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Stealth Fighter-Ed & Ryan Robertson's stock-style stallion puts the street in NMCA Mickey Thompson X275

Posted By: Steve Baur
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by Kevin DiOssi

 
From one generation to the next, the Robertson family continues its legacy of racing. The father-and-son team of Ed and Ryan found the formula for success with the perfect blend of life, work, and play.
 
Since his youth, cars remain a constant in Ed’s life thanks to his father who worked for General Motors. In high school, Ed’s involvement grew and he wound up racing a few of his own projects at the now-defunct Detroit Dragway, not far from his home in Monroe, Michigan.
 
“I’ve had quite a few drag cars all the way up until when we started our family and it got pushed aside,” shared the man, now 55, who has worked at Ford Motor Company as a test engineer for more than three decades. Ed introduced his son, Ryan, to drag racing on his eighth birthday when he gifted the boy a junior dragster as a surprise.
 

Ryan, now 23 and also employed at Ford alongside his father as a calibration technician, raced with Ed’s help for five or six years and even earned three track championships at Michigan’s Milan Dragway: 2007 in Pee Wee Jr. Dragster, 2010 in Intermediate Jr. Dragster, and 2013 in Advanced Jr. Dragster. In 2012, he won an NHRA Wally, and, in 2013, a state title as well. By the time he turned 15, though, he had outgrown the half-scale dragster and Ed came up with an alternative plan to keep Ryan running.
 
Back in 2009, however, Ed began testing the waters of getting back into racing himself. He found himself saddled with a snowmobile, but not enough snow to enjoy it, and stumbled across a 1985 Ford Mustang LX. Ed negotiated a trade for the machine along with some cash, and took home the Fox Mustang as a result.
 
“It had a 351ci Windsor small-block in it with nitrous and an uncertified eight-point cage, but it was a really nice street car that I could also take to the track when I wanted to,” remembered Ed. 
 
He got to work rebuilding the entire thing, adding an 8.50-second legal cage and mini-tubs to the Mustang. He commissioned a truly beautiful, period-correct flame paint job sprayed by Brian at Spraytech Designs.
 
“I did a lot of No Time racing at Milan and was even on [the TV show] Pass Time in 2011—it was a lot of fun.”
 

Over the years, the Mustang evolved as Ed built it to go quicker and faster. He had replaced the original engine with a 468 cubic-inch big-block Chevy and a Powerglide transmission, along with many other upgrades. As Ryan grew to his 6’2” stature and matured in age, Ed decided to hand over the keys and let his son cut his teeth in a big car.
 
Ryan began piloting the pony car in 2018 and quickly gained confidence with his father by his side as crew chief; he scored a win in 2019 at Milan in the DetroitHoodTV Pour Your Own Puddle no-time shootout. Having had such an established sense of family from racing with his son and enjoying the class racing environment of the juniors, however, the two soon grew tired of the No-Time vibe.
 
“We would go to No-Time events when I was younger to watch and I thought it was cool, but after the first few races, it just didn’t have the same feel,” shared Ryan of the secretive scene. His father felt the same, and missed the comraderies of class racing. “So, we talked and decided to move on and go over to the NMCA.”
 
At first, Ed planned on converting the Mustang over to X275 trim, but the financial obligations of raising a family meant it was slow going. He wanted to stick with a street-car-style build and came across NMCA’s Mickey Thompson Street Outlaw category and knew it would be a perfect fit based on the X275-esque rules.
 

Ed had his former 8.50 cage updated to 7.50 ET-legal status by Rich McCarren of Pro Racecraft Engineering in 2015, so he was ahead of the curve on the chassis. He worked with Chris Holbrook at Holbrook Racing Engines to put together the new 582ci big-block Chevy engine, and the result was something truly special.
 
Thanks to guidance from Darin Morgan, formerly of Reher-Morrison Racing Engines fame, a Dart Big M race series block with billet caps was filled with a billet Bryant Racing crankshaft, Oliver connecting rods, Total Seal-ringed Diamond pistons that run at nearly 15:1 compression, Trend pushrods, and a COMP Cams solid-roller camshaft.
 
“It’s a DRCE block that’s special for GM, and is a little wider and taller,” noted Ed, who also chose Pro-Filer Performance Products’ Sniper XL 24-degree cylinder heads that he purchased from Morgan along with Jesel Pro Steel rocker arms, titanium valves, and an Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold.
 
Holbrook buttoned up the wet-sump, big-block Chevy, put it on the engine dyno, and handed the horsepower-maker over to Ed and Ryan.
 
Given Ed’s familiarity with having used nitrous oxide since he was a teenager, the men opted to continue blasting the bottle for this build as well.
 
“Turbos and superchargers just really weren’t popular back then. It was either nitrous or naturally aspirated, and nitrous is what I learned to work with,” Ed explained.
 

As many of his friends were running Speedtech nitrous systems on their Pro Mod-style cars, Ed knew he could trust the company for his Street Outlaw project.
 
“Speedtech has been really helpful with the tune-ups, and the overall quality of their work is impressive. We sent the intake down to them to get the direct-port system installed and they did a fantastic job,” Ed noted.
 
Jeff Rolfes of JR Racecraft has been a part of the Robertson’s race program for years, and Rolfes fabbed up a set of super-cool, front-exit stainless steel headers. They showcase the nitrous-inspired flames when the tune-up—that Ed manages himself—is on point.
 
The 1980s-era Mustang was then fitted with a two-speed Turbo 400 automatic from Mark Micke’s M&M Transmission and a matching billet torque converter.
 
“The transmission has a 1.40 first gear ratio, which is numerically low for us since we’re used to something in the 1.80 or 2.0 range, but it’s worked out well,” added Ed.
 
Still in a stock-style suspension configuration, the Fox was fitted with a host of Racecraft Inc. components as well as Strange Engineering brakes at all four corners and Strange front struts with AFCO Big Gun coilover shocks in the rear. Rolfes built the narrowed Ford 9-inch rearend, which also was fitted with Strange gears and receives power via a Strange billet driveshaft.
 

A set of quintessential Mickey Thompson wheels wrapped in M/T Pro Bracket drag radial rubber were bolted on and upgraded by Mac-Fab with “Fast Eddie” double-beadlocks.
 
All steel with the exception of the Motor City Solutions carbon fiber hood and a Skinny Kid wing, the Mustang weighed in at 3,000-pounds with the factory glass. Other than a stock-appearing fiberglass dash, which replaced the crumbling original, the factory interior, including door panels, headliner, and plastic trim pieces, is also still fully intact.
 
“I love that everyone comes up to the car and doesn’t expect it to be so fast because it looks like a street car. It isn’t cut up like a drag car,” added the proud owner.
 
In 2021, the father and son duo debuted their new combination at a No-Time event at US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan, and made the few inaugural test passes to confirm the combination was working as it should. Rolfes also lent a hand setting up the chassis and doing other occasional updates, so they were confident in the car’s potential.
 
By late July, they were ready for their first-ever NMCA race and targeted the Inaugural Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA Power Festival Presented by Force Engineering, also at US 131 Motorsports Park.
 
“I knew right away, we were back where we needed to be,” affirmed Ryan, who especially appreciated being welcomed by his fellow racers and competitors. “We pitted with our Super Duty truck and 28-foot trailer next to big semis and toters on each side, it was crazy!”
 

Being that it was the men’s first outing with the series, they were admittedly a bit nervous, but those feelings were quickly quelled as the weekend progressed. Qualified eleventh with a 5.021 at 144.56 mph trip, Ryan wasn’t running as fast as he hoped, but was thankful there were no issues with the Mustang and that he improved on every pass.
 
Ryan ran against X275 heavy hitter Rob Goss in round one of eliminations, and although he didn’t get the win, it was still a memorable moment.
 
“In the staging lanes, I got to talk to people that I’ve been watching on TV my whole life. Being able to meet them was really cool, it was something I never thought wound happen,” he said excitedly. “I had a blast and the fact that I got to line up next to Rob [Goss] was pretty insane!”
 
Ryan had received a one-race waiver for his NHRA license with the Michigan event, but needed to complete his paperwork passes to continue on. The men decided that they would do so at the 20th Annual NMCA World Street Finals Presented by Chevrolet Performance at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Indiana, on September 24-26, and wrap up their season.
 
A little skeptical about traveling so far from home, though, they made sure to load up with all the spare parts and tools that they could possibly think of before hitting the road.
 

Upon arriving in Indy, Ryan completed his licensing formalities and got going with qualifying. Mark Whitener was on hand for consulting and was a tremendous help in getting the Lightning Racing Carburetors fuel mixer dialed in, while Ed worked on refining the MSD ignition control module and the Leash Electronics nitrous progressive controller’s configurations just right. Micke, too, offered some helpful advice with regards to what stator to run, and all of the changes added up.
 
“Right at the top end of the track during the last round of qualifying, the whole car started shaking,” stated Ryan, who had qualified fourth overall having gone 4.754 at 149.02 mph and knew something bad was going on. Back at the trailer, he and Ed looked over the whole car but couldn’t find anything wrong. Late in the night, they wrapped up and went back to the hotel to brainstorm. “Even though we didn’t bring anything to rebuild the rearend, we thought maybe something could be damaged, so the morning before eliminations we jacked up the car and took it all apart.”
 
Fortunately, David Fallon Jr. provided the fluid and gaskets the guys needed to put the rearend back together again and they were able to do so in time for the start of the first round of eliminations. Ironically, by then, Ed had found the issue—it was something simple in the tune-up.
 
“We were so happy to be able to race, but then the nitrous bottle heater went out and we couldn’t get the bottle warm… so, my dad tried to kill me by putting the generator in the car to warm it up,” laughed Ryan, who was quick to clarify the Mustang’s windows were open to vent the noxious fumes.
 

Thrilled their scramble paid off, Ryan lined up against Jimmy Dahl and earned the advantage at the tree with an 0.067-second reaction time. He held on to the lead through to the traps where his 4.877 at 148.95mph journey turned on the win light in his lane for his first-ever NMCA round victory.
 
For round two, Robertson found himself up against the venerable Alan Felts. Quick again on the tree, Robertson held high hopes, but knew Felts was a tough contender. Ultimately, he ran 4.715 at 151.20 mph to Felts’ winning 4.396 at 167.41mph hit, but didn’t take the defeat personally, especially since he knew his car was 200 pounds overweight.
 
“That was a new personal best for us, and Alan had been very welcoming to us so it was great getting to race him,” shared Ryan of his match against the 2021 NMCA Mickey Thompson Street Outlaw champion.
 
Despite only attending two of the season’s six races, Ryan’s performances were strong enough to place him 13th in points out of 20 drivers. Never expecting to be anywhere near there when he began, both Ryan and his father are excited to see how much they can improve his standings in the 2022 NMCA Mickey Thompson Street Outlaw season.
 

Over the winter, the men plan to prepare by freshening up their Holbrook Racing Engines big block, taking care of some routine maintenance items, and changing the rear gear to try and get some more rpm through the traps.
 
They work surprisingly well together, too. Despite the occasional bicker, the men work towards a common goal with mutual respect and trust.
 
“I like when it’s just us cruising around the rack on the golf cart. It’s been that way my whole life, and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” asserted Ryan, who unconditionally trusts his father to put him in a safe situation. “If it was anyone else, I’d worry about what they’re doing with the car.”
 
Surrounded by swarms of crews nearly a dozen deep, toters and stackers as far as the eye can see, and high-dollar builds, the father and son two-man team has made their mark in the Street Outlaw crowd. Occasionally joined by crew man Dave Slaughterbeck and with the support of Ryan’s fiancée, Mercedes Slaughterbeck, they know their 1985 Ford Mustang will continue to help them make memories for years to come.
 

The Details

Owner/Driver
Owner:  Ed Robertson        
Driver: Ryan Robertson
Hometown: Monroe, Michigan
Occupation: Ryan Robertson, Calibration Technician at Ford Motor Company
Class: NMCA Mickey Thompson X275
Crew: Ed Robertson, Dave Slaughterbeck
Car Year/Make/Model: 1985 Mustang LX
Powertrain 
Engine: Big-block Chevy 
Engine builder: Holbrook Racing
Displacement: 582 cubic inches
Block: Dart DRCE
Bore: 4.60 inches
Stroke: 4.375 inches
Crank: Bryant Billet
Rods: Oliver
Pistons: Diamond 15:1
Heads: Profiler Sniper XL
Valvetrain: Jesel Pro Steel
Cam type: COMP Cams 55mm solid-roller 
Carburetor or EFI system: Carburetor (Mark Whitener, Lightning Carburetors)
Power-adder: N2O by Speedtech
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels N2O
Headers and exhaust: Stainless front exit
Transmission: Turbo 400 w/ Precision Shifter
Transmission Builder: M&M (Mark Micke)
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: M&M Billet
Rearend: Ford 9-inch w/ 3.90 gears and Strange Engineering components
 
Chassis 
Body and/or chassis builder: Pro Racecraft Engineering
Suspension (Front): Strange Struts, all Racecraft components, K-member, A-arms, and Stiletto rack 
Suspension (Rear): Stock Suspension with AFCO Big Guns coil-over shocks, all Racecraft components
Brakes (Front): Strange Engineering
Brakes (Rear): Strange Engineering
Wheels (front): Mickey Thompson
Wheels (Rear):  Mickey Thompson Mac-Fab beadlocks (Fast Eddie)
Tires (Front): Mickey Thompson
Tires (Rear): Mickey Thompson Pro Bracket Radial
Aftermarket body modifications: Motor City Solutions Carbon Fiber hood, Skinny Kid Wing, Glasstek Fiberglass Dash
Safety equipment: RJS
Vehicle weight: 3,000 pounds
Quickest ET: 4.71 seconds
Best 60-foot: 1.13 seconds
Fastest mph: 151

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