If there’s a universal truth about motorsports, it’s that no matter how quick a machine is, it’s only a matter of time until we’re searching for ways to take it to the next level. Keith Rhea is certainly no exception to that rule.
As the owner and operator of Wonder Racing in Derry, PA, Rhea is in the business of hauling ass, so it comes as no surprise that when he took delivery of a low mileage race-prepped SN95 in the fall of 2015, it merely served as a foundation for Rhea and Wondering Racing to get started building their vision for the car.
“The previous owner had a ten-point rollcage and a built engine with a 3.4-liter Whipple supercharger in it,” he recalls. “By October, the blower was gone, replaced by a pair of Precision 6266 turbos.”
This would prove to only be the beginning of a series of increasingly more radical upgrades that Wonder Racing would do to this 2004 Mustang Cobra over the following months, modifications that would turn an already quick car into bonafide drag strip monster. But like any endeavor worth pursuing, this project’s journey hasn’t been without a few speed bumps along the way.
The Path To Seven Seconds
Not long after swapping out the Whipple blower for a pair of Precision turbochargers, Rhea decided to dial things up even further. He ditched that motor and the Precision 6266s in favor of a big-bore 5.3-liter mod motor and a pair of Precision 7275 snails, a combination that Rhea says was good for about 1,400-horsepower at the wheels.
That might be enough for some racers, but Rhea and the Wonder Racing team weren’t satisfied for long. “I ran this setup for about five or six months before I decided to make the change to a 5.4.-liter GT500 aluminum block,” he explains.
“This setup went 7.99 at Bowling Green NMRA in 2016. Unfortunately, we popped a coolant hose on the next run, which sent the car sideways at 170 mph, and we bumped the wall.”
While the damage was fairly minimal considering the circumstances, Rhea decided to rebuild the car from the ground up that winter anyway, once again dialing the project up a notch or two in the process.
The 2017 Setup
As it stands, now the 333-cube mill sports a Winberg billet steel crankshaft, Manley 300m rods, and custom-spec Diamond pistons with Total Seal rings on the bottom end, while custom Crowler billet camshafts, a custom Hogan Racing intake with an Accufab throttle body and Fox Lake cylinder heads round out the combination up top, where factory GT500 rocker arms and lifters are matched up with Crower valve springs.
The power plant is fed by way of a cable-driven mechanical fuel pump from Waterman Racing, which sends the juice through custom Hogan fuel rails to a set of Billet Atomizer injectors. A Holley Dominator EFI system controls the proceedings and uses an in-house built harness as well as custom tuning done by Wonder Racing team.
Paired up with those Precision 7275 turbos, the grunt is sent to the rear wheels through a Powerglide gearbox, then to a custom 8.8-inch rearend with 35-spline Moser axles and 3.55 gears.
As you might expect, the chassis has seen its fair share of attention as well. Up front, the K-member and A-arms are from Team Z Motorsports, while Afco supplies the springs that are paired up with Viking Performance struts. Out back, Rhea is using Racecraft upper and lower control arms, Afco springs, and Menscer shocks. The power gets to the ground through a set of Billet Specialties beadlock wheels wrapped in 275mm-wide Mickey Thompson Radial Pro rubber.
“The old cage was cut out and the new chassis was done at Cage Rage Fabrication,” he explains. “Once that was completed a Hazard Fab tubular front end was added, along with Pro Fab carbon doors and an Innovative Racecraft rear wing.”
Rhea also explains that, due to issues with the Fox Lake-prepared heads they ended up using a set from MMR during the 2017 season, but it doesn’t sound like it slowed Wonder Racing’s SN95 all that much. “We came out swinging last season, going 7.50 right off the trailer at Bowling Green NMRA, then winning King of the Hill there,” he tells us. “Next was the World Cup Finals, where we qualified 12th in a strong field and went on to run a personal best of 7.17 @ 195 mph with a 1.12-second 60-foot time.”
The team wasn’t done there, and went on to win the ModNationals’ King of the 4-Valve event before wrapping up the season.
As for 2018, it should come as no surprise that Rhea and Wonder Racing have a few upgrades planned for the Mustang for the upcoming season as well. Along with adding the Fox Lake-prepared cylinder heads to the mix, Rhea is looking to squeeze some more power out of the forced induction setup by swapping out the Precision 7275 turbos for twin Garrett 8087s, and along with the upgrades comes a new performance target for 2018. “6.80 at 205 should be achievable with this combination,” says Rhea. “That’s the goal for this year.”