***This is an unpublished article I did on Jeff Winchell and his ESP/SM Mustang, way back in the day. All hell broke loose in Jeff's life before he got the car fully sorted and painted, so we never got good photos and it never got printed. His name came up in a forum, so I thought I would throw this up on the blog.***
-special note: I'm not sure this ever got proofed or edited, so if you see typos, just move on with life.
Kenny, Loud and Proud
The story of Jeff Winchell's Ford Mustang is one of updates, backdates, and engine swaps, with a little help from his friends thrown in for good measure. Luckily for Jeff, his friends happen to be some of the best known autocrossers and Ford engine tuners in the country, like Greg Fordhal, John Ames, Sean Hyland, and Chris Johnson. With this kind of help, Jeff has managed to put together an impressive machine that is beginning to show its strength at national level events.
But back to Jeff for a minute, as his strengths are an important part of the mix too. Relatively new to the autocross scene - having started in 1998 - Jeff puts in the seat time necessary to continue to improve his skills. He ran his first event in his 1998 Mustang Cobra Convertible, and was instantly hooked. Since then, Jeff has been a regular at Northwest Region SCCA events, not to mention all the other Washington state events hosted by clubs like the BSCC and WWSCC.
Jeff soon found himself scratching that all-too-common itch to make his Cobra faster, and was soon running it in ESP, a popular class for hot rod muscle cars. He also participated in several high-speed Solo 1 events, as well as the famous Nevada Open Road Race. Unfortunately, Jeff ran into problems - a hard wall - at his first banked oval Solo 1 event, causing considerable damage to his daily driver.
Luckily for Jeff, his friend Michael Lee offered him a co-drive for the 2001 season in his Neon ACR, giving Jeff some experience in speed maintenance and smoothness. It was Jeff's local success with the ACR in a region filled with talented drivers that gave him the determination to bring his Mustang back to life.
Kenny is Alive
Big bad Kenny - the name for Jeff's ride - is a real Frankenstein machine, but not because it's ugly. In fact, from a short distance away, Kenny looks like a well cared for dark green 1995 Mustang that you would see parked at the local library. "Strictly speaking," according to Jeff "it's a 1995 Mustang with parts from seven different Mustang models, in six different years. I call it a 2001 Fordahl Mustang, because Greg started working on it in 2001."
No matter what he calls it, everyone knows that Kenny is no librarian's ride when he roars to life. You had better cover your ears when the true nature of Kenny is released, as you'll get a 115 decibel shot - at 50 feet - of thundering force! Kenny doesn't like cones, so he tries to scare them away.
Just like Cooking, but Different
Jeff started his transformation of Kenny with some helpful advice from John Ames. Jeff put together a list, built from the experiences and direct advice that John was willing to share. "I mostly tried to replicate the list, but I learned that each situation is different. It's like the difference between having a list of ingredients and knowing how to cook a gourmet meal." Jeff explains.
The base for Kenny was a 1995 Mustang V6 that Jeff bought in Portland, Oregon. "The car was already a no options model." according to Jeff, which meant no air conditioning, no ABS, no rear window defroster, no power windows or door locks, and lighter V6 radiator etc. Further weight was taken out by removing the back seat, trunk interior and radio as in the Cobra R, in accordance with update/backdate rules. "The goal for the car was 3,150 pounds" according to Jeff.
Thanks to his friends Jerold Lowe, Brian Holsten, and Glen Hernandez, the engine, transmission, and wiring were pulled out of his wrecked '98 Cobra Convertible, and Jeff purchased a complete independent rear suspension package from a Texas junk yard, essentially bringing the mechanicals up to current Cobra specs. With all the right pieces to work on, Jeff enlisted the experience of professional tuners and builders to give Kenny some attitude.
Most of the serious engine work had already been completed before Jeff's accident in the Cobra Convertible. Jeff had previously called on Sean Hyland to build an engine to the limit of the street prepared rules for the now-damaged convertible. The entire assembly was carefully balanced and blue-printed, had its cylinders bored 0.030 over, its intake and exhaust manifolds port matched, a lightweight RAM clutch and flywheel assembly installed, and some ASP pulleys mounted. The intake consists of a ported BBK throttle body, ProM Mass Airflow sensor, and a K&N filtercharger, while a set of Magnacor Spark plug wires provide the fire to the plugs.
Hyland built equal length long-tube headers for the car, which connect to a custom Y-pipe with a 3.5-inch diameter straight exhaust built by Fordahl Motorsports. Fuel injection tuning was done by Chris Johnson, who Jeff describes as the best at computer chip tuning of fuel injected Mustang engines. All this adds up to a whopping 307 ft/lbs of torque at the rear wheels, with 80% of that available from 2,000 to 6,000rpm. Pulling power is not something that Kenny lacks, that's for sure.
Harnessing all the ground pounding power is a set of massive 315/35-17 Hoosier autocross radials, mounted on 17x11-inch Fikse FM/5 wheels. These sticky DOT radials have a short life on the abrasive concrete surfaces Kenny has raced on this year, but provide the performance necessary to chase down fellow ESP competitors like Tom Berry and Steve Eguina. Jeff fits Kenny with a set of 245/45-17 Falken Azenis on the stock Cobra 17x8-inch wheels when the weather turns wet.
Moton remote reservoir shock absorbers are used at all four corners, which feature external adjustments for both compression and rebound. Considering that Jeff runs at literally dozens of events each year, these Moton dampers allow him to adjust the car's behavior for maximum performance, no matter the surface condition or weather. High-rate Eibach coil springs are secured by coil-over perches from Ground Control, giving a stiff, but well controlled ride. Global West Camber/Caster plates are used to help dial in the proper alignment, depending on the course layout.
Jeff has experimented a bit with anti-roll bars, but continues to use the Steeda 35mm diameter front bar, which helps to keep the somewhat nose heavy Mustang flat during hard cornering. Jeff removed the rear anti-roll bar after witnessing the car picking up the inside rear tire under hard cornering loads, a change that helped immediately.
Griggs lower control arm bushings are used, which help to provide a stiffer, more controlled feel from the drive end of the car. Steeda lower control arm bushings for the front improve turn-in and feel as well, thanks to their harder urethane construction and offset design. A robust 6-point roll cage, built by Cascade Autosports, provides a much-needed increase of chassis rigidity, and keeps the front and rear suspension working as designed. Inside, a lightweight - ten pounds - race seat holds Jeff in place, while a grippy OMP steering wheel keeps his hands happy during fast transitions.
Racking Up the Results
It doesn't matter how much equipment you throw at a machine, the easiest way to get fast times at an autocross event is to have a good driver, and that's what Jeff has been working on the most this year. Jeff is heavily involved with the Northwest Region SCCA, which has included chairing several events as well as putting on several practice day events.
It's at these practice events where Jeff has continued to hone his skills, and learn his car's setup. His biggest accomplishment this year was a 4th place trophy position in Street Modified at the Atwater National Tour. Jeff's fast time on Sunday - 25th out of 278 on pax - was a real boost to his confidence. Another exciting event for Jeff was his performance in the Bonus challenge at the El Toro ProSolo, where he made it to the finals, no doubt thanks in part to the support from his fellow Northwest Region competitors.
Jeff has also appreciated the input of his co-drivers this year, including Glen "Hurricane" Hernadez. Glen's considerable talents have allowed Kenny to bring back a few more trophies at national level events, including a 2nd at the El Toro ProSolo in ESP, 3rd at the Atwater ProSolo in ESP, and a 2nd at the Atwater National Tour in ESP. That 2nd place at the Atwater NT was an exceptional drive, considering that placed Glen 4th on overall PAX, out of 278 drivers.
Jeff plans on making the trip out to nationals this year, using it as an opportunity to fight for the National Championship and get some more development time under his belt. ESP competitors better watch out, because Jeff is also out to prove one other thing in Kansas, that Kenny is not dead!