Few things are more disappointing than breaking a new toy. So, when Alton Clements took ownership of Manny Buginga’s “Little Red” ride and wadded it up not long after, he got busy making it like new again so that he could get back to enjoying the car as quick as possible.
A two-time NMRA Edelbrock Renegade champion, Clements switched to NMRA VP Racing Madditives Street Outlaw in 2018 while driving Buginga’s famed Ford. Clements liked it so much that he bought the ProCharged Mustang outright, but in October of that same year, he hit the wall at a track in his home state of South Carolina.
Clements sent the crushed car to Tim Lyons at Lyons Custom Motorsports for repairs. There, Lyons straightened it out and made the necessary repairs to the front subframe and body.
“He recommended moving the engine back two inches and lowering it a bit in the car, too,” added Clements, who kept everything else the same as prior to the accident except for one thing – the power adder.
Previously, a ProCharger blower had been bolted to the DiSomma Racing Engines-built small block Ford engine, but Clements changed it out to a Vortech unit instead.
“It’s a little smaller of a supercharger as per NMRA class rules,” noted Clements, who redid all of the piping himself to accommodate the new V-30 105A.
“I got smacked around a little and have been working hard to get this car acting right,” he laughed, undeterred.
Clements ran at the Lights Out 11 race at South Georgia Motorsports Park a few days later, but was off the pace. He headed down to Florida for the NMRA season opener a few weeks later at Bradenton Motorsports Park, but things didn’t go quite as well has he had hoped there, either.
“It took us several races to get this car put back together from where Manny [Buginga] had it,” shared Clements. “I messed up and didn’t put the line back on the [Turbo 400] trans that needed to be there, and it plagued us.”
Clements has definitely been dealing with a frustrating learning curve with the Fox body, but thanks to help from Buginga and the team at Neal Chance Racing Converters, he’s finally gotten a handle on it.
“I’ve been learning a lot about converter prep,” he added, “and now we’ve got a spare converter and spare trans, so we’re back to where we were in the competitive Renegade days with spares of everything – and I know how to use ‘em now!”
In mid-April, Clements saw that several other racers had been testing at Carolina Dragway in Aiken, South Carolina. He messaged track manager Jimmy Owen and scored a spot for an upcoming radial prep session – as long as he agreed to practice safe social distancing during the day, of course.
“We were happy to be there. The track was killer and we got a few things ironed out in the car,” said Clements, who visited the facility on Sunday, April 26, 2020.
Although he didn’t run a new personal best, Clements’s eighth-mile hit of 4.46 at 158 mph with a 1.07-second 60-foot time definitely showed he was motoring in the right direction. With his other Fox body, “Ol’ Blue,” Clements had clicked off a 1.04-second 60-foot – but had put countless laps on that car.
“We really made some great progress with the new Vortech supercharger. Not fast enough to be a threat to anyone just yet, but we are getting there!” he proclaimed of what was only the second and third full-pass hit on the car, post-accident. “You gotta make mistakes to learn, and we’re confidently learning and evolving this car.”
Ironically, the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown that has affected drag racing all around the globe has actually benefitted Clements.
“It’s definitely weird taking all this time off, and it’ll take us a while to get back into the swing of things, but we needed this time to focus on the car and working on getting it figured out,” shared Clements, who hates the idea of going to the track with an unproven car and sees the ‘Rona offseason as a bit of a blessing in disguise. He’s making the most of the situation and using the time to ready both himself and his Mustang to make a splash when it’s finally time to go racing again.