Rob Kinnan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
February 1, 1999

Step By Step

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There's a big difference between car features and true car tests. A feature is just a photo expose showing a car and a bunch of its details, highlights and inner secrets, whereas a test is just that. Along with all the pretty pictures come no-bull performance numbers, obtained by the magazine staff at a race track. We know that's what most of you really want to know, and we're with you. The photos are fine, but tell us what the car really does!

When Dario Orlando at Steeda called us up to ask if we were interested in checking out two of his latest Steeda Mustangs, we answered "Sure, but only if we can really check 'em out--on a dragstrip." Never one to back down from a challenge, Dario replied "OK. How's Thursday sound? At Moroso?"

He called our bluff, and next thing we knew, we were cruising north-bound on the Florida turnpike with a dark green Steeda Q convertible and a screaming yellow blown Steeda Cobra, bound for Moroso Motorsports Park in West Palm Beach.

I was given the enviable task of shoeing the green car for the 45-minute drive to Moroso. Complementing this high-performance convoy was Steeda's white SCCA T-1 race car driven by one of Steeda's guys (more on that car--much more--in a future issue). Dario drove his arrest-me-red blown Ranger pickup, and bringing up the rear was another of Steeda's guys in my rag-tag '87 coupe. This trip undoubtedly had the big-rig CB radio waves full of comments. The caravan moved at somewhere north of legal speeds, faster still at times, and was a beautifully coordinated snake of "follow me through traffic" driving. Gotta love this job!

The view out the windshield of the Q convertible was rivaled only by the sumptuous tan leather Recaros, nicely finished wood-grain dash, Mach 460 sound system, and the knowledge that even at highway speeds, blazing the tires was as easy as matting the throttle and waiting for the 351's manifold pressure to build. Boost is so yummy.

What exactly is a Steeda Q? It's a Mustang with all of the traditional Steeda suspension hardware (such as subframe connectors, strut tower brace, control arms, stiffer springs, and Tokico shocks and struts), with the added bonus of 49 ci more than any Mustang rolling off of Ford's assembly line. Under the hood is no longer an SOHC modular powerplant, but rather a real, honest-to-goodness 351W with aluminum Motorsport "X" heads, JE forged pistons, and a factory Cobra intake manifold. This particular Q also had the good fortune of being outfitted with a Vortech S-Trim supercharger, pulleyed at 12 pounds of boost. The trans is the dependable T45, and the 8.8 rearend is stuffed with 3.73 gears. The rear wheels receive a monster 530 hp and 532 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to annihilate them with just a blip of the throttle.

Steeda will pretty much build a car any way you want it, and the owner of this convertible Q specified the full body treatment, including the cool Steeda Dual Scoop fiberglass hood, and interior upgrades (leather Recaro SRDs and woodgrain dash appliques) to create a one-of-a-kind ragtop sure to impress even the snootiest of snobs at the local country club. It's also nice to know that their mega-buck exotic cars would get drilled by this li'l ol' Mustang.

Once at Moroso, it only took one pass on the street tires to conclude that they were hopeless with this much power. Even the Nitto drag radials wouldn't quite hook up the horsepower. Slipping the clutch and modulating the throttle allowed the tires to just haze coming out of the hole, but once the car got farther down the track (and out of the VHT), they went up in smoke, especially on the gear changes. We wanted to bolt on some slicks, but Dario didn't feel like grenading the stock 8.8 rearend and then having to go fetch a trailer to get the car back to the shop, so we did our passes on the drag radials. But that's not a slam against the car. The 8.8 rearend is dicey at best with this much power and slicks, but on street tires it'll probably last forever. If you can't hook up the power, the rearend doesn't take that much of a beating. Think of low traction and tire spin as a sort of fuse to save the rearend.

After a few passes to optimize tire pressure and the burnout technique, we got the car down to a 12.32 at 120 mph, with a 1.93 60-foot time. As the 60-foot and mph numbers show, the car would be a solid mid-11-second performer with a pair of slicks. And as the speedometer showed on my drive up, triple digit highway speeds are as effortless as tying your shoes, and the drivability is as easy and nonconfrontational as a bone-stock Mustang. Oh yeah, I'll take two, please!

Next up was our cover model, the yellow Cobra. Decked in black stripes and outfitted with the stock 17-inch Cobra wheels, the only other thing that gives away the performance of this car is the yellow Steeda windshield banner, known all over Florida as a warning sign to wannabe hotshots. See the Steeda nomenclature, and you best keep moving unless you've got something under the hood.

For this particular car, Steeda left the already-powerful Cobra DOHC motor's internals alone, preferring to make power the new-fashioned way--with a supercharger. An S-Trim Vortech, to be exact, dialed in to 9 pounds of boost. Other additions are Motorsport headers, a 77mm Pro-M, a Bassani X-pipe, and Ultra Flow muffs. It's all channeled through a T45 (of course) and 3.73 gears in the stock rearend. The Dynojet roller shows 410 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque which, like the green Q, means this thing has no trouble destroying a set of tires in an afternoon.

On the track, the yellow car behaved much like the green car. A little spin on launch, and more on the Second and Third gear shifts. On Nitto drag radials, we ran a 12.30 at 117 mph, with a miserable 2.30 60-foot time. But like the green car, this Cobra is about more than just straight-line speed. The full Steeda suspension catalog resides under the sheetmetal, making the car a dream in the twisties. Likewise, the comfy black leather interior has been upgraded with a pair of A-pillar-mounted, white-face Auto Meters (for boost and fuel pressure) and a Steeda shifter.

Though I spent an entire day with the cars, the time was up all too quickly. I like my little '87 5.0 coupe, but driving it back home was depressing. What had originally felt like a solid, quick car now seemed more like a rattling slug after a day in the superb Steeda Mustangs. But then, I can't really complain. A great day driving fantastic cars, and I got paid for it! I can think of worse assignments.