When it comes to domestic motorsports, drag racing has always stood out as one of the most prominent forms. This should come as no surprise, as the early years of American performance vehicles were characterized by straight-line rivalries. However, there are those who find greater joy in pushing the boundaries of their driving skills and their vehicle’s chassis by navigating corners on an autocross course.
In contrast to traditional road racing, autocross courses are set up using cones. This allows for courses that can effortlessly incorporate hairpin turns, slaloms, and decreasing radius corners. Conquering these courses demands more than just raw power and driver skill; it requires creativity, as well. We’ve selected six of the wildest autocross cars we spotted carving through the cones at this year’s Holley Ford Fest.
One Very Wide Fox
Mike Trenkle’s Fox Body Mustang has always been a fan favorite. The exceptionally wide carbon-fiber arches create a striking visual presence and also accommodate 18×12 BC Forged wheels wrapped in 305-series Yokohama tires on all four corners. While the exterior leaves a lasting impression, it’s what lies beneath the car that enables Trenkle to stay competitive.
This black, yellow, and white beast is equipped with Stifflers chassis bracing and features a combination of a cantilever rear suspension and a custom-built short-long arm front suspension using Penske shocks throughout. Under the carbon-fiber hood resides a potent 363 cubic-inch Windsor engine producing 637 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, paired with a TREMEC TKX transmission. This formidable combination has proven its worth, as Trenkle secured first place in vintage autocross and first place in the vintage 3S challenge!
Show Car Cobra
The Shelby Cobra has always been a well-known race vehicle, renowned for its combination of lightweight construction and a short wheelbase that transforms it into a formidable handling machine. While original models have soared in value, reaching the million-dollar range, it’s now possible to build one using components from various companies. Dan Hall, for his project, utilized a Factory Five MkII Roadster as the foundation.
In the rear, Hall incorporated a three-link rear suspension and a narrowed 8.8 rear axle, enhancing the car’s performance. Up front, he opted for pin drive width front lower control arms, and all four corners benefit from Koni coilovers for improved handling.
For power, Hall selected a 351 Windsor engine equipped with Brodix heads and force-fed by a Vortech V1 Si trim supercharger. This combination generates a healthy 512 horsepower, which is quite impressive considering the typical weight of Cobra replicas. Hall shifts gears in his Cobra using a TKO 600 transmission. What sets this car apart is that it’s not just a showpiece; it’s a road warrior that covers significant distances, traveling across America to various Cobra meets.
Wolf In Crustie Clothing
The Mercury Grand Marquis may not be the most sought-after car for autocross, but its handling and factory performance quickly outshine that of a 1964 Ford F-100. With the Panther platform equipped with a 4.6-liter Modular motor and now enjoying aftermarket support in the suspension realm, it’s no surprise that we’re starting to see more of these on the track. For Todd Welch, who spent 27 years driving one as a law enforcement officer, he was intimately familiar with the chassis.
Instead of grafting the car’s suspension onto his truck, he opted for an alternative approach by performing a body swap, placing the “Crustie” truck onto the Panther platform. Transforming the Grand Marquis involved extensive cutting, fabrication, and welding. However, the end result saw Welch securing a podium spot behind his son’s V8-swapped Ranger and a supercharged Ford Lightning. Not bad for an old cop car.
Project Side Chick
When a gearhead gets their hands on a welder and the Midlana chassis book, you can expect the creation of a corner-carving monster. Bobby Dillon took on the challenge of building his homemade chassis in his garage and decided to elevate it to the next level by not only focusing on superior handling but also by incorporating a turbocharged powerplant and a six-speed manual transmission sourced from a 2015 Ford Focus ST. The entire setup is managed by a Ford ECM and HPTuners, with the wiring expertly handled by ANT steering and electronics.
The Dirty Duster
Now, before everyone sends me hate mail, this Plymouth Duster is Coyote swapped. However, what truly stands out is the owner, Jared Pink, who has participated in each of the Holley family of events Grand Champion series, including LS Fest, Moparty, and now Ford Fest, by simply swapping the engine to match the event’s requirements.
Apart from the impressive engine swaps, the chassis has garnered significant attention. It boasts a complete QA1 Level 3 front end and a four-link rear suspension. Underneath, a Gear FX Ultimate Ford 9-inch rearend, equipped with Detroit Speed Engineering‘s full floater, can handle the power output from any of the engine combinations. Bringing the Duster to a halt are Baer Pro+ 14-inch rotors both at the front and rear, complemented by a Baer master cylinder. Despite the need for a new bellhousing with each engine swap, Jerrod has consistently used the same TREMEC TKX transmission. Brand loyalty be damned; this is an awesome build!
Gulf Livery Lives On
The first-generation Mustang has always held a special place in the hearts of most enthusiasts. After all, it marks the inception of a lineage of vehicles that has endured for nearly six decades. While the fastback models with their sloped roof lines are typically the most coveted, the coupes still maintain their appeal, particularly on the track. Ryan Jones made the decision to transform his 1966 Mustang coupe into a daily driver capable of handling serious track duties.
As soon as the Gulf livery-painted coupe roars to life, the unmistakable sound of a 331 cubic-inch engine fills the air. When it hits the course, the car unleashes a surge of power, with seamless shifting. As for its suspension, the car has been upgraded with a custom-built four-link setup in the rear, featuring Global West upper and lower control arms. All four corners are equipped with QA1 suspension components. And should the need for additional power arise, Jones has a 125-shot of nitrous on board for those exhilarating trips down the drag strip.
Autocross Continues To Grow
Holley consistently elevates Ford Fest to become one of the most engaging spectator and participant events each year. They bring together drag racing, autocross, drifting, off-road, and a captivating car show all within a single venue. As the event keeps expanding, this year’s autocross segment appeared to have attracted new cars that hadn’t been seen in Bowling Green, Kentucky before. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to witness it all firsthand!
So, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to explore your local autocross clubs in your area. You might just find yourself bitten by the autocross bug.