Evolution Performance's Nelson Whitlock gets down to business at the NMRA Atco race, where
Today's marketplace is a blur. Spurred by the immediacy of the Internet, companies must react to consumer demand much quicker than they did before we were all connected. We want it all, and we want it right now.
This is just as true for performance cars as it is for consumer electronics. The moment a new performance car hits the dealer lots, the clock is ticking. People want to see how quick it is and how much power it makes right away. As soon as those baselines are set, the gloves are off. Gearheads want performance milestones and performance parts immediately.
Of course, the trick is balancing the development with parts for street vehicles and the drive to set milestones for glory. This is especially a challenge with modern performance cars that exhibit a level of complexity that dwarfs that of their predecessors.
When it comes to getting performance from a new platform early and often, Evolution Performance knows the value of an aggressive development program. The company made its name attacking the then-new '07 Shelby GT500 with an abandon that resulted in numerous e.t. records on the dragstrip, including dropping the first 8- and 9-second passes on the scoreboard. Main men Fred Cook and Nelson Whitlock have shown a laser-sharp focus in pursuing those plateaus in the GT500 world.
"Basically, we were a regular Mustang shop, so we were grouped with other Mustang shops. I needed something to slingshot us out there. I knew that car would be the second coming," Fred explained. "It was massive. We were getting calls from all over the country. This was monumental. It was to the point that Ford recognized us, and our car was on display at Ford's SAE event. It was the first time a non-Ford-owned car appeared at Ford's SAE meeting."
With the announcement of the '11 5.0 Mustang, the Evolution boys were looking to evolve beyond the high-end world of the Shelby GT500 by adding the mainstream performance of the '11 GT to their repertoire. When it came to sharing those exploits with the world, who else would they call but a magazine with a name like ours?
Of course, broadening the company's horizons also called for a re-evaluation in the way Evolution operates. Just as the '11 Mustang GT appeals to a broader range of consumers, Evo wanted to take a more consumer-oriented approach-at least at first. The GT500 crowd has its wild bunch, and so does the Mustang GT, but most people will seek out bolt-on performance mods for their brand-new 'Stangs.
Nelson Whitlock (left) and Fred Cook set out to make a big statement with the '11 Mustang
"We needed something fresh. We needed a challenge. Easy is no fun. That's why we didn't rip apart the car when we got it," Fred revealed. "We know how to do that, but that's not how the average consumer would do it. For the first time, I wanted to pretend to be the consumer-try a few things at a time and see how it performs, without sacrificing any streetability."
And so this quest began on April 28, 2010, as the Evolution crew picked up a fresh '11 Mustang GT and drove straight to the dragstrip. With no cool-down or burnout, the car laid down a 13.2 at 110 mph with a 2.10 60-foot. A day later, the car was on the company's in-house Mustang dyno for a baseline of 368.60 hp and 352.48 lb-ft at the feet. From there, it was all about learning what the car liked and getting it ready for the dragstrip.
Step one was having Jon Lund plug into the OBD-II port and tweak the factory calibration for a bit more aggression. Naturally, he refined the air/fuel ratio and the spark advance. (Later he would adjust the TiVCT control and tweak various rev limiters.) "The MAF is frequency based. It doesn't use the traditional volts. The front O2's on the car are widebands, and the car actually has a targeted air/fuel, and the computer maintains that for safety," Fred explained. "The hardest part going forward is figuring out what the TiVCT likes. It can be figured out, but it will take time."