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Muscle Freak

Look - there's at least one terrific modified late-model Ford V8 in Australia.... Bob Romano's quad throttled full-house 302's proof of that!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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There are two very different types of V8s on the street. There are ones that shatter your windows with their 100 decibel exhausts, but barely edge away from the flow of traffic. And then, at the other end of the spectrum, there's the Bob Romano variety. Yes, Bob's Ford will make some serious noise too - but you just won't believe how quickly this sucker disappears into the horizon! Don't be fooled, this machine has a bite far bigger than its looks suggest. Sorta like a sulphur-crested cocky - it looks tame enough until its mood snaps. Then you'll be ducking and running for cover!

Bob (of Bob Romano Performance) is a dedicated V8 man from way back, and he's built God-knows how many bent-eight hotties. This, of course, means he knows just about everything about pushrod technology - but he's also a man with foresight. No grumpy ol' carby fuels this car; it's programmable injection all the way, m'boy.

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The build-up commenced almost immediately Bob took delivery of his then-new EBII Fairmont 5-litre. One of the reasons for going the blue oval route "was to prove that it could be done" - and there's no argument here! Bob started off improving the external breathing basics - the exhaust and intake. He went for a quality set of Genie extractors with a high flow 3-inch system and a K&N filter. Things were improved a bit, but then came a 65mm throttle body, 1.7 ratio roller rockers and a custom fried chip. It was getting there.

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But here's where Bob started to really get down and dirty. Having pulled the engine from under the big Ford's nose, the mighty Windsor was fully stripped down, balanced and filled with Crower steel rods and 10.0:1 compression TRW slugs. A high volume oil pump was caught up in the works too. Off came the standard cast iron heads and in their place went Trickflow alloys - which were slightly ported. Bob casually chucks in that he had to re-spring the front of the car to compensate for the massive weight difference between the standard and aftermarket heads! A hydraulic Lunati camshaft (described as "big") and Lunati springs were thrown in to further aid top-end breathing. The Valley of the Giants was then covered with an Edelbrock intake manifold.

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With this sort of top gear in place, you'd think power would be oozing from every pore (bore?!) of the big 302. It wasn't. Bob says the 65mm throttle body proved extremely restrictive - in fact, he claims it was limiting the engine to around 220 horses at the wheels. The way out was to replace it with an impressive assortment of eight individual throttle butterflies - one for each cylinder, true race style! Made by Injection Perfection, these 45mm throttles came complete with a custom intake manifold (to replace the existing Edelbrock one) and all the gear. Not only do these things look tougher than a single t-body set-up, they flow like a sea current. Even with the Unifilter foam socks (usually) over each trumpet, they simply gulp in copious amounts of air.

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At this stage it was best to opt for a programmable management system. The ECU of choice is MoTeC's M48, and this calculates fuel and ignition without any form of load sensor. There's no MAP sensor or airflow meter to be found - the computer relies heavily on just a throttle position sensor and an rpm pick-up. Fuel is tipped in by a set of eight Bosch 803 injectors, which are fed by a Bosch Motorsport pump and regulator. Premium unleaded is the Ford's brew. Also controlled by the MoTeC unit is the ignition system, which is comprises a Jacobs ProStreet computerised ignition and a Jacobs Ultracoil. This arrangement guarantees a reliable spark.

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Ahh, that new induction sure did the job. Bob says he was shocked at the level of tractability the engine now had. It was s-o-o smooth - but it'll rev hard too. Bob says (and we can back up) that it's strong to over 7000 rpm until it hits the limiter at 7200. From it's 60-litre fuel tank, it can return about 600km of normal driving. Stick your boot in, though, and that falls to around 250 kilometres... Okay - so how much power can a pushrod V8 with all the good internals and top programmable injection muster? Try an easy 290 horsepower at the rear wheels - as conservatively measured on Bob's in-house chassis dyno.

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Backing the tickled Windsor is none other than the factory Ford 4-speed auto transmission. Given its role, this unit performs extraordinarily well. The only mods in this area are a "hot" trans chip (to give snappy shifts) and a 3000 rpm stall converter - which Bob's currently looking to replace with something better. Reaching further rearward is a stock (alloy) tailshaft, which terminates in a 4.11:1 ratio LSD differential (the LSD not doing much to prevent the big Falken tyres from arcing up with the twitch of the right boot). Bob claims - despite the relatively low final drive gearing - that it's still got great top-end go thanks to the overdrive 4th gear.

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We briefly touched on the car's suspension when Bob fitted the alloy heads - however, the final set-up incorporates two inch lowered King springs and Monroe gas shockers front and rear. It's a practical compromise on the street and it ensures the car always stays where it's pointed. The one remaining dimension of a car's performance - braking - is looked after by a set of four DBA drilled and slotted discs together with the rest of the stock braking system.

Amazingly, Bob's only driven the grunter Ford 41,000 kilometres - but it is (literally) reflected in the paintwork and the condition of the body. The body is pretty much stock, with the exception of a subtle DJR body kit (skirts, bumper extensions and rear spoiler) and the 16-inch Simmons rims.

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Interestingly, that one-off bonnet scoop was worth another 35 horsepower at the wheels (due to its free-flowing supply of cool air). The factory burgundy paint (which according to Bob "looks sexual"!) is in perfect form thanks to regular TLC and polishing.

"Perfect" is pretty much the best word to describe the car. It's totally reliable, there're no crashes, bangs or rattles and - of course - it has the balls to blow most non-supercharged Commodore V8s into the scenery. Having said that, Bob "could be tempted to sell it". If you're financial enough to cough up somewhere over $35,000, drop Bob a line - you won't be disappointed!

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Bob Romano Performance
07 3395 8255

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