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“I learned to drive on the Bonneville Salt Flats,” explains Preston Folkestad. “My family has always been into cars, motorcycles – anything exciting, really.”
While Folkestad’s day job as brand manager for Stilo Helmets puts motorsport front and center, the Folkestad family business – which specializes in developing embedded control systems – has allowed him to pursue engineering-related endeavors as well. Over the past few years, Preston and his father have put together some formidable Chevy C10 builds, one of which made its debut at the 2017 SEMA show, and another that the team drove to a GTT-class win in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational series a few years later.
The duo of Preston Folkestad and his father Bob combined forces to create one of the most formidable Fox-body Mustangs to come along in years. Preston's job as brand manager for Stilo Helmets and the family's embedded-control-system business have made motorsports and performance cars a central part of their lives.
Along the way, the Folkestads’ company also started working on a development project with Indy Power Products, an automotive parts manufacturer that specializes in components for Ford’s 7.3-liter “Godzilla” pushrod V8, and consequently found themselves in need of a development mule.
“We needed a project vehicle that would allow us to test these engineering specs that we wanted to meet,” Folkestad recalls. “So we started weighing our options – we wanted something that would be fairly interesting, and something that might put me in a more competitive class within the Optima series, which for us would be the Vintage class. But we got so carried away with the build that it actually ended up in the Outlaw class.”
What started out as a straightforward testbed for Ford Godzilla engine parts ended up being a radical machine forced to compete in the Optima series Outlaw class, rather than the milder Vintage class as originally intended. Extensive use of carbon fiber helps keep the car's weight down to a reasonable 3100 pounds.
In the summer of 2021, the elder Folkestad found an ’88 Mustang that was well-suited for the job. “It was pretty cheap, and we knew we could gut it and make it work,” Preston says. “There was no motor, the interior was kind of nasty and it had rotted floors, but it was the rolling chassis that we needed for the project.”
Working with driving coach Billy Johnson, the team developed a battle plan for the chassis that would maximize the Mustang’s performance prowess while remaining eligible for GTV-class competition in the Optima series. Realizing they’d need a strong foundation to realize significant gains, the team opted for a Detroit Speed Aluma-Frame front suspension system.
“At the time, DSE didn’t have the Fox-body stuff that they do now, so we opted to use the older Mustang-style system and graft in the frame rails,” Preston notes. Hyperco springs and JRI shocks are outfitted at all four corners while sway bars from Speedway Engineering help to keep things pinned down.
Preston went with a Detroit Speed front suspension, but doing so wasn't as simple as usual in this case. The company hadn't yet developed its Fox-body line at the time the car was being built, so instead he used one of DSE's early-Mustang systems and grafted in the frame rails as needed to make it work.
In order to give the Mustang some adjustability for various event formats and track conditions, the team also devised their own custom three-link rear suspension setup. “We wanted something that we could work on relatively easily. We’re using an adjustable track bar with it, which is kind of cool because instead of having to get underneath the car, we can just open up the trunk and make adjustments from the top.”
A set of 18x11-inch Forgeline FF1 wheels wrapped in 315mm-wide Falken RT660 tires deliver competition-ready mechanical grip, while stopping power is provided by six-piston Brembo calipers up front and four-piston units in the rear.
The front suspension was moved forward three inches from the stock location, and custom-made steel widebody fenders were built to cover the 18x11-inch Forgeline FF1 wheels and wide 315mm Falken tires.
The 7.3-liter Godzilla powerplant, meanwhile, started life as a Ford Performance iron block crate motor, but the team wasn’t content with the 550 crank horsepower that it offered in stock form. Now outfitted with Willis Performance cylinder heads, a Callies camshaft and rods, Wiseco pistons, and a ProCharger F1-series blower with a VMP Performance intercooler, Preston says the pushrod mill now makes in excess of a thousand horsepower at the wheels.
“We’re using an Emtron KV8 to control it,” Preston says. “And what’s cool about that ECU is that it allows us to run a secondary throttle body and have variable boost. Using a switch on the steering wheel, we can set the car to different horsepower levels with that. We can go from 650hp with the boost basically all the way off, to a thousand horsepower at 15 pounds of boost.” The grunt is routed to the rear wheels through a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual gearbox, while a Ford 9-inch rear end from Quick Performance sends the power to the pavement.
The engine is a 550hp Ford Performance iron-block crate motor fortified with an array of speed equipment to substantially increase its output. The supercharger features a unique boost control system that allows Preston to go from 650hp to 1000hp with the flip of a switch.
Even at a glance, it’s clear that the Axalta Blue Steel-hued bodywork has also seen extensive customization. “We actually ended up moving the whole front suspension three inches forward, and there was no way we would be able to get those wide wheels and tires under the factory stuff,” Preston says. “So we made custom steel widebody fenders.” The team also stripped out some weight by swapping the factory doors and roof for carbon fiber replacements, while the rear hatch is constructed from fiberglass, resulting in a relatively light 3100-pound curb weight despite the iron block and supercharger setup. The custom exhaust system, which terminates just behind the doors through the rear quarter panels, was inspired by one of Ken Block’s Gymkhana builds.
“I love that you can see fire spitting out of the hood of the Hoonicorn,” he tells us. “And I really just wanted to see how crazy we could go with it. But ultimately, it really came down to the fact that we didn’t have a good way to route it out to the back of the car.”
The unique side-exit exhaust was inspired by the famed Ken Block Hoonigan Mustang. "I love that you can see fire spitting out of the hood of the Hoonicorn,” says Preston. But the setup was also a matter of expedience, when Preston couldn't find a good way to route the exhaust system out the back.
Since the build was completed in 2021, the Mustang has seen competition at a number of Optima events and earned a few battle scars while the team was dialing things in early on. But by the time Ford Fest 2022 rolled around, the Fox-body was ready for action.
“Ford Fest is really cool because it’s similar to the Optima series format, where you have a drag racing component, an autocross component, and a 3S (speed, stop, and steering) component to the event,” he points out. “And the car really shines in 3S and autocross – the stuff it was designed to do. But it was also my first time ever drag racing, so it took some time to get my bearings there.” Despite Preston’s limited experience on the drag strip, he went on to win the Grand Champion competition in the Vintage class.
Preston had never drag raced before Holley Ford Fest 2022, but that didn't stop him from winning all-encompassing Grand Champion honors in the Vintage class that year. Encouraged by his success, Preston hopes to get out and compete in more events, including possibly a shot at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
Looking ahead, he says the team is eyeing series like Gridlife and Global Time Attack to expand the Mustang’s repertoire further into road course events, and if they’re feeling ambitious, some hill climbs may be on the docket down the line as well.
“The car is definitely capable of holding its own at Pike’s Peak, but I need to further develop my skills as a driver before we tackle something like that. The plan at this point is to attend the PRI Show in December, see what the racing schedules for 2024 look like, and go from there.”