John MacDonald programs robotic welders for the auto industry. In his daily gig, he spends time figuring out how to make welds stronger, and in turn, strengthen the bond between two pieces of metal. He brings the same speed and accuracy that robots showed the auto industry to the sport of drag racing, breaking down the logical steps of how the interconnected parts perform to make his Super Street Outlaw program perform to its highest potential.
By: Mike Yoksich
Courtesy of ProMedia Publishing
The same logical mind that MacDonald uses to program software told him he needed quality hardware to make his total race package work. When it came time to assemble the people and pieces needed to make his race efforts worthwhile, he turned to Kim Mapes at Motorcity Motorsports in Riverview, Michigan. Mapes is the friend and crew chief that makes the hardware work for John’s program.
Super Street Outlaw racer John MacDonald
The ProCharger Super Street Outlaw class that John runs his 2001 Cobra in takes a huge amount of dedication to become successful, and MacDonald is no stranger to hard work. Running 7.52 @ 193 mph with a 1.21 60 foot time at 3,175 pounds requires a well sorted out engine and chassis combination. MacDonald has been competing in Super Street Outlaw for a couple of seasons now, and has finally figured out some of the speed secrets his competition is loathe to share.
When it came time to construct the bullet for John’s car, engine builder Mapes used a Dart compacted-graphite iron 9.5 inch deck, 351 block, which has been bored and stroked to 388 cubes. Compacted graphite has at least 75% higher tensile strength and 45% higher stiffness with double the fatigue strength of a conventional iron block, which helps to provide a strong foundation for the rotating assembly. Above 200° C, for example, the fatigue strength of CGI can be five times higher than an aluminum block, making this the logical choice for an engine that sees over 30 pounds of boost on a regular basis. CGI blocks hold the dimensional proportions of the bore much better than any other material, which helps to keep the rings sealed up properly.
Sonny Bryant designed the 3.65 inch stroke crank that whips around those sweet GRP aluminum rods and 9 to 1 CP pistons. The oil pump is a Stock Car Products external unit, sucking from a Moroso pan. The heads MacDonald chose are Brodix Neal BF-202’s that have been ported by Mapes at Motorcity Motorsports. The BF-202’s now flow 420cfm on the intake side, and 300cfm through the exhaust, helping the ProCharger sitting on the front of the engine to huff plenty of extra air through the whole works.
Mapes spent plenty of time developing the combustion chambers on these cylinder heads, and they’ve been perfected for a supercharged application like MacDonald’s. Propac triple valve springs bring the titanium Del West valves back to the seat after the long ride the Comp Cam takes them on.
John also relies on a Jesel belt drive timing system, which spins the cam in the Dart block’s 55mm roller bearing equipped cam tunnel. Jesel keyed roller lifters bump the Smith Brothers pushrods up and down in the cylinder heads, opening up those titanium valves.
MacDonald relies on an ATI ProCharger F3A, measuring 123mm at the inducer, and the supercharger is driven by a Supercharger Store gear drive before it pushes the boost through a ProCharger 2400 hp water to air intercooler. The 30 pounds of boost travels through the intercooler, and passes through an Accufab 105 mm throttle body, before diving through the Edelbrock 351Y intake manifold and into the cylinder heads.
The manifold has been modified by Motorcity Motorsports to house F.A.S.T. 160-pound fuel injectors that are controlled by a FAST XFI fuel injection system. On the ‘out’ side of the cylinder heads, a set of Motorcity Motorsports custom fabricated 2” headers with 4” collectors take the spent gases back into the atmosphere.
Getting all that power back to the rear end is the responsibility of Kenny Lang at Lang Transmissions in Milan, Michigan. Lang used a 10 clutch drum, ringless input shaft, custom straight cut gearset, JW case and bellhousing, and then increased the line pressure. A car this heavy, with as much power as John’s Cobra has, can be hell on a transmission. The key is getting a handle on the line pressure of the transmission. The Neal Chance 10″ bolt together convertor is the same one that came with the car when MacDonald originally purchased it from Tim Lyons. It’s constructed of aluminum on one side, steel on the other, and features one of Chance’s billet stators.
The rear end is a Chassis Works Fab 9 Ford-based housing modified by Kim at Motorcity Motorsports. Kim used Moser 35 spline axles, with a Moser 3.60 ratio ring and pinion, and further strengthened the housing for Super Street Outlaw duty. The ladder bars and anti roll bar were built by Tim Bradham’s Chassis Works in Fayetteville, N.C., and are controlled by a pair of Afco T2 double adjustable shocks. The front suspension features double adjustable Santhuff struts, which are bolted to a Vanishing Point k-member and a-arms.
The front half of the car rolls on a pair of 15×4.5 Weld Spindle Mounts with Mickey Thompson tires, while the rear is supported by 15×12 Bogart Double Bead-Loc wheels with Mickey Thompson 28 x 10.5 slicks. The chassis, originally built by Tim Bradham, was originally owned by Tim Lyons. Lyons campaigned the car in SSO competition before John purchased it as a roller. John and Kim continued the evolution of the beautifully built 25.2 spec car by adding some bracing and beefing up the rearend housing to make it stronger. They lightened up the rotating mass by gun drilling the axles, and set up the car to match John’s driving style. In a class as tough as SSO you need to constantly be improving.
Where John’s Coming From
John’s racing career started when he was 18 years old. He saved his money till he was able to buy an ‘86 Mustang GT. Most of John’s friends had Mustangs and buying the 5.0 allowed John to join in the fun. He immediately took the car to the strip and ran a best time of 14.6 at a whopping 95 mph, a far cry from the 195mph speeds his Super Street Outlaw car achieves.
John’s next step was to start bracket racing every weekend, and that’s when the modifications began. John did all the standard modifications for that time, which included bolt-on rocker arms, headers, rear-end gears, and the venerable Ford Racing Parts GT40 intake and cylinder heads. After getting down to 13.0 ET’s, John started feeling the need for speed, which helped him to plan out the next step.
The sickness took hold and MacDonald’s next move was to a 408-inch carbureted, nitrous-injected engine backed by a C4 transmission. The Mustang was upgraded with a 10 point cage, and after shaking it down, it was time to unleash the bottle. The car went a best of 9.05 at 154 mph on nitrous, and ran the 9.0 index class at the local track with some success. This car was garage built and taught John a lot about driving a car that didn’t go straight down the track.
Wanting to see the next sunrise, John needed to give his car a serious upgrade if he was going to go faster. He decided to sell the car instead of cutting it up and starting over. The car was sold to someone in the Middle East and John crated it and shipped over by boat. After researching what class to run next, John chose the fastest cars running on true 10.5’s, Super Street Outlaw.
John had a deal go bad with a chassis shop down south to build a SSO car, so the search began to find a rolling chassis. Former SSO racer Tim Lyons from Georgia responded and a deal was struck. After bringing the rolling chassis back to Michigan, a search for a local engine builder began. John met with Kim Mapes at Motorcity Motorsports. Kim took a big interest in the project and really wanted to see the performance potential of the car come true.
At first, Mapes was just the engine builder but as time has gone by, he’s become intimately involved in MacDonald’s Super Street Outlaw program. Kim had spent some time as a crew chief on a Top Sportsman team, in addition to running a successful NSCA Limited Street car for many years in the ‘old’ NSCA, so he had plenty of experience to help shorten MacDonald’s learning curve.
After the engine was assembled, the car was dropped off to Motorcity Motorsports to complete the installation of all the remaining components. After some dyno pulls, it was time to head to the track to shake the car out. According to MacDonald, “Kim was selected as the crew chief and has had his hands in every part of the car. Kim is the only guy I know that can do everything on a race car. I feel lucky to have him a part of my team. When I am at the starting line I feel very confident about how Kim has prepared the car.
Once I stage, it is up to me to cut a light and keep the car in the groove. The racing is more of a sickness than a hobby, and Kim and I both have the disease,” MacDonald explained. “We’ve infected the rest of the crew. Kim’s son Kimmie does a great job with helping out on the car. For a kid only 16 years old he knows his way around a race car and adds to our team. Eric Wieszkowiak also helps out a lot with the program by helping with the driving the rig to the races, along with many other jobs and always keeps everyone laughing,” says MacDonald.
Within the first year of running a few NMRA races, the team got the car down to the 7.70s. Then in the fall of 2007, during testing, the car went into a big wheelie and when it came down John ended up hitting the wall. Luckily, it was just sheet metal damage.
After the crash John thought about going to one color but Kim talked him into keeping the original paint scheme because the car was so recognizable. Only one painter, Lincoln Park, MI’s Glenn Kuderik, was considered skilled enough for MacDonald to take on the job. Kuderik spent hours mixing and matching the paint, which was quite the difficult task on this particular paint scheme. Once the car was resprayed, MacDonald was very happy with his decision to leave the paint design as-is.
When the car went back to Motorcity Motorsports it was time to perform a serious upgrade the car to handle the quicker elapsed times of the class since the original engine was built. Kim bolted in a new Vanishing Point front suspension, spindle mount wheels, shocks, and all new heim joints, beefing up the rear-end housing and put the new Cobra sheet metal on it and redid the car setup. The second race of 2008 netted them a 7.56 and then Kim upgraded the EFI to a FAST XFI system. When he showed up for the next race of ‘08, at his local track, Milan Dragway, he made it all the way to the final round in front of all of his family and friends with his freshly-updated car.
“When I bought the car it was set up for a blower, and with the deal came with a ProCharger supercharger; this was my first non-nitrous power adder. ProCharger has given me great support and their superchargers have been very reliable. I think the blower power adder is very manageable but you just have to know how to use it. It’s not hard to make a lot of power with the blower, but it’s the fine-tuning it to the chassis, track, weather, and drivetrain that takes time,” MacDonald confided.
MacDonald and Mapes consult on the setup before each run based on the data and come to a decision on which way to go with the tune-up. They always seem to come to agreement which makes it easier to work as a team. John would never consider taking the car out without Kim, as he’s the witch doctor that makes it all happen.
MacDonald told us that finishing in the Top Ten for 2008 was great, but for 2009 they’re going to kick it up a notch and attend every race on the schedule to take advantage of the NMRA’s new points system. With their new gear drive setup at the season-opening race in Bradenton on only the third pass they ran a 7.52 @ 193 mph – not bad for a season-opening effort. John explains the mainstay behind his program quite simply, “None of this would have been possible without the love and support of my wife Michelle and our sons Colton and Devon. It sure helps to have ProCharger and Kim and the rest of our great crew making this all happen too.” Keep your eye on this team in 2009.
PowerTV: What was it like the first time you drove it?
John MacDonald: We first tested on a 29.5 X 11.5 tire and had the car set up to leave very soft. The fastest I went before in my NOS car was a 9.0 and the first pass in the new car was 8.15 @ 172 mph. Very smooth and felt like a 9 second pass, driving a boosted car the power is very linear. The chassis of the car is very good and responds to adjustments which makes Kim’s job easier. Tim Bradham built a good car and we have just taken it too another level.
PowerTV: What did it take to become competitive?
John MacDonald: Finding a combination without breaking parts first and then finding a range of tune-ups so the car will go down the track without spinning or shaking. The first 300′ is the most critical to make the car work. We stumbled on a tune-up that works for us so we can back the car down on a slippery track. The FAST XFI really helped us tune-up wise with the faster processor and new variables. For me it took some seat time and not worrying who is in the other lane.
I went to a final round at a local outlaw race and that really prepared me for heads up competition, I had to cut good lights because the cars that I was up against were faster. Developing at a car on a true 28 X 10.5 tire is a learning process for the driver and the car. We progressed with each step we learned and just keep going further. We are one run away from the 7.40s to actually take advantage of the 25.2 chassis spec. Running on such a small tire it is critical to keep the car in the groove and learning when to lift.
You broke a lot of parts in the beginning. Did you ever feel like quitting?
John MacDonald: Let’s see, the list is pretty long. Ring gear, block, rods, pistons, crankshaft, cylinder heads, blower belts, and mostly transmissions. I never felt like quitting, I knew once we could get past a few hurdles the car would be good. It was very frustrating though to take the car out and have it break because it costs a lot just to go to the track. That money could have been spent on spare parts and put me ahead for awhile. We have now good spare parts and a handle on how many runs are on each component, so we can cycle them out before breakage. A SSO car is extremely hard on parts, it looks easy when you see these cars go down the track but takes a lot of work.
PowerTV: What does you family think about what you do? Were they there when you crashed?
John MacDonald: It’s a love-hate relationship. It is a huge commitment and sometimes it takes away from family things. It is all I talk about which wears on Michele sometimes but she supports me very well. When I was able to go to a NMRA final round in front of Michele, Colton and Devon they were able to understand how much drama goes on during race day. They were there when the crash happened, and it didn’t go too well at first. It scared them to see it in person but once they saw all the safety measures in place work it put their minds at ease. I use a R3 Hybrid head and neck restraint now after the crash for more safety. We are always looking to improve the safety features on the car and you can never be too cafeful.
PowerTV: Tell us a little about your beer brewing?
John MacDonald: In Michigan it gets pretty cold during the winter so I took up brewing my own beer last fall. It’s has turned into a nice hobby that is now slowing down once the race season began. Brewing beer involves some technique, a lot of cleaning and attention to details. It’s basically a chemical reaction of malt, hops, grains, and yeast. The beer that I have been making is hands down better than the stuff you can buy at the store.
Kim Mapes over at Motorcity Motorsports screwed together this killer small-block for John MacDonald. Mapes used a Dart 9.5”-deck, compacted graphite block, along with a set of GRP connecting rods and CP pistons to achieve the horsepower needed to run in the mid-7.50’s at over 190 mph.
MacDonald relies on simple gear in the cockpit of his ’01 Cobra. A full complement of Auto Meter gauges supplements the information he garners from the FAST XFI fuel injection system. He’s protected by a full 25.2 chassis originally built by Tim Bradham’s Chassisworks in North Carolina.
MacDonald and crew chief Mapes performed some updates to the rearend. A set of Moser axles and gears are turned by a Strange Engineering spool, and the rearend is suspended by the class-norm set of ladder bars.
- CAR WEIGHT: 3175
- BEST E.T./MPH: 7.52/193.37 mph, 1.21 60’
- ENGINE/SIZE: 388 cid Dart 9.5” deck CGI block, 3.625” stroke Sonny Bryant Billet crank, GRP aluminum connecting rods, CP Pistons, Edelbrock intake manifold
- CYLINDER HEADS: Brodix BF202
- EXHAUST: 2” headers, no mufflers
- CAMSHAFT: Competition Cams “¾ race”
- CHASSIS: Tim Bradham’s Chassisworks 25.2-spec
- FRONT SUSPENSION: Vanishing Point k-member kit, Santhuff struts
- REAR SUSPENSION: Tim Bradham ladder bars, TB anti-roll bar, AFCO shocks, Motorcity Motorsports wheelie bars
- TIRES & WHEELS: Weld front wheels, Bogart rear wheels, Mickey Thompson Tires
- REAR END: Fabricated 9” with Moser and Strange Engineering internals
- TRANSMISSION: Lang Transmissions-modified Powerglide, Neal Chance bolt-together torque converter
- EFI/IGNITION: FAST fuel-injection, MSD 7531
- FUEL SYSTEM: Dual Weldon 2345 pumps and regulator, FAST 160 lb./hr. injectors
- SAFETY EQUIPMENT: RJS Belts, Stroud parachute, R3 hybrid neck restraint, Motorcity Motorsports engine pan, fire suppression system
- POWER ADDER: ProCharger F3A 123mm, Supercharger Store gear-drive
- SPONSORS: Motorcity Motorsports, ProCharger, Comp Cams/F.A.S.T., Allard Engineering, Shark’s Art, MJ Motorsports, Lang Transmissions