Tony Alm Is On A Quest To Dominate Ultra Street
Every car feature I write starts with one question to the owner: “Why did you build this car?” The answer can often span multiple paragraphs, with a wide range of answers. In the case of Lake Worth, Florida’s Tony Alm, I opened up his spec sheet to find a simple—some would say elegant—sentence fragment: “To whip some ass!”
The challenge of performing that task upon the stout competition which inhabits the small-tire Ultra Street drag racing ranks is not lost upon the man, who pays his bills as the owner of a home inspection company in his hometown. For someone who is tasked with inspecting the work of others all day, every day, the realization that getting the details right makes the difference between winning and not qualifying no different than spotting the disparity in a clapped-together shack and a million-dollar mansion; this does not disappear in translation as Alm works to maximize the performance of his machine.
“I started going to the track with my dad. he used to run a car dealership; we’d take cars from the dealership and take them out to the track. But I’ve always been a car guy; in my high school yearbook I wrote ‘See ya at the races,'” he says. “I’ve owned 70-some cars now. This car is the one I’ve owned the longest, at five years or so. I don’t typically keep racecars this long, but this one’s a winner.”
Obstacles are familiar to drag racers; often the best-laid plans turn into a pile of you-know-what when components don’t perform as needed or break down under the immense stress levels seen as they are stretched to their limits on the track. In fact, the weekend these photos were taken (at the Outlaw Street Car Reunion IV), Alm battled back from a damaged cylinder head issue which occurred during the test-and-tune session. The damage required he remove the head from the engine, drive a few hundred miles to engine builder Kuntz & Co. in Arkansas, wait to have the cylinder head repaired, then drive back to Memphis and replace it on the engine. All this happened before he even got a chance to qualify, and ultimately the damage sustained derailed the weekend for Alm and his team, which includes crew chief Richard Colas of NRP Racing, and his biggest supporter, his wife Patti.
“I couldn’t do this without them; Richard is super smart and helps me keep the program going. We talk about everything we do between rounds,” Alm says.
But he wasn’t defeated by the mishap; he just formulated a plan and got to work to get the car back on track. He’s been in the Winner’s Circle plenty often this year, most recently winning the Takedown III event at Darlington Dragway, and claiming his most impressive recent win over a stout field of competitors at Duck X Productions’ Lights Out 8 race. In fact, in 2017 he has been to nine races and won eight of them; the single DNF came at OSCR IV. Six wins in Ultra Street and two grudge-racing wins.
“I originally purchased the car from Dwayne James; it was red with a sunroof. I planned to make it a True Street car, but it’s escalated to what I have now,” says Alm.
Alm subsequently dropped the 1993 Mustang off to the gang at noted South Florida chassis shop TIG Vision for their full stock-suspension, 25.3-spec chromoly cage treatment, designed to prepare it for the full assault on the dragstrip. Once the chassis was complete, Steve Lee and the team at Thunder Autosports in Boynton Beach, Florida, finished the preparation, and over the years have turned it into a force to be reckoned with at any Ultra Street race Alm attends.
The chassis has been set up with a stock-style front suspension system featuring components from Racecraft, Inc.; the company’s tubular control arms and k-member combine with lightweight drop spindles and steering system to sharpen steering performance while reducing weight to the absolute minimum. Menscer Motorsports-modified Afco Racing double-adjustable front struts and Afco springs are up front, with Menscer/Afco double-adjustable rear shocks also in play. The dampers have been valved to help Alm get down the track on the small 275/60/15 Mickey Thompson ET Street R tires he runs in the Ultra Street class. Strange four-piston brakes are hidden behind Weld Racing V Series 15×3-inch front and 15×12-inch rear wheels at the corners.
As a second-generation racer who has been playing with cars for over three decades, he had a good idea of what it would take to build a competitive program. The parts list on the build reads like a who’s who of championship-winning manufacturers and craftsmen, as Alm made the decision to seek out the best of the best to help him achieve his goals. This car, which used to be white—and raced in the NMRA’s Street Outlaw class among others—was revamped prior to the 2016 season with a 400 cubic-inch Ford Windsor engine specifically designed for Ultra Street competition, machined and assembled by Tim Eichhorn at MPR Racing Engines in Boynton Beach, Florida.
The Ultra Street class rules limit the engine components used; Eichhorn selected a set of Trick Flow High Port cylinder heads and a custom intake manifold from Wilson Manifolds to top off the short-block and manage airflow expectations. These are fed by one of Precision Turbo’s 76 mm cast-wheel turbochargers, fed by a TIG Vision-crafted turbo system.
Alm tunes the car himself with a Holley Dominator engine management system, with the power running through one of Pro Torque’s GenX torque converters and into sponsor ATF Speed’s Turbo Glide transmissions. He credits the performance of these two products as large factors in providing the car that consistency it needs on the starting line, and the efficiency required at the top end of the track to maximize the car’s performance.
These components help Alm run deadly-consistent elapsed times in the 4.80-ish range, on pace with the quickest runners in the class. At least up until recently, when Shawn Pevlor stomped a hole in the record and re-set it to 4.70-flat. An interesting aside: Alm’s spec sheet on the car—filled out a few weeks ago—also says “Not Enough” in the horsepower box. If he’s already dominating the competition, running deadly-consistent with “Not Enough” power, what’s in store for the rest of the class once he makes more?
Either way, one thing is for certain: Tony Alm will get to work, enlist the help of his team and sponsors, and find a way to continue to be at the top of the Ultra Street game.