Owner of Straightline Performance, Nick McGrath, has owned silver cars for just about as far back as he can remember. Now, with a new Fox-body Mustang build recently completed for use in NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street, McGrath’s silver streak is over as the ’87 Mustang has been wrapped in… blue.
Usually, the excitement and drama of a new car centers around its engine combination and performance. For McGrath, though, he’s having the hardest time coming to terms with the color change.
“I’m a die-hard silver, white, plain, no-color kind of guy. I was the silver guy for years,” lamented McGrath, who ultimately chose something close to Chevy’s Jetstream Blue Corvette color and is struggling with standing out. “Before the wrap when this [new] car was still silver, my wife said she was glad it had Straightline on the front so she knew ‘which bleep-bleep silver car’ was mine.”
Although the car itself has been completed since late 2020, the wrap was only recently applied—just in time to be debuted at the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing presented by HPJ Performance at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, over the weekend of May 13-16, 2021.
Done by M.O. Graphics in New Lenox, Illinois, not far from Straightline’s home base in Joliet, the team knocked it out of the park with how great the final result was.
“Watching these guys work, it’s like they’re wrap ninjas!” laughed McGrath, who was ultimately pleased with the hue. “Brandon and Tommy did a great job. The seams look like paint lines, it’s amazing. The color is starting to grow on me, too.”
McGrath has made his peace with letting go of a lot of things with his latest competition car, and, although giving up his silver identity was perhaps the most upsetting, he also is letting go of his former car, which was known as “Sugar Bear.”
“I got that other car back in ’15 or ’16 and raced it from ’17 until late last year,” explained the shop owner, who knew he needed a new flagship vehicle to tout Straightline’s capabilities. “It was a little outdated, so we started over by slowly building this one to replace it.”
The 25.2 SFI-certified double-frame rail chassis was fabricated in-house by Straightline’s own Kevin Stevens. Starting with a shell, the team built everything from the ground up and McGrath couldn’t be happier with the fit and finish—literally.
“My other car was originally built for a shorter guy. It was a good chassis, but we modified bars to make it work. This one fits me better. It’s like I’m in sitting in a Cadillac,” he joked.
His latest Mustang, an ’87 model, was unveiled at the 19th Annual Nitrous Supply NMCA World Street Finals presented by Chevrolet Performance at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana, in September of 2020. There, McGrath qualified eighth in NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street with a 4.844 at 146.29mph blast and made it all the way through to the finals where he ultimately runnered up.
“We had tested at Cordova Dragway before the event and didn’t realize we had broken a converter,” shared McGrath, whose testing yielded strong results but Indy proved disappointing on the time slips. “I pride myself on cutting good lights, so I basically hole-shotted myself through the rounds and was happy to make it to the finals at our first race with a new car.”
The ProTorque converter was repaired, and McGrath turned his focus to ensuring the rest of the combination was properly shaken down as well.
Given that Straightline Performance focuses on LSX-based builds, it made sense that McGrath would highlight his company’s prowess by utilizing a 400ci LS platform in his new Xtreme Street entry instead of a more common “big-block on nitrous” engine. Built by Randy Crowley of PER Race Engines, who also builds fellow Xtreme Street competitor Tony Orts’ engines, the powerplant wears a CID intake manifold and Mast Motorsports’ LS3 heads atop the block.
“We know the 400ci LSX engine is a little big for a turbo car, we should be down in the 360-range, but it’s what we’ve got. And sometimes, going faster means trying something that someone else already did, but maybe just didn’t perfect,” noted McGrath, who never shies from a challenge and enjoys the challenge of getting it right.
McGrath also ran a turbocharger on his “Sugar Bear” silver Mustang, so he opted to stick with the same power adder this time around as well, although he did choose to go with a new billet unit from Harts. The boosted bullet was bolted to a two-speed Turbo 400 transmission from RPM, as the supplier is the transmission shop of choice for everything that spends time at Straightline.
For engine management, McGrath once again chose to stick with his tried and true BigStuff3 powertrain management, but will be upgrading to the latest and greatest Gen 4 version towards the end of his 2020 season.
“We didn’t want to have to learn all the awesome new features the Gen 4 has, like its own integrated boost controller, the advanced traction control, shock sensor data acquisition, and more while we were mid-season racing, but this thing is far more advanced and the processor speed is a lot faster,” shared McGrath, who is looking forward to also having a lot more data points available to fine tune his Mustang’s performance.
Out back, a Precision Shaft Technologies driveshaft feeds into a Strange center section before power is transferred out through matching Strange axles. The Racecraft housing itself was a blank that Stevens finished up in-house, while Eric Saffell at AFCO Racing set McGrath up with a set of shocks and struts through Menscer Motorsports; a spindle-mount setup for the front works perfectly with the 17-inch RC Components wheels.
Additional testing in late 2020, as well as an appearance at RadialFest, helped further shake the car down to avoid any additional new blue car blues. He wasn’t able to make it out to the NMCA season opener in March of 2021 in Florida, but did attend the Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE Motorsport at Atlanta Dragway in April.
There, McGrath pushed past his previous personal best of 4.68-seconds in the eighth-mile to leave the event with a new one of 4.645 at 153.72 mph. Made during qualifying, the run placed McGrath into the number six spot for the large NMRA/NMCA combo class of Renegade and Xtreme Street. He scored two elimination round wins before going out in round three by a very slim margin.
Next, McGrath hit it hard at the third race of the NMCA drag racing tour—the 2021 NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street-Legal Drag Racing. Once again, the NMCA category was combined with its NMRA counterpart; he qualified sixth on yet another new personal best of 4.588 at 153.84 mph, then advanced to the quarter-finals before calling it a day. Despite the early exit, McGrath did take home the Brian Tooley Racing Real Street Shootout win the event, which is a class within the Xtreme Street ranks that features the quickest LS-powered, heads-up machines.
“It’s been a dream to drive so far. Really smooth and no major issues—perfect for a new car,” he proudly stated.
“Everyone wants to go out and set the record, but I’m not worried about that,” said McGrath candidly, adding that rarely does the number-one qualifier also end as the winner. “When you’re running that hard, you’re on the edge. Our goal is to be consistent at each race and grab a personal best. We can go a lot of rounds with where we’re at—it’s all about consistency and going down the track every time.”