The Texas Motorplex had barely opened its gates for a Friday night test and tune and already people were approaching Jordon Musser with keys in hand, asking him to make a few passes in their cars. Besides working as a parking valet, how does a college student get into a position where people willingly hand over their keys, fully expecting their cars to be driven with extreme prejudice?
Like most people, Jordon started out small, tinkering with lawnmower engines and racing RC cars. By the age of 16, he had purchased a V6 Camaro and started hitting the drag strip. About that time he met his good friend Shawn Salazar who had recently picked up a Z28. Almost immediately, Jordon began searching for a Z28 of his own. It lasted nearly six months before he found a 1994 Z28 with a price tag that matched up with the proceeds from the sale of his V6 Camaro.
Jordon began tweaking his Z28 immediately, financing his modifications with a part-time job at a hobby shop and contract programming work on the side. "Everything I've bought for this car, except for the really important stuff, I bought used and cheap. I picked up my Borla exhaust for 250 bucks, found an intake for 100 bucks and bought my first drag radials, which were toast when I got them, for 100 dollars," claims Musser. For less than $8,000, Musser found himself at the doorstep of 12-second timeslips, with a 13.2 at 104.
Jordon always had a mechanical inclination, but his Z28 was his first experience working on a car. "I started off with fixing stuff that I broke, but what really got me into the engine was when I broke a manifold bolt while installing headers. Then I had to pull the heads off and that was the first time I opened up an engine. I did everything on my own; the car has never been to a performance shop for anything," says Musser.
Following the header installation, Jordon dropped out of the teens, running a 12.7 at 109. "I was really fast for what I had in the car and I started beating guys with a lot more mods. They began asking me to drive their cars to see what was wrong with them," says Musser. He took them up on the offer and found he had a knack for squeezing more speed out of other peoples' rides, a reputation that spread quickly at the track.
Jordon's times with his own car took a big leap forward when he added a 100-hp shot of nitrous and ran an 11.8 at 118. Jordon and Shawn traded fast ETs back and forth for about a year before concern grew that all those bottles of juice were giving his motor a weak stomach and Jordon turned to more serious upgrades.
Musser hooked up with a friend who was enrolled at the School of Automotive Machinists and they decided to put together a 383 with AFR heads and a Cam Motion custom solid roller cam. While his classmates at Texas A&M were busy dealing with the transition from high school to college, Jordon had his hands full, working on the car in between classes and on weekends. His schoolwork and social life both suffered but Jordon finished the motor in three weeks time, yielding 390 horsepower at the wheels and quarter-mile times of 11.30 at 123. Solid numbers for a first effort, but Musser was convinced there was still more power to be had. By the time he got the compression number he was looking for, Jordon had 440 horsepower hitting the pavement, with open exhaust.
While pleased with those results, he was not content and subsequently he raised the bar again. "I decided I really wanted to go 10s on motor because at the time it seemed like everyone was going 11s on motor and I was tired of running like everybody else," confesses Musser. Not wanting his schoolwork to suffer through another stroker project, Jordon spent his winter break porting the AFR heads until they flowed 295 on the intake and 222 on the exhaust. He then built the bottom end and installed the 396 in his mother's garage. Musser credits both Mark Montalvo and Phil Tobin for helping him make this combination a reality.
Once completed, Jordon noticed the engine was using a lot of oil and eventually traced the problem back to cylinder honing done by a machine shop. "They basically bored it too far and I ended up pulling the 396 apart literally eight weeks after I finished building it," lamented Musser. Strapped for cash, Jordon had no choice but to reassemble the engine and drive it for another three months while he saved for a 4340 Stealth forged crank and I-beam rods from Callies and BME 12.3:1 pistons.
When that time finally came, he dismantled the engine and taking further inspiration from Tobin's LT1 Corvette, Jordon rebuilt the motor as a 401. "I've been on the Internet a long time and I've watched the mistakes made by other guys and avoided making the same ones myself. Phil was the first guy I saw who was running a solid roller and going fast. He worked his way from mid 11s down into the 10s and I based my combination on his setup," says Musser.
With help from a friend, Jordon rushed to finish the car in time for the F-Body Gathering in Memphis, only to be met by disappointment. His weekend got off to a late start and ended early when the notorious optispark reared its ugly head. The weekend was not a total loss, as he was able to make an 11.90 pass on street tires before his luck went south.
Although disappointed with the outcome, Musser knew the car was on the verge of putting up some big numbers. He got it running and headed back to Texas, where his suspicions were confirmed. Running at Temple Academy Dragway, he posted a 10.80 pass on motor, going through the traps at over 130 mph! The dyno numbers were equally impressive as the stroker passed 471 horsepower and 455 lb.-ft. of torque to the wheels, with full exhaust. Jordon was particularly pleased with his powerband. "My car peaks at about 6100 rpms, but it's only down about 15 horsepower at 7000 rpm," explains Musser.
With all that power rolling through his drivetrain, Jordon needed to find a reliable rear end combination or risk becoming very familiar with the folks at AAA. Through trial and error, he found a unique combination for his 12-bolt that has proven extremely reliable, in spite of 60-ft. times in the 1.4 range. "The length of the axle is 33 spline, but the very end of it is cut down to 30 because 33s actually make the rear end a little weaker," explains Musser. "It actually shears the bearing nubs off the carrier. I've had that happen twice, so I had my 33 spline cut down to 30, so I'd still have the thickness of the axle the length of the way, but only at the very end does it taper down." Jordon also welded in reinforcements on the stock torque arm, as a preventive measure.
One of the truly amazing aspects of Jordon's buildup is the car's versatility. Until recently, the Z was Jordon's only mode of transportation, so keeping it streetable was a must. "I'd drive to Ennis, go low 10s with a 6-speed car and then drive home," says Musser. Building a streetable 10-second car with a full interior is no easy feat, but Jordon took things even further. With nothing more than a tire swap, Jordon's tarmac terror is transformed into a very competitive autocrossing machine. This was accomplished with the addition of control arms and a panhard bar from LG Motorsports and Bilstein shocks with the fronts receiving a revalve from Strano. The front springs are coil-overs from Ground Control, rated at 550 lbs./inch and the rear springs were upgraded to an Eibach Pro-Kit. Stopping power was improved with a 13-inch Baer two-piece, aluminum center section rotor, mated to an aluminum C4 2-piston caliper, with custom adaptors from Ronald Trigg.
A two-stage nitrous kit with an NOS Pro Fogger also made it onboard, but never saw action at the track. Jordon did make a pass with a single stage 125 horsepower shot, pulling a 10.3 at 137 and an eighth-mile pass on a 200 horsepower shot, which netted a hellacious 6.43 at 112. Just as he was getting the car where he wanted it, Jordon found himself at an automotive crossroad. Looking to advance his racing career beyond the local drags and autocross events, Jordon made the tough decision to sell the motor to finance his foray into go-karts.
Along with the 401 went the 10-second timeslips, but with the help of a 150 horsepower shot from the NX wet kit, Jordon is still capable of 11-second runs. "I got used to having 500 at the wheels, so it's kind of tough going back to being so slow, plus there's a few people I want to race." With those factors weighing heavy on his mind, Musser will most likely start the cycle again. First on the list are heads and cam, followed shortly thereafter by a 355 buildup to better handle the spray and then, well, you can see where this one is going; he's been there before.