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Ford Mustang: Engine Upgrade Guide

By Iain Kelly | Photos MOTOR Archives, 14 Dec 2016 Features

Ford Mustang: Engine Upgrade Guide

You can’t really have too much power in a muscle car. Here are your options, from cams to good ol’ fashioned air pumps

Mustangs have always been synonymous with aftermarket tuning, not just for racing but on countless street cars. This hasn’t changed with the latest Ford Mustang, both the 5.0-litre Coyote V8 and EcoBoost 2.3-litre turbo four capable of producing silly horsepower.

The nat-atmo V8 is a good base to start off, featuring deep-breathing quad-cam, four-valve-per-cylinder heads with variable camshaft phasing for more accurate valve timing, while Ford also used high-strength forged connecting rods and a forged steel crankshaft as standard.

Ford’s decision to use quad-cam, 32-valve architecture on its V8 means most Coyote development involves fitting positive displacement superchargers. The price of four camshafts per engine makes a high-revving naturally-aspirated build expensive, while the size of the twin-cam cylinder heads makes fitting a turbocharger or two into the engine bay difficult.

Basic upgrades include a full exhaust system, a better-breathing intake and a flash tune of the stock ECU, stepping up with a bolt-on supercharger of which there are plenty of sizes, specifications and horsepower rating options on offer.

Mustang drivingDepending on your budget, you can easily double the factory horsepower, although there are other limitations to consider.

As is often the case the sky really is the limit when it comes to making horsepower from a modern engine, but we’ll stick with what’s realistically achievable, while staying friendly with the Highway Patrol and Environmental Protection Agency. And as you might expect, there’s a proliferation of aftermarket Mustang parts out of the USA, but not all of them bolt on to right-hand drive cars or come close to meeting Australian Design Rules.

One man who knows all about this is Rob Herrod, boss at legendary Ford tuning shop Herrod Motorsport. He’s the local agent for the factory’s hot-up department, Ford Performance, as well as SCT ECU flash-tuning software.

“We know what’s going on inside the Ford Coyote engine,” says Herrod. “The standard motor is a good thing, but if tuning is left in the wrong hands it’s easy to hurt an engine.
“The only difficult aspect was an issue with the auto transmission-equipped cars where the catalytic converters run close to the stock transmission cooler lines. We quickly developed an OE-style solution.”

5.0 litre engineAnd while they already have many options on the shelf, they’re still working on improving the choice for customers. “We’ve just had Kooks headers in here and we’ve done scans of the RHD headers to create exhaust options for Aussie market cars,” explains Herrod. But he’s also quick to say they won’t be offering limitless horsepower.

“We’ve got a Mustang development car, but as far as doing extra modifications like turbochargers and the like, I’d rather not get into anything that isn’t ADR-compliant. We’ll assist customers if they want to build something really wild, but our main focus for Herrod products is on staying ADR-compliant.”

Another man with plenty of experience with go-faster Fords is Craig Dean from Mustang Motorsport. Dean has spent years running supercharged Mustang race cars in tarmac rallies, runs Australia’s only authorised Shelby Mod Shop, and is also a Roush Performance distributor, selling a range signature series Shelby and Roush Performance Packages.

“The power and torque available from the Coyote motor is amazing, with great driveability,” he says. “We had one that would spin its wheels through to fourth at low rpm!

Engine power“You can divide Mustang upgraders into three types – the guys who want to keep it subtle and make a sleeper, the guys who want to go all-out with the biggest power, and then the guys in the mid-ground with good power as well as some aesthetic and handling upgrades, which is why we started making staged Roush packages.”

As Mustang sales boom, the Australian aftermarket will develop parts for the S550 and we will no doubt see some stunning engineering from local companies, too.

KPM Motorsport from South Australia is also offering plenty of Mustang toys, right up to its beastly SF800R Streetfighter Race Series package. Supercharging the 5.0-litre V8 produces 597kW, nearly twice that of the factory car. Its range includes parts from the wild folk at Hennessey USA.