The Budget Behemoth: Jace Nester Turns $110 Into a Weapon

Crashing a Mustang is never fun, despite what the internet might tell you about the prevalence of these occurrences. A wet road claimed Jace Nester’s first one years ago, which led him in the direction of this particular car, which we found at the Fonse Performance Dyno Wars IV event earlier this year, where Nester claimed the third spot with 1,389 rear-wheel horsepower.

This car, a twin-turbo, LS-swapped four-eye 1986 Mustang, has been built on a serious budget, yet it performs as well it does thanks to persistence and well-thought-out modifications. After that first Mustang met its demise, Nester was in need of a new project, and that’s where this car enters the picture.

“I purchased this coupe for $110—and a few spare parts—off a friend, as he needed to get it out of his work’s parking lot,” says Nester. “It literally looked like it belonged in a junkyard, being different colors and with a homemade cowl hood.”

The car has been an ongoing project for Nester since its purchase, but the heavy equipment mechanic didn’t just throw a pile of money at a chassis builder and pick up a finished car.

“I’ve done all the fab work myself but have had help from good friends,” he says.

Unlike many ultra-competitive racers, Nester appears to be out to have a good time, talk a bit of smack, and run the car wherever and whenever possible, without letting the pitfalls of competition affect him too much. In fact, the day of our photoshoot, he was paired up with Michael Serrano’s Camaro—his frenemy at home and at the track—and the banter between the two of them was legendary, none of which can be repeated here.

“It’s been a twelve-year ordeal to get it where it is, and it’s been through many combinations in that time,” says Nester.

Today, power comes from a 427 cubic-inch LSX engine machined and assembled by Jeremy and Marv at Innovative Performance & Repair in Lancaster, PA. The budget theme doesn’t continue here as Nester was looking for a solid base upon which to base his performance hopes. The engine is crafted around a GM LSX block, a Callies Dragonslayer crankshaft, a set of Oliver billet-steel connecting rods, and an octet of Wiseco pistons.

John Bewley of Lil John’s Motorsport Solutions designed a custom camshaft, and a set of Mast 285cc LS7 cylinder heads covered in Shearer Fab billet CNC valve covers sit astride the Holley Hi-Ram intake manifold. Jose Zayas at Forced Inductions in Alabama worked up a pair of billet Borg Warner S480 turbochargers, and Nester used a set of stock junkyard truck exhaust manifolds to feed the custom hotside. The engine bay is fuller than most, especially with the air-to-water intercooler front-and-center between the turbos.

“The hardest thing to do is making everything work together and be happy. Fitting ten pounds of junk in a two-pound box is hard sometimes,” he says.

Nester, who utilizes Holley’s Dominator EFI system, needed assistance to get the car running to its current level.

“I have to thank Nicky Notch of NMRacing for all his tuning expertise and teaching—forcing—me to tune it myself!” he says.

Driveline modifications are simple yet effective; horsepower runs into one of Ultimate Converter Concepts’ torque converters into a Powerglide built by Keith Racing Transmissions and back through a narrowed-and-built 8.8-inch Ford housing built up with 3.73:1 gears and a Strange Engineering spool and 35-spline axles.

As this car runs in No Time races quite often, Nester won’t disclose the actual best elapsed time nor MPH figures, but we’ve seen a slip that’s pretty darned impressive. It’s no small feat for a car of any lineage, and even more remarkable when it’s factored in that Nester actually drives the car regularly. Yes, folks, this car truly is street-driven.

“I built it to enjoy driving around and beat the snot out of it on the track,” says Nester.

The 25.5-spec rollcage was installed in Nester’s garage, and provides a solid foundation for the minitubbed stock rear suspension setup, which includes Team Z Motorsports upper control arms, custom lower control arms, a Racecraft Inc. anti-roll bar, and Afco Racing double-adjustable shocks. Up front, a Team Z Motorsports K-member and control arms reside under the car, with Menscer Motorsports double-adjustable struts controlling the nose. Strange Engineering four-piston brakes bring the car down from warp speed at the track and remain completely streetable.

Prior to running the car at the track, he enlisted Troy Baum of RaceWires to help sort out the electrical system and ensure the car would run in top condition. By being smart about where he’s invested his money, he was able to cut corners in certain places—like by using flipped stock truck exhaust manifolds rather than a $2,000 set of custom turbo headers—and have professionals lend their expertise where it would make the most difference in the car’s performance.

That said, even with all of the people involved, not every trip to the track is a success.

“Every time I go to the track is memorable whether good or bad, as I enjoy the time running the car and learning with friends. Whether it’s a good day or bad day, we always learn something to do or NOT to do,” he explains.

No project like this—especially not over twelve years—could be undertaken without help and support from many people.

He’s especially appreciative of his wife, Jessica, who puts up with the long hours in the garage and the dents to the budget as Nester continues the never-ending upgrade process on the car.

In addition to those previously mentioned, Brian and Michael Tooley of Brian Tooley Racing, Omega Fuels and their Ethanol Blend fuels, Poor & Infamous Apparel, Ed “Money” Pfeiffer, Charles Zellman, Chris Gilbert, Zack Strahin, Matt Hill of Matt Hill Motorsports, and Ron Shearer of Shearer Fabrications are all on the long list of people who have provided advice, assistance, and guidance throughout the build.

Until recently, Nester was at the top of the Cecil County Dragway Tri-State Fastest Street Car List. Sadly, not long after we shot these photographs, Nester was at an event and had an oil line fail at 100-plus mph, which sent him into the wall and mashed up the nose of the car. This is where the sponsors come in; Nester is humbled that Poor & Infamous Apparel will be donating $10 from every shirt sold to help Nester get the car back together quickly.

“It’s a wonderful thing for a sponsor to do. The car is salvageable and the rebuild process will begin shortly. As for what will be changed……everyone will have to wait and see!” he sums up.

We’ll be watching.