This boosted Mustang punches above its class | Brian Faessler’s 2017 Ford Mustang

Scott
By Scott Lear
May 19, 2022 | Ford, UTCC, Mustang, Ultimate Track Car Challenge | Posted in Features | From the Dec. 2020 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Kevin Adolf

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of Grassroots Motorsports. More recently, Brian Faessler won first place in the 2022 Ultimate Track Car Challenge with this Mustang.]

In a world where the fastest track cars feature tube chassis, bespoke carbon tubs or low-slung prototype bodies, Brian Faessler’s Mustang began life as just another unit off the Ford assembly line–an unassuming V6-powered model built in 2014 and purchased on a dealership lot. It still sports a steel unibody that’s downright primitive compared to the competition. 

Luckily for Brian, the family business just happens to be Paul’s Automotive Engineering, and it builds Mustangs to win. The shop has no fewer than a dozen NASA championship trophies on the shelf back home for dominant performances.

In fact, longtime readers might recognize Brian’s dad, Paul Faessler, as the man behind the turbocharged 1965 Mustang featured in the August 2009 issue of GRM. Paul drove that car to his first American Iron Extreme title at the 2008 NASA Championships, back when Brian wasn’t yet 18. “I always like to joke that I was racing since I was in the womb,” Brian says, “my eight-months-pregnant mom going around the oval at Charlotte.” 

Brian grew up around the family shop, helping work on cars and learning everything from speaker installation to rear suspension setup. He helped his dad as crew chief from 2004 on, then scored his racing license at 17. “I have local friends that helped coach me, Danny Popp and Tommy Byrne through Mid-Ohio Sports Car School,” Brian explains. “Danny helped me learn to push the boundaries of physics at the track.” 

Photography Credit: Scott R. Lear

The preparation paid off, and Brian found himself at the sharp end of the field when he started racing a 2010 Mustang in NASA’s American Iron series. “The results came pretty quickly,” he adds. “I got my first regional championship in AI in 2011.”

Title Dreams

Once Brian had demonstrated his ability to drive consistently and safely on the edge, the family decided that the next project car would follow more closely in the footsteps of Paul’s envelope-pushing ’65 classic. “As a business, it helps us to have the latest chassis for racing,” notes Brian.

When the sixth-generation, S550-chassis Mustang debuted, there was already a long line from tuners eager to score a body-in-white platform from Ford, so the family simply went to a local dealer in November 2014 and picked out a base model. “The V6 was the cheapest and quickest way of getting the car,” Brian explains. “The 2015 model was the first year that Ford designed a proper independent rear suspension, so we wanted to see how it compared to our custom-built, 8.8-inch, solid-axle, floater-cambered rear end.”

Despite its street car roots–the build started just days after taking delivery–Brian Faessler’s Mustang features the usual race car stuff inside: full cage, lots of buttons and switches. Photography Credits: Scott R. Lear

They played with the car in stock trim for a few days and did a few laps at a local track that weekend. Major surgery began soon after. “The roof was cut off by Tuesday morning,” Brian continues, “and we started taking out as much weight as we could.”

Chopping off the top made cage installation much easier, and from the roof structure alone they were able to strip 65 pounds of steel–each pound a precious improvement considering its position relative to the car’s center of gravity. The team then extracted every ounce of unnecessary metal from the rest of the unibody. “The only way to build a car like ours is to start from scratch,” explains Paul. “Every tab, bracket, and double layer of steel.” 

To provide a stable suspension geometry for the needed grip and tire width, they welded in their house-developed short-long-arm double-wishbone setup K-member in the front–similar to what Paul runs in his turbo ’65. Out back, they engineered a steel cradle and control arms from Docol R8 steel tubing.

Next was the engine, and their initial swap candidate was a 5.0-liter from the Boss 302, with immediate plans to add a turbocharger. Gregg Jones, president of TiAL Sport, visited Paul’s Automotive Engineering and offered his suggestions for pressurizing the build, and they settled on a package delivering around 600 wheel horsepower as a baseline–plus cockpit-adjustable boost control to crank up the horses when needed. 

The heart of the build can be found under the hood: a force-fed Ford Voodoo V8. The team admits to making at least 600 horsepower; paddock chatter suggests it’s much more. Photography Credit: Scott R. Lear

The result is believed to be capable of 1000 horsepower, but they’ve never pushed it that far in favor of longevity and consistency. Good luck getting a straight answer out of Brian or Paul when it comes to hard horsepower figures: Their default response is “600 plus” with a generous side helping of wry grin.


By May of 2015, the Mustang was ready for the track. This newly forged machine fared well in its shakedown year, but the PAE team continued development, including adding a Quaife six-speed, paddle-shift sequential transmission. The partnership with TiAL allowed them to test out a handful of compressor and control configurations before settling on a final, highly efficient package.

The Mustang jumped into the ring shortly after completion, and Brian began trading laps with the likes of prototypes and big-power, tube-frame racers in NASA’s Super Unlimited class as he came to grips with the car. In 2015 he made it to the third step on the podium at the NASA East Coast Championship at VIR in the Super Unlimited race and the Time Trial Unlimited categories. A year later at Watkins Glen, he scored his first championship with the car in the Time Trial Unlimited class. 

Training Montage

In the years since the initial build, Brian has learned how to push this intimidating creation ever harder as he becomes familiar with new tracks and gains valuable experience behind the wheel. With help from a few keen upgrades and modifications along the way, the car’s journey culminated in the overall win at our 2020 Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge.

The Faesslers found their initial choice of a three-disc clutch to be fairly rough, exhibiting a lot of on-off feel and drivability issues. After they shopped for a solution, a 5.5-inch, three-disc Tilton Engineering carbon racing clutch ended up being the perfect match. “It’s initially a pretty expensive piece,” notes Brian of its $4500 retail price, “but we haven’t even adjusted it in four seasons, and the lightweight clutch is very helpful with the paddle shift, the moment of inertia. It saves us money in the long run.

“In 2017, Ford sent us the Shelby GT350R fenders, hood and front fascia to get the appearance of a Shelby,” Brian says, noting that the car was on Ford’s radar and the GT350R made an obvious marketing tie-in. 

“We spent the year dialing in the front aero change for cooling and efficiency,” he continues. “Our aero testing and development really started in 2017 when I was racing with another series that was forcing us to look more into the handling and aerodynamics.”

Paul adds that while it’s easy to generate rear downforce, their goal was to add so much front downforce that it would necessitate the increase in rear grip. “We spent more energy working on aero than any other area. Our mechanical, drivetrain–that’s a proven system,” Paul says. With their get-the-nose-to-stick goal accomplished, they balanced the rear with a GoodAero wing to keep the wide Hoosier slicks planted against the turbo V8’s titanic torque.

More pieces of the puzzle: big brakes and big aero. The waterfall-style hood extractor efficiently pulls heat out of the engine bay. Photography Credits: Scott R. Lear

You might expect cooling to be a nightmare with this much power, but the team anticipated this need from the start and prioritized a waterfall hood design to allow ample airflow through a small but effective 14x17x2-inch radiator with built-in C&R oil cooler. Brake temps have been the tougher issue, but the four-piston Brembo GT3-spec endurance rotors taken from Brian’s previous Mustang project are fed a steady supply of fresh air from 5-inch ducts.

The competition really started ramping up in 2018 in NASA’s Super Unlimited class,” Brian recalls. “I started racing against competitive, prototype sports racers regionally and nationally.”

A final major component upgrade came for the start of the 2019 season, when they left behind the Boss 302 Coyote 5-liter block and went to Ford’s new Voodoo engine fitted in the latest GT350R: 5.2 liters of displacement and a cross-plane crank. 

Paul notes that while the Voodoo has better cylinder heads, the turbo kind of makes that a moot advantage powerwise–although efficiency has improved. “We make the same power with less boost,” he explains, “Three-pound springs make 650 horsepower at the wheels, and more efficient turbos don’t require as much boost to make the power.”

PAE keeps two identical engine blocks on hand for the car: One is in rotation while the other is getting serviced. It’s not a very fast-moving line, however. “The motor that we just took out ran a season and a half,” Paul says. “In the five or six years we’ve been running TiAL turbos, we’ve never had a single turbo issue.”

The PAE Mustang was clearly hitting its stride after a few years of development. “I think my highlight year was 2019, where I led every single lap of all 13 races in our region in SU and TTU, including the NASA National Championships. The 2019 National Championships at Mid-Ohio I would say was my proudest achievement. It was against very tough competition.”

Brian started fifth in that NASA championship Super Unlimited race, but he charged to the lead on the first lap and proceeded to gap the field by 23 seconds on the way to the first-ever class win by a unibody car. An hour later, he almost repeated the feat in American Iron Extreme in his father’s ’65 Mustang, but a fan belt rolled over on the water pump, forcing him to retire from the lead.

While originally delivered as a V6, the Mustang has been updated with Shelby GT350R bodywork. This meaner look required reworking the car’s cooling and aero systems. Photography Credit: Ken Neher

Technical Knockout

Competition at the 2020 UTCC was very tight, and Brian felt that he was the biggest variable, especially after a five-year absence from the circuit. “I was just trying to learn the track,” he admits. “Most tracks that we run don’t have the speed or complexity of Virginia International Raceway.” Despite the handicap and the day’s speed-sapping heat, Brian pushed harder in each session.

Photography Credits: Scott R. Lear

A brake line hiccup in the morning meant Brian had it all to do in the final two sessions. His first real outing showed he was a contender, but the top spot was still a full second away. NASA Time Trial sessions aren’t terribly long, so Brian had to focus a fairly short amount of track exposure from a warmup and one flying session earlier in the day into a concentrated maximum-attack dash–all without overstepping the boundaries of the track. (Under NASA Time Trial rules, an off or spin equals instant removal of times from that session.)

Cockpit video of Brian’s UTCC-winning run tells the tale. PAE’s aerodynamic work is evident in Brian’s 145 mph entry into the Climbing Esses, and he only sheds 10 mph through that nerve-fraying ascent before nailing the Brembos and hauling the car down at 1.6g to manage South Bend. 


The suspension and tires work in concert to keep the rear end controllable as Brian opens the tap on the throttle, summoning an avalanche of turbocharged torque for the back straight to rocket the steel Mustang from a low of 50 mph at Oak Tree to a staggering 181 mph top speed. The 1:47.507 lap was the fastest of the weekend.

Ever the competitors, Paul and Brian both left feeling that there was still more performance to be had given more seat time and track familiarity. “We seldom make changes [to the car], we’ve got our tire pressures, alignment–we’re really more concerned with maintenance, inspecting and making sure the car is safe,” says Paul.

The Paul’s Automotive Engineering Mustang packs an intense wallop, and the family’s focus on reliability and safety first have given Brian a world-class tool in which to hone his skills. Given his improvement in less than an hour of track time during the UTCC and his ready-to-improve attitude, we expect Brian and his Mustang will continue to develop, and the lap times will continue to drop. He seems eager to defend the title.

Factory-supported team backed by a crew of engineers? Not here. This is a true mom-and-pop effort. Photography Credit: Scott R. Lear

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