Tom Wilson
July 8, 2011
Photos By: Ford Motor Company

"So we did a stereo lith model of an early prototype [intake manifold], and just that alone, bolted that onto the engine and then I took David Pericak out for a drive--he's the chief engineer for the Mustang--and the character of the engine totally changed. You couldn't feel any of that midrange torque loss. It just felt really linear, but the top end of the engine came alive. It just uncorked it. I mean, it was like, 'Book it! It's in the program!' It was like absolutely no doubt."

"This was about the May [2009] timeframe, and he said, 'I want an engine.' So, we had started discussions in January. In April, we drove this manifold that we had already prototyped up. In May he wanted an engine, so Tim [Vaughn] and the guys set about building something that had most of the content we had talked about, just from the prototype standpoint. At that time, we'd take a stock 5.0-liter head and CNC port it based on the port that Todd Brewer did."

Keeping with the accelerated RoadRunner development, as soon as the team had an engine to drive they took it to the track, and even got on with a bit of marketing. "We got some of the CAD profile changes, and we took that out and did that event in early August 2009 with Parnelli Jones," Mike recalled. "If you've seen the Boss 302 video, you've seen the development car out at Laguna [Seca]. ...last year [2010] was spent polishing the development, all the tough little details. The real activity, January to August of 2009, that is when the design was made and finalized."

If finalizing the design of an all-new engine in just eight months sounds aggressive, what came next after the Laguna Seca demonstration was unprecedented.

"Everyone [was] getting all excited. I came back [to Dearborn] and Brian Wolfe and Jamie [Allison] pulled us into the offices of Ford Racing and said, 'We want to go racing' and we were like, 'That's great!' Then, "'We want to go racing in January.'"

We hadn't built any durability engines or anything like that at that time," explained a still awed Mike. All he had was computer data that said he had a good engine, plus the single hand-built prototype that had done well so far, but nothing had been proven. Test engines built faithfully to the CAD files hadn't even been assembled. But just prior to Thanksgiving weekend, RoadRunner' Lead Program Engineer Tim Vaughn delivered the first production-spec engine to Ford Racing.

"And then we had a regular flow of engines and we got--what was it? Five engines?" Mike said. "But we literally hadn't run any durability testing at all on a dyno whatsoever. They [Ford Racing] got the first full prototype built, before even the vehicle team did. [It takes] you know, really good engineers in the company to put something like that together and go racing for an entire season and not have a failure. Be right the first time....That was really cool to actually race them before we actually did any of the development work."

As Mike put it, "It was fantastic, and a real confidence builder, too. And we were able to take the data from the Daytona race, then put that in our dynamic cell in the dyno building and run that simulation on the dyno, transiently."

Besides running the exact racing profile on the dyno in real time, the RoadRunner team subtracted all the idling and other low-load portions of the race experience, to "shorten it down to the stuff that's going to do damage to it," as Mike put it. This allowed accelerated wear testing, the equivalent of 275 Grand Am or 150 Daytona 500 races, without a failure.

"No race team would ever go that long without rebuilding it," Mike said. "So no customer is ever going to be able to break it from a fatigue standpoint, unless they start doing things like raising the rev limiter to 9,000 rpm or something silly."