Tom Nelson and his Nelson Racing Engines (NRE) outfit are known for building crazy powerful engines that have their appearance dialed up to 10. You most commonly see them in street cars, but Oakland, California’s Matthew Jessee had a different plan in mind when he contacted NRE. The result is this show-quality Mustang that is attacking the dragstrip in the All-Steel, All-Glass and Real Steel classes.
Having built and raced a Dodge Hellcat for several years and taken it deep into the 8s, Jessee picked up the 68,000-mile 1991 Mustang GT to build a new car.
“I saw they were really good cars to set up for the ASAG and Real Steel classes,” Jessee explained of his choice. “It’s pretty sweet, nicer than I should have used to strip and rebuild. It’s a relatively low-mile, nice California-owned GT. I bought it with the full intention of building the car, but not really intending with how far it went.”
Jessee said the build time was about a year and a half, and he tasked Steve and Austen Schmalz of Performance Fabrication with setting the Mustang up for racing.
“They are an awesome chassis shop and awesome dudes,” Jessee told us.
Performance Fabrication equipped the Fox body with a 4-link rearend that suspends a Merillat Racing-fabricated 9-inch rearend and Menscer Motorsports shocks. Up front, they fitted a tubular front end to the stock framerails and installed the matching Menscer struts up front.
Of course, the pièce de resistance is the Nelson Racing Engines Twin-Turbo Mayhem 427 cubic inch LS powerplant that was constructed using a Dart LS Next block. The mill features Callies Performance Products Enforcer connecting rods and Magnum crankshaft to swing a set of JE pistons. Dart CNC-ported LS7 cylinder heads move the incoming air from the trick Plasmaman intake manifold, and NRE installed a custom street roller camshaft.
NRE made the mirror image turbos popular, and two of the company’s 76mm units are used here, along with an integrated Bell air-to-water intercooler that NRE designed. Backed by a capable Rossler Turbo 400 transmission and tuned via a Holley EFI Dominator ECU, the E85-burning engine makes approximately 2,000 horsepower.
“I just spent two days with Tom refreshing the engine,” Jessee said. “They are hyped about it and the direction we are going because I am out just about every weekend racing. I didn’t really know much about him, but he’s relatively local to me. He was one of the first people to call me back himself. We started working together, then I later found out who he is and his reputation.”
NRE not only built the engine, but the turbo system, as well, with Jessee bringing the car back and forth between NRE and Performance Fabrication until it was completed. NRE had an airbrush artist create the unique spine graphic on the intake manifold and intercooler cover, which has now been modified as Jesse converted the car over to methanol and removed the intercooler in the process.
“I’m wrenching on it and getting it dialed. Tom has been out to the track with me a couple of times. It had about 120 passes on it and was ready for a refresh. As I started understanding more about the 4-link setup and weight, the car was too nose-heavy, so I wanted to move to methanol. It took about 150 lbs off the front.”
Jessee debuted the car last season but electrical gremlins prevented him from making real progress with it. He had the car rewired last winter to alleviate the issue.
“This year is the first year we’ve been able to work hard on improving the performance. We are already at our goal e.t.-wise, and have a lot more room to go quicker. Most of the tracks I have been to are pretty much one step up from no-prep. I haven’t been on real radial prep yet, so I’m super excited about Vegas because I’ve heard it’s prepped well,” Jessee said of his trip to the Street Car Super Nationals that will happen in just a few weeks.
With a crew consisting of just himself and occasionally his wife and son, Jessee has been competing in eighth-mile events with the Mustang.
“I’m really into grudge racing, not really chasing times. I really like heads-up racing and most of that eighth-mile. I’m hoping to go to TX2K next year with a 3.50 gear.”