NASA Southeast member Brent Tedder hasn’t had his 1998 Mustang for very long, but he already has a favorite story about the car. Last year at Carolina Motorsports Park, he broke something in the rear end, so he had to roll off the track in the second to last turn.

“When they towed the car off the track, my fiancée had been standing near the fence watching, and right next to her was a boy who was probably 4 or 5 years old, and when I was rolling off track, he got really concerned because something was wrong with Lightning,” Tedder said. “He was upset to the point he was about to cry when they were pulling the car up onto the flatbed. He was really upset that Lightning was hurt.”


That celebrity status came with the car, and he gets people coming up to him all the time, asking if they can take a picture of a car. Think about that for a minute. If it were any other racecar on a trailer, people would just snap away. But Tedder’s replica of Lightning McQueen from the Disney Pixar movie, “Cars,” has star power, so people ask if they can take a photo, just as they would if they spotted a celebrity on the street.


Last September, while Tedder was on the way to the NASA Southeast/Florida combined regional event at Road Atlanta, he stopped to get gas, but it ended up taking a bit more time than he expected.


“When I came out, I was at the gas station for another 10 minutes longer than I had planned just because there were at least 15 kids around it,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a tour bus or whatever had pulled into the gas station. They were probably 10 to 15 years old, and they were all taking pictures and asking about it.”


Tedder sort of stumbled onto the car. His old street/track Mustang was up for sale because he wanted to buy a built racecar. At the time, he wasn’t even looking. He was searching for suspension setup advice on an online forum, when he found the Lightning McQueen replica — and it was just 35 minutes from his home in Anderson, S.C.


The previous owner, obviously a big fan of the “Cars” movie, built it and raced it in American Iron. He didn’t just spend the money on stickers. Look closely and you’ll find a lot of attention to detail, choice components and admirable build quality. Tedder also has made a number of improvements. However, due to health problems, he wasn’t able to race anymore. The car came with four movie posters and boxes full of stickers. Tedder added that a local graphics shop has all the files to recreate any of the stickers if he needs them.


An engineering manager in the engine design and development department for TTI Group North America, Tedder said the engine in the car is essentially that of a 1999 Cobra, and it makes 330 horsepower. The engine benefits from ’99 Cobra cylinder heads, ’98 Cobra cams, which are the hottest factory cams for 4.6-liter V8, a ported intake and long-tube headers.


“That’s one of the good things about the car,” he said. “It’s a factory Ford long block with factory Ford parts for the most part, so it should take a beating over and over again. It’s not a very sensitive race motor that needs to be treated a certain way or it would break.

“I design and develop small engines for a living and I’m very interested in design and development of combustion engines,” he said. “Even though that’s my job, when you’re dealing with 2 horsepower engines all day and then you go play with a 300 horsepower engine as a hobby, there’s still a lot of enjoyment in that. Some people take a hobby and make job out of it and it’s not enjoyable anymore, but for me big V8 engines are still enjoyable even though my days are spent designing and developing small engines.”

Tedder credits his education at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering with a motorsports concentration. The program included racing Legends cars as part of the curriculum, which taught Tedder a lot, and he uses those lessons in his current racing efforts.


“In addition to the theoretical and engineering side of it, the hands-on side that the school provides definitely gets you primed for doing this on your own, or, if you choose to work in the industry, prepares you for that as well,” he said.

His education should help him as he modifies the car to make it competitive in American Iron, where plans to race after he earns his competition license. The long-term plan is to reduce the weight of the car to get it to the 9:1 power to weight ratio and modify the engine within the rules to get the most out of it. His education should come in handy there, too.

Regardless of whether he’s at the front of the pack, the rear or the middle, his car is the one people are going to see first and remember the longest. It’s just part of the star power of his Lightning McQueen replica.


“I really like the car for what it is, but the longer I own the car and the more people who walk up to tell me how much they love the “Cars” movie and this and that or you get little kids that are completely in awe of it,” he said. “It’s a little bit of an experience owning the car that you wouldn’t get if it were just a red Mustang.

“Personally, as a driver, my fiancée is my fan, but I don’t go on track with a bunch of fans cheering me on,” Tedder said. “But you can bet that if they’re under 10, they’re probably cheering for Lightning McQueen.”


Brent Tedder






Mustang Cobra


3,240 lbs. with driver


4.6-liter modular aluminum DOHC aviator block, 333 rwhp


Front: Maximum Motorsports, McPherson struts

Rear: Maximum Motorsports, three link


275-40-17 Toyo RR


Front: 13” PBR, Hawk DTC-70 Pads

Rear: 11.65” Ford, Hawk DTC-60 Pads

Data system:

Traqmate and Chase Cam


Rust-eze Medicated Bumper Ointment, No Stall, Mood Springs, Lil’ Torquey Pistons, RPM – Night Time Backfire Suppressant, Easy Idle – A Warm Start to a Cold Morning, Nitroade – High Energy Drink
Images courtesy of Brett Becker and Disney Pixar

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