What’s it like to make a pass in a really fast race car? Aaron Wells, the owner of this Pro Mod 1967 Mustang, gave us one of the most succinct descriptions we’ve heard in a while. Running in the Mid-West Pro Mod Racing Association, his supercharged Mustang managed a time of 3.66 seconds at 209.75 miles per hour in the eighth mile.
“Before each run, my dad and my friend Travis Cannon check the track to make the final decisions on the tune. When the car fires, I put it in high gear, roll through the water, and nail it. It’s a rolling burnout; I don’t use a line lock. At the end of the burnout, I go to neutral and hit the transbrake to engage reverse. I hold the reverse handle all the way through the backup. We adjust the wheelie bars, my dad will have me lined up, and just before I pre-stage, we spray deicer on the injector hat. The air moving around the throttle blades can cause ice to build up, which I can feel in the pedal because it sticks, and that’s bad. With the throttle free, it will idle nicely around 2,200 rpm.
“Next, I flip a toggle switch that drops the Liberty in low gear. I can feel when that happens. I pre-stage, then inch forward with the hand brake. Once I’m staged, I hit the transbrake button and floor the throttle. The moment I see yellow, it’s go time, and I send it. It’s that simple,” he said.
At that point, Aaron is experiencing nearly 3.0 g of acceleration. The car covers the first 60 feet in just 0.93 second, and then the shifts start coming.
“It starts moving hard right out of the hole, and it’s usually nice and smooth. When the lockup comes in, it picks the front wheels off the ground, and it will do that about three different times,” Well shared.
The computer handles the shifts based on the engine’s rpm, and it’s programmed to execute each at 9,500 revs. Based on his elapsed times, you can imagine how quickly the car covers the 660 feet to the finish line, at which point he pulls the parachute handle.
A drag racer for many years, Wells got his start while in college. “Years ago, my father, Steve, and I built a 10-second 1969 Camaro for a local class called Quick Street,” the 38-year-old said. “It was a Pro Street style car that we ran on pump gas at the local track near our home in Oklahoma City. It was mostly local heads-up Outlaw racing, and we did it for fun and so we could race together. We wanted to go a little quicker, so we moved up to Top Sportsman and raced in the Pro Street Racing Association series. We got a different 1969 Camaro, added nitrous, and ran both quarter-mile and eighth-mile events. It would typically run 6.70s at 210 mph in the quarter and 4.35 in the eighth.”
Aaron wheeled the Top Sportsman entry to a pair of championships in this series before switching to a Jerry Bickel 1968 Camaro in 2008. At the same time, Aaron decided to run ADRL, which, according to him, was in its heyday.
“We wanted to go with a purpose-built race car at that point, so we got the Bickel Camaro and started racing. We ran ADRL and then mostly Outlaw-style racing until the Mid-West Pro Mod Racing Series (MWPRMS) got going. We’ve been racing MWPMRS since it began,” he added. “It got started with the Throwdown in T-town around 2010 in Tulsa. Keith Haney built the series and expanded it from just two races.”
Looking for better performance, the team debuted this new Jerry Bickel Shelby GT500 Ford Mustang in 2017 to take advantage of the latest MWPMRS rules. “My dream car has always been a 1967 Shelby GT500,” Aaron said. “I always wanted that body style. I love it in street . . . form and on a Pro Mod. Of course, after always racing Camaros, no one could believe it when we went with a Mustang.
“The Jerry Bickel Mustang has been absolutely perfect,” he exclaimed. “The car is extremely consistent, and we have a high percentage of successful passes.” Successful indeed, as Aaron went on to win the MWPMRS championship for the 2019 season.
“The series is fantastic,” Aaron added. “You have a huge variety of body styles, and all three engine combinations are competitive. Originally, I wanted to run nitrous, but we switched over to the screw blower, and it’s been wild. Our success really comes down to a team effort. I have a unique crew made up of my family and friends. Everyone is involved, including my wife, Charity, my mom, Beckey, good friends, Travis Cannon, who helps me tune, and Tanner Allison, who does anything necessary. Plus, my sister and her husband, Leslie and Scott, also help out.”
Powering the Shelby is a 521 cubic-inch all-aluminum supercharged engine that towers over the Le Mans-striped hood. “We have two engines. Both have billet aluminum Brad Anderson blocks and heads, but the heads are massaged by DMPE.” Forced air is provided by the massive PSI screw-type supercharger that mounts to a BAE intake.
“We’re limited to 92 percent overdrive on the supercharger, so that limits it to 50-55 psi of boost,” Aaron told us. It’s fed a strict diet of methanol and generates an angry 3,000-plus horsepower. And all those ponies travel through a Quick Drive lockup converter that’s connected to an air-shifted Liberty five-speed manual transmission.
Launch rpm is determined by the setting in the MSD, and the amount of power used on launch is controlled by the ignition timing map. The team can also change transmission ratios to work with varying track conditions.
At the rear is a Jerry Bickel fabricated housing that’s based around the Ford nine-inch architecture with a DMPE center section. Like most tube-chassis cars, the Mustang uses adjustable Lamb coilover front struts with specific-rate springs. The rear axle uses four-link Penske coilover shocks, a massive Pro Mod antiroll bar, and Lamb brakes.
The rolling stock is a combination of Weld Wheels with Goodyear rubber at the front and American Racing 16-inch wheels with Hoosier 36×17-inch slicks at the rear. The body is a carbon-fiber replica of a 1967 Shelby GT500 that came from Tim McAmis Race Cars. It’s painted a variation of Ford’s Dark Shadow Gray Metallic with a hint of gold flake. Meanwhile, the car’s classic Le Mans stripes sport a carbon-fiber look.
“It’s been an incredibly consistent combination,” Aaron said. “We’ll adjust timing and fuel mapping to compensate for changing air and track conditions, and at times, we use five stages of lean-out to keep the fuel where we want it. We run a single Rage fuel pump that’s driven by a gear off the front of the engine, and we can leave fuel in or take it out by opening or closing jets to prevent it from blowing up. Ultimately, we’ve got more horsepower than most tracks can handle,” he explained.