If I say “hot rod”, odds are that your first thought is not “1985 Ford LTD”. But maybe that’s because you don’t know about Billy and Rick White’s supercharged, 9 second, street legal and very driveable 1985 Ford LTD.
“It’s been a father-son project,” Billy told me. “We consider it both of ours.”
The White’s have a long history of hot rodding and drag racing. “Dad’s always been into cars,” Billy said. “He had hot rods growing up.”
Billy did too. He started drag racing when he was 16 years old, winning his first trophy at Shuffletown Dragway just outside of Charlotte. He’s been building Fox body Mustangs since before he had his driver’s license. He’s had a 1990 Mustang Coupe for 29 years and a 1993 Mustang hatchback for 20.
Turns out a 1985 LTD has the same chassis as the Fox body Mustangs of that era (1979 to 1993). Pretty much everything you’d use to improve the performance of a Mustang bolts right into an LTD: the K-frame, engine, rear end, and even the control arms.
The similarity with Mustangs, and the White’s history of hot rodding and drag racing Fords plays a big part in why they chose to build the LTD. “We had a lot of parts lying around,” Billy explained.
If the Whites LTD looks familiar to you, maybe you read about it when it was featured in Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords Magazine.
Or maybe you got pulled over by the State Police in Florida.
The car started life as a Florida State Patrol car. (The police spotlight still works.) Billy’s friend Jeff Southard saw the car sitting in the backyard of a house and noticed that it still said “State Trooper” on the fender. Jeff bought it, but didn’t make too many changes to it by the time he sold it to Billy in 2012 for some big block Ford parts and a bit of cash.
Billy and Rick got the car home and went to work. It was clean, with no rust underneath, but still needed a complete overhaul. They stripped everything out of it, including the original 302 small block, the AOD transmission, and the 7.5” rear end. They cleaned and painted the engine bay, and installed an aftermarket tubular K-frame.
The Whites had a stroker kit for a 351 Windsor, which made the engine choice pretty easy. The Windsor now displaces 383 cubic inches, and features Trick Flow high port cylinder heads, Crane roller rocker arms, and a Herbert solid roller cam.
The bottom end was put together by Billy’s friend Adam Poteat at Kannapolis Engine Service in China Grove, NC. It has a forged crank and forged connecting rods from Eagle Specialty Products. JE SRP forged pistons produce an 8.8:1 compression ratio.
The key to the Windsor is the intake system, and that starts with the Vortech T-Trim supercharger. The supercharger is mounted on the passenger side in front of the engine. From there, the air flows into an air-to-air intercooler mounted in the fender well. Piping comes up from the intercooler into the Quick Fuel blow through carburetor, which is mounted on an Edelbrock Victor Jr. single plane manifold.
Billy explained how important the fuel system is on a supercharged car.
“Probably the biggest thing that messes people’s mind up,” he said, “is that when you do a blow through set-up, your fuel system tends to be like an EFI car. It has a return line, and the fuel pressure regulator we use has a vacuum line. As the regulator sees the boost from the supercharger, it raises the fuel pressure to match the boost pressure – one pound of fuel pressure for every pound of boost. We start out with a normal 6 1/2 to 7 pounds of fuel pressure but under boost – say 15 pounds of boost – the carb is getting 22 pounds of fuel pressure. You have to increase the fuel pressure to get the fuel to flow properly.”
Of course, the fuel pump is a critical component in the LTD. An Aeromotive A1000 pump and regulator are mounted externally to the stock fuel tank.
The intake charge cools off some more as the fuel atomizes in the carb, sort of like a mini intercooler. In addition, what looks like a spacer plate below the carb is a methanol injection kit. The amount of methanol injected is metered by a control box that reads how much boost the Vortech is putting out. This helps cool down the air/fuel mixture, and adds a little bit of octane.
Billy said there’s one other key aspect of building a blown engine. “The biggest thing about running boost in an engine,” he told me, “is making sure you have enough ring gap on the pistons. If you don’t have enough gap, everything gets so hot the rings will actually butt together and break the top crown of the pistons.”
Based on the results, it seems that Billy and Rick have the right amount of end gap. Running 16 pounds of boost on 93 octane gas, Billy estimates the Windsor is putting out between 700 and 750 horsepower. That’s almost 2 per cubic inch.
But you have to do more than just make horsepower to run in the 9s. You also have to get that power to the track. The LTD drivetrain starts with a Ford C4 3-speed automatic, with a reverse manual valve body, heavy duty servos, switches, and bands, and a deep pan. An 8.8” rear end from a Mustang bolted right in. It has a Detroit locker differential with 3.55 gears and aftermarket axles.
I figured they had to have a trick rear suspension to harness all that power, but Billy says, “”It’s really nothing exotic at all. Just bolt on parts.”
The rear end is mounted on aftermarket non-adjustable control arms – the same as would be used for a Mustang. Billy installed rear springs from Fox body station wagon, which are a little bit heavier and stiffer, and Strange Engineering adjustable rear shocks. Subframe connectors were welded in for additional stiffness.
Billy said the front suspension is pretty straightforward too. A pair of front struts from Advance Auto Parts have been beefed up with aftermarket adjustable height coil overs replacing the stock coil spring setup. The front end may get an upgrade with some Strange components in the future, but the Whites haven’t gotten around to it yet.
The rear brakes are standard Fox body drums. They will probably get upgraded to mid 90s Mustang disks soon. The front twin piston caliper disk brakes and spindles are from a ‘94 Mustang. The LTD hasn’t been weighed, but Billy thinks it weighs about the same – probably within 300 pounds – as a Fox body Mustang.
The body is straight, but has been weathered. “State Trooper” is still barely visible on the front fenders, and Billy would like to keep that and the patina finish. If he does have to repaint it, he’ll re-do the LTD in the black and tan two-tone of the Florida State Patrol. A tear drop style hood scoop covers the hole in the hood Billy and Rick had to cut for the intake pipe.
The interior still has the 140 mph speedometer and vinyl flooring from the original police interior. The Whites installed 1984 Mustang GT bucket seats, and dyed the formerly tan rear seat black to match. They installed a Hurst Quarter Stick shifter, added oil and water temperature gauges, and a tachometer, which fits perfectly where the LTD’s clock used to be.
One of the more challenging aspects of the build was getting the title for the car. The car had changed hands several times between owners in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. When Billy brought all the tag receipts and bills of sale to the North Carolina DMV, they just laughed. Fortunately, Billy’s friend Dylan Boren, who lives in Atlanta, was able to straighten it all out and get a Georgia title, which could then be transferred to Billy so he could get a North Carolina title.
It was last November when Billy first put the LTD in the 9s, with a 9.94, 137 mph quarter mile pass. And yet, Billy says the LTD is “really pretty mild. Technology has made a lot of things possible in the last 15-20 years. It’s just a matter of knowing what the right combination is.”
Yet, the LTD is also a very reliable and driveable street car. It can cruise at 60 mph all day. Last fall Billy drove it to Foxtoberfest in Kannapolis – a 100 mile round trip – with no problems.
From the start, the LTD has been a joint effort between Billy and his father, but Billy emphasized over and over how much of a collaboration this project was with many others.
His friend Jeff found the car. Adam helped build the engine. Dylan straightened out the title. Billy’s long time buddy Jamie Marsh spent many days helping wrench and wire on the LTD. And Billy expressed his appreciation for the many folks in the Southeastern Fox Bodies club who also helped out.
“All these people helped me get this sorted out,” he said. “It was a collaboration of help between friends.”
But it was clear that the main collaboration was between father and son.
As Billy put it, “I couldn’t have done it without my Dad.”
Photos courtesy of Billy White
Click here to see the photos of the LTD.