Photos by Kevin DiOssi
Heads-up racing can be a lot like the technology industry, where change happens quickly and you either keep up or step out. In the case of the red 1988 Mustang LX featured here, it has remained relevant for over 20 years, going from a four-cylinder beater to a street race brawler in 1995 and to its current trim as the quickest supercharged car in NMRA VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw. The car has been an iconic staple in the small-tire wars and it was featured in the March 1999 copy of Race Pages, the premier issue of this magazine.
The conversion from the four-cylinder commuter status to racecar is a cliché story, of sorts. Billy and Bryan Sorby were fixtures on the local Mustang scene in the New York/New Jersey area. They were having fun with a titanium frost 1991 Mustang LX but after a few years, it became just a little too quick for street use. Rather than cut up their pristine car, they sliced and diced the four-cylinder coupe and began its metamorphosis into the small-tire warrior of today. The nitrous-sniffing Briante Racing 327ci small-block and pro-shifted Tremec TKO made its way into their new racecar chassis, complete with cage and fortified stock suspension.
A fresh paint job over the winter of 1995/1996 turned the rough looking coupe into the brightly colored show car seen here. The new look came with quicker performances as low 10s became the norm, quick enough to earn them a quarterfinal finish during the 2nd annual Spring Break Shootout in March 1996. The Sorbys quickly shed their street racing antics and took focus on organized Mustang drag racing.
As every story like this one continues—it got quicker and faster each passing year. The coupe saw various nitrous engines and suspension upgrades as the Sorby brothers turned their attention to the NMRA series in 1999, competing at the Ford Motorsport Nationals, the first-ever event for the fledging event series. Within a few years a nasty Briante Racing 400ci nitrous engine enabled them to become the first Super Street Outlaw racers to run in the 7s on true 10.5-inch tires.
Several years and many NMRA victories later, the car had been parked in favor of a big tire No Time Mustang. The coupe was sold to Dan Saitz of Hyperformance Motorsports Racing and he converted it to a turbocharged combination that was capable of running NMCA, NMRA, and X275 competitions. From quarter-mile runs that dipped into the 6s to mid-4 second times in 1/8-mile competitions, Saitz ran the coupe in a variety of arenas before parking it and moving on to build one of the sickest street-worthy Mustangs of the modern era.
Fast-forward to the winter of 20015/2016 and for the second time since 1995, the famous red coupe was sitting without an engine or plans for racing. Enter Manny Buginga, the 2005 Super Street Outlaw champion who had stepped away from racing in 2007 due to family and business commitments. He had the itch to go racing and by sheer coincidence he saw the coupe for sale on a racing classified website.
“I bought the car to get back into Street Outlaw racing,” confessed Buginga. He grabbed the Mustang as a roller and began organizing his return to national competition. As the team pieced together the red coupe, Buginga picked up a blue one from Mike Alwardt to use for the 2016 Spring Break Shootout, which led to the acquisition of the 2003 SVT Cobra clone that he continues to drive today. “Nick and Rich Bruder didn’t want to run a ladder bar car, so I got the Cobra and sold the blue car and stopped work on this one,” he admitted. The team did put a turbocharged DiSomma Racing Engine in it for the last NMRA race of the 2016 season. Rich Bruder handled the driving chores and it ran 4.50s, practically right off the trailer—proving the coupe that was initially cutup over 20 years earlier was still a contender with the right updates.
As quick as the weather cooled off for winter was as quick as Buginga parked the car, once again. The attention was spent on the team’s main ride, the Cobra-clone that became known as “Big Red.” But Buginga wasn’t interesting in parting ways with the coupe and he had an idea brewing in the back of his mind. “I saw an opportunity to go fast with a blower car when others were saying it couldn’t be done,” explained Buginga. He discussed the idea of getting a blower combination together and dusting off the coupe. “I just couldn’t sell the car because my son Manny likes it,” he continued. “So, I figured I might as well run a second car with the blower combination.”
The Bruder brothers are no strangers to quick supercharged setups, they ran 4.50s in their 1992 Mustang GT using a ProCharger F-1X, which quickly changed the X275 game. The combination was a fairly basic 400ci engine and a pair of Edelbrock Victor cylinder heads at 3,400 pounds. The Street Outlaw rules allow for more radical engines, compared to Bruders original F-1X engine setup, in addition to a larger ProCharger F-1X-12R and lower minimum weight. The Bruders and Buginga felt confident they could run right into the 4.30s and go head-to-head with the turbocharged players.
The team continued to test and race Big Red, but used their free time to prepare the notchback for its new life as a supercharged ride. The ladder bar rear suspension was cut out and in its place sits a Racecraft stock suspension setup from the fabricated 9-inch housing to control arms, anti-roll bar, and fortified mounting points on the chassis. The car was already equipped with an air-to-water intercooler and Fuel Tech FT500 engine management system, so the next task was the powerplant.
DiSomma Racing Engines had instructions to keep the engine nearly identical to the turbocharged setup. The reasoning behind that was so the two cars can share spare parts. The Dart Compact Graphite Iron (CGI) engine block is the foundation, which DiSomma Racing Engines filled with a Callies steel crankshaft, GRP aluminum rods, and custom Diamond pistons. Moving topside, a pair of DiSomma Racing Engines billet cylinder heads and billet intake manifold are the centerpieces of attention. Along with a custom camshaft, the New Jersey engine shop has fine-tuned this top-end package across a variety of small-tire classes, including X275 and Street Outlaw.
“I first met Dave Werremeyer when he was working at NMRA, so when he left to go back to ProCharger, I figured I’d talk to him about the blower setup,” said Buginga. On the advice of Werremeyer, the next step was to order a gear-drive unit from Chris Alston’s Chassisworks. The Component Drive System (CDS) is an impressive hung of billet aluminum that not only turns the F-1X-12R supercharger, but also drives the Waterman mechanical fuel pump. It also has provisions to drive other accessories like an alternator or vacuum pump, if the need for those components was ever needed.
One of the most noticeable differences in a supercharged car over turbo one is the noise. The latest trend on centrifugally supercharged combinations is to run a set of zoomie headers. Buginga tapped Kooks Headers and Exhaust, a company he’s worked with on several racecar and street car projects over the past decade. A robust set of pipes was fabricated and a very specific header angle was selected for this combination. Buginga wouldn’t reveal the specs but he said the angle of the exhaust makes great use of the thrust to keep the car’s nose planted.
After a few teething problems were solved, Bruder drove the newly supercharged coupe right into the 4.40s, qualifying in the middle of a tough field at the Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing and completed the race in the quarterfinals. The group didn’t slow down to smell the roses; they loaded up and headed to the Honeywell-Garrett NMCA All-American Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park a few weeks later. Bruder put the car on the top of the ladder with a stellar 4.375 at 170 mph—attaining the team’s goal of pushing a blower setup to the top of the Street Outlaw field.
The team effort continued as they backed up their Ohio achievements with a couple of runs in the 4.30s during the NMCA World Street Finals in Indy. Team Buginga came together in a glorious moment, one week later, during the Nitto Tire NMRA All-Ford World Finals. Bruder narrowly missed the top spot on the ladder but they put together a string of 4.30 runs and took the class victory, beating Buginga in the process, to close out the 2017 season.
“I am proud of what we did with the blower car,” Buginga said as he looked back at the last six months. The team was given a challenge to race a supercharged setup in Street Outlaw and make it run equal with Big Red. They accomplished that challenge as both cars run within a few numbers of each other. And while little Manny might like turbos better, he was more than happy to see his favorite racecar in the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle and beat his dad’s ride—regardless of the power adder under the hood.
Owner: Manny Buginga
Driver: Rich Bruder
Hometown: Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Car: 1988 Mustang LX
Class: VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw
Car weight: 3,100 pounds
Roll cage: SFI Cage
Engine: 351 Windsor
Builder: DiSomma Racing Engines
Block: Dart CGI
Cylinder Heads: DiSomma Racing Engines Billet
Camshaft: Custom by DiSomma Racing Engines
Intake: VED/DiSomma Racing Engines Billet
Power Adder: ProCharger F-1X-12R
EFI system: Fuel Tech FT500
Ignition: MSD Digital
Fuel system: Waterman/Billet Atomizer 3 injectors
Transmission: Proformance TH400 2-speed
Torque Converter: Neil Chance Racing Converters
Axles: Strange Engineering
Front and Rear suspension: Skinny Kid Race Cars (front)/Racecraft (rear)
Wheels: Weld Racing
Tires: Mickey Thompson ET Street Pro 275
Brakes: Strange Engineering
Crew: Nick Bruder, Rich Bruder, Pat Speer, Bobby Demelo, Jen Buginga, and “Lil Manny” Buginga
Best ET: 4.35
Best MPH: 170 mph
Best 60′: 1.12
Sponsors: MJM Construction, ProCharger, Kooks Headers and Exhaust, Turbonetics, Billet Atomizer, ProFormance Racing Transmissions, DiSomma Racing Engines, Neil Chance Racing Converters, and NLR Systems
Special Thanks: “Thanks to my wife Jen, daughter Lilly, and son Manny as well as everyone at MJM Construction, especially Rose in the office. Also thanks to Nick, Rich, Pat, and Bobby and all the other people involved in helping the team have one quick blower car! And thanks to NMRA for a giving us a great, family place to race—no drama, no nonsense. Thank You!”