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V8 SHO Autocross Comparison Modified VS Stock

Thanks to  Don Mallinson

On May 6, 2001 Tim Wright and I took our V8 SHO's to a local test-n-tune day for our SCCA autocross club.

A nicely varied course featuring both fast and slow sections with both fast and very slow turns and two short slaloms made for an interesting time.

The first car I drove at this event was my 96 SHO with about 55,000 miles on it. My car is bone stock with the exception of a K&N panel filter and Pirelli 600 tires in the stock 225-55-16 size. These tires came with the car when I bought it used and are about Ĺ worn, and seem hard as a rock. I can't wait to get something better on the car.

The other car was Tim Wright's 97 SHO with the following mods: Paul Nimz cold air intake, UDP's, Bullet mufflers, third cat removed, bigger rear sway bar and front strut tower bar. Also the transmission has been given the full Doug Lewis (FPS/Atlanta) treatment and the car sports a set of Yokohama AVS Sport tires in 235/45-17 size, mounted on 17 X 7.5" rims.

We arrived a bit late at this event and most people had already run four or more times when we started. Most of the fast cars were in the 32-33 second bracket with FTD at the moment in the low 31's held by a last generation RX7 Turbo.

Preparation for both cars consisted pretty much of a bit more air pressure and removing the loose stuff, but not spare tires. Both cars were at about Ĺ tank on fuel.

My only two runs were not at full tilt, but I turned in a respectable beginning time of 39.5 or thereabouts. Tim Wright did four runs and had a best time almost identical to mine.

Then I took the helm of Tim's car and popped a 36.3. I am pretty sure there are three main reasons why my time was so much better.

First: I should be getting faster as I learn the course. We didn't have a chance to walk it beforehand, and that would have helped a lot.

Second: A big part of the time I shaved off can be attributed to those great Yokohama tires. I noticed I could easily get my ABS to kick in with the hard Pirelli's on my car, but lots of leg pressure didn't kick in the ABS on Tim's car. Our brake set-ups are very close. Tim is running cryogenically treated Carbotech pads and disks. I have OEM Ford disks and pads. I think the brake setups on the two cars are very close for this application. The OEM pads are more than adequate for the 40 or 50 mph speeds in Autocross. But from 120, I would rather have the Carbotech pads to get the best stops.

Third: I LOVE that Doug Lewis transmission. I was having trouble getting my 96 to downshift coming out of turns, but Tim's car would kick down quickly and with authority. I did all my runs in "Drive." Note that I had driven Tim's car before on the highway, and was not that impressed with the transmission modifications. But when used in anger, the difference between my stock unit and the modified one is night and day. Just goes to SHOw that you need to test modifications under a variety of conditions before making final judgments.

Did the rear sway bar make a difference? I could not tell. I really did not push either car hard enough to get the back end loose. In theory Tim's car should have rotated easier than mine, but the difference in tires made any comparison of that sort very hard to do. I did notice that his car seemed a bit better nailed down in the medium speed slaloms.

Same thing with the front strut tower brace. At autocross speeds with the very stiff V8SHO body to start with, I think it might take Mario Andretti to feel the difference.

Also, neither car had the SARC (Self-Adjusting Ride Control) disabled. We let the suspensions on both cars (both cars had fairly new OEM Ford struts) work as Ford intended, and both cars took the slalom very nice.

Here is a note on car preparation for autocross or road racing. The power steering fluid overflowed on Tim's car during the event. He did four runs about Ĺ hour apart each, letting the car sit with the motor off most of the time. Still the power steering fluid heated up and overflowed. We think that the level just started out too high. When Tim had the transmission work done at FPS, Doug flushed the power steering unit, and filled up the system pretty full, to make sure that some hidden air didn't drop it too low. The level should have been checked after a day or two of driving and some fluid taken out. This is the owner's responsibility, not any fault of Doug's. I used my Mytee Vac to suction out about a pint and things should be just fine.

This was my first attempt to autocross a V8 SHO. I must say I had a blast, but I am now looking for any excuse to get better tires and take a trip to Atlanta for a Doug Lewis Transmission.

Also, I have a set of Bullet mufflers waiting to be put on. I don't care if they make the car faster, they make it sound great!

Thanks Tim, for letting me flog your 97, it is just getting better and better as you explore the modifications available for these wonderful vehicles.

Don Mallinson

I had fun at the auto-cross, Don is a much smoother and quicker driver than I am. I also liked the course, which gave no unfair advantage to either large or small cars.

I took 4 runs and because we missed a chance to walk the course I took a co-pilot twice. I did not want to "hurry" on a new course, I just wanted to learn the gates. The SHO got his respect, which is important because auto-crosses tend to humble American sedans (or even soft sprung jp/euro-luxo sedans). It was fun watching the other cars run, several guys have  trailer queens and they are far more serious than I can afford to be, since I need my SHO to get me home. They push a lot harder, spun out several times and knew their limits better than I know mine.

A V8 SHO is a whole lot of car, both in weight and dimensions for this type of competition, when the ideal low-dollar competitive car may be a Dodge Neon. I felt a little outsized taking a 4 door Ford sedan even though the track was not that tight. We were the largest and heaviest cars there.

What I am trying to say; and not very well- is that I DID have a great time, and even if it the SHO is a little off the pace. The SHO did much better with Donís driving than I thought it could. Ok so we were 2-3 seconds slower than prepped RX-7 or F-bodies. I donít feel too bad about that at all. I know Don did not want to trash my car and only had one chance to drive it. Had we stayed, I think Don could have closed the gap even more. Don was 11 seconds faster than a 2 door RWD GM intermediate that did show up. It ran 47 seconds. I ran 43 my first time taking it easy.

I guess I am surprised how well we did for a large car, with street tires, in a daily driver. All I did for prep was remove the mats and air up the tires to 40 psi. The course had 3 tight buttonhooks the SHO took at speed with poise. So while not as agile as a Miata Ĺ itís size, it has grace, speed and agility remarkable for itís size. The surprise is how well the V8 SHO does given the automatic transmission, long wheel base, tall gearing, and mild spring rates. Of course the got the normal remarks & questions. - "Ford put a V8 in a Taurus?"  I still enjoy opening the hood and SHOwing off the engine for tech inspection. Don't all SHO's come with a Paul Ninz intake system? ;-) Didnít see any Auroras or GTPís that day. That might have been fun. It is difficult for me to drive with a brain bucket, because of my height I have to drive reclined with the seat forward whenever I have a lid on. That slows me down, feels very uncomfortable for me.

 It sure was nice to hang out with car guys, watch cars run, and great to see Don & Janet, and get some track time.

I'll be back,

Tim Wright

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