Second Chances: The Story Of Terry Eshman’s Mustang Obsession

Whenever I talk to someone who has been involved in the car hobby for a long time, a common theme I encounter is the one that got away … that car a guy had to move on from, for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s a life change like a career switch or long-distance move, and sometimes it’s in the form of a relationship that goes by the wayside. Regardless of the reason, though, most car guys wish they could recover a car they owned previously. In the case of Ohio’s Terry Eshman, it was a divorce that caused him to move on from a seriously-quick Mustang. The loss of the car—while painful—highlighted something else that he hadn’t realized was as important at the time.

“I had a 1990 Fox-body that went 8.80s at 156 mph, and then I went through a divorce and had to get rid of it,” he says.

“All the web boards and stuff that I used to be a part of, that was a big thing back then. But I just kind of shied away from all of my friends with cars. You don’t want to be around it when you’re very passionate about something and can’t do it.”

A couple of years ago—now remarried to his wonderful bride, Megan—he had the opportunity to purchase the Competition Orange 2016 Mustang he’s affectionately named RoadCone. It was a chance to get back into the hobby, although his initial plan was much simpler than what the car has turned into at this point. He was going to put an exhaust system on it and drive it to enjoy it, like any typical Mustang enthusiast.

Okay, you can stop laughing now.

“My wife and I traveled to Richmond, Virginia, to pick this car up,” he says.

“It was completely stock, and this all started with my wife buying me an American Racing Headers exhaust system. We were with Terry Reeves of Beefcake Racing right after I bought the car, she made the purchase, and she looked at him and said ‘He says this is the only thing he’s going to do to this car.’ He looked back at her and said ‘Aw, you’re just so cute.’”

And then, Terry was off to the races, quite literally. With the assistance of Brian Campbell at Finish Line Performance and longtime friend Brandon Alsept, who worked there at the time, Eshman undertook a build of the car in naturally-aspirated form. With the installation of a Ford Racing Cobra Jet intake and some other horsepower-making goodies on top, they were able to coax 525 rear-wheel horsepower out of the 5.0-liter engine; with the thought of making more power, he entertained the idea of building an engine.

The realization that adding more power was as simple as bolting on a 2.9-liter twin-screw blower from Whipple Superchargers and upgrading the fuel system, and making 900 rwhp put the idea of building the engine into the rearview mirror. A partnership with Scott Boda of Steeda helped them to get the independent suspension working to its potential, and he wrestled the car down the track—still with the MT-82 manual transmission and man-pedal intact—to a 9.61 at 156 mph. Then, carnage.

“The valve dropped and met the piston, and I was like, ‘Well, it’s time to build a motor,’” he says.

During this period, Alsept had gone off on his own to open up BA Motorsports. From his racing exploits in the NMRA, Alsept had a great relationship with championship-winning engine builder Tony Bischoff and the team at Bischoff Engine Service, so Eshman headed in their direction to have a new engine put together for RoadCone.

Eshman talked with Dustin Whipple to secure one of the company’s 3.0-liter superchargers atop the new engine and picked up over 200 rear-wheel horsepower, which in theory, sounds great.

“Then we started having issues getting down the track. We started breaking stuff, so we decided to switch the car to an automatic transmission. With the positive-displacement blower, we have all of the torque and all the boost right off the hit, so it has been a challenge getting the car down the track,” he says.

Not long after that is when I caught up with him—at the 2019 NMRA World Finals—where he and Alsept were working on getting the transmission swap sorted out. At that event, he was still solidly stuck in the mid-9s. Sharad Raldiris and the team at UPR Products stepped up in a big way, helping Eshman to procure Viking Crusader rear shocks and front coilovers, which he credits with helping to tame the launches. UPR also hooked him up with their catch can system, which does a nice job of keeping the intake charge clean, especially important on a car making so much power.

Just a month later at the ModNationals, he cracked off an 8.50 at 164 mph from the RoadCone. After the pass, Shoemaker downloaded the data and they discovered that Terry left the starting line in second gear and still pulled the wheels in the pass from the video above, so there’s even more left in the car—and that’s before the potential upgrade to the supercharger that he’s working on as I write this.

While chatting with Terry to compile this article, I discovered that not only does this car run mid-8s on a street-legal tire at 3,925 pounds on the dragstrip, he still drives it on the street—and regularly! Not once in a while, but as often as he can.

“I drove it last night; we went out cruising. I was going to drive it to Waynesville, Ohio today, but it’s a little humid out and the roads are a little damp so I’m going to hold off until later. And last year, my stepson was shipping off to the military. So we drove it from Cincinnati to Louisville. When we went to get the cage certified in Walton, Kentucky [35 miles away, on the other side of Cincinnati], Brandon and I drove it clear there. We walked in and they had a big door opening, like where you’d pull a truck through, they asked where we were parked, and I told him we drove it there. He said we were the first car to drive in to get a cage certification,” says Eshman.

Not only does RoadCone still run the stock engine computer tuned by Rob Shoemaker at Palm Beach Dyno, but it also retains all of the traditional creature comforts like air conditioning, heated-and-cooled seats, and an interior that remains largely stock save for the required safety gear.

I recall standing in the middle of the track for this shoot at Beech Bend Raceway and wondering what other elements of the car I could showcase. This combination is that uncomplicated: a strong engine, plenty of big-time boost, the required fuel to go along with it, and suspension and tire upgrades to handle the increased power. This car’s modification list is devastatingly simple, yet it’s a massive step up from the Fox-body he lost all those years ago. The RoadCone is eye-catching, it sounds great, and man, is it freaking fast.

But for Terry, much of the attraction to going fast has nothing to do with the car at all.

“Racing is fun and I enjoy that, but it’s more. It is the family and friends I have made while racing who have always been here and are still by my side. People at the track who don’t even know you, but are willing to lend a helping hand at a moment’s notice. That’s why I do what I do,” he sums up.

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