By Mary Lendzion
When Tom and Eva Ullery met Rick and Jenni Riccardi several years ago, they were quick to form a friendship.
The four New Jersey residents shared similar interests, and when Tom said he wanted to race something other than his 2014 Mustang GT, Rick, an accomplished NMCA Dart NA 10.5 presented by Diamond Pistons driver, said he wanted to help him every step of the way, and the first step was purchasing a clean 1991 Mustang as a roller from a seller in New York a few years ago.
“I had never worked on cars before, but I knew that Rick was going to take me under his wing and show me how to build this car, with help from his engine builder and chassis builder,” said Tom.
They began by removing the car’s stock seats and door bars, and painted parts of the interior. Then, they delivered the car to Matt Wirt Racefab Engineering in Virginia, where an 8.50-certified cage was fabricated, the suspension was set up using QA1 components and a racing seat was installed.
“Matt is amazing, and the next thing we did was take the car to Rich Concato of Concato Racing and Wiring in New Jersey, to be wired, and he was incredible,” said Tom.
While that work was being performed, Tom and Rick were looking for an engine, and found a small-block Ford being sold by a seller not far from their homes in New Jersey. They took the engine to Dave Jack of Dave Jack Cylinder Heads and Bob Oster of B&B Performance Machine in New Jersey, after Tom disassembled it, to be redesigned, and Dave Jack and Bob Oster also put their years of experience into enhancing Tom’s Twisted Wedge heads and Edelbrock intake.
“They ported and port-matched everything, and put stronger valves in the heads,” said Tom. “Dave said that was the most flow he has ever gotten out of Twisted Wedge heads. When they started, the engine made 625 horsepower, and when they were done, it made 800 horsepower.”
The car had also come with an exhaust and a C4 transmission, which Tom took to Sean Wiley and Frank Lupo of Pro-Formance Transmissions in Delaware to be rebuilt. When all of the work was wrapped up last fall, Tom and Rick headed to Atco Dragway in New Jersey, where Rick made the initial passes in the car.
“Rick wanted to be the first person to drive my car because he wanted to make sure it was safe,” said Tom.
Confident that it was indeed safe and solid, they headed to the final event on last year’s NMCA tour, the 18th Annual NMCA World Street Finals presented by Chevrolet Performance at Lucas Oil Raceway, where Tom entered MagnaFuel Open Comp to get some seat time and to complete his licensing passes in his new race car.
Then, they headed to the first event on this year’s NMCA tour, the 18th Annual NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines in early March at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, where Tom again entered MagnaFuel Open Comp. With a respectable .055 reaction time, he qualified in the twenty-fourth spot in the highly competitive category, dialed an 8.88 and got past the first two rounds of eliminations in the car called American Dream which Eva wrapped in a patriotic theme.
“It was the first time I did a wheelstand, and the first time I broke into the 8s,” said Tom. “People were asking if I was nervous, and I was telling them that no, I wasn’t, because I was too busy smiling all the way down track.”
Tom, who said the car is much faster than they originally planned on it being — and that it’s just fine with him — plans to purchase a bigger carburetor to give the engine more fuel and air. He also plans to get more seat time as spring turns to summer, as he wants to be competitive in NMCA MagnaFuel Open Comp.
“I really want to try to do well,” said Tom. “I also really want to thank Rick Riccardi, because without him, we wouldn’t be doing this. He’s the main guy.”