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2004-2009 Ford Mustang Model Comparison - Jack Of All Trades

After Nearly 50 Years In Production, The Mustang Proves It Truly Is A . . .

By , Photography by And as Credited, Ford Motor Company,

'05 Ford Mustang GT
Rob Scinto and Melissa Popham
Simi Valley, CA

Rob and his wife, Melissa, bought this car the third week the 05's were out, and Ron proudly told us they were racing it before they made a single payment. Bone stock (and practically off the showroom floor), it ran 13.81 at 101 mph, but now he clicks off 12.20-second passes at 113 mph through the stock clutch and riding on the stock Pirelli all-season tires. Ron says he's chased down a few GT500s too, and you'd never know the car's been hopped up unless you see under the hood. Even cooler is the fact that his wife still drives the car every day. How do you shave a second-and-a-half off your e.t. and still retain everyday street manners? Ron shared his simple but effective recipe.

'08 Ford Mustang GT
BDX No. 10
Barber Ford
Ventura, CA

Allan Crocket is a racer, a driving instructor for Redline Time Attack, and the guy behind the Barber Driving Experience. He works out of Barber Ford, a dealership in Ventura, and developed a unique package for Mustang buyers who wanted an emissions-compliant track-ready car straight off the lot. Crocket's goals were to build a car that could run with a Porsche Cayman S (the ultimate track day car for the road race guys) and cost half as much. He came close on both accounts. For a price of $11,000 plus the price of the car, the Barber Driving Experience (BDX) Mustangs will embarrass cars costing a lot more.

"The key is taking an integrated approach in building the car. Every change you make affects something else on the car," he tells us. Where drag racers build horsepower, road racers (and weekend canyon carvers) build cornering speed. What gets you through the corners faster? A better suspension, lighter weight, and better brakes, and Crocket recommends doing all three in that order. He says the S197 Mustangs are great cars to start with and are much better than the Fox-body and SN-95 cars. The chassis is a lot stiffer. He speaks with firsthand knowledge, too, being the owner of a track-only Fox.

This car is BDX No. 10 owned by Todd Anderson of Ventura, and yes, it is a dedicated race car. He added long-tube headers, racing seats, and a fire-suppression system. And while the ride is definitely firmer than stock, the car is still comfortable enough that Todd could drive it to work if he wanted to. If he were to complain about the commute, it would likely be because of the ear-splitting exhaust (it's really loud-110 dB at WOT!) rather than for getting beat up by the ride.

Lighter weight and better brakes are both illustrated in this picture. "The stock wheels weigh 31 pounds, and the Shelby [GT500] wheels weigh 34," Crocket says. These Konig Beyond wheels weigh 20. A Stoptech front brake kit also contributes to the weight loss regimen. Aluminum hats and calipers replace the heavy, cast-iron stock parts and combine to save 21 more pounds per side. They also work way better. Crocket says the stock front brakes were only good for about five hot laps on the track. The stock rear brakes are OK, so he leaves them alone.

The last source of weight savings came courtesy of an aluminum driveshaft. It weighs 22 pounds, compared with the stock one's portly 44 pounds. "In all I was able to save a total of 122 pounds of spinning mass versus a stock GT," Crocket says. That type of weight savings is free horsepower-the engine has to turn less mass to get the car moving.

So what's all this cost? Less than we were expecting, actually. The wheels sell for about $200 each, the brake kit costs $2,995, and the suspension kit costs nearly the same at $2,195. Also be sure to factor in about $550 for an aluminum driveshaft and about that much more for a set of performance tires. Note that the transmission tunnel will need some clearancing to make the driveshaft fit.

Crocket stressed to us the need for adjustability in the suspension, "Track conditions are constantly changing, and the driver needs to be able to adjust his car accordingly." To that end, the components he selected for the BDX cars all have some measure of adjustability. The spring and shock package is from KW Coilovers. The dampers can be tuned for rebound and compression, while the car's ride height is adjustable via a threaded collar under the springs. The sway bars can be tuned to offer more or less roll resistance based on the length of the bar. Three holes are located at the ends of the bars (not seen in this photo). The roll resistance changes depending on which of the three holes are used to attach the bar to the control arms. The Steeda Panhard bar is also adjustable. If the ride height is raised or lowered, the length of the Panhard bar needs to be adjusted to compensate, but the stock bar is not adjustable, and this throws the rear out of true with the front suspension. You need an adjustable Panhard bar if your car is lowered. Similarly, Crocket chose a Steeda adjustable upper control arm that allows the pinion angle to be changed. "Higher road speeds don't like too much negative pinion angle," he says. The lower control arms are stock, front and rear.

Build Your Own
It was our intention to illustrate two things with this article: that the S197 Mustang is an excellent plat-form to build on, and that a few well-chosen modifications can give you competition-spanking performance on a relatively modest budget. Our $10,000 build examples may seem steep, but put that cost into perspective. Spread out over five years, Rob and Melissa's Vortech-supercharged '05 is a very affordable build. Plus, she gets to drive it during the week, and the two of them race it on the weekends. Their car has many years of life left in it, too. Mod motors will easily run over 200,000 miles as long as the owner sticks to the maintenance schedule.

Similarly, when buying a track car, one might question the wisdom of putting $10,000 worth of brake and suspension parts on a Mustang, just so you can hang with a Porsche in the corners. Why not just buy the Porsche? Factor in all the other costs of owning and operating the two cars-from maintenance items (like filters, plugs, and tires) to insurance premiums-and the Mustang is the clear winner. Projected out over several years, Allan's BDX Mustangs will cost their owners far less than half the cost of the Porsche. Plus the Mustang is a lot easier to work on.

In our opinion, the S197 Mustangs represent the best of the breed. They are well built, versatile, and fun cars-truly a blank canvas waiting for you to create your masterpiece. We're already logged on to eBay, what are you waiting for?

KW Suspension
1075 North Avenue
CA  93657
Shelby Automobiles
6755 Speedway Blvd.
Las Vegas
NV  89115
1805 S. Wilmington Ave.
CA  90220
Konig Wheels
121 Express St.
NY  11803
701 Arcturus Avenue
CA  93033
Vortech Superchargers
1650 Pacific Avenue
CA  93033
Ford Racing Performance Parts
15021 Commerce Drive S
Suite 200
MI  48120
Barber Ford
Bassani Manufacturing
2900 E. La Jolla
CA  92806
Fays2 Suspensions
Steeda Autosports
1351 NW Steeda Way
Pompano Beach
FL  33069
Redline Time Attack
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