You Knew the New Mustang Looked Good. You Feared That It Might Not Be Fast. Fear Not: The Successor to the 5.0L Bolt-On Legacy Is Here, It's Deep Into the 12s, and There's No Nitrous Involved. By Matt King Photography: Matt King, David Trott There will only ever be one '05 Mustang GT that was the first to make a 12-second pass down the quarter-mile, and this is it. So toss all the other rags in the trash and read along as we chronicle how Paul Svinicki and the crew at Paul's High Performance in Jackson, Michigan, transformed a hot-off-the-assembly-line next-generation Mustang from a cush-riding, wheel-hopping, high-13-second stocker into a jaw-dropping strip stormer in barely a week's time. As of this writing, the new Mustangs are just arriving at dealer showrooms, but the hype has been building for more than a year since Ford officially debuted the new model at the Detroit auto show last January. With retro looks and a three-valve SOHC 4.6L modular V-8 making an honest 300 hp, the new Mustang carries the ponycar revolution it launched more than 40 years ago into its second millennium with style. Having achieved total victory over GM and Mopar in the once-fierce ponycar wars, Ford has taken its latest Mustang to a level of ride and handling quality that's quite a departure from the tire-smoking, buggy-ride qualities that defined musclecars for a generation. Simplify and add lightness. It's an old racing adage, and in the case of the new Mustang, these stock springs, shocks, coilover front struts, and rear upper and lower three-link control arms were replaced with lighter, more dragstrip-friendly parts. The nonadjustable, chassis-mounted third link was replaced with this adjustable upper link with solid bushings. Pinion angle was set to 2.5 degrees negative. The new Mustang's rearend is based on the venerable 8.8-inch unit, and currently available gearsets and differentials are interchangeable. PHP swapped the stock 3.27s for 4.30:1 gears and an Eaton carbon-fiber-clutch limited-slip and beefed the rearend with custom Moser 31-spline axles and a Ford Racing aluminum cover. Also note the PHP-fabricated adjustable Panhard rod (A), square-tube support truss (B), and housing braces (C). Peering under the front clip of the '05 Mustang, it's readily apparent that Ford engineers spent quite a few hours and many thousands of miles of comparative testing behind the wheels of the last couple of generations of BMW sport sedans, and the result is the tightest, best-handling Mustang ever, maybe even the best-handling ponycar of all time. But that's not what we're here to talk about. Handling and ride quality are great, especially for the soon-to-be very happy new Mustang owners who will use their cars as practical transportation. But the burning questions on the minds of all current and potential Mustang enthusiasts when a new model arrives are "How fast is it?" and "How much faster can I make it?" The answer to the first question is, as usual, "Not as fast as we'd hoped," but the answer to the second is, "Pretty fast, and we've only had it for a week!" We had our first shot behind the wheel of the new Mustang in December 2003 during an off-the-record ride-and-drive orchestrated by the Mustang development team in Dearborn long before all the final details were sorted out. Although we didn't have a chance to drive on an actual dragstrip then, our gut reaction was that the new car launched good on the street and felt quick, but not really quick. At the conclusion of the driving session, we urged the engineers to at least give us a new Mustang that's as quick as a last-generation Camaro. They didn't, but they bridged the gap between the current GT and Mach 1, which is pretty close. Although our sister magazine Motor Trend recently published a report of an automatic-equipped '05 running 13.6 in the quarter-mile, we'll chalk that up to an optimistic weather-correction factor. We also know that some preproduction five-speed cars ran high 14s driven by Ford engineers at an NMCA race in Stanton, Michigan, so pick your rumor and spread it. What we know for a fact, because we have timeslips to prove it, is that PHP's bone-stock five-speed GT ran an uncorrected 13.90 at 101.35 mph with a 2.13-second 60-foot time on September 15, 2004, at Milan, Michigan, on an 80-degree-F day with 60 percent humidity and a 29.21-in-Hg barometer reading. Run the corrections if you want, but Paul Svinicki can flat-out drive a stick car, so we don't expect to hear too much complaining. All the brakes were converted to lightweight Wilwoods. The stock bolt pattern remains 5-on-41⁄2, but small rotors are required to fit the Weld 15-inch drag wheels. The stock airbox was replaced with a PHP cold-air intake that requires relocating the mass-air sensor element into the inlet elbow (arrow). The kit also includes a heat shield. The outboard rear shock placement is excellent for controlling body roll but leaves scant room for larger rear wheels and tires, especially with the bulky stamping for the stock shock absorber (A). To relocate the shocks, PHP built coilovers that mount in place of the stock rear spring perch (B) and removed the outboard shock mounts. This modification required drilling 4-inch-diameter holes in the floor between the rear seat and the trunk so the top of the coilovers could be recessed into a fabricated upper shock tower for clearance. We knew Paul (whose previous Mustang-related accomplishments included building the first 11-second '03 Mach 1 as well as the first '03 Cobra in the 10s) had thick blue blood when we showed up at his shop last spring and saw not one, but five prototype Ford GTs in the parking lot with an escort of Ford engineers waiting for their turns on his chassis dyno-and we're not talking about Mustang GTs. Yeah, those GTs. Svinicki has connections deep into Ford, so it's not surprising that he's been on the list to build many SEMA-show project vehicles over the years, including an '05 Mustang that will be the featured manufacturer vehicle of the upcoming '04 show. We presented the artist's rendering of the proposal he submitted to Ford to build an '05 Mustang drag car ("The Twenty Hottest Projects," Sept. '04) to race in the Fun Ford Weekend Modular Motor class next season, the class where Paul and crew currently run a 9-second '00 Cobra R powered by a 5.0L DOHC mod motor. So when Paul rung up one day saying his project car was going to be delivered in about a week and asked if we'd be interested in doing an article on it, we didn't have to think about it too long. Paul proposed to baseline the new Mustang in totally stock configuration, then tear it apart and start with a first round of relatively mild bolt-ons, including rear control arms, lightweight drag brakes and wheels, coilover shocks, a cold-air intake, a new shifter, underdrive pulleys, and computer retuning. Sounds pretty simple until you consider that the '05 Mustangs were months away from being on dealer lots and nobody had any off-the-shelf parts ready yet, including Paul. A weak point of the Tremec 3650's remote-mounted shifter is its tendency to hang up when the engine and trans torque-over under hard acceleration, making power shifts a hit-or-miss proposition. PHP removed the body mount and fabricated support rods to mount the shifter rigidly to the transmission body. A carpet-covered aluminum rear seat-delete kit dropped a few more pounds off the '05 Mustang's hefty 3,500-pound curb weight. Combined with the lightweight brakes, wheels, coilovers, and other reductions (including removing the passenger seat), final race weight was a svelte 3,120 pounds without driver, for a loss of 380 pounds. "No burnouts allowed," says the factory computer's torque management software and electric throttle control. "I don't think so," retorts Chris Johnson of Superchips Custom Tuning with the click of a few keystrokes. This will be the biggest glitch for the aftermarket to overcome. But a week or so after picking up an early production '05 GT from the Flat Rock, Michigan, plant were the new Mustangs are assembled, Paul had his at Milan, where it wheelhopped to a 13.90 at 101 mph on the stock Pirelli radials. "The wheelhop was so bad, I thought I was going to break the rearend before we even got started," Paul says. "And the [body-mounted] shifter was so floppy I couldn't power shift." So the new Mustangs still don't live up to the dragstrip antics of a stone-stock LS1 Camaro, and they've got some glitches to sort out. Paul's plan for the new Mustang was simple: add horsepower, remove weight, and get it to hook. In the week between the baseline runs and the return trip to the dragstrip in Milan, Paul and his crew tore most of the running gear off their new Mustang, fabricated replacement rear control arms, and adapted lightweight Wilwood disc brakes, Weld Pro Star racing wheels, and Tokico coilover shocks and struts to all four corners. They solved the rubber-mounted shifter problem, installed a prototype Bassani exhaust system with high-flow cats, swapped rear gears and axles, fabbed a rear seat-delete kit, built a cold-air intake system and underdrive pulleys, and retuned the factory engine computer with help from Superchips Custom Tuning. The result was just about 25 extra rear-wheel horsepower, a weight reduction of 380 pounds, and a 1.6-second-quicker elapsed time with an 11-mph increase in trap speed. Imagine what it could do on nitrous. While history will record many more 12-second-and-faster '05 Mustangs, this will forever be the first. Everybody's playing catch-up now. For the front suspension, PHP adapted '94-'04 Mustang Tokico Illumina five-way adjustable struts with coilover sleeves and 2.5-inch coilover springs to reduce weight and allow a 4-inch-dropped front ride height. Despite the all-new front suspension, the old SN95 struts fit into the stock strut towers and spindles with only minor fabrication to the mounting ears. Note the roll-control solenoids mounted inline to each front caliper to circumvent the ABS system. Rushed into production for this project, the prototype Bassani 2.5-inch exhaust features high-flow catalytic converters mounted in the stock location close to the exhaust manifolds, an X-pipe crossover, and stainless steel mufflers with polished tips. The mid-pipes over the axle remain the stock 2.5-inch mandrel-bent factory tubing. The 15x8 Weld AlumaStar rear wheels were drilled and tapped for rim screws and mounted with Mickey Thompson 26x10.5-15 ET Street bias-ply slicks. Best traction was achieved with 11.5 psi. THE SECRET YOU MUST KNOW A big concern with the introduction of the new Mustang was that sophisticated electronic engine management might essentially lock out the performance aftermarket, and according to Superchips Custom Tuning President Chris Johnson, that may be true for tuners who are late to the game. "Anybody who hasn't already been working on this will be two years behind the curve," he says. Unlike previous generations of the Ford electronic engine management systems, the EEC-ECU in the '05 Mustang, which is very similar to the technology introduced in the '04 F-150 trucks, uses torque management to sense potential "abuse" to the engine and drivetrain-like burnouts and power shifts that are flagged when the computer detects engine rpm that doesn't match driveshaft or wheel speed. This is accomplished with an electronic throttle that removes all physical linkage between your foot on the gas pedal and the engine's throttle blade. You can step on the gas as hard as you want, but if the ECU senses that the engine is turning too fast for a given wheel speed, or vice versa, it switches into a shutdown mode and it's game over. We saw this firsthand after PHP installed roll control on the front brakes. The Mustang would just get started into smoky wheelspin before throttling back the engine. You might be able to do dry hops or squeal away from a stoplight in a stock '05, but Ford's official position is "No Burnouts Allowed." At least until Johnson got to work on his laptop. Within minutes he found the code that enabled the torque-management strategy and switched it off, allowing tire-melting burnouts. The electronic throttle control also pulls the throttle back partially when the engine is shifted at WOT to protect the drivetrain from shock, with the side-effect of preventing power shifting. The three-valve engine's variable camshaft timing also presents challenges as well as opportunities to tuners, but by the time you read this, Superchips Custom Tuning will have off-the-shelf programs ready for the '05 Mustang that will allow users to reset rev limits, turn off traction control and speed limiters, bump fuel and timing curves, and compensate for speedometer error, just like it offers for current-gen Mustangs. HRM Dyno Results Straight from Ford's AAI assembly plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, Paul's '05 Mustang GT produced 274.8 rear-wheel horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 300.9 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 on his Dynojet chassis dyno using the standard temperature and pressure correction factor of 60 degrees F and barometric pressure of 29.91 inches. A few days of wrenching produced a boost of 24.7 hp and 18-lb ft of torque with the addition of a cold-air inlet kit, underdrive pulleys, free-flowing cats with an X-pipe, and custom software tuning by Superchips Custom Tuning.