Matt Harget’s New Mod Muscle for Factory Stock ’79 Mercury Capri

It’s practically impossible for a racer not to turn wrenches. So, when his own ride didn’t need much, NMRA G-Force Racing Transmissions Coyote Stock current points leader Frank Paultanis instead turned his focus to his friend, Matt Harget, and his ’79 Mercury Capri instead.

Early last season, Paultanis swapped his SN95 Mustang over from a Gen 1 Coyote engine to a newer Gen 2 and made a few minor tweaks and changes.

“My car has been pretty boring in the last year, other than it’s working really well,” laughed Paultanis, who has swept the 2020 NMRA drag racing season so far with three wins in a row. Upgrades to the brakes, small suspension adjustments, and replacing the factory steering column with an aftermarket tubular unit were really all that the car required.

Harget had owned his Capri for quite a while and had a long-term goal to build it for NMRA Richmond Gear Factory Stock. He purchased Paultanis’s discarded Gen 1 Coyote and the two partnered to move forward on Harget’s project in late fall of 2019 in Paultanis’s home garage.

Paultanis placed the engine between the frame rails of the vintage Mercury, rewired the entire car, and added all new UPR Products front suspension components. The existing roll bar was left alone, but Paultanis had the itch to do some metal fabrication and created an entirely new exhaust system from scratch. Following the Kooks headers, he made a full aluminum system including the X-pipe and incorporated V-bands to attach the Dynomax mufflers.

A set of Strange Engineering brakes were also on the bill along with an aftermarket steering column and a half-size radiator. Lastly, as the original 40+ year-old dash was crumbling, Paultanis added a newer one from the later model ’87-’93.

Prior to the Coyote transplant, the Capri had been powered by a 347ci small-block Ford with a C4 transmission. Although the engine was evicted, the transmission was kept and the guys are testing both an Ultimate Converter Concepts unit as well as a PTC converter to see which the car prefers.

Although the ultimate goal is NMRA Richmond Gear Factory Stock, the Capri’s rear suspension currently makes it ineligible for the category. The plan is to update it all to class-legal spec over the 2020-2021 off-season, however, Harget has been running NMRA Exedy Racing Clutches Modular Muscle in the interim.

While racing at the 15th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing presented by HPJ Performance in St. Louis on Mickey Thompson slick tires wrapped around RC Components wheels, Harget cut an 0.082-second light in NMRA Exedy Racing Clutches Modular Muscle to qualify fourteenth. The man from Flat Rock, Michigan, went out with a red light in the first round of eliminations, but still ran a 10.892 at 118.5 mph.

“We only had two test passes in the car for St. Louis,” said Paultanis, who believes the foul start for Harget was a result of him simply staging the car further forward than he usually does. “We put a new intake on it, too, from an ’18 Coyote.”

To prepare for the upcoming Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA All-American Nationals presented by Force Engineering in Martin, Michigan, at US 131 Motorsports Park, Paultanis and Harget have also changed the Capri’s converter hoping to get some more out of it. The standard Coyote Stock tune up is still in the engine, however, while Bob Kurgan of Kurgan Motorsports will be keying the tune in the future after the initial shakedown process has been completed.

“We took a lot of what we learned with my car and transferred that to his,” explained Paultanis, who’s happy to have Harget join him on Team Tiddie with Tim Donathen and Eddie Bennett. “We want to work out all the bugs and see where the car sits before we make changes, and from there go to Factory Stock for 2021.”