The World’s Fastest, Most Ver­sa­tile Model T

Hot Rod - - Contents - Phillip Thomas Wes Al­li­son and Phillip Thomas

There was some­thing about the ex­haust note that just didn’t sound right, like a gi­ant ex­haust leak had opened up un­der boost. Mike War­ren’s Mad Max– es­que, A/BFCC 1927 Ford Model T had fi­nally made a full-throt­tle pass at ECTA’s first-ever Arkansas 1-Mile Chal­lenge with the wild-card Blytheville weather al­low­ing a sliver of time be­tween 15- to 20-mph gusts of wind, but it was clear that the car wasn’t gain­ing speed at the ex­pected rate.

This would be the time for most to freak out a lit­tle, maybe drop a few col­or­ful words of frus­tra­tion, but Mike is ever pa­tient with his “War­ren Spe­cial,” ex­press­ing his con­cern for the en­gine with sim­ple cu­rios­ity. We sup­pose his stoic calm­ness comes from his high-pres­sure day job run­ning in­dus­trial boil­ers.

“The boiler I’m run­ning now is 10 sto­ries tall, a big boy,” he says. “Boil­ing wa­ter is not a very glam­orous job. You’re hid­den in a lit­tle room sur­rounded by com­put­ers and screens, but it pays well—it pays the rac­ing bills.”

Mike has been a long­time HRM reader, but was start­ing to get a new rac­ing itch as time went on. “We got kind of burnt out on bracket races years ago, so we de­cided on land-speed rac­ing,” Mike ad­mits. “And dumb me, I first went to Bon­neville, looked at all the cars, and I thought, I’ve al­ways wanted to do a chopped-top T. While we were out there, they were film­ing The World’s Fastest In­dian, where Burt Munro on his In­dian ended up go­ing 200 mph, and I was hooked. So I started think­ing about what the world’s fastest Model T would do.” He got a taste of the salt in his other 1933 coupe, but the runs proved to be a mo­ment of reck­on­ing for them. “I made four passes, and ev­ery time some­thing hap­pened, and I’d have to lift—it kept me puck­ered up!” The slick sur­face was a hand­ful, es­pe­cially with the cross­winds, but it was the 184.3-mph gate­way drug he needed to build his dream LSR ma­chine.

The 120-inch-wheel­base chas­sis was born from be­hind

Mike’s garage door, fea­tur­ing 2x4-inch box rails and a com­plete 15/8 OD, 0.134-wall mild steel cage. RideTech’s Shock­wave airbagged coilovers sus­pend the T, with the front us­ing a 1937 Ford

“My Un­cle David, when I was 12, he put me in a 1954 Ford with a cammed-up, 312ci mo­tor, three-speed man­ual with the 4.11 gears welded up, and he put me in that car to drive my first hot rod. I guess I’ve been hooked on hot rods and go­ing fast since. I guess it’s in my blood, I don’t know what else to do.”

— Mike War­ren straight axle, while a 9-inch out of a 1970 Ford pickup was built by Ford8and9Inch with a 2.47:1 ring-and-pin­ion and a he­li­cal Moser Wave­trac dif­fer­en­tial—a lim­ited-slip was used in­stead of a typ­i­cal spool given the street miles Mike runs in the T. The front end was also up­dated with a rear-steer­ing rack-and-pin­ion unit, get­ting rid of the typ­i­cal drag-link night­mare and all of its bad habits.

The body was ba­si­cally thrown away by a Model T club, deem­ing the moon-like sur­face tex­ture of the pock­marked steel too far gone to re­store, with some of the craters left be­hind by decades of sur­face rust big enough to charge rent in. This was zero con­cern for Mike, so about the only work the orig­i­nal body re­ceived was a wedge-cut, 10-inch chop. With a foam roller, no less, Mike then painted the body with a gold ham­mer­tone fin­ish be­fore friend Scoot Malone driz­zled on the T’s old-school scal­lops and let­ter­ing by hand.

“We were not aero­dy­namic—with a flat wind­shield and no aero el­e­ments.

Sure enough, un­til I put that wood split­ter be­tween the Stude­baker Pres­i­dent head­lights, at 180 mph it would sit up on a cush­ion of air,” Mike re­calls, re­liv­ing the mo­ment in his tone of voice. “Af­ter we added the split­ter, it stayed down on the track.” As you might imag­ine, the Tin Lizzie isn’t ex­actly a low-drag de­sign, and the car suf­fered with hor­ren­dous lift be­fore what looks like some­one’s gar­den fence was sac­ri­ficed in the name of down­force.

Orig­i­nally a boat-rac­ing pow­er­plant, Mike’s 454 was hogged out to 482 ci be­fore tak­ing a par­tial block fill to re­in­force the cylin­der walls. A Scat crank launches Wiseco pis­tons up in the bore, thanks to a mys­tery set of per­for­mance rods, and the combo is built around an 8.4:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio. Skip White Per­for­mance in Kingsport, Ten­nessee, han­dled all of the ma­chin­ing work be­fore in­stalling a Lu­nati Dual-Pat­tern bump­stick spec’d at 255/263 de­grees of du­ra­tion with 0.680 lift. Mike pulled a set of Brodix Race-Rite oval-port heads off the shelf and stuffed them with Har­land Sharp rock­ers to ac­tu­ate the 2.25/1.88-inch valves.

A $400 pair of eBay GT45 tur­bos atop home­made log man­i­folds shove boost through a blow-through Hol­ley built by Horse­power In­no­va­tions for Mother Na­ture’s rac­ing fuel, E85. This low-bud­get, big-brute combo churns out more than 1,100 hp and 1,000 lb-ft of torque, mak­ing

200-mph sprints fairly easy con­sid­er­ing the fly­ing-barn aero­dy­nam­ics. “Sure enough, the first time we drove the thing, we rolled into it in High gear at 55 mph, and about half a sec­ond later, those tur­bos spooled up and it about scared the pee out of me,” Mike says. “This thing was awe­some!” Mike also pulled a Turbo

400 from the back of the garage, which is backed by a 4,000-rpm-stall PTC con­verter and ac­tu­ated by a re­verse-pat­tern Hurst Quar­ter Stick in­side the cock­pit.

It was at the ECTA’s for­mer Ohio Mile in Wilm­ing­ton, where Mike and his co­driver, Justin Brand, knocked through the 200-mph bar­rier to claim the World’s Fastest Model T. Mike had churned a 202.7, and at the fi­nal Ohio Mile event, Justin walked up to his 205.9-mph record, be­fore melt­ing the top of pis­ton four.

Mike tells us, “Keith Turk, one time at the ECTA, gave us a lit­tle talk at the start. He said, ‘Con­grat­u­la­tions, guys, you are the ones who got up off the couch and got the job done, and you’re here rac­ing. And there’s thou­sands of other guys sit­ting on the couch right now go­ing, ‘I think I can build a 200-mph car!’”

More than just the ven­er­a­ble street miles, get­ting in­vited to the Coast Cruiz­ers by Jimbo dur­ing Panama City’s Emer­ald Coast Cruizin, Mike’s T has also wreaked havoc at dirt drags and burnout con­tests. “In 2017, we found a lit­tle 250foot dirt dragstrip about 30 min­utes from my house. So I said, I guess we’ll need a

set of those Su­per-Scooper tires. We cut up two plas­tic buck­ets to fit around the air fil­ters to block dirt. We made five to six passes, kick­ing dirt way up in the air. The first time I made a pass there, it was like an 80-foot shut­down be­fore a barbed-wire fence! We got to a stop, but then the wave of dirt from the rooster tail just came in through the roof. It was fun, but we did hurt the mo­tor.” It had been spun a lit­tle harder than ex­pected, but a few val­ve­train parts were worth the price of ad­mis­sion.

But still, none of that was pre­vent­ing a waste­gate from belch­ing out the nec­es­sary ex­haust pres­sure to spin up the turbo’s com­pres­sor last April, leav­ing re­turn­ing driver Justin, along with co-driver Brian Ac­tion (who was hunt­ing for his fourth 200-mph club), with 180-mph runs that didn’t work out as ex­pected. Dur­ing June’s meet, the sec­ond at Arkansas, the en­gine mys­te­ri­ously hy­dro-locked dur­ing a run, de­spite hap­pily tick­ing on days af­ter the event. But, hey, that’s rac­ing.

With Blytheville’s new puzzle for ECTA’s stand­ing-mile rac­ers, Mike will be back in the fall to fi­nally get that clean pass he’s been hop­ing for. More im­por­tantly, the per­sis­tence in rac­ing is nec­es­sary to find the joy in the ma­chine. For Mike, he’s al­ready ac­com­plished his 200-mph goal—at this point, he’s chas­ing the dragon.

How­ever, look­ing back at that 200mph hat, Mike tells us, “It’s an over­whelm­ing sen­sa­tion, just think­ing about it still gets me. It’s the first time I went over 200 mph—in a car I ac­tu­ally built—I just thought, I fi­nally made it! If I don’t do any­thing else in life, I’ve suc­ceeded. It’s truly how I felt. It’s like the first time I drove out on the salt. The emo­tion of just be­ing there where Craig Breedlove and Burt Munro and all of them had raced. When you do some­thing like that, it’s a sense of ac­com­plish­ment that you don’t get from any­body else. There’s no ac­co­lades, it’s just you—and it’s just pretty dang cool.”

[ Low-buck high-per­for­mance is the name of the game here, with a con­ven­tional 454 be­ing bored like a West Texas oil well for 482 cubes. No EFI, no in­ter­cooler, no non­sense. [ Mike War­ren and Justin Brand’s hard-earned records from ECTA, plus you can see into the craters of the sheet­metal.

[ Wood is Mother Na­ture’s rac­ing com­pos­ite, in our book. Front lift was a ma­jor is­sue with­out this lit­tle air dam. [ And that bud­get is no more ap­par­ent in the 71mm tur­bocharg­ers, which came off eBay for $400 for the pair. Say what you will, but cheap boost for the masses has made stuff like land-speed rac­ing much more ac­ces­si­ble. [ It’s all busi­ness in­side the “War­ren Spe­cial,” but every­thing is still ac­ces­si­ble. Mike once ac­ci­den­tally wrapped his arm re­straint around the Hurst Quar­ter Stick shifter, knock­ing it down a gear dur­ing the run—you can imag­ine that woke him up a lit­tle! [ The T rolls out onto Blytheville’s ex–Air Force base for its first full-throt­tle passes of the week­end, but a mal­func­tion­ing boost con­trol setup stuck the pas­sen­ger-side waste­gate wide open.

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