We get it: front-wheel drive cars aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and watching them violently spin the front slicks and dart around the first 100-feet of the racetrack is usually met with the same uncontrollable laughter as seeing a drunk stumble around the bar.
But this is no Honda Civic. So read on, because we think you’ll dig the hot-rodding creativity and the dedication involved.
Kennesaw, Georgia’s Zach Wright is used to having the car everyone pokes fun at. At the age of 16, he purchased his first car for a princely sum of $950: a four-door 1995 Ford Taurus SHO. Sure, it was an SHO (Super High Output, Ford’s nomenclature for high-performance variants of the Taurus), but it was nevertheless a bright blue, four-door that was well beyond its prime of even serving soccer-mom duty by the time Zach reached high school in the late-2000s. And so, it earned the moniker, the Blue Turd, from Zach’s friends and classmates.
“Everyone in high school made fun of it and called it a piece of shit, so I just rolled with it. I told them, ‘you can call it a turd all you want, but none of your Fox-body Mustangs are beating it’ ” he says.
Poke fun they did, and silence them he did.
Zach daily-drove the car the first handful of years, learning to do his first engine swap with it. He first tweaked on it with nitrous oxide, utilizing a high-compression, almost entirely stock engine (save for some aftermarket Wiseco pistons). On nitrous, he went an 11.70 best with that combination. Upon learning over time that the factory intake didn’t flow nitrous well, he switched to a turbocharger on the same engine. With 13.5:1 compression and stock head gaskets, he beat on that engine for four years, pushing 30-pounds of boost through it routinely. He navigated into the 10-teens at 148 mph (not surprisingly, losing a head gasket at 1,000-feet in the process) with it. He noted, “that old motor had so much blow-by, it would fill a 1/2-quart catch can in one pass. The motor was super-tired.”
“My goal has always been to make it a true Sport Front-wheel Drive class car,” Zach explains. “That class is ridiculous. So I built two new motors simultaneously: an aluminum rod motor, and one with steel rods. We used a factory SHO block, factory crank, a factory head that’s been ported. They’re essentially just aftermarket rod and piston engines. The block has been filled 3/4 with concrete — we didn’t do that because we broke one, but no one has taken one of these engines as far as I have…we still don’t know where the failure point is.”
Over the past year, Zach has rebuilt the car with the best of everything he could get his hands on — fuel pump, injectors, a Precision 7285 turbo, and on and on. With the steel H-beam rod motor, he cranked out 830 horsepower on 20-pounds of boost and, in its first race — at 10,000-plus feet of elevation in Denver, no less — went 10.40 at 153 mph off the trailer. On a subsequent lap, he went 10-teens again, but with no oil pressure fail-safe in place, cooked every single bearing in the engine at the top-end once it climbed over 7,000 RPM.
In a span of five days upon his return from Denver, Zach assembled the aluminum rod motor, got it in the car, and trekked straight to Street Car Takeover in Indianapolis. Right out of the gate, it dipped into the 9.90s at 155 mph, and only improved from there. He advanced all the way to the final round, where it went a personal best of 9.65 at 161 mph on 23-pounds of boost. Peaking at 27-pounds in third gear, Zach adds, “if 20-pounds makes 830 horsepower, then it was probably in the neighborhood of 1,050-1,100 horsepower — especially to go 161 out the back.”
Outlaw drag racing legend Tim Lynch built the V-6 short block for Wright, and noted cylinder head man Chris Howell ported the stock SHO heads and added the custom valves and valve springs. Among Zach’s favorite assets, AST Headers built a custom billet lower intake for the car with a Holley top-hat— with so much pressure restriction from the factory intake, Zach made the same power on 20 psi with the new intake as it had on 32 psi previously.
A Ross Machine 90mm throttle body is fed from the 72mm Precision turbo.
Like the engine, a manual five-speed, synchronizer (not a dog-box) SHO transmission remains in the car, paired with aftermarket gears from SHO Source.
Inside, Zach has completely stripped the car of its interior front to back, making its utility purely for drag racing. An 8.50-certified roll cage protects him, while SHO Source coilover shocks provide dampening duties on the front and rear. The rear wheels, if you look closely, have also been extended 2.5-inches rearward to provide improved traction and handling. All told, the grocery-getter weighs just 2,670-pounds with Zach in the seat.
While other modified SHO Tauruses are out there, Zach’s is the most extreme.
“My tuner had a near-600 horsepower street Taurus. They’re out there, but I’m the only person that is anywhere near my power range. The amount of work it takes to make this car go this fast, I could have easily bought a Honda and been in the low eights already. It takes that amount of work, because it hasn’t been done before — just to know where the failure points are at, where to fix certain things, how to make certain parts work. Everything becomes a challenge because it’s not just ordering bearings or rods…it’s all a learning process. I have to disassemble the motor every four or five passes to figure out what’s going on. It is every bit of a full-time job,” he shares.
Now armed with four-figure power numbers, has the response to Zach’s Taurus changed any from high school, when it was the laughing stock of the parking lot?
“The first response I get is usually, ‘why?’ I love the fact that I did do something different, and I didn’t hop on the mainsteam drag car,” Zach shares. “I love using the hashtag #stopcookiecutterdragracing, because it’s always the same Mustang, Camaro, Honda, Supra…it’s always the same cars. I can go to a race and run 9.50s and there will be a bigger crowd around my car than the Mustang that just went 7.50. Event though it’s a lot of work, it’s also very rewarding. The number of friends it’s brought me, the amount of support.”
Zach’s primary backers and supporters in evolving the car include fabricators EBTech, Jaz Tuning, Vibrant Performance, and TBM Brakes.
The Street Car Takeover events have been Zach’s de facto home, but he built the car specifically to fit the True Street class at the World Cup Finals: Import vs Domestic in Maryland. There, he believes, the car should be plenty competitive, and he’s already attained the minimum elapsed time needed for entry.
“For the first time, at the last race, I was called one of the heavy-hitters, which I thought was kind of funny, because I never consider myself one. I think of everyone I pull up against as a heavy-hitter. It was funny to me to be sitting in the lanes, pulling chips for eliminations and everyone was scared to draw the Taurus.”