Salad Days Salad Days Ford Mustang Chassis, Roll bars, Cages, Suspensions, shocks, brakes, wheelie bars

Posted on Monday, August 25, 2014 Categories: Joe Grippo's Blog


Have you ever heard the expression the "Salad Days?" Wikipedia describes the term as a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person. This description fits perfectly with one of my favorite periods of Drag Racing, the very late 80's through the 90's. These were the salad days of heads-up Mustang drag racing. The Fox Body was around for over 10 years and the 5.0 was starting to come into its own as the world started to realize the untapped potential lurking in those little engines. While it is difficult to pin-point the true beginning of the 5.0 movement, I put the genesis squarely on the back of the editor of the greatest Drag Racing magazine ever, the late, great Steve Collison of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated. Very early on Collison got his hands on a black, bare bones '87 LX project car he dubbed Mean Mr. Mustang. He and his staff beat on that car from Atco to Englishtown looking to get as much et from the little hatch in stock form using minimal tuning and good driving, then disseminated the info on to the readers of SS&DI and a new book called Muscle Mustangs, which was dedicated to furthering the Mustang dragstrip invasion. Arguably the biggest advancement handed down to the masses from these formative Mustang thrash sessions was the infamous "10-Minute Tune-up?"which was basically three things to do when you got to the track (or clandestine street spot)...remove the air intake silencer for more airflow, bump up the timing for a little more torque and switch to a 'short belt' to bypass some power robbing accessories. This info allowed every kid with a 5.0 to become a dragstrip hero. Then it was on.

Apparently lots of folks were paying attention because within a few years the whole scene exploded. The local tracks fed into it holding shoot-outs, grudge racing and 5.0 only events. My brother and I were into to it big time as we traveled to Atco for many 5.0 Shoot-Outs or up to E-town for a few wild and crazy Team Mustang vs Team Grand National events. The stands were packed with rabid fans of each brand and trash talking after every round! To this day these events are some of the most fun I have ever had at the track. This was happening all across the country as well, Texas, Florida, Michigan even Canada. By the early 90's the scene was set for a big national style meet, one to bring all the big guns from everywhere to one track on one weekend. That place was Maple Grove Raceway and the man who set it in motion was named Stormin' Norman Gray. The Grove?s long running Ford Motorsport Nationals hosted the Stormin' Norman Gray Pro 5.0 Shoot-Out for many years. All the hitters would show up loaded for bear. If you were there you remember the names...Racin' Jason Betwarda, Lee Rutter, Jimmy LaRocca, Radical Craig Radovitch, Nitrous Pete Misinsky and Big Daddy Dwayne Gutridge were some of the Jersey guys. Who could forget Brian Wolfe, Don Walsh and Steve Grebeck from Michigan, the Keen Brothers from Florida and the DaSilva boys from Canada for an added international flare. Texans like Gene Deputy and Mike Murillo plus other big names like Doug Mangrum, Billy Glidden, Les Baer, Papa Boomsma and the Briante Family were all forces to be reckoned with back in those early days. Innovation and ingenuity were under every hood, you had the nitrous swillers, the Paxton guys, the Vortex guys, the turbo contingent and each with their own cheering section, not unlike today come to think about it...

The salad days, for sure. Eventually, the NMRA formed and the whole thing went sort of legit, but those early days are fond memories. Everyone grew up a bit, and most of those names are still at it with new cars and shops. And the fun is not over yet because is sponsoring the Fastest 5.0 Award at all the Fun Ford Weekends for 2014, check it out at ...Windsor based or Coyote powered, bring it out and help usher in a new era of the 5.0 Shoot-Out! For the locals, let's go back to where it all started Maple Grove Raceway, September 13-14, 2014, BE THERE!

And lets here your memories from those days, did I forget your favorite early 5.0 hero? Let us know in the comment section below...Thanks for hanging out at the

Stormin' Norman Gray, Maple Grove 1991


Big Daddy Dwayne Gutridge, Fords at Englishtown 1993


Gene Duputy, Fords at Englishtown 1993


Racin' Jason Betwarda, Fords at Englishtown 1993


Steve Grebeck, Fords at Englishtown 1993

Les Baer, Maple Grove 1998


Billy Glidden, Maple Gove 1998


I have a huge Pro 5.0 Pic Archive & there is talk of a reunion weekend
Posted by Derek Johnson on Saturday, April 18, 2015, 1:15 AM
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