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1988 Ford Mustang 5.0L Muscle Car - Make 600 HP On Pump Gas

Take A Stock 5.0L Ford Short-Block, Bolt On A Set Of Aluminum Heads, A Roller Cam, And A ProCharger Centrifugal, And You Too Can

Photography by Jeff "Smith,"

'There are a number of a good reasons that the old pushrod 5.0L Ford engine is so popular with car crafters. On a good day you can buy a used motor without the EFI for less than $200. The '85 and later Mustang engines come with forged pistons, the engine has an outstanding bore-to-stroke configuration, and the '86 and later packages come with a hydraulic roller cam. Add this all up and it makes for a great foundation for a V-8 power combo. A couple of years ago, Glad tripped over a wrecked Mustang GT for $700, equipped with a 5.0L engine that will eventually find a home in our '67 road racer Mustang. But first, we decided to see how much power we could push through this little 302ci Ford. The plan was classic Car Craft. We'd baseline the engine with a carburetor, stuff a centrifugal blower on it, and praise whatever survived. But because we're powermongers, we decided that was too easy. So we decided to add a set of heads and a bigger cam for more naturally aspirated gusto and then jam the blower on top of that for the ultimate power statement. True to its Blue Oval heritage, our little 20-year-old Ford proved itself gutsy enough to make 392 hp normally aspirated and a criminal 605 big ones with the blower. Those are the peak numbers, but equally impressive lessons were in how we got there. It was the perfect victimless crime.

The Backstory

Like any good junkyard revival, this 5.0L Ford ended its first life when its previous owner tested the laws of physics by trying to move a large tree with his '88 Mustang. The Fox-bodied Ford lost the contest, and we picked up the pieces. The beauty of this purchase was that we scored not only a complete engine with its EFI intact, but also the AOD trans and a 2.73-geared 8.8 rearend that we swapped into our '67 Mustang. So we started with a used but healthy 302ci small-block with its advertised 9.0:1 compression ratio, tiny iron heads with 1.74/1.46-inch valves, and an equally mild stock hydraulic roller cam with barely 0.440 inch of lift. Previously, this engine had participated in a flat-tappet cam test that ended unexpectedly, but it came out of it with a set of screw-in studs, guideplates, good valvesprings, and a set of Comp 1.6:1 Magnum roller-tipped rocker arms. While this may have played a small part in the overall-stock engine's power curve, it's likely that these parts did little more than just improve durability. For induction purposes, we canned the EFI and went with an Edelbrock Performer RPM dual-plane, a Barry Grant Speed Demon 650-cfm carburetor, and a set of Westech's dyno 131/44-inch headers with no mufflers. Finally, we enlisted an MSD Ford billet distributor fitted with the proper gear to run against the factory steel hydraulic roller cam gear. We used this same distributor throughout the entire dyno test since the Comp hydraulic roller cam also uses a hard-steel gear.

Oil and Water Don't Mix

Our dyno session with Steve Brul at Westech was not without its self-inflicted damage. Once the engine was on the dyno, the initial warm-up produced a projectile-vomited spray of milky spooge out the breather tube when the engine filled up with water from a poor intake-manifold seal. The cleanup and postmortem took an hour, and we were careful to install new Fel-Pro intake gaskets and religiously torque the bolts in proper sequence. When the engine gushed the second time, we decided to swap intake manifolds along with a third set of gaskets. This time we were successful.

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