If you’re anything like me, you probably still reminisce about the cars you’ve owned in the past. Even my dad, at the ripe age of 73, retains vivid memories of the cars he once owned dating back to the sixties; he can even recite his list effortlessly. One topic we often enjoy discussing is how far automotive technology has advanced and how our builds might have felt with, for example, an extra 300 horsepower. Well, we can now live vicariously through NASCAR legend Lake Speed Sr., who recently brought his 1990s Thunderbird back to life with a whopping 780 horsepower under the hood.
Reclaiming What Was Once Lost
You might recall seeing this particular Thunderbird or its engine from previous installments with the Speed family. Originally, their concept was to discover how much horsepower was lost from sitting for the better part of two decades. While the estimations ranged from roughly 10 to 15 horsepower, the total loss would actually amount to the engine being down 150 horsepower. Once the teardown was complete, Lake Speed Sr. and his son, Lake Speed Jr., decided it would be fun to modernize the 358 cubic-inch, C3-headed NASCAR engine with all-new components.
Kick starting a project aimed not only at recovering lost power, but also increasing power has always been a welcomed notion for us. The 480 horsepower figure was quickly replaced with an impressive 779 total horsepower, marking a remarkable increase of 62.5-percent from the lackluster 480 it showed last time. While it’s easy to show massive increases by adding the reclaimed power into the total, the most notable revelation was the 13.1-percent increase when compared to the engine’s original performance out of the crate in the 90s, solely through the utilization of modern technology.
Back On Track
The roar of an engine on the dyno will forever hold our fascination, yet what truly piqued our curiosity was witnessing Lake Speed Sr.’s reaction to the 780-horsepower 90s Thunderbird as it ripped around the Virginia International Raceway road course. After ensuring all safety components were replaced, the engine snugly settled back into the engine bay, and Speed Sr. firmly grasping the wheel, the euphoric symphony of the classic T-bird echoed across the track. Lap after lap, the car not only met but exceeded our expectations in its performance, as it did for Speed Sr.
More Modernized Racing Engines Please
As my father and I daydream of our vintage cars with more horsepower, the Speed family is living that very dream in reality. Now, it’s my mission to persuade more owners of Ford-powered classic race cars, spanning from IMSA to NASCAR, to join in on modernizing their race engine and taking them back out on the track.