As a child growing up in Springfield, Kentucky, Vinny Barber spent a lot of time hanging around his older brothers as they worked on their Mustangs, Camaros, Novas and GTOs. When the work was done, he would climb into the passenger’s seat of his brother Joe’s 396 cubic inch ‘69 Camaro SS and count on him to be heavy on the throttle.
While he suspects he was just plain in their way, he also credits them for teaching him much of what he now knows — and for influencing his dream to one day own a ’69 Z28 Camaro. That dream came true when he was just seventeen. It was red and it had a 302 cubic inch engine and a 4-speed transmission.
“After my days of hot-rodding on the street for several years and after several years of marriage, I restored the car back to original, including the white paint it had before I bought it, and showed it for about seven years and eventually sold it about four years ago,” said Barber, who now lives in Cox’s Creek, Kentucky, with his wife, Evelyn, and children, Bridgett, Emily and Greg, and co-owns Barber Cabinet Company with his brothers John, Mike and Louis. “I just decided I didn’t drive it much and it was time to let it go, but I never did lose a race on the street with it and I was racing other Camaros, Mustangs and ’55 Chevys. It was a bad car back in its time.”
Goodbye Bowtie, Hello Blue Oval
Sure, the Camaro was nice, but what came next is even nicer. Barber bought the ’05 Mustang GT that you’ve seen blast down the track in the ProCharger Super Street Outlaw class in April of ‘05 from Conway-Heaton Ford in Bardstown, Kentucky. “Chevrolet didn’t have anything anymore,” said Barber. “I had ordered a red ’05 Mustang and waited four or five months and it hadn’t come yet, and I saw this one sitting on the front lot at the dealership and decided white doesn’t look so bad after all. I went right in and bought it and got to take it home that day. I just left my truck there and went back to get it later.”
What should have been a day of celebration turned into a day of sorrow, as Barber’s dad, Philetus Swift Barber, known as P.S. Barber, died at the hospital minutes after his purchase. “For some reason, that made buying the car that much more special,” said Barber. “It was like it was a sign. I drove it for 25,000 miles before I turned it into what it is today. I put a ProCharger, headers and 4.30 gears on it and drove it like that and went to the track with it like that. It had a 3-valve 4.6 in it when I bought it and we found out how far we could push it, and that was to 525 horsepower. One day, I had just gotten the car back from the shop, where I had it dyno’d and had the pulleys on the ProCharger changed. It dyno’d really well, but when I took it out on the street to punch it, the engine blew. I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know when.”
Barber’s wife was in the passenger’s seat at the time and found it odd that her husband was laughing — quite hysterically — when the engine blew. “After blowing the engine, everything snowballed,” said Barber. “When I bought the Mustang, I started watching NMRA races and everyone kept telling me I couldn’t make more power with the 3-valve and that I needed to switch to a 2-valve or 4-valve. Well, I’m not someone who takes no for an answer. There was a person who was pushing the 3-valves and he kept blowing his engines and I thought someone could build a 3-valve to last. Mine had a stock 4.6 3-valve in it and we built a new 4.6 3-valve that was modified and built to run in the 9-second zone and it would never run what they said it would run. That was in ’06 and I spent a year with that shop trying to get it to run in the 9s but never could get it there. The closest I got was a 10.25 at the Bowling Green NMRA race, which was the second NMRA race I had ever run. I was running in the Modular Muscle class.”
Not long after, Barber met Ken Bjonnes from Modular Depot, in Kentucky, and started working with him on his combination. “Ken said, ‘I wish you had a turbo on this,’ said Barber. “We spent a year working with what I had and trying to get it to do what it was supposed to do and to get it to go down track. At the end of that year, the engine blew again. Basically, we towed it back to Ken’s shop and we let it sit there a couple weeks and I met up with him at Bowling Green and we sat and talked about what to do with the car and the combination. I asked him what he recommended, and he said he’d go with the turbo and after that, we talked to Tony Bischoff at BES Racing Engines and told him what we wanted to do and asked him what he would do if it was his engine and he told us.”
While Barber doesn’t want to give away too much information about his engine, he will say that it’s still a 3-valve. “This is the little engine that everyone said wouldn’t stay together,” said Barber. “This was in ’07, and it has billet rods and the best of everything. We went through the build transformation and ran it on the factory computer and didn’t get back on the track with it until ’08 in Columbus. Actually, we had gone up to test and play around and we ran it in Mod Muscle and we ended up running 8.99 the first time at the track and I got to the semi-finals. At the next race, in Kentucky, we raced Justin Burcham and we were running for 3-valve records and we ran the best two out of three. The third race, he ran 8.53 and I ran 8.73. At that point, he kept the record for the fastest 3-valve, but he has dual power-adders and I have just one, so I had the record for the fastest single power-adder.”
On that third pass, Barber was running with a cracked head and two plugs that had broken the day before that had been glued back together. He spun the first 60 feet off the line. All this was done with the factory block.
When they took the engine out a short while later, they replaced the stock block with a Ford Racing cast-iron Boss block. “We switched blocks because we were getting to the power level where we weren’t sure an aluminum block was going to hold,” said Barber. Around the same time, he had a 25.5 cage added to the car and began using BigStuff3 with a Spaghetti Menders wiring harness, as he had been running the factory computer.
In ’09, Barber chose to run in ProCharger Super Street Outlaw and made all of the races with the exception of Florida and New Jersey. “We built the car to run Drag Radial, but spent all of ’09 adjusting the chassis and creeping up on the tune, because we knew we were in unchartered territory with the 3-valve,” said Barber. “We weren’t expecting to be into the points, but we ended up finishing in the fifth spot and we ended up setting the fastest 4.6 3-valve NMRA record with an 8.44 at 164 miles per hour in Joliet in ’09. We were all tickled. It’s also the fastest 3-link suspension.”
In testing, Barber discovered that his lower control arms weren’t heavy enough, so they custom made some, and the car has been running 1.26 in the 60-foot pretty regularly. “Considering my trans was going at the time of the 8.44, I think it was going to go even faster,” said Barber. “My torque converter is still too loose, and we haven’t turned the horsepower up yet. The car is capable of turning 9000 RPM and we’ve only been shifting at 7500. There’s more left in it.”
The Heads Have it
While Barber’s heads are currently at Livernois Motorsports, he plans to get them back soon and make New Jersey his first race of the season.
“They’re going to be the trickest set of 3-valve heads ever, and we’ve already proven that 3-valves are capable of being competitive,” said Barber. “I was the only one running 3-valve heads in Super Street Outlaw and I think I’ll be the only one running them in Drag Radial. All it took was for someone to tell me it couldn’t be done.”
Driver: Vinny Barber
Car: ’05 Mustang GT, 3515 pounds with driver
Hometown: Springfield, Kentucky
Occupation:Partner at Barber Cabinet Co.
Family: Wife Evelyn and children Bridgett, 26, Emily, 22 and Greg, 20
Class: Super Street Outlaw in ’09, Drag Radial in ’10
Crew: Ken Bjonnes, Evelyn Barber, Greg Barber, Matt Johnson
Sponsors: Modular Depot, MD Speed, BES Racing Engines, Livernois CNC heads, Steeda
Quickest ET: 8.44 at 164, 1.28 60-foot
Chassis: 25.5 built by Gary Rohe Race Cars
Front suspension: BMR Fabrication, Santhuff struts, Flaming River rack
Rear suspension: QA1 shocks/springs, Steeda competition upper arm, Custom made lower control arms, BMR Fabrication Xtreme anti-roll bar
Tires and wheels: Weld Alumastar
Rear-end: Ford 8.8 with Moser axles and spool
Transmission: TCI Pro-X Powerglide with TCI converter
Front and rear brakes: Aerospace Components
Hood and body: Steeda cowl hood and competition front bumper
Engine: Ford Modular 4.6 stroker 3-valve, 323 cubic inches, FRPP cast-iron Boss block, built by BES Racing Engines, custom billet connecting rods, Bullet Cams custom-ground to BES specs, Ross pistons, custom BES intake manifold
Heads: Livernois CNC Stage 3R with extra loving
Exhaust: Custom stainless steel made by Modular Depot
Engine Management System: BigStuff3 with Spaghetti Menders Harness, 160 lb./hr. injectors, Accufab 105 mm throttle body
Power-adder: Single turbo, Precision Turbos GT47/88, 2500 hp air-to-water mounted under dash
Fuel: VP C16