Horse Sense: Quite frankly, factory-fresh '99-'04 Mustangs now bring the same level of excitement to us that stone-stock Fox 'Stangs used to bring. Consider it a slight changing of the guard, if you will, but the reality is more so that when one lake dries up (finding a bone-stock '86-'93 GT or LX is increasingly more difficult), another one, Lake New Edge, is stocked and ready for 'Stangbangers to cast their lines and go fishin'.
A perusal of several online and print Mustangs-for-sale classified ads brings us to this month's revisit of simple, bolt-on performance upgrades for '99-'04 Mustang GTs. Recently we noticed an increase in the availability of good post-Fox Mustangs that are selling for well below $10,000. Not surprisingly, many of these Ponies are still in their original trim with mileage between 60,000 (on the low end) and upward of 100,000. These are cars that have dutifully served as nothing more than a means of daily transportation for owners who aren't as hyped as we are about making 'Stangs better.
The way we see it, New Edge 'Stangs are now really coming into their own as good Mustangs to modify on a budget. (Of course, '79-'93 Fox bodies will never lose their top-tier status as the best foundation for all sorts of 'Stang projects.) So for this project, we've selected what we think is an impressive $1,540 group of entry-level upgrade pieces-cold-air intake, throttle body/plenum, after-cat exhaust system, underdrive pulleys, and PCM flash tune-that should bring a nice power and torque gain to the rear wheels of Henry De Los Santos' unmodified '99 Two-Valve-powered 'Stang. (Note that we provide the manufacturers' suggested retail prices. Deep deals for this hardware are everywhere you turn, so scoring this package for less is quite doable if you shop around a bit.)
While brands that are used for initial modifications vary based on a Mustang owner's personal preference or research, air-induction components lead the charge, so to speak, among the parts that comprise an entry-level, 4.6-liter performance system. For our report, we're working with BBK's new, unique one-piece throttle-body/plenum unit, as well as its tried-and-true cold-air intake kit for '96-'04 Mustang GTs, to determine the positive or negative influence it has on our well-worn stocker.
With respect to induction, air taken in must have an efficient method of exit (as exhaust gas). To improve exhaust flow and engine sound over the factory equipment, Flowmaster's American Thunder Series after-cat exhaust system is the solution for our stocker. And, as underdrive pulleys always prove to be solid performers in the stock-'Stang hop-up game, we're turning to AmericanMuscle.com as a source for Steeda's pulley swap pieces. We'll see how eliminating stress on the crankshaft affects the Two-Valve at the feet.
Modern-age EFI performance also requires changes to the fuel and spark calibrations in a Mustang's PCM. DiabloSport's Predator is a hand-held device that allows users to load pre-programmed tunes with calibration adjustments that will allow the test-Pony's Two-Valve engine to run properly with our upgrade pieces. The Predator also enables Henry or a tuning specialist to log engine data, and based on that info, make additional changes inside the processor as to what the engine needs (timing, fuel, and so on).
Of course, since our focus is on power/torque at the rear tires, the chassis dyno at Extreme Automotive will serve as the almighty recorder of all data for this project. Although we're fortunate enough to have great assistance from Saul "The Surgeon" Gutierrez of Extreme as your tech editor photographs and makes notes on various aspects of our projects as they're being done, each part that we're working with in this recap definitely can be installed by a confident home mechanic over the course of a single day.
As time and trends take us deeper into the S197 era and beyond to the pending arrival of '10 Mustangs at Ford showrooms nationwide, our remembrance of Mustangs past, especially from a technical aspect, becomes more and more important. So, yes, we've covered the basics many times before, with Fox-body as well as New Edge Mustangs. We're going to continue to experiment with various simple mods, because in today's tough financial environment, making the best-bang-for-your-buck decisions to hop up your Mustang is more important than ever.
Replacing these stock mufflers...
Replacing these stock mufflers is the first item on our modification agenda. We think calling stock cans lifeless is a fair analogy, as they're super-restrictive and barely audible when the throttle is wide open.
Obviously for this type of...
Obviously for this type of quantitative evaluation, the chassis dyno is the most important tool for the entire process. Extreme Automotive's Dynapack Evolution 4000 chassis dyno features two individual pods that are connected directly to a Mustang's axles and measure a Pony's rear-wheel horsepower and torque.
Here's how our test Mustang's...
Here's how our test Mustang's bone-stock 4.6 looked before our day of bolt-on surgery and here's the Two-Valve bullet with its upgrade parts in place. Everything in our selected group of parts can be installed by ambitious and mechanically skilled enthusiasts in about a day's time.