We Jammin’—Ben Stoner’s Super S197 Success Story

Written by Ainsley Jacobs

Photography by Kevin DiOssi

Some wind up working a job out of necessity so that they can afford to do something they love. Others, like Ben Stoner, do something they love, which enables them to create a career that never gets old.

Now a successful co-owner of the Fathouse Fabrications performance shop and leader of the Jam Factory motorsports complex development, Stoner was once just a kid who loved wrenching on whatever was around. As a teenager growing up in southern Indiana, Stoner was obsessed with DSMs — that’s Diamond-Star Motors, the late ‘80s/early ‘90s joint collaboration between Mitsubishi and Chrysler. He began in ’98, and learned the intricacies of the legendary 4G63 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine that graced vehicles such as the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon, Plymouth Laser, Dodge Colt, and others.

“That’s how I met my current business partners, Jeremy [Howell] and John [Lucas],” explained Stoner, now 40, of his DSM days. “John had a front-wheel-drive turbo Dodge Omni that he street-raced and beat all the Mustangs and got ‘em all pissed off.” The three regularly attended events such as the DSM Shootout and were keen connoisseurs of components from companies like Buschur Racing.

Hanging out in their garages and working on cars, Howell learned to weld and quickly showed a tremendous talent. The guys built a custom turbo kit for Stoner’s all-wheel-drive 2G [second-generation Eclipse/Talon] street car in the early 2000s, got it to run high-9-second passes, and were inspired to consider opening a business together some day. Three or four years later, they quit their jobs and sacrificed making money to do what they loved.

Together, the men rented a 2,500 square-foot shop and officially opened Fathouse Fabrications in 2012.

“We didn’t know what we were doing at all,” joked Stoner, who said ‘yes’ to every job that came in the door. “We would work on anything: industrial welding, making carts for local manufacturing companies, roll cages, turbo kits, intercoolers…”

With expertise in the popular DSM and Mitsubishi Evolution markets, Fathouse’s business grew and soon the three co-owners realized they were making enough money to support themselves. They bought a few machines, including a lathe and a mill, and started making some small parts.

Both Stoner and Lucas still had part-time jobs in the early days, though, while Howell was full-time at the shop.

“I would come in after work and stay until 10 or 11 at night,” noted Stoner, who had been working for his family’s swimming pool safety equipment manufacturing company, Poolguard, until then. He did that for about two years, then started transitioning to less time at Poolguard and more time at Fathouse.

“My entrepreneurial spirit wasn’t being fed, so I went out and did my own thing,” Stoner explained. “I found out that it’s a whole lot harder to build something from the ground up than to run one that’s already started!”

In 2013, the guys purchased a larger shop (their current location in Martinsville, Indiana) and both Stoner and Howell came on full-time as well. By the following year, they had hired two employees and things were rolling fast.

“We bought a dyno and were doing our own tuning and chassis work, building custom turbo kits, and more high-end things,” Stoner shared. Howell, meanwhile, had been hard at work to improve his own fabrication skills and techniques, while Lucas took over the role of lead technician and Stoner was managing the business. “The dynamic worked out really well. We had three partners invested in growing the business, all with different skills that complimented each other.”

Although the shop didn’t have a true identity or solid direction over the next few years, the team worked to change that by starting to say no to certain jobs and by focusing more on twin-turbo packages for Ford Mustangs and Shelby GT350s. By sticking more to roll cage fabrication and the platforms they wanted, they pushed hard in ’19 with lots of new packages, refined existing offerings, and brought full-time tuner and MoTeC specialist Corbin Johnson of Johnson Tuning on in-house.

“It’s been a fun, interesting, bumpy road that’s smoothing out now,” noted Stoner, who contributed to the business’ success through his passion and perseverance and recently announced plans to develop the Jam Factory Motorplex — a massive, multi-use 45-acre motorsports complex that would house everything from race teams to manufacturers, performance shops to special events, and anything in between — in Brownsburg, Indiana, adjacent to Lucas Oil Raceway.

Around the time that the shop first opened, however, Fathouse Fabrications purchased its first flagship vehicle. An ‘11 Ford Mustang GT was acquired in ’12 with intentions of turbocharging it as the men were acutely aware of the Coyote engines capabilities.

“We were all Mustang fans as kids, but between the Fox and the S197, Ford’s motor program wasn’t really attractive for us,” stated Stoner, who was excited when the Coyote revived the 5.0-liter program. “The heads flowed well and it was a quad cam, so it was like having two four-cylinder engines, and we knew it would respond well to boost.”

Unfortunately for the guys, they were so busy working on customer projects that they didn’t have any time to work on their own. As such, the S197 sat in a corner, with parts stacked on top of it, for about a year.

“We wound up putting a VMP supercharger on it instead. It made about 620 horsepower and we drove it for a year, raced it a little… it went 11.1 on 20-inch drag radials,” Stoner recalled of the stick-shift car’s first foray. They called the car the “Jam Maker” as an homage to an inside joke at the shop involving the use of the word “jam” in place of  “horsepower.”

Eventually, time allowed for the construction of a custom single-turbo kit, so Stoner, Howell, and Lucas developed one based around a 76mm Forced Inductions turbocharger with a forward-facing design and intricate headers that had everything all tucked in tight. Using the stock MT-82 six-speed manual gearbox, the result was around 850 horsepower and a 9.9 at 145 mph quarter-mile pass in full street trim in 2014.

“We had fun with it, then decided to run eights…” continued Stoner, who upped the ante with new safety gear, a roll cage, Mickey Thompson ET drag tires, Tremec T-56 Magnum XL transmission, and a built motor. With the power turned up, the S197 eventually produced a whopping 1,235 horsepower on 25 pounds of boost.

However, clutch issues and drivetrain parts failures meant the Fathouse team had a tough time getting the Mustang down the track. Trouble launching — either blowing through the clutch or grabbing too hard — meant they were regularly knocking on the door to the 8-second zone but didn’t get there until the following year when they finally got a clutch program that worked to get them out of the hole.

While racing at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida for the Street Car Takeover race in January of ’17, and in full street trim, the stick-shift car ultimately did get its 8.9 at 165 mph time slip and claimed the record of being the quickest Coyote-powered, manual transmission-equipped Mustang. It stayed in street car trim for a while after that, too, and Stoner raced it at the 2018 NMRA All-Ford World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but realized it was tapping out on the turbo’s capabilities in its current configuration.

“Well, now that we finally had the car sorted, we decided to tear it apart and rebuild the whole thing,” laughed Stoner, who wasn’t convinced of Howell’s unique proposition to change things up at first. “He wanted to mount both turbos on the passenger side, and I thought it sounded weird.” After a few weeks of discussion, Stoner finally conceded and agreed to trust Howell’s vision and they got started starting over in November of 2018 with the all-out, race-ready build.

With a parts list drawn up and ordered, Howell got to work doing what he does best — fabricating. Decidedly impressed by what Howell produced, Stoner and Lucas joined in to the effort to handle assembly, wiring, and setting everything up. On Johnson’s recommendation, the team added a MoTeC M150 engine management system and developed custom firmware in partnership with Vit Mikitchenko.

The result of the group effort was nothing short of incredible, and Stoner was happy to admit that his initial hesitations had been unwarranted. The twin 64mm Xona Rotor (a joint venture between TiAL Sport and Forced Performance) turbochargers were essentially showpieces of the stunning setup. Proudly displayed on custom Fathouse stainless steel headers and titanium exhaust — further examples of Howell’s amazing artistry — and paired with TiAL Sport wastegates and blow-off valves, the custom twin-turbo system absolutely exceeded all expectations.

In order to accommodate all the extra power that the snails would spew, they replaced the Mustang’s “budget-build” bullet with a fresh, fully upgraded and sleeved Gen 2 Coyote powerplant to be fed E85 from One Ethanol R through a complete Injector Dynamics fuel system. Diamond pistons; Callies billet connecting rods; a Boss 302 crankshaft; ported heads filled with upgraded Beehive springs and Comp Cams turbo cams; a JC Customs billet upper plenum mated to the Holley Sniper intake manifold; and more were all important parts of the process.

Sticking with the stick shift and TREMEC T-56 Magnum Level 7 manual gearbox from RPM Transmission, they inserted an RPS triple carbon clutch along with an MGW shifter. A PST chromoly driveshaft links the power producer up front to the sticky tires in the rear.

A good suspension setup can be worth its weight in gold at the track, so Stoner’s squad ordered up every BMR Suspension component that they could get their hands on for their S197, along with a set of Viking coilovers, and got busy bolting it all on.

Next, shrouding a set of necessary Aerospace Components brakes, Billet Specialties wheels — Comp 7s in the front and beadlocked Win Lites in the rear — got the nod. They are wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber.

On the inside, care was taken to retain street car creature comforts while still addressing race car concerns.

“We bolted in a Kirkey racing seat with our FatFab seat mounts and took out the stereo, but it still has its full dash — with an AEM digital dash — carpet, and the rear seat,” added Stoner, who likes the way the interior looked more with a seat than with a delete.

Excited to show off their innovative build, the guys brought the “Jam Maker” Mustang to the 2019 NMRA All-Ford World Finals at Beech Bend, but it wasn’t running right at the time yet. Not long after and with Johnson at the controls, its first dyno pull was a remarkable one with no hiccups at all, and significantly more “jam” was made. To be exact, the combo produced 1,560-wheel horsepower despite running the fuel pump to its limits.

Armed and dangerous with a Fathouse-fabricated 8.50-certified chrome-moly roll cage and chassis work, the Fathouse Fabrications team packed up and headed to South Georgia Motorsports Park for the Mod Nationals in mid-November. There, Stoner piloted the shop’s S197 in the Driver Mod Pro category and struggled with new car blues in the first elimination round, but still got the win. Round two was a no-go thanks to a broken rearend, but the team learned a lot in the process and is already working on upgrades.

“It ran great, but a car that light needs a slipper-style clutch to work well,” Stoner elaborated of what went down and the launch trouble with the 3,400-pound pony, despite trying different clutch settings, tire pressures, suspension settings, and more. “Once it was out of the hole, it was running strong, but we never got to pour power into it. On low boost, it still went 8.72 at 172 mph, even with a 1.5-second 60-foot time for a new personal best.”

During the off season, the Mustang received special attention from the Fathouse crew, including bracing and re-welding of the factory 8.8-inch rearend, which houses 35-spline axles from Strange Engineering. A rear gear change from 3.23 to 4.10 since the car was running through the traps in third gear before was in order, and a swap over to a Black Magic clutch was made.

The teamed planned have the Fathouse Fabrications ’11 Mustang GT ready to rock at the TX2K20 race in March of 2020, at Houston Raceway Park in Texas. From there, Stoner and the team plans to hit up several Street Car Takeover races and a few NMRA events, along with the Mod Nationals yet again, as their schedule permits.

“We really like the Hellion Turbo Battle class in NMRA because it’s a bunch of big power turbo guys with similar builds as ours,” said Stoner, who enjoys the challenge of racing his stick-shift car against their automatics. “I guess it stems from back in the DSM days… the type of person building four-cylinder turbo cars just really likes to do things the hard way! Plus, we all love driving stick cars and enjoy banging gears.”

Stoner gets a thrill out of having to drive his 1,500-horsepower car down the track and manage the gear changes, as opposed to “launching and holding on.” Because he doesn’t get to race as often as some others, the temptation to chase a tenth or a championship isn’t as strong as the urge to simply have fun, to set records, and to do something unquestionably cool.

 

The Details

Owner/Driver

Owner: Ben Stoner

Driver: Ben Stoner

Hometown: Westfield, Indiana

Occupation: Owner at Fathouse Performance

Class: Hellion Turbo Battle

Crew: Tim Holt, Jeremy Howell, John Lucas

Car Make/Model/Year: 2011 Ford Mustang GT

 

Powertrain

Engine: Gen 2 sleeved Coyote

Engine builder: N/A

Displacement: 302 cubic inches

Block: Factory Gen 2 Coyote aluminum

Bore: Standard bore

Stroke: Standard stroke

Crank: Boss 302 Crank

Rods: Callies Ultra Billet

Pistons: Diamond Mod 2k Pistons

Heads: Ported Gen 2 Coyote

Valvetrain: Beehive springs

Cam: COMP Cams turbo cams

EFI system: Motec M150 Johnson Tuning

Power-adder: Fathouse custom twin-turbo system

Fuel brand and type: One Ethanol R

Headers and exhaust: Fathouse custom stainless steel headers and titanium exhaust

Transmission: RPM Level 7 T56 Magnum

Transmission Builder: RPM Transmissions

Clutch/shifter/torque converter: RPS Triple Carbon, MGW Shifter

Rearend: Strange spool and 35-spline axles

 

Chassis

Body and/or chassis builder: Fathouse 8.50 Cert Cage

Suspension (Front):  BMR/Viking

Suspension (Rear): BMR/Viking

Brakes (Front):  Aerospace Components

Brakes (Rear):  Stock

Wheels (front): Billet Specialties Comp 7

Wheels (Rear):  Billet Specialties Beadlock WinLite

Tires (Front): Mickey Thompson

Tires (Rear):  MT ET Drag

Aftermarket body modifications:

Safety equipment: 8.50 FatFab Cage Kit, FatFab Kirkey Seat Mounts, Simpson Chute

Vehicle weight: 3,400 pounds

Quickest ET: 8.72 seconds

Best 60-foot: 1.5 seconds

Fastest MPH: 172

Sponsors: Johnson Tuning, TiAL Sport, Xona Rotor Turbochargers, Ticon Industries, RPM Transmissions, RPS Clutch, Injector Dynamics, BMR Suspension, Viking Performance, Inc., Billet Specialties, Inc., Woolf Aircraft Products, and MGW Shifters

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