Bringing It All Back Home: Matt Lunsford's '64 and '96 Mustangs

By: Todd Veney | 07/26/2019 < Back to Motor Life Home

For Holley engineer Matt Lunsford, everything has come full circle. In his driveway, the '96 Mustang he got before he was old enough to drive that's now a full-blown race car sits side by side with the '64 Mustang that sparked his interest in cars before he was old enough for kindergarten. "Dad bought the '64 when I was 3 years old," he said. "The morning after the first night he had it in the garage, Mom couldn't find me anywhere." That's because Lunsford, now 28, had made his way to the garage sometime in the night and went to sleep in the back seat. "Whenever Dad was working on it, I was out there with him. It was just little things, usually – putting a starter in it, things like that – until I was 14 or 15 and we had an engine issue and rebuilt the whole thing."

About a month ago, the venerable '64 Mustang made its way to Lunsford's Bowling Green, Ky.-area home from Lakewood, Colo., where he grew up and where his parents still live. "Until now, it's always been a Colorado car," he said. "It was delivered in Denver on April 23, 1964, and Dad bought it from the original owner and had it 25 years. I was driving that thing at Bandimere [Speedway, one of the premier drag strips in the nation] the first Wednesday night after I turned 16."

The unrestored original First Gen Mustang, which he sometimes drives to work, is powered by a little 289 with a complete Sniper EFI system, a HyperSpark distributor, and a Sniper EFI fuel tank. "The car had an aftermarket manifold, headers, and camshaft, but other than that it's fairly original," said Lunsford, a systems engineer who specializes in fuel injection. "It came from the factory with a trailer hitch and it's painted a '64-only color: Dynasty Green. We still have the original intake, headers, and cam, and it'll all go back to that original glory at some point. Dad may have given it to me, but it'll always be his car – I'm just the caretaker."

Lunsford's other Mustang, a '96 model, was supposed to be a daily driver for his college years. That lasted maybe four or five months. Almost immediately, it was transformed into a race car, evolving through his own two hands into a 2,000-horsepower monster. "Both of these cars that mean so much to me are Fords, and Fords have always been around my family, but I wouldn't call myself a die-hard Ford guy," he said. "I mean, the '96 car is LS-swapped." The methanol-burning turbocharged 388 LSX that now fills the engine compartment pumps out about 2,000 horsepower – "between 1,900 and 2,100 at the flywheel," said Lunsford, who built it and the transmission himself.

The powerful machine has a complete Holley Dominator EFI system and features a Holley Hi-Ram intake manifold modified for two sets of fuel rails, two sets of Holley fuel injectors, a Holley programmable 8-channel injector driver module to run 16 injectors sequentially, Holley smart coils, a Holley digital dash, a Racepak Smart Wire and CANbus exhaust-gas temperature kit, Earl's Ultra Pro hoses and fittings, and Holley V5 traction control. "It was a street car when I got it in 2006, and it's all just kind of snowballed from there," said the Colorado native, who started his career at Holley about four years ago. He's raced it in St. Louis, Memphis, as far away as Las Vegas, and, of course, at his adopted home track, Beech Bend Raceway Park in Holley's hometown. He's already run 4.70s at 155 mph on the eighth-mile and is confident the car can be in the 4.40s in the eighth before too long. "I'm into heads-up small-tire and drag-radial racing more than Stock Super Comp, or Top Dragster," he said. "It's a turbo car – it's not built to bracket race. Pro Mod and radial stuff is where I want to be. This car has never been about winning every race. It's about setting a goal and working toward that goal and then moving on to the next one."

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