By Mary Lendzion
Photos courtesy of Keith Rhea
Fans of fast cars got to know Keith Rhea’s rowdy 2004 Mustang Cobra when he began competing in the NMRA’s Cobra/Terminator vs. GT500 Shootout and Hellion Turbo Battle several years ago.
Back then, it was powered by a 5.4 GT500 engine and two Precision 72mm turbos, and it hauled to a best of 7.17 at 196 mph in the quarter-mile.
More recently, powered by the same engine plus a pair of 83mm Bullseye Power turbos, it clocked a 6.56 at 214 mph in the quarter-mile — a record for a Modular engine-powered door car — and a 4.21 at 174 in the eighth-mile.
Rhea, who has wrapped up wins along the way, took on NMRA VP Racing Madditives Street Outlaw last year with the same engine and a single Bullseye Power 88mm turbo, and wheeled to a best of 4.39 at 172 mph in the eighth-mile. With a desire to go in a slightly different direction for this year, the owner of Wonder Racing in Derry, Pennsylvania, bounced some ideas off of Bill Devine of Bullseye Power.
“I told Bill that in addition to Street Outlaw, I wanted to race in some other classes, like Warrior Outlaw, No Time and X275, and that I wanted to find an additional car,” said Rhea. “Eric Holliday told me that Manny Buginga was selling a Mustang coupe as a roller, and I bought it in April of this year.”
Rhea spent the following forty-five days preparing the car for racing.
“Manny hadn’t raced the car yet, so I plumbed it, wired it, set up the chassis, installed Afco 7-inch stroke canister rear shocks and spindle mount struts that Menscer Motorsports massaged, as well as UPR caster camber plates and upper and lower control arms,” said Rhea. “Kim and Al Kussy of Aerospace Components built a custom titanium brake kit for the car.”
Rhea put together a 5.8L Trinity engine on a factory 2013-2014 GT500 block with a Winberg crank, Wiseco pistons, Bill Miller aluminum rods and stock heads, and built a custom one-off harness for a Holley Dominator EFI ECU.
Meanwhile, Bullseye Power took care of some upgrades on his 88mm turbo, and Erik Hendricks of Morning Glory Motorsports fabricated his headers and the hot-side for his turbo.
Rhea chose to go with a Coan Turbo 400 with a close-ratio three-speed, as well as a ProTorque EV1 converter.
When the work was wrapped up, Rhea headed to the Jet Wars on July 10, 2021 at Maryland International Raceway, where he entered Warriors Outlaw and recorded a 4.46 and raced to the semifinal round on his Mickey Thompson drag radials while shaking down his new car.
“The car goes straight, and now I just need a little time to finish tuning it and dialing it in so that we can start to turn it up a bit,” said Rhea, who’s now on his way to the Inaugural Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA Power Festival presented by Force Engineering, this weekend, July 22-25, at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan. “I’m really looking forward to racing this car, and would like to be able to go 4.30s this weekend.
Rhea, who will occasionally race his 2004 Mustang Cobra as well, has help at races from his father, Kevin Rhea, stepmother, Marvis Rhea, and Erik Hendicks of Morning Glory Motorsports. In addition to his company, Wonder Racing, he has support from Bullseye Power, Coan, ProTorque, Menscer Motorsports, Morning Glory Motorsports, Full Throttle Signs, P&R Engine Rebuilders and MMR.