Getting The Project Moving!
PHR Debuts Its New Mustang
From the February, 2009 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Cameron Evans
Illustrators: Cameron Evans
We're the first to admit that the Ford tech has been a little light around here. Ford Motor Company noticed, too! When Ford responded to our quick fix for a Mustang-light tech selection by hooking us up with a '02 Mustang GT, we couldn't refuse.
The goal here is to create an aftermarket-equipped car that's very repeatable by you, the readers. It's got to be really fast, an all-around car with a killer stance--It's the car we'd love to see in Hometown Hot Rodding! There's nothing too exotic to be bolted on here, stuff that you can buy, but it's not about stuff you'd buy at the local auto parts store, either. With this Mustang, we're dealing with the best that you can get within reason, a true dream car that can be built via mail order or through your local speed shop.
We selected a vehicle that you'd likely order, especially if you're a fan of bolting on parts. Sure, you'd love to have a new Mach 1 or even a Bullitt, but the majority of V-8 powered rides out there ship with a standard 4.6L SOHC V-8 that produces 260 hp at 5,250 rpm and 302 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. We love those specialty vehicles and the Cobra series, but this car needs to go further. We'll be chasing serious engine modifications as soon as we're done with sorting the chassis, brakes, and interior (which takes us through the March 2003 issue!). Starting with basic stuff like exhaust, a BBK throttle body, cams from COMP, a MAF meter from Granatelli, and many of the other popular computer mods available in the giant 4.6L industry, we'll be moving on to a Precision Turbo system, an ATI ProCharger P1-SC kit, and that new NOS system (not at the same time, however!). We're on the search for a couple more engines for this project, so that we can be working on one while testing with the other. It's obvious that our readers aren't in this position, but you people want the results quicker than we can normally turn them out!
Quantifying all of this stuff requires significant testing. In addition to our Primedia Tech Center's DynoJet chassis dyno, we'll be using exactly the same road course configuration and similar track temps on Central California's Buttonwillow Raceway and its #13 circuit (Sorry, but we can only do so much about the air!) to come up with percentages that put a whole new light on improvements. The dragstrip is still a fun place to test, but it doesn't show many of a car's attributes. Check out the newly improved site at www.buttonwillowraceway.com to run your car, too.
We ran up I-5 to wanted to get a real-world evaluation of the Mustang at Hotchkis Track Day, getting serious track time with the West Coast's best cars on the track. The results were as predicted in some ways and rough in others. In terms of road manners, our new GT is just right. Sure, it could always have more power (and boy will it get that!), but for a stock ride it's plenty fun. We ordered our car with the 17-inch wheel "Bullitt" wheel package and 255/45/17 Goodyear Eagles, so the ride was predictable and the handling offered a safe but significant understeer. The stock shifter, attached to a Tremec TR3650 manual transmission with a tall Fifth gear ratio for improved fuel economy, made for smooth selection except when pushing for a quick shift up or down from Third gear on the road course. Our car had leather seats with full power controls; they were more than comfortable, but offered little room for the bigger drivers. As for the back seat, it's for all but the very small. The Mach 1000 option for the sound system, complete with external amplifiers and a pair of bass boxes in the trunk, in nothing short of spectacular (even though it takes up a bunch of room and adds 70 pounds to the rear).
I was able to lap consistently in the 2:16-second range on the stock Goodyear tires, which was quicker than any other stock road car on the track (except those Z06s). That involved consistently shifting at 5,000 rpm (hey, it was a brand-new car), braking moderately (which still allowed the solid rear rotors to munch the pads). We were able to get very stable lap times that can be used as a baseline for the car throughout its modifications. Moreover, we're gonna stick to our driving style and use it as a benchmark, testing each time that we make major changes so that you can see how much of a difference the parts made in sequence. Sure, we'll try to put in a "flier," but that's more for ego than proven results. When you look at track time by a percentage of improvement, it's a cool way to see just what parts are worth in terms of performance, much like a dyno.
What kind of car are we trying to build? This Mustang will be a very balanced road car, not a full road racer or drag race ride. With a complete suspension system from Maximum Motorsports that will still offer a reasonable ride quality, the PHR Project Mustang should handle among the best Mustangs ever built--it's that serious! Though you'll find feature cars with a bigger brake system, we're running a Brembo setup that serious enthusiasts will deem achievable (also something that can fit inside a variety of wheels), and a set of Corbeau TRS seats and belts that should be worth a full second on the track just by keeping the driver in his place. B&M is supplying one of its famous "Ripper" shifters, and the Yokohama AVS ES 100 tires that you see evaluated on these pages will remain on the car well through its first stages to keep consistency. Discount Tire Direct is a great source of both aftermarket wheels and the solid standard of replica Cobra stuff, so we've got a few sets coming to make sure that we can swap tires quickly and keep out the variables.
For more details of the upcoming buildups, read the captions carefully, but in the meantime, get ready for one of the most finely tuned PHR cars in our 40-year history. Next month, it's the rear suspension. Stay tuned, as this stuff just represents round one--most of these parts will be switched out to keep on testing!
Our first day of track testing...
Our first day of track testing went pretty well, with one little problem. As we went to swap out the first set of tires, we found that someone at the Ford dealership in San Diego had robbed the key for the locking lug nuts! With a healthy whack on a breaker bar with a sledgehammer, our buddies Casey Suzuki from Race Technologies and Mark Richter from Yokohama were able to make an oversize socket knock them off!
Just for giggles, we went...
Just for giggles, we went to the extreme by bolting up a set of Yokohama's street-legal race tires, the A032R. This DOT-legal race tire (which is considered an "old tire" by Yoke's standards--it's been out for a while) has a casing, sidewall and compounding design taken directly from Yokohama's sports car racing research. The A032R's advanced high-grip tread compounds heat quickly for improved overall cornering and breaking performance. Its shallow tread depth allows for high cornering force with minimal tread distortion. So what was it like? Noisy and quick! A race tire like this that is also built to work in the wet is going to make a racket, and it did. We were absolutely shocked to go another 2.5 seconds faster per lap than the AVS ES 100. That's 4.5 seconds from the stock tire to the race tire! Now, you can't expect the wear of a road tire and it's probably a penalty not worth paying, but those of you looking to hit the local track day with an advantage need to check the Yokohama Web site for a fitment that works. We might break them out a few times in the future, especially once the suspension changes are in place.
Is your vehicle ready for...
Is your vehicle ready for the road course in stock trim? We were surprised by how well this Mustang worked right off the highway, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a set of solid rear rotors will get baked in only a few test session. The photo tells the story, as the pads were trash and the rotors needed to be turned. We'll keep them on for testing right after the suspension is finished, but a swap to our Brembo system will be in order right away.
After heading to the track...
After heading to the track to see what Mustangs were the fastest, we knew that Maximum Motorsports was the group to help us with this Mustang. They race what they sell and have a vast amount of tuning expertise. Because Popular Hot Rodding's Mustang will be flogged on all forms of racetracks, not counting the street, Maximum's engineers opted for a Maximum Grip package that includes most of the items pictured, plus the heavy-duty rear control arms and Torque-arm recommended for dragstrip launching. The installation of these and other rear suspension components launches our buildup series in next month's issue. Whether you exercise your '79-02 pony on a road course, dragstrip or highway--or any combination of these--Maximum Motorsports can custom-design a money-saving "Grip Box" to fit your performance needs and budget. Because the various components are engineered systems, Mustang owners avoid the pitfalls of installing mismatched parts, while spending less than the cost of individual products. Three basic Grip Boxes are offered: Sport; Road & Track (as shown); or Maximum Grip. All three levels retain full streetability, and product substitutions are virtually infinite, depending upon the individual customer's exact application. Ours will be on the stiffer side of the options, you can bet.
The stock Mustang rear suspension,...
The stock Mustang rear suspension, like most factory components, was designed as a compromise around ride, handling, and how much power the stock vehicle will produce. For us, it simply isn't enough! PHR's project Mustang is receiving Maximum's complete Torque-arm Suspension System, which further includes Maximum's Panhard bar and rear lower control arms, which were specially designed to absorb the punishment of dragstrip launches. New rear springs were selected to maximize the dramatic increases in cornering grip and straight-line traction. Maximum's engineers determine the rear spring that best complements the front-spring rate of a Mustang outfitted with the Torque-arm System, which corrects the weaknesses and inefficiencies of the stock Mustang by converting it to a three-link suspension that greatly increases traction off the line and in the corners. Unlike other designs, the Maximum Torque-arm maintains acceptable ground clearance and exhaust clearance, plus full access to the differential cover. Two versions of the Torque-arm are offered. The standard package (pictured) accommodates engine-torque outputs of 300 to 590 lb-ft; Maximum's heavy-duty model is rated for 475 to 900 lb-ft. The correct system for any individual vehicle is determined by a combination of its engine torque and final-drive ratio.
Maximum Motorsports has developed...
Maximum Motorsports has developed a line of bolt-in rollbars that requires neither stripping the interior nor welding inside the car, yet is accepted by NHRA and SCCA tech inspectors. Maximum engineers accomplished this by designing rear braces that initially bolt to the main hoop in the correct position, then are welded outside the car! Maximum's exclusive design also retains rear-seat usability because the rear braces mount to the rear inner wheelwell. Multiple variations are offered. In the March issue, the PHR Mustang will receive a six-point design inspired by SCCA road racers, yet compatible with daily driving. A pair of low-mounted door bars will protect the occupants and stiffen the chassis without inhibiting entry or exit (their mounting points are acceptable for NHRA applications, although a different, higher bar design would be required)
We knew that Mustangs were...
We knew that Mustangs were nose heavy by design, so we're using Maximum's new K-Member, which fits in any '79-02 Mustangs (5.0L or 4.6L). Strong enough to withstand the effects of wheelstands, road racing and "real-world" driving, yet much lighter than stock (14 pounds, to be exact), Maximum's all-new K-member extends the stock wheelbase by 3/4 inch, thereby improving front/rear weight distribution and increasing caster (which helps at high speed). Engineered with serious racers in mind, this K-member increases clearance for aftermarket oil pans and headers. Predrilled plumb bob holes assure easy, accurate squaring of the assembly to the car. Two versions are offered: One accepts 5.0L-style, pushrod engines; the second accommodates 4.6L-type, modular motors. The 5.0L K-member allows 1 inch of engine setback. Maximum Motorsports designed its K-member as part of an engineered front-suspension system. Thus, Popular Hot Rodding's Mustang will be further equipped with Maximum's tubular front control arms; caster/camber plates; front-coil-over-conversion kit; aluminum steering-rack bushings; and adjustable tie-rod ends (a two-point brace is included with the K-member). These parts will be featured in the February '03 issue of PHR.
Though we like the full-power...
Though we like the full-power seats that came with our new GT, they lack a little support for serious action and are pretty heavy to boot. Finding aftermarket seats that aren't designed for a 5-foot-tall Italian named Marco isn't easy, either. That's why we're going with Corbeau's TRS, with the look and feel of a race/touring seat while still providing the padding and comfort you look for in a street machine. It's designed for a 36-inch waist, so everyone here had better fit! Look for these in the April issue when we install the cage.
Unless you've got a bunch...
Unless you've got a bunch of track time, you won't believe our claim that these Corbeau seatbelts could be worth up to one second per lap! Keeping the driver stable makes steering input more accurate, allows for deeper, more accurate braking, and helps for quicker shifts. These 2-inch belts feature military grade nylon webbing, pressure-reducing waist pads, and a double release rear buckle for easy access to the rear seat. You'll see how they work when the seats and cage go in.
Selecting a wheel for this...
Selecting a wheel for this car is difficult, but the size was easy as we just wanted something big enough to clear the giant brakes! A 17x9 is a smart fitment, as there are lots of tire that fit and the look is great. Discount Tire Direct is one of the Web's best wheel and tire sources, so we turned to them for a set of its Cobra R Replica wheels. Their European manufacturing has made the investments in the latest foundry and machine tool equipment that gives them the highest industrial rating and ensures you of a wheel that is both strong and beautifully finished. We might even swap this wheel out for a newer style, but in the meantime, this will work fine.
Having tested much of Baer's...
Having tested much of Baer's product line to great effect, we figured it was time to try the Italian alternative at Brembo, which offers multiple Gran Turismo High Performance Brake systems for the GT. Each has been developed directly from racing components for use by drivers who enjoy their street cars in multiple applications--from better braking control in normal and/or "spirited" driving conditions to use at driver's schools, club, autocross or solo events. We're still trying to decide what we needs as Maximum Motorsports (a Brembo dealer) has had great luck with Brembo's bolt-on Cobra R upgrade of calipers and rotors. Brembo also offers two-piece floating rotors with serious caliper upgrades, but we're trying to figure out what will fit. As for the rears, a rotor swap will work for now and the solution with either be from Brembo or Baer's noteworthy PBR system (which is priced right, too.) Brembo also offers the Mustang owner a Sport High Performance brake system at a more economical price, running less than $400 retail per single axle set.