It was the large knobby tires wrapped around a set of Charcoal 2013 GT500 Wheels that made me stop dead in my tracks at AM2015.
With various manufacturer decals arranged around the black body of the S197, including a driver/co-driver sticker on each side of the Mustang, I was in awe trying to confirm what I was seeing. After snapping cell phone pictures from every which angle I could manage, I talked to the driver and confirmed my suspicions; I was staring at awesome on wheels—a Rally racing Mustang.
Breaking the Mold
While the Mustang has long been a fixture at your local drag strip and in recent years, track days, drift events, and hill climbs—a dirt rally course is one of the last places you’d expect to find one. In a sport that is dominated by European and Japanese cars with smaller displacement engines and sometimes all-wheel drive setups, a rear-wheel drive V8 American muscle car is one of the last competitors you’d expect to see running a dirt rally stage, ditch hooking and sliding around turns; but just because you wouldn’t expect it doesn’t mean it isn’t right at home.
I had the pleasure of talking with AmericanMuscle customer and driver of the rally Mustang, Paul C., who was able to give me an in-depth rundown of what it takes to turn your street ‘Stang into a rally ready steed like the one he drives, nicknamed “#horseplay.” While the casual observer may notice the large Nitto Terra Grappler G2 tires that help to raise the car’s ride height while also giving it the traction it needs on dirt, there is much more that went into this build than what meets the eye.
Rugged and Ready To Race
While horseplay is owned by Pink Curl Racing (PCR), Paul drives, maintains, and races the car. At a quick glance, horseplay is the perfect blend of off-the-shelf parts and one-off customization. To help improve heat dissipation, Paul and his team installed a GT500 heat extractor vent into the GT’s hood and replaced the OEM grille with a slotted Modern Billet Grille.
A welded-in roll cage that is rally and road racing legal helps protect the driver and the co-driver while a custom skid plate that stretches from the bottom of the front bumper back to the start of transmission keeps the heart of the Mustang’s powertrain protected. Considering the constant barrage of obstacles and hazards #horseplay faces, there is a need to have triplicates of all the suspension parts. GT500 control arms and Bilstein HD Struts keep horseplay galloping throughout each rally, which are full of deep ruts and big rocks.
Some may be surprised that with such a serious and respectable build as #horseplay, the powertrain features a list of parts that many enthusiasts like yourselves run on your own Mustangs. A Ford Performance Intake Manifold with a FRPP twin 62mm throttle body feeds air into the 3-valve 4.6 engine. A set of Ford Racing Hot Rod Cams and Kooks Long Tube Headers with a catted H-Pipe make great use of that extra air, delivering a sizeable bump in power and performance. Topped off with a one-piece aluminum driveshaft and 3.73 gears, this Mustang is able to tear up the dirt or the pavement. The best part – this is all done on the stock engine, which has retained the stock internals and continues to run strong with 109,000 miles on the odometer.
No Limits, No Regrets
While some might look at a build like #horseplay and ask ‘why’, for Paul and the team at PCR, the answer is simple. “With our love for the S197 and our mutual desire to do something bold with the car, we wanted to show everyone that a Mustang has no limits,” Paul commented. He went onto say, “Being that you don’t see an S197 Rally car every day it seemed like a logical choice to us. The harsh conditions associated with off-road racing is the perfect environment for us to do some unique research and development on the S197.” With a cammed V8 that screams down dirt roads that 99.9% of Mustang drivers (including myself) would never even consider going down, I think it’s safe to say that horseplay has been able to shatter perceptions, expectations, and ideas around what is actually possible with a Mustang.
It should come as no surprise that a car as polarizing as horseplay was met with some negative feedback early on in the build. “The few people that caught wind of the car before it was released to the public were pretty judgmental. Comments like, ‘Go home Mustang – You’re Drunk’ kept us laughing. You got to have a thick skin any time you’re trying something that isn’t mainstream.” Paul hit the nail directly on the head- with a project that is as outside of the box as this, people will be quick to criticize it, yet it is the kind of project that will ultimately win everyone over because of how innovative it is.
It didn’t take long for enthusiasts of all types to fall in love with the car and what it was doing. At Rally America National Championship, Paul and his team received a large amount of interest and admiration of the build in-person and online. Even Ford Performance was tweeting and posting pictures of horseplay to their social channels, garnering the attention of a completely different audience.
Heading Towards The Winner’s Podium
For 2015, Paul and PCR focused on research and development for the car, figuring out weak points on the car and fine tuning the small details. Looking forward to 2016, Paul and the PCR crew are aiming to compete in six events and “have as much fun with this car as possible.” Paul added, “Rally racing and just thrashing in general is what this car was built for. We want to contribute to putting the Mustang in the spotlight and have some fun things planned for this car in social media for 2016.”
The AmericanMuscle team is excited to see #horseplay compete in the upcoming year and wish Paul and the rest of his team the best of luck. You can follow Paul and #horseplay by checking out Facebook.com/HazardSportsMedia.