Written by Mary Lendzion
Photos by Kevin DiOssi
As a child walking hand in hand with her father, Stephanie Davies was curious about the make and model of most cars arriving for cruise-ins at the Whiskey Cafe near their Clifton, New Jersey, home. It didn’t matter if they were Fords, Chevrolets or Dodges.
But one of the cars she was most curious about was her father’s classic 1966 Fairlane R Code, and fueling her fascination was the fact that it was one of only 57 made, that he had it from the time he was 19 years old, and that he raced it at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park and Island Dragway in New Jersey, among other tracks.
In fact, watching her father, Scott, in action while sitting alongside her mother, Valerie, and brothers, Scott and Steven, inspired her to purchase a 1989 Mustang LX with a 5.0L engine when she was 16.
“I had been looking at Camaros, but Dad was not having that,” said Davies, with a laugh. “He talked me into going to look at this 1989 Mustang LX that a friend of his had, and when I saw it, I thought it was beautiful, and I bought it.”
Unfortunately, Davies was involved in a wreck in the car when she was 17, and sustained injuries to her back.
“It was a pretty violent wreck, and actually, I was afraid to drive after that, and my parents basically had to force me to,” said Davies. “In doing that, my dad found another Fox-body Mustang for me. It was a dark blue convertible with a 5.0-liter engine. It had been backed into, there were holes in the roof, it was a mess and it needed a ton of work, but we did it together, and that’s when I learned how to do things like source parts, work on cars, and test and tune at the track.”
It was during one of those test and tune sessions that a head gasket blew on the engine, and a resourceful Davies got the car home after stopping at a gas station, paying a very marked-up price for a container of coolant to the attendant who saw her coming with steam pouring from under the hood of her car, adding water, and repeating the process several times along the hour and a half-long trip.
“When I finally got the car home, Dad helped me make repairs, but a little while later, I was showing off and came around a corner too quick and put the car up on the embankment,” said Davies. “We got it fixed, but I decided to sell it. I was 21 at the time.”
Before long, she set off in search of another Fox-body Mustang, and her dad found one for sale online in 2011. It was a Deep Emerald Green 1992 hatchback model with a 5.0-liter engine and a stock manual trans—she paid $3,000 for it.
“It had a little front-end damage on it from rolling into a garage door, but other than that, it was clean and didn’t have any rust,” said Davies, who had it repaired and sometime later swapped the stock hood with a Cervini’s Cobra R hood.
By 2011, she had accepted a writing internship at Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine in Florida, and while she was there, her car became the subject of Baller on a Budget, a project which saw her car receive what Davies referred to as a “little 306 heads, cam, and intake build,” as well as a new exhaust. The combination cranked out 350 horsepower.
“It was a fun little build that Evan Smith and Marc Christ came up with, and the Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords staff wrote it up,” said Davies, who went on to become a staff writer for the magazine upon graduating with a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she often chose automotive topics when writing research papers.
Upon being offered a job as a creative staff writer by Roush Performance in 2014, Davies moved from Florida to Michigan.
“It was cold and snowy and I couldn’t drive my Mustang, so I bought a GMC Sierra,” said Davies, whose early contributions at Roush Performance included content for blogs, newsletters, brochures, catalogs, and hero cards.
Eventually, she moved to the shows and events coordinator position at the company, and as such, began traveling throughout the country to help promote its products.
“I would talk to enthusiasts, show Roush cars, explain Roush cars, do active exhaust demonstrations and more,” said Davies. “I was never home, and it was intense, but it was cool to travel and see the country.”
Davies went on to become a communications and public relations manager for the company, and during that time, she was invited to race her car on Roush Performance’s behalf to help promote its products.
“They thought it would be a cool way to showcase a Coyote car with a Roush 2.3L TVS supercharger on it,” said Davies. “So, we swapped my engine with a 2012 Coyote crate engine, and later, when we realized that the project might need a little more help because the guys who were there to work on Roush vehicles were doing research for my car on their own time, Brenspeed stepped in. The car went to them with the engine in it, but it was a roller, and they finished the build. A lot of companies had come on board, and we had an entire suspension set-up from Maximum Motorsports, a C4 transmission from Performance Automatic, trans mount from Stifflers, control pack from Ford Performance Parts, Strange Engineering components for the stock 8.8 rear-end housing, and wheels and fuel system components from JMS. American Muscle gave us some parts at cost, and Mickey Thompson gave us drag radials.”
With many fans following the build, Davies and Brent White of Brenspeed wanted to debut the car at the NMRA event at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida in March of 2016, even though they would not be entering it into competition. As expected, it attracted a lot of attention.
It was ready to roll in time for the NMRA event at Summit Motorsports Park in Ohio that summer, and while White got behind the wheel to shake down the car, he wasn’t able to make as much progress as he and Davies had hoped, as a part in the transmission went wayward.
While it was being repaired, Davies spent time in the driver’s seat of Brenspeed’s 2012 Roush Stage III Mustang, Roush Performance’s 2016 Roush Stage III Mustang and Roush Performance’s 2016 Roush Stage II Mustang, all while competing in the NMRA’s Race Star Wheels Ford Muscle category, and she even went as quick as 11.00 in Brenspeed’s 2012 Roush Stage III Mustang.
With her transmission repaired, Davies was set to climb into her own Mustang for Race Star Wheels Ford Muscle competition that fall at the NMRA finals event at Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky.
“The car had not been shaken down, and I remember waking up the morning of the first round of qualifying and feeling so nervous,” said Davies. “I had never been in a car that had a 5-point harness and was capable of running 10s.”
Despite the nervousness, Davies ripped off a 10.90 on her very first pass in the overhauled car packing the new powerplant, and colorfully described it as “the most insane thing ever.”
“The idea was to get used to the car at that event, and it felt so fast and so good,” said Davies, who managed a fourth-place finish in 2016 Race Star Wheels Ford Muscle points after piloting four different Mustangs. “We kept it as-is going into winter because it was pretty solid and we knew what we would have going into the next race.”
That “next race” was the season-opening NMRA event in March of 2017 Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida.
“I was itching to get back into the car,” said Davies. “I ended up winning my first round in Ford Muscle in Florida, and then I went to the final at the race in Georgia the following month, with the car running in the 10.00 index. We got rained out at the race in Pennsylvania, but at the make-up race, I made it to the final. I got my first 9-second pass at the final race of the season at Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky, a 9.802 to be exact, and I was super-excited because all I wanted all season long was a 9-second pass. I ended up finishing third in 2017 points, and it felt good to be learning more and more about the car.”
Over winter, Davies delivered her car to her now fiance´, NMRA ProCharger Coyote Modified driver Eric Bardekoff of EB Custom Works, where an 8.50-certified cage was installed, the interior was updated, the stock fuel tank was replaced with a fuel cell and 17 pounds of useless wire was removed. Bardekoff also performed some bodywork and painted the trim on the car, and installed some ballast into it a strategically placed custom weightbox. Finishing touches included the addition of two Kirkey seats and a fire extinguisher.
With everything in place, Davies loaded up and headed to the 24th Annual Nitto NMRA Spring Break Shootout in early March of 2018 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida. There, she posted a 9.78 on her 9.75 index to qualify in the second spot in the 21-vehicle field in Race Star Wheels Ford Muscle, and advanced all the way to the semifinal.
“The work EB Custom Works performed made the car react much better, and it was dead-on at the race in Florida,” said Davies, who recently accepted a position as operations manager for Stinger Motorsport.
She followed that with a 9.75 on her 9.75 index to lead qualifying in Race Star Wheels Ford Muscle at the 10th Annual NMRA/NMCA All Star Nationals presented by MAHLE Motorsport in early April at Atlanta Dragway, and while she exited eliminations early after spinning at the hit, she soared through several rounds of eliminations in RacePagesDigital.com Bracket 2.
Now, she’s positioning herself for a prime season.
“Like everyone else, I want to earn a championship, and I honestly think I have a car that will help me do that,” said Davies, who’s known for her drive, her dedication, and her determination. “I also have a really strong team behind me, and my support system is second to none. What that does is allow me to focus on driving, and for that, I’m so grateful.”
Owner/Driver: Stephanie Davies
Hometown: Clifton, New Jersey, but currently in Plymouth, Michigan
Occupation: Operations manager at Stinger Motorsport
Class: Race Star Wheels Ford Muscle
Engine: Coyote 5.0L
Engine builder: Ford
Cylinder heads: Stock
Carburetor or EFI system: EFI
Power-adder: Roush 2.3L TVS Supercharger
Fuel brand and type: 93-octane pump gas
Headers and exhaust: Kooks long-tube headers (no exhaust)
Transmission: Super Comp C4 automatic
Transmission builder: Performance Automatic
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Hurst Pistol Grip shifter and torque converter from Performance Automatic
Rearend: 8.8 with Strange Engineering components (9-inch ends)
Differential: Detroit Locker
Body and/or chassis builder: Ford Motor Company
Front suspension: Complete Maximum Motorsports drag-race suspension
Rear suspension: Complete Maximum Motorsports drag-race suspension
Font brakes: Disc, SN95 Mustang
Brakes (rear): Disc, SN95 Mustang
Wheels (front): 17×4.5 black chrome JMS Avengers
Wheels (rear): 15×10 black chrome JMS Avengers
Front tires: 26-inch’ Moroso
Rear tires: Mickey Thompson ET Street S/S 255/60R15
Body modifications: Custom vinyl wrap
Fiberglass/carbon body components: Cobra R fiberglass hood
Safety equipment: 8.50 cert cage by EB Custom Works (Ronkonkoma, New York), Kirkey seats, G-Force 5-point harness, Simpson suit, shoes, and gloves, Simpson Super Bandit helmet, HANS device, fire extinguisher
Vehicle weight: 3,090 lbs with driver
Quickest ET: 9.534 at 144.18 mph
Best 60-foot: 1.45 (footbrake!)
Fastest mph: 145 mph
Sponsors: Roush Performance, JMS, EB Custom Works
(Feature from the July 2018 issue of Fastest Street Car)