fronts, 32 x 14.50-15 rears)
Other Items: Quarter Master custom rack-and-pinion, Moroso 72-inch wheelie bars
Engine and Transmission
Engine: 572-cubic-inch Ford
Block: Ford Racing 460 (385 Series) aluminum
Engine By: Joey Ciccalo
Reciprocating Assembly: Scat 4340 forged 4.5-inch stroke crankshaft, Scat H-beam 6.8-inch connecting rods, Diamond flat top pistons, Mahle bearings; balanced
Cylinder Heads: Jon Kaase Super Cobra Jet, 72cc combustion chambers, 2.200-inch intake valves/1.76-inch exhaust valves
Valvetrain: Trend Performance pushrods, Manley titanium valves, COMP Cams custom grind camshaft, COMP Cams triple valve springs, T&D shaft-mounted competition roller rocker arms, Ford Racing big block aluminum valve covers
Induction: Edelbrock Victor Ford 460 intake manifold, Pro Systems Pro-Series Dominator 1,350 cfm carburetor
Ignition: MSD 7AL-3 CD ignition box, MSD Pro Power coil, CSR Performance starter, Taylor 409 Pro Race wires, East Coast Auto Electric mini alternator
Exhaust: Headers custom built by PF&E Exhaust, 2 1/2-inch tube to 4 1/2-inchDynoflow merge collector, ceramic coated
Transmission: Powerglide with J.W. Performance Ultra bellhousing, JPT 8-inch torque converter and pro brake
Transmission By: Joey Ciccalo
Fuel: MagnaFuel ProStar 500 pump, RJS Racing 5 gallon plastic fuel cell, VP C12 fuel
Other Items: Painless Performance wiring harness, Griffin radiator, CSR Performance water pump, Moroso vacuum pump, ARP fasteners, Aeroquip hoses and fittings
Modifications: Shelby fiberglass front nose and fenders, custom fiberglass front air dam, Harwood Aero hood scoop molded to GT 500 scoop, shaved door handles and gas cap
Paint Color: Dupont Chromabase, black racing stripes
Body and Paint By: Bob Clark
Components: Kirkey Economy drag seat and cover, Racedata I50 Plus digital dash display, Biondo delay box, Computech EGT monitor, Phoenix fire suppression system, Turbo Acton Cheetah SCS shifter with Biondo solenoid shifter, Grant steering wheel, G-FORCE 5-point harness, R.J.S. window net, Painless Performance switch panel
Modifications: Custom fabricated aluminum floor pans and door panels, custom VFN fiberglass dashboard
Interior By: Owner and Steve Loef
Best Super Gas Vehicle, 2009 Detroit Autorama
Most Outstanding Competition Vehicle, 2009 Detroit Autorama
Special Thanks To: My wife Georgeann, my Dad JP, Steve Loef, Steve “Stosh” Higel, Joey Ciccalo, Bob Clark, and Chris Truman
Photography By: George Pizzo