When we think of fast Blue Oval Aero Cars we generally think of Boss 429 powered race cars or maybe a 428 Talladega. Unfortunately, we usually think of highway cruiser when we think of the 351 powered Spoiler II cars. WELL THINK AGAIN!
Approximately 35 years ago, friend and Mercury Spoiler/Spoiler II lover, Lou Whitfield, built a custom cruiser Spoiler II for cruising around Southern CA. It was all black with slight modifications throughout. It was not an expensive build but Lou builds good cars and is particular about quality. Fast Forward some 30 years and many miles later, Lou and wife Erin’s garage was not big enough and something had to go. The Spoiler II was sold to another Californian who enjoyed it for several years but he too wanted to move on to other things and put the car for sale on eBay.
Mike Callahan lives in Cincinnati and likes Fords. He had been to the Bonneville Salt Flats as a competitor several times but wanted more. He wanted to be a member of the 150 MPH Club. Seeing the Spoiler II and knowing the aerodynamic factory modifications had major benefits on the high speed NASCAR ovals he bought the Spoiler II off eBay sight unseen! The price was right and he knew he wanted to make some modifications anyway to go to Bonneville.
I recently visited with Mike by phone to discuss his adventure to the Bonneville Salt Flats and his new membership in the 150 MPH Club. He started off my saying he has been to the Salt Flats several times and previously made it into the 130 MPH Club driving a former Jack Roush prepared 1999 Crown Vic. However, as good as that car was he knew it would never do 150 without major modifications. That is what led him to Lou’s old Spoiler II. Mike knew aerodynamics would be very important at 150 MPH so an Aero Car was perfect.
After completing the purchase on eBay without ever seeing the car Mike did what you should never do; he flew to Southern CA with plans to drive the car 2,200 miles back to his home! I think most of us agree this is at least a very risky if not dangerous decision. Mike’s replay to this concern; “It’s a good way to get to know a new ride.” His first sight of the Spoiler II shocked and surprised him by how nice the car was. The trip home was mostly uneventful but did hint at some work that would be needed before going to Bonneville. However, it was a far better platform than he ever imagined.
Lou had built a solid car with a 351 Cleveland engine. 4-speed and a 2.75 Locker rear end for his CA cruising.
Mike had a friend with a chassis dyno near his home so the Spoiler II paid a visit to get a baseline to know what he had to work with. On it first effort on the dyno the engine would not pull past 5,000 RPM which equaled 132 MPH on the dyno. Obviously, that would not make it on the Salt Flats with a 150 MPH goal.
The 35 year old engine still had it original valve springs which were very weak. The air cleaner was an open element type but only 3″ high. After installing new stronger valve springs, some much larger jets in the carburetor, making some other minor adjustments and tuning, the car came alive on the dyno. At 5,700 RPM it now showed 352 RWHP and showed a theoretical 168 MPH. Mike knew aero drag on even a Spoiler II would limit his chances at 150 MPH with those numbers. He also had a vibration on this test.
The vibration was quickly cured with a new one piece aluminum drive shaft, In addition the rear 25.5″ diameter tires were exchanged for a pair of 27″ diameter tires which should help get the old Aero Warrior over the 150 mark.
Certain safety modification are also required to make an attempt at the 150 MPH Club at Bonneville Sale Flats.
• To gain Membership into the 150-mph club, the vehicle must run the 2.25 mile long course twice in the same event at a speed no less than 150 mph. The two runs are then averaged.
• Drivers will be required to participate in a driver orientation meeting with a USFRA designated official prior to racing.
• An acceptable speed indicator (Speedometer, Tachometer or GPS) is required so the driver has an indication of the car’s speed at any point on the course.
• Maximum speed will be 159.999 mph – any vehicle exceeding 159.999 mph will forfeit any of the unused 6 runs will not receive a timing slip, and be disqualified for the remainder of event.
• The driver must wear a Snell 2005, ECE 22.05, or FIA 8860-2004 (or later) approved, full-face helmet with full face shield (no damaged helmets will be allowed).
• Drivers must wear a SFI 3.2A/1 or better rated fire suit including shoes and gloves and an approved neck collar. The driver must have SFI 3.3 arm restraints or the car must be equipped with one of the various types of window net available on the market.
• A four- (4) point roll bar approved by a recognized Racing sanctioning organization must be installed in the vehicle; driver is responsible to provide objective evidence of approval.
Integral Corvette-type roll bar is not acceptable.( As of Jan 2016 roll bars will be constructed of 1 5/8” Dia. with minimum .120” wall thickness mild steel or 1 5/8” Dia. with minimum .095” wall thickness E4130 chromoly tubing, with 5”X 6” X ¼” thick attach plates with a minimum of 4 3/8” bolts.)
• The seat assembly must be adequately braced to prevent rearward collapse by a portion of the roll bar assembly.
• The vehicle must have a 4 point or better seat belt restraint system ( as of Jan 2016 a 5 point or better SFI approved seat belt will be required).
• Cars must have a metal battery tie down. No plastic, wedge style, ratchet straps, or bungee cords, etc. will be allowed.
• A Driveshaft retention loop is required in the front 25% of each section of drive shaft on rear-wheel cars where adequate retention and control of a broken driveline is not assured by body/frame design.
• On non OEM fuel delivery systems dual throttle return springs are required, on each throttle shaft.
• All non OEM fuel lines must be constructed of rubber, braided, or steel hard line. No aluminum/copper hard line or clear plastic hose will be allowed.
• Fuel lines are not allowed in the drivers compartment.
• On unibody cars such as Corvair, VW, Porsche, Etc. the fuel lines must be higher than the lowest part of the pan or the unibody structure. They must be installed inside of a heavy metal tube or above a skid plate. The metal tube or skid plate must be positively attached (no sheet metal screws will be allowed). This is to protect the fuel system from damage if a wheel/tire failure should occur.
• Vehicles must have V or higher rated tires or acceptable racing tires which are rated for speeds in excess of 159 mph. No tires wider than 10″ will be allowed, unless the tires are OEM to the vehicle. (Narrow tires provide better traction and vehicle control on the Salt).
• Tires & wheels for all vehicles will have bolted in metal valve stems with metal valve caps. No OEM (T.P.S.) Tire Pressure Sensors will be allowed.
• Wheel covers will be positively attached or removed. No snap on style hub caps are allowed.
With these modifications made Mike, by himself, drove the Spoiler II 1,800 miles one-way to the Bonneville Salt Flats; prepared the car and went 154 MPH on a 2.25 mile strip of “table salt”! He took a deep breath and with a big smile on his face, took the return road along the track and made a second run with at 153 MPH backing up his first run and making it official.
If you are one of those skeptics that says; “Oh, no big deal, I have run that fast out on the interstate.” Then you don’t know SALT! The Bonneville Salt is like ice, it is very, very slippery. It is not like running on concrete or asphalt. Mike says you are gently sawing on the steering wheel the entire run. Note the rule above regarding tires; narrow tires provide better traction and vehicle control on the Salt!