July 18, 2002

Who knew? Really. I mean, when the '96 GT arrived on the scene it was met by a collective yawn from Mustang enthusiasts. Ford gave them a long-stroke engine that made no torque and an overhead cam motor that didn't rev. It was a marvel of modern engineering.

Who knew that from these humble beginnings a legitimate performance car would emerge. Ford did prove one thing in '96: It doesn't matter where you put the cams, whether it's in the block or on top of the cylinder heads. If you've got asthmatic cylinder heads, you aren't going anywhere in a hurry.

By '99, Ford made sweeping changes to the 4.6-liter GT powerplant, the most important of which was a switch to the new "Power Improved" (or "Performance Improved" depending on who you ask) cylinder heads. The P.I. heads offer a dramatic increase in performance. Among other things, they use different shaped valves, a larger exhaust valve, and a revised combustion chamber. You even get more exhaust lift from the cams. In bone-stock trim, the new GTs are the fastest ever, quicker even than the fabled 5.0 H.0 versions.

The bottom line is the '99-newer cars make more horsepower, more torque and with the addition of forced induction, become real nightmares for the F-body freaks of the world. We were out to prove this when we invited the folks down for our annual modular motor shootout at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. We had supercharged Stangs, a nitrous-inhaling nasty and even a turbocharged terror. For good measure, we added Mark Coletti's '96 GT to the mix. If you recall, his was the car we used for our "Heading In The Right Direction" story in the December 2001 issue, a step-by-step piece on how to install the P.I. heads and cams on an early 4.6 Mustang.

Last month we brought you the 4-valve Cobras ("Snake Pit") and presented them in slowest-to-quickest order. This time around we've had a change of heart and decided the meanest machines would be shown first. Once again, we'd like to thank Jimmy Vaccaro and the rest of the gang at Super Stallions of the Net (www.superstallions.com). They helped us arrange for many of the cars that participated in our free-for-all and it would have been far less interesting without their presence.

The only repeat performer this year was last year's low ET champ, Jay Mingolelli. His Vortech supercharged ragtop ran a pair of frighteningly fast 11.23s at over 121 mph last time so we were anxious to see what improvements he'd made since. Among the newbies participating was Vaccaro himself. This was exciting because he'd just put the Bullitt intake on his ProCharged GT and though we had dyno numbers (see "Loading The Bullitt" in the February 2002 issue) we were anxious to see what it was worth at the track.

Think your GT or other 2-valve Mustang is bad to the bone? Let us know about it. If you think you've got what it takes and can be in Englishtown, N.J., in October of this year, send us a detailed (typed) description of your ride, as well as photographs, to MM&FF Modular Shootout, 299 Market St., Suite 200, Saddle Brook, N.J. 07663, or email them to mmff@mcmullenargus.com. You get extra credit if you have a '96-98 GT and want to show the author of this story that he doesn't know what he's talking about. We'd also like to see some hot natually aspirated entries, and some whacked-out Bullitts too.

Owner: Jimmy Vaccaro
Hometown: New York City
Car: 1999 35th Anniversary GT
Weight (with driver): 3620
Power Adder: Intercooled supercharger
Major Modifications: Procharger D-1SC, Crower cams, ported heads, Bullitt intake, Lentech AOD
Best Shootout ET/MPH: 10.32/129.02
Best ET/MPH Ever: same

We were absolutely dying to see this car run. Vaccaro's silver GT had just spun the rollers at LaRocca's Performance to the tune of 566 ponies and 520 lbs.-ft. and we knew it was capable of seriously low ETs. Heck, it ran pretty darn good without it.

On the first run off the street (and make no mistake, Vaccaro drove in all the way from Queens), it clipped a 10.77 at 125.44."It's a great street car. I drive it to and from Englishtown, Atco, Long Island Dragway and Cecil County," Vaccaro boasted. Thankfully, the interior was equipped with a legal cage and harnesses so his day could continue after the 10-second run.

Jim Chahalis from LaRocca's (Old Bridge, N.J.) assembled the short-block and he used JE Pistons, Manley Rods and a Cobra crank for reliability. Up top, a set of Crower cams with .531-in. lift, 292-degrees duration and a 112 centerline open and close the valves in the heads ported by Andrew Barrale. A set of 50 lb./hr. injectors and a Weldon 2025 pump ensure there is adequate fuel delivered to the blown 281.

A Lentech transmission with a very loose converter sends the 566 horses to the rear. It's been reliable and removes the worry of missed shifts from the equation.

On its second run, the car picked up a bunch, improving to 10.46 at 121.35. That, dear readers, is moving. After a break, Jimmy LaRocca added a new chip and that one worked the best. It clicked off a 10.32 at 129.02.Vaccaro was so fired up, he called it a day. He changed tires and went home, confident no one would beat his time. And he was right. In fact, the only 4-valve cars that ran quicker on this day (see "The Snake Pit," March 2002) were the full-on race cars of Joe Stewart, Reggie Burnette and Dave King. Now that's saying something about 2-valve 4.6 performance.

Owner: Mark Smith
Hometown: Oakdale, N.Y.
Car: 1999 Mustang GT
Weight (with driver): 3578
Power Adder: turbocharger
Major Modifications: TDC Stage II turbo, intercooler, ACCEL DFI, Pro torque converter
Best Shootout ET/MPH: 10.922/122.95
Best ET/MPH Ever: same

The car was assembled by Jade Performace and the DFI was tuned by Job Spetter Jr. of Turbo People (Hastings-On-Hudson, N.Y.), which could go a long way towards explaining its unreal performance. Helping put that power to the ground were a D&D tubular K-member with coil overs up front and MAC upper and lower control arms and M/T ET Drags in the rear. It runs 3.73 gears in the otherwise stock 8.8.

We expected mind-blowing numbers from Vaccaro's car; we didn't know what to expect from Smith's. It was the first street car we'd seen with Turbo Driven Concepts' Stage II kit. Furthering the mystery was the fact that except for DFI, an Aeromotive fuel system, 70mm TB and 80mm MAF, it was virtually unmolested. Sure, there was a TransGo shift kit, Pro Torque 3000 rpm converter and a few other goodies, but Smith swore the long-block was untouched.Which made the car's 10.922 at 122.95 on its first and only pass that much more remarkable. We say "only" because the car was so ordinary that it didn't have a single piece of safety equipment needed for the speed it was running--the driver didn't have so much as a long-sleeve shirt. Too bad, because we were pretty certain that it could have gone much faster.

"It drives like a stock car. It idles at 750 rpm," said Smith. "My goal is to have a 10-second turbo Mustang that runs on pump gas."Mission accomplished. The only question is, how far into the 10s can it ultimately go?

Owner: Jay Mingolelli Jr.
Hometown: Westbury, N.Y.
Car: 2000 Mustang GT convertible
Weight (with driver): 3304
Power Adder: supercharger
Major Modifications: S-trim Vortech, drag suspension, Cobra crankshaft, 10-point cage
Best Shootout ET/MPH: 11.02/120.83
Best ET/MPH Ever: 10.85/128

Mingolelli took home top honors last year and has made a bunch of changes to his ragtop so we expected big things this year. Alas, the best laid plans of mice, men and mod motor maniacs oft-times go astray. While he was quicker than last year, tuning gremlins kept him from bettering his previous low ET, which was 10.85.

The long-block was assembled by R&S Competition Engines (West Babylon, N.Y.) and is stock save for a Cobra crank and Pro Power springs. A Ford Racing intake modified to work with the P.I. heads takes in the charge from the Vortech, while JBA shorties expel it through a MAC 2.5-inch Pro Chamber H-pipe and mufflers. The computer's signal is altered for the better by a Diablo Sport chip.

Jay can take some consolation in the fact that his was the quickest stickshift 2-valve car in attendance. He bangs gears with a Pro-5.0 shifter and the clutch and pressure plate is from Star Performance Engineering. Weight is reduced via an Anthony Jones tubular K-member and Bogart wheels. Traction is improved thanks to Wolf Craft upper and lower control arms and rear sway bar.His first decent run of the day was his second pass overall, an 11.35 at 119.03. He followed that up with an 11.06 at 121.03 and then hit paydirt third time around: 11.02 at 120.83.

Owner: Paul's High Performance
Driver: Scott Baumgartner
Hometown: Jackson, Mich.
Car: 2001 Mustang GT
Weight (with driver): 3632
Power Adder: supercharger
Major Modifications: SQ Vortech, Aftercooler, Lentech AOD
Best Shootout ET/MPH: 11.607/114.93
Best ET/MPH Ever: same

While Scott Baumgartner may not own this car, he raced it all season long in Fun Ford Mod Motor and NMRA competition. One of Paul's High Performance's "Drag Pak" Mustangs, it definitely was a candidate for the unofficial Best Appearing Award, thanks to a healthy does of goodies from Classic Design Concepts, including the awesome shaker hood, front fascia and side pipes.

As a car that sees plenty of strip duty in the 11-second zone, PHP saw fit to have Miller Performance install a full cage, while owner Paul Svinicki added his shift lite, Auto Meter tach, boost, trans temp and fuel pressure gauge.A 70mm throttle body, 42-lb. injectors and 90mm mass air off a 2001 Lightning are used in conjunction with the SQ-trim Vortech pullied for 8-10 lbs. of boost. Svinicki, helped by Superchips, programmed the EEC.

The power is delivered through the factory automatic, which has been improved with a Lentech converter (2800 rpm stall) and shift kit.The 8.8 has been set up with 4.10 gears, a PHP axle brace, Moser axles and an Eaton carbon fiber posi unit.

Oddly enough, Scott ran his quickest time of the day, an 11.607 at 114.93, on his first pass. Not that it's odd considering the mineshaft quality air, but all the other players picked up over the course of the afternoon. He followed the .607 up with an 11.65/114.37, an 11.67 at 114.62 and an 11.69 at 114.58. While consistent, the mph was down from its best-ever 119 mph.

Owner: Mike Long
Hometown: Annville, Pa.
Car: 2000 Roush Stage 2
Weight (with driver): 3708
Power Adder: supercharger
Major Modifications: ProCharger P1-SC, BBK long-tube headers
Best Shootout ET/MPH: 12.61/109.94
Best ET/MPH Ever: same

This last-minute invitee turned out to be one of our favorites, if for no other reason than it was the only car running that day on normal street tires (as opposed to slicks, ET Streets or drag radials. Also, we liked the fact that it was a Roush Stage 2 model modified by the owner with a blower. We had gotten so caught up in the Stage 3 hoopla we almost forgot the Stage 2 existed. Long, an engineer with the transmission company that bears his family name, found the car as a leftover on a dealer lot. It was new, but carried a dent in the right fender. Once that was fixed, it was all his. He's added precious little to it because he thought it was just about perfect as it came from Roush.

"It has awesome turn-in quickness. It takes long sweepers as good as any car I know of," Long told us. "It has super quick steering response--almost too quick for the less experienced/less talented driver."The Roush ran a 12.84 at 109.26 right off the street, which impressed us a great deal, especially considering it has a blower, long-tube headers, a fuel pump and little else. Even the rear gears are standard issue 3.27s. The ProCharger P1-SC mades 12 psi of boost that is chilled by a 3-core intercooler. The car was tuned by LaRocca's Performance.Long's second run would prove to be his best, a 12.61 at 109.94, which he backed up with a 12.67 at 109.45. A couple more attempts were made, but the .61 would stand. Very impressive. A set of drag slicks and the ETs would have dropped like a bad stock.

Owner: Brian Oh
Hometown: Howard Beach, N.Y.
Car: 1998 Mustang GT
Weight (with driver):3504
Power Adder:supercharger
Major Modifications: Vortech S-trim, Bassani X-pipe, Precision Industries torque converter
Best Shootout ET/MPH:12.87/105.51
Best ET/MPH Ever: same

Defending the honor of pre-'99 GTs without Power Improved heads was Brian Oh of Howard Beach, Queens, U.S.A. There's nothing like being an automotive journalist, looking over a car's spec sheet and seeing ... nothing. After displacement (281 cubes), this bad boy was blank, informing us that the long-block was stone-stock. Oh, there's a K&N filter, 77mm Pro-M, Bassani X-pipe and Flowmasters, but that's all, folks.

Doing Oh's talking was an S-trim Vortech making 10 lbs. of boost. We like the fact, too, that the car was an AOD-E, with a Precision Industries 2800 rpm stall torque converter--it didn't even have a shift kit. In the rear, 3.73 gears multiplied the torque.

To make matters more interesting, this was a recent, untested combo. We'd find out what it was made of soon enough. First run: 13.06 at 104.26. Not bad. Next run? A 12.87 at 105.51. Pretty darn good, especially considering the tranny. A 12.88 proved its consistency. Not bad on drag radials.

"I've wanted a Mustang all my life. When I graduated college and got my job, the Mustang was the first thing I purchased," Oh said. Believe it or not, this is the only car he's ever owned. "Considering my commute was over an hour and a half to work, finding this car with an automatic was a godsend."Oh is well on his way to achieving his goal of a low- to mid-12-second daily driver.

Owner: Mark Coletti
Hometown: Harrison Towship, Mich.
Car: 1998 Mustang GT
Weight (with driver): 3636
Power Adder: supercharger
Major Modifications: Powerdyne blower, '99 P.I. heads, FRP shorties
Best Shootout ET/MPH: 13.34/95.55
Best ET/MPH Ever: same

Nothing like evaluating your tech stories after the fact. Coletti's GT was the subject of our P.I. head swap in the December 2001 issue. We were curious to see just how it would run at the track.

Coletti, an engineer with our favorite Dearborn-based car company, had Livernois Motorsports port, polish and install the heads, as well as the '99-up intake. The thing made serious horsepower on the chassis dyno after the heads were on--333.6 horses and 345 lbs.-ft. with only 6 psi of boost. But the combination of Powerdyne blower, higher-than-stock compression intake that resulted from the later-model heads on the '96-98 short-block and the 1500-below sea level air conditions proved more than his tune-up could handle.

The first run, made on the same street tires he drove to New Jersey on, resulted in a slipping and sliding 13.85 at 104.52. Switching to slicks, he ran a 13.73, but the mph went down to 98.55. His best pass, a 13.34 at 95.55, was a win some, lose some proposition. He was definitely headed in the right direction, ET-wise, but the plummeting mph indicated that he had definitely hurt something.

Coletti drove the car home, but a post-race autopsy revealed that the head gaskets had suffered a fatal blow (a moment of silence, please), and a bent connecting rod. We give him a ton of credit for having the guts not to trailer the car from Michigan. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. This was one of them.

Owner: Susan Bodnar
Car: 1999 Mustang GT
Weight (with driver): N/A
Power Adder: nitrous oxide
Major Modifications: Nitrous Express single stage kit, 3.73 gears
Best Shootout ET/MPH: N/A
Best ET/MPH Ever: 12.26/110

Susan Bodnar tried to fly too close to the sun. Her Chrome Yellow GT was doing incredibly well with the 100-horse nitrous pill we installed back in the July '01 issue ("Nitrous Emergency"), but like any good horsepower junkie she wanted to try the 150-horse jet.

While we laud her enthusiasm, her execution was, well, nearly executional. There was a loud popping on the starting line and not much more. Bodnar's intake manifold ended up in "about a hundred pieces" and all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put it together again. Her day was shot.Still, with the correct tuneup, we're certain this would be an 11-second car, stock except for slicks, gears and the juice. Not bad for a fully laden GT with an automatic.