Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
April 1, 2004
Contributers: Tom Wilson Photos By: Tom Wilson

It's been said that the true mark of fame is when only one name is necessary. Shaq and Britney need no intro in popular culture. Likewise, say SEMA to those in the performance parts industry, and you don't have to say Specialty Equipment Market Association or denote you likely mean the major-league parts-show shindig in Las Vegas every November.

The huge, four-day, four-hall SEMA show can no longer be seen by a single person-there are too many booths and too many parts to eyeball. With a bit of specialization, however, it's possible to bypass the neon light ven-dors and the pickup bedliner folks and zero in on Mustangs and Fords, as we do. Then SEMA becomes a great way to see what's up for next year as manufacturers trot out their new stuff.

For Ford fans, 2003 was a mixed bag. There were definitely interesting parts debuting-especially for the Focus-but there was also some restraint in the market in anticipation of the '05 Mustang. And, as the SEMA show is all about the newest stuff, there were few Mustang show cars on hand (just wait until next year). Also remarkable was the immense footprint Ford corporate has chosen to make at SEMA. With booth area at least three times larger than anyone else and a rumored budget of $2 million for the show, Ford was determined to completely outclass the competition, which it did with new show cars, a couple transporter loads of his-torical Fords, and the expected Ford GT turning away on its lazy Susan.

We hate to throw stones at Ford (again), but last year it cut back its parts on display from FRPP in favor of show cars. While this year's display did devote considerable high-quality real estate to the parts program, it was still mainly devoid of parts, at what is a parts-oriented show. Maybe next year.

As an in-between year for Ford parts, there was no real theme to the new aftermarket offerings. BBK and Trick Flow brought out significant new 5.0 intake manifolds, '03-'04 Mustang Cobra heat exchangers were a hot topic, and Focus parts continue to multiply (the exhaust market finally seems established, so we're seeing more hard parts such as camshafts and connecting rods).

But as the photos and captions show, there was plenty of new stuff to go around. And just wait until next year!

We know the factory intercooler cores on the '03-'04 Cobras and current Lightning trucks are quite efficient, but an easy way to improve their ability to chill inlet air temps, thus compensating for big boost, is to add a high-capacity heat exchanger. Afco Racing Products [(800) 208-2121;] was offering direct-replacement aluminum units for the aforementioned vehicles with prices in the mid-$400 range. The company doesn't promise huge temperature decreases, rather a lower stabilized temperature across the board, which should allow a bit more timing with big boost. And that means even more power from these amazing rides.

Jim Summers at ProCharger [(913) 338-2886;] pushed the idea of swapping an ATI blower for the '03 Cobra's stock Eaton supercharger. The resulting Stage 1 prototype drew large interest at the show because it was unexpected, seemingly extravagant at first glance, yet clearly capable of big numbers and making good sense thanks to the purpose-built blower engine in the Cobra. According to Dan Jones of ATI, a P-1SC2 self-contained blower head blowing through the stock aftercooler is used in Stage 1 and is good out of the box for 575 rwhp, with an upper limit of 650 rwhp. The Stage 2 version uses an F-Series blower and an air-to-air intercooler in addition to the stock water-to-air unit, to provide 22 pounds of boost and all the power desired. The Stage 2 was in development at show time, so details were few. Expect mid-$3,000 pricing on Stage 1 kits and a mid-$5,000 tag for the Stage 2.

Baer Braking Systems
With the availability of the superior C5 Corvette caliper from PBR, Baer [(602) 233-1411;] has updated its late-model Mustang offerings with this stiffer, larger-padded caliper that uses pin drives to dispense with the pesky spring-clip pad attachments. It bolts directly to the '95-and-later SN-95 spindle-no bracket necessary-and clears nearly all 17-inch wheels. Sold as a front pair with slotted, drilled, and zinc'd rotors, the brakes cost $895. Deduct $100 if you can live with plain rotors. Another late-model product is a 13.250-inch rear Eradispeed +1 rotor for 17-inch wheels. Complete with two rotors, brackets, and hardware (no calipers) the kit is $245. Baer also reported its PBR caliper and rotor system for early Mustangs with 15-inch wheels is selling like crazy at $1,195 (add $250 for two-piece rotors).

Bassani Xhaust
Bassani [(866) 782-3283;] has already nearly exhausted the Ford scene in header, X-pipe, H-pipe, and after-cat coverage, so the company has been updating its designs. To reduce leaks at the head flange, Bassani now machines a small groove at the flange and uses four individual seals instead of a typical gasket. This eases installation and reduces leakage. The big news we've hinted at in these pages before is the company's new metallic catalytic converters. Said to be more efficient from an emissions and power standpoint, these cats are also quite compact. The units took home Primedia's tech-nology award for Best Street Performance product.

BBK Performance
We showed you BBK's [(909) 735-2400;] new $499 5.0 intake manifold last month ("Early Warning," p.130) ; the company showed it to the rest of the world at SEMA (along with Honda and Chevy LS1 intakes). There still was no upper casting at the show, however. BBK also debuted its short-tube 4.6 header that we detailed last month. These headers use a cast-steel section for better placement of the 151/48-inch primary tubes, and preliminary testing indicates these are short-tube 4.6 headers that really make power. They are $299 chromed or $399 with a polished ceramic coating.

Borla Performance Industries
Borla [(805) 986-8600; www.borla .com] showed off a trick, FR500-style exhaust system for '03 Cobras. The S-Type system is designed specifically for the Cobra's supercharged engine. The company is also promising a Cat-Back system for the new Ford GT. We certainly wouldn't put anything short of a stainless steel system on our $150,000 supercar.

Carrillo Rods
Now owned by the giant Dover Corporation, Carrillo Rods [(949) 498-1800;] is looking to broaden its market from its typical Formula One, Winston Cup, and extreme high-end amateur race market. So, in addition to its time-honored H-beam rods, Carrillo released slightly less expensive ($160 per rod) A-beam units in popular small-block and 4.6 modular sizes.

Comp Cams
With 4.6 Xtreme Energy cams new in its catalog last year, Comp Cams [(901) 795-2400;] stepped up its modular game this year with a fresh, beehive-style 4.6 valve-spring. It's rated to 0.550-inch valve lift and will fit the stock spring pocket without machining. Four-Valve V-8 springs have also been developed, but obtaining cam cores has been problematic. Expect to see Cobra cams from Comp soon, however. Another new item is a slip-in 351W roller cam for flat tappet blocks (six part numbers here for street, strip, 4x4, road course, and so on). Comp also debuted an XR line of Focus 2.0 Zetec cams at SEMA. Ranging from mild street to wild race, the cams span 220 to 236 duration at 0.050 inch of valve lift. Nitrided for durability, the Zetec cams work with the stock valvetrain and are designed as "drop-in" pieces.

Crane Cams
Valvetrain gear is obviously the star of the show at Crane [(386) 252-1151;], so the company's new shaft-mount 5.0 roller rockers and 4.6 camshafts were our first targets. The rockers offer increased stability at an affordable price, while the 4.6 cams are optimized for the '99-and-later PI cylinder heads. But it was the electronic gear that caught most people's attention. Crane has long been in the ignition busi-ness, and it has added a trick optical distributor to its lineup. This piece reduces the number of working mech-anical parts with optics and electronics, which makes this unit ultra-accurate. Crane has also moved into electronic tuning with new handheld flash programmers and chips designed to tune up a car for-among other things-a Crane Cam.

Currie Enterprises
Long known for its robust 9-inch rearends, Currie Enterprises [(714) 528-6957;] is expanding its lineup with complementary parts, such as these Currietrac Adjustable Control Arms. The arms feature rebuildable joints, urethane bushings, and a 30-degree range of motion.

Eagle Specialty Products
A bevy of new internally balanced Ford cranks were the news at Eagle Specialty Products [(662) 796-7373;]. A cast 351W unit in 3.700- and 4.000-inch strokes is the price leader at $229. In more expensive steel, Eagle offered another 351W crank, this time in 3.500-, 3.750-, and 4.000-inch strokes for $589. A 302 version of the steel crank is $499 and available in 3.250-, 3.400-, and 3.470-inch strokes. All these cranks use 2.100-inch rod journals and are available now.

Factory Five Racing
Cobra roadsters never go out of style, but they do get new engines. Factory Five Racing's [(508) 291-3443;] kit, which uses a donor Mustang for its mechanicals, was showing a new modular engine version. As does the well-known 5.0 version, the modular engine kit uses a late-model Mustang for its entire powertrain and many other bits. Expect an approximate $2,000 premium for the modular engine variety over the 5.0 version.

Flaming River
Known primarily for its manual steering racks and replacement steering shafts, Flaming River [(440) 826-4488;] now offers the Sportsman Power Rack Kit, which includes a quick-ratio power steering rack, a steering shaft, and all the necessary mounting hardware. The company also offers a new bumpsteer kit.

Larger aftercooler radiators for '03 Mustang Cobras were found from most of those in the heat-exchanger business. Fluidyne [(888) 358-4396;] was showing its prototype, finished immediately before the show. The three-row unit measures 311/44 inches thick overall and should retail around $350. Substantial charge-air temp reductions were claimed. Other notables included a Lightning cooler and a 5.0 radiator for early Mustang conversions.

JBA Headers
Mid-length headers is where JBA [(619) 229-7797;] is differing itself from the Mustang exhaust herd. Claiming the power benefits of a full-length header, but without the installation and clearance hassles, JBA introduced 151/48-inch and 131/44-inch midlengths for late-model 4.6 GTs at SEMA, along with new V-6 short-tube headers. Pricing was not available, but a picture of J. holding a new set of tri-Y headers for his beloved FE engines was.

Hard parts were the big Ford news at Holley subsidiary Lunati [(901) 365-0950;]. The heavy hitters were new 4340 steel crankshafts for 302 and 351W engines. Various stroke combinations are available for street and race applications. Lunati also has several new Street Race forged rods good for up to 450 hp.

MagnaFlow Performance Exhaust
Titanium is just one of the things coming from MagnaFlow [(949) 858-5900;], as in a lightweight, straight-through, high-dollar system for GTs in early 2004. In the meantime, new stainless steel systems are available for '02-'03 SVT Foci and '00-'03 ZX3s, ZX5s, and sedans, all with a 4-inch polished tip and about a 5hp gain. Also available are Tru-X X-pipes in 2.25-, 2.50-, and 3-inch diameters. These are used as X-pipes and inside MagnaFlow's mufflers, including the new Lightning/Harley Davidson stainless system that gives a 16.6hp gain on Lightnings, according to MagnaFlow.

Mahle Motorsport
We found Lee Morse, late of Ford SVO (nee FRPP), in the Mahle [(888) 255-1942;] booth. High-dollar, high-quality pistons are what Mahle is all about. A German company with OEM roots in Porsche and so on, Mahle's North American arm in Fletcher, North Carolina, is an aftermarket-only piston specialist. In fact, it is the OEM supplier for the Ford GT pistons. The company offers Ford small-block and modular pistons in all dish, dome, and valve-relief combinations. All pistons are coated for durability and performance, including an overall phosphate coating to counter pin-bore galling and ring micro-welding, hence the dark color. Mahle uses lightweight 1.5x1.5x3mm ring packages, and makes its own rings, pins, and pistons. Typically they weigh 30 to 40 grams less than the competition, Lee says, and with rings, pins, and clips retail for $599 per set.

The electric water pump special-ists at Meziere [(800) 208-1755;] have the small-block world covered already, so they filled out their line this year with two new pumps for 460s. Each in the $400 range, the pumps fit different front-engine dress arrangements. There is also a new water outlet suitable for small-blocks at around $60. A billet-aluminum and O-ring part, its main claim is it matches the color and anodizing of the Meziere pumps for a cleaner look.

Mickey Thompson
You knew it was coming sooner or later, and Mickey Thompson [(330) 928-9092;] finally decided to go after the highly competitive drag radial market with its new ET Street Radial. This DOT-approved tire is said to maintain good street manners while providing excellent traction. It will soon be available in eight sizes, including 15-, 16-, and 17-inch diameters.

Fords are gaining a higher pro-file at Moroso [(203) 453-6571;]. The company has several new Ford part numbers, but the most significant additions were a pack of new oil pans, including parts for early and late small-blocks as well as 4.6 and 5.4 modulars.

Mr. Gasket
Aftermarket giant Mr. Gasket [(216) 688-8300;] had an enormous number of new products on display at SEMA, but its Lakewood division scored the most hits, offering some trick, easily adjustable upper control arms for '79-'03 Mustangs. They can be adjusted with one wrench, and you don't have to remove them. Lakewood also has a smart clutch fork boot for its line of scattershields. This boot keeps out the dirt and moisture without obstruction clutch operation. Right now it's only available for Brand-C applications.

MSD Ignition
Those tired of hunting around the basement of their race cars for rpm chips they dropped will appreciate MSD Ignition's [(915) 857-5200;] new digital window switch. Plugging in the on or off rpm is as simple as pushing a button. This spring, also look for a line of alternators from MSD. Available in 105/130/160-amp outputs and direct plug-in or one-wire configurations, the alternators will retail in the $300-$350 range. The ignition giant also showed off a laptop programmable launch boost controller, which should find favor with turbocharged Mustang racers.

Nitrous Express
We've seen nitrous bottle heaters before, but never a heater and cooler. This Fire and Ice Bottle Pressure Controller from Nitrous Express [(940) 767-7694;] is said to maintain bottle pressure at plus or minus 5 degrees of its setting. It's fully automated and microprocessor controlled. A new high-flow bottle valve was another new product from NX.

Nitto Tire
The big news from Nitto [(714) 252-0007;] is the arrival of the long-awaited 305/35ZR-18 tire for the rear of late-model Mustangs. This will be especially good news for those running the 555RII road racing/open track compound. It is designed to mate with the 285/35ZR-18 front.

Proto Topline
Just when you thought you had a handle on all the small-block Ford cylinder heads, we discover another one. Aussie speed maven Pro Topline [] now offers three cylinder head versions in either cast-iron or aluminum. The major differences between the heads are intake runner volumes (180, 200, or 215 cc), combustion chamber volume (58 or 64 cc), and intake valve diameters (2.02 or 2.08 inches). Also of note is Pro Topline offers a number of overhead-cam heads, including a Focus head. Other companies tell us these are difficult to produce, so Pro Topline might have a leg up on getting us that first aftermarket modular head for the masses.

Roush Performance
Roush Performance [(734) 466-6236;] is the aftermarket parts department of the giant Roush Industries. After years of a quiet presence in the aftermarket, the company is stepping up in a major way, beginning with a full line of 302 and Windsor-based stroker crate engines. Ranging from a 340hp 306 to a 550hp 427 Windsor, these new engines offer premium innards at premium prices. Roush has also added a tuner Focus to its vehicle lineup, as well as a Focus turbo kit and a Roots-style blower for 5.4 pickups.

Just to make sure it was covered, Saleen [(949) 597-4900; www.saleen .com] had different cars on display in the BASF and Pirelli booths, as a prop during a Ford press event and up in the air on this Revolution four-post hoist. This was also the newest Saleen-the Focus N2O-which will soon hit the market. Although the car is fitted with the expected Saleen bodywork and twiddle-bits, the big news is a preplumbed nitrous system to boost power to 250 hp. The car will be sold without a bottle, but with all the tough parts nicely plumbed. Thus, all the owner need do is separately purchase the bottle, sign where it says the warranty is void, and then have at it.

Stainless Steel Brakes
Owners of SN-95 and newer Mustangs have all the luck when it comes to braking. Stainless Steel Brakes [(716) 759-8666;] showed off this new caliper upgrade for said vehicles, which packs three pistons measuring 45 mm each. This upgrade is said to significantly improve the braking power over the stock Cobra system.

Trick Flow
We'd never guess there would have been two all-new 5.0 intake manifolds at SEMA, but Trick Flow [(330) 630-1555;] had such an animal, and an animal it looks to be. With obvious attention to airflow detail, the new short-runner, large-plenum intake has a 4.6 Cobra look to it. Reports are the high rpm power from this intake is Cobra-like as well, and torque doesn't suffer much either. We'll have a full test on this exciting new design shortly. Trick Flow also released a 4.6 upper elbow for the GT bolt-on crowd, along with high-port short-tube headers.

Though it wasn't displaying at the show, TTC-Tremec did have one of its new gearboxes on display in the Mcleod [(714) 630-2764] booth. This new five-speed is dubbed the TKO 500 or 600, depending on the input shaft and First-gear ratio. These new boxes are good for 500 or 600 lb-ft of torque-duh. The 600 features a 2.92 First gear, but both feature three-pad steel forks, one-piece countershafts, and 4615 steel gears. They also feature mechanical and electronic speedo hookups and multiple shifter positions for more flexible chassis fitment. The new units will be available by the time you read this, and they will supercede the former TKO and TKO II boxes.

New products were as popular as purple in the Zex [(888) 817-1008;] booth. This Comp Cams subsidiary offered a new direct-port system, a new plate system, and a trick LED nitrous purge light. At this time, the direct-port system is only available for four-cylinder cars, but it incorporates a unique dual-pill system that allows easy adjustment and increased accuracy at lower flow rates. With this system, you run a pill in the distribution block and at the nozzles. The new plate system is said to improve nitrous distribution via a single distribution trench, sandwiched and O-ring sealed in the middle of the plate. Meanwhile, the purge light is for those who want to show off-especially at night-that they have nitrous.