Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by Steve Baur
Although he’s hesitant to commit to a definitive plan or course of action, legendary drag racer Billy Glidden confirmed that he is working on reviving his historic black Fox body Mustang and the car has already been fired up.
Revered as the most successful Mustang in heads-up drag racing, the ’90 model Ford’s historical significance is undeniable. The same car that Glidden campaigned in countless 10.5-inch tire classes and that helped him win more championships than he can even count, Glidden’s Fox body set multiple records around the country and struck fear (and respect) into his competitors. “Just in 2002 alone, between the two cars we had, we raced 37 events and won 35 of ‘em, twenty-something with this car. That’s just what we did,” reminisced Glidden of his glory days.
Glidden has had an overwhelmingly successful career, but when his luck changed, it all came crashing down. “I crashed, got hurt, my dad died, Mickey Thompson went away, and it all happened at once,” he explained honestly of the series of events in 2017 that prompted the professional to step back. Before parking the 1968 Camaro Pro Modified, Glidden campaigned it for two years in NHRA Pro Modified and other arenas while utilizing a massive 903ci nitrous combination thanks to support from Ray Skillman Auto Group. “Mr. [Ray] Skillman got involved after I crashed the red car because he’s a good person and was trying to help us. If it wasn’t for the Skillmans, I wouldn’t be in racing the last three years.” In the interim, he’s been staying busy working for a farmer locally in Indiana and helping tune the occasional car or two.
Now, Glidden is toying with the idea of bringing back his black Mustang. “It’s been sitting since it’s last competitive race of any kind in 2010, and prior to that was NMCA in ’08,” Glidden confirmed of how the car has been sitting for nearly a decade. “Until it actually moves, all I can say is that we’re just working on it.”
Built nearly three decades ago in 1990 (originally by Alan Dudley and then updated over the years by Skinny Kid Race Cars), the car was never intended for the level of power, technology, and track prep that’s in play today. “But, what the heck? Let’s just put it together and see,” laughed Glidden, who has some races locally he could attend that cater to steel-bodied cars.
After sitting for so long, and without the spark plugs even being removed from its small block Ford engine, Glidden got the wild idea to start the Mustang up. Amazingly, after not having been touched for nearly a decade, it turned over without any issues – a true testament to Glidden’s skill as an engine builder. He’s still running his old Liberty transmission, too, and a nitrous oxide kid that’s his own custom setup with Nitrous Outlet bottles on board. “Most of the stuff is just things that I’ve cobbled together, pieces of all kinds of stuff that I’ve had through the years,” he added.
Back when Glidden and the Fox body were dominating the drag racing scene, the car was exceptionally nose-heavy – and it still is today. “We stuck everything in it and scaled it this week and it’s balanced really badly,” he shared candidly of the car that might not be as competitive as he would like against more modern chassis. “It’s a short, original wheelbase and everything from my feet forward is still completely stock.”
Glidden isn’t at the point of being able to start it up and drive it out of the building yet, but he’s been busy lightening things up where he can with “titanium this and titanium that here and there.” He’s working through several fitment issues that need to be addressed and having to replace a plethora of parts that are either dated or timed out, but the engineer-minded man loves the challenge. “The closer you get, the farther away it seems.”
Vaguely looking at the NMCA ARP Nitrous Pro Street class as a potential target for if and when the car is completed, Glidden knows he’s got his work cut out for him to be competitive against modern cars with his relic. “This is an old car that was built to run high 10s and 11s and in the quarter mile, and it’s actually been 6.70s and now it’s got to run 4.30s (in the eighth mile) to be competitive and it’s not very realistic,” Glidden stated bluntly. Realistic is boring, though, so he isn’t letting that fact deter him from giving it a go.
As for when he thinks his Mustang will make its big comeback, Glidden won’t say. “Right now, it’s just all talk. I don’t have a date in mind. Common sense tells me all we’re gonna do is spend money… so I‘m not in a hurry,” he calmly confessed. “I might throw my hands up and walk away, but quitting isn’t part of my signature.”
Racing at the upper levels takes a significant amount of money, and, after all that Glidden’s been through in recent years, the purse strings are tight. “Expenses are a big problem for us, since we don’t have anyone helping out financially of any kind,” noted Glidden, who is hoping someone takes notice of what he’s doing and a magical “Fairy God Sponsor” will arrive on his doorstep. [hint hint]
“The fact of the matter is, I’m looking at our future and a lot of this grudge racing, street racing, blah blah movement that’s going on, well… somebody with a lot of money would be very interested in this car,” continued Glidden, adding that the idea may or may not be his primary reason for putting the car back together – readers, you can make your own inference as to what that means and get in touch with Mr. Glidden if so inclined.
While specifics are still sparse, just the mere fact that a man as respected and revered as Glidden is considering a project of this significance is enough to get any diehard racing fan revved up and ready to see what pans out.