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This Boosted 2014 S197 Ford Mustang Has Suspension to Carve and the Power to Back It Up
Midnight Special: Big boost, big suspension—like two trains runnin’
Roland Ball, fast-food restaurant entrepreneur from Plano, Texas, puts the boots to this dusky jewel. A man with a voracious schedule but with a great appreciation for surprising his fellows at a stoplight (and beyond), he charged Michael Grubbs at Grubbs Motorsports (located a few miles south in Garland), with the project and its outcome.
While the object of affection in this scene is clearly the exploitation of the Coyote engine, the outward appearance that this 2014 5.0 brings makes you very curious as to what’s going on under that distinctive slab of a hood. In any case, the tab was steep: $37,000 for the car and a lot more in modifications. So we are always overjoyed to read a statement such as this from owner Ball: “This is a 713 horsepower car that idles and drives like it’s stock. The exhaust is quiet until you lean on the throttle.”
Then he gave us insight of the Grubbs philosophy as well. “This car has the look,” says Ball. “That’s what Grubbs Motorsports does. They improve where needed and leave the things that fit alone.” Ball, 72, has had rides reminiscent: a 1937 Ford pickup, a 1968 Shelby GT 500KR, and lately a 2015 Stingray.
To set this dark horse apart from the myriad of others already plowing the field, Grubbs instituted subtle changes that required minimal disruption to the sheetmetal. Part of that palette includes a custom backlight, shaved quarter-glass, handmade side scoops, and Black Mamba rear medallion and sill plates. Grubbs bonded the rocker panels. Cervini’s Auto Designs (Vineland, New Jersey) provided that mondo Type 4 Ram Air bonnet along with billet upper and lower grille sections; Grubbs modified the Cervini’s front and back bumpers and fabbed the front spoiler.
Rather than mess with anything on the outside, Grubbs worked the original Darkness Black, adding no fewer than five coats of PPG 2021 clear DBC base. In the final cosmetic concession, they processed the interior minimally with custom-stitched door panels and did the Hydrografix dunk (water transfer printing) on the console so as to match the patina on the dashboard. Now, Ball was sure of one thing. His Mustang had a unique form, one that “you will not see yourself in anywhere you go.”
At the heart of it, though, it was always the mechanicals. Ball wanted world-class dynamics from a car that, in factory form, didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. Grubbs went to work on it, supplanting the binders with Wilwood parts. He used 14-inch rotors all around and clamped them with six- and four-piston calipers. Though he could have gotten away with smaller rolling stock, he went for 20x8.5 and 20x10 Billet Specialties Top Loader hoops (a bit of flash in a river of black) and wrapped them with 245/40 and 315/35 treads.
The Mustang’s suspension schedule would push those skins to the limit. Though Grubbs left the original upper and lower control arms intact, they fortified the system with an Eibach Multi-Pro R2 package, including double-adjustable coilovers abetted by a remote fluid reservoir feature and accompanying antisway bar. In the back, they fixed it with UPR tubular upper and lower control arms, Eibach Pro coilovers, and the matched antisway bar. Grubbs went further and tightened the “chassis” front to rear with UPR frame connectors.
The 5.0 4V Ti-VCT V-8 was originally conceived as a boost engine, and its architecture reflects that. Ultimately it didn’t get EcoBoost or anything like it, but the rotating assembly (forged steel crank and connecting rods), highly structured aluminum cylinder block, 8-quart oil capacity, and stainless steel tubular exhaust manifolds offer an amiable platform for a heavy laying on of hands. With a little tongue-in-cheek attitude, the engine would be a stellar operator without any internal changes, despite its 11.0:1 hypereutectic pistons. Grubbs surveyed the aftermarket supercharger systems available and settled on a Roush Stage 2 assembly based on the Eaton device. It gave Ball’s Mustang a bump of nearly 300 hp, from to a basic bolt-on. To squelch the heat-sink effect and sustain a positive manifold pressure of 14 psi, Grubbs included the air-to-liquid intercooler as well as the Roush leading air intake.
They chucked the factory headers for some proper stainless steel long-tube jobs built by American Racing in Deer Park, New York, that feature 1 7/8-inch primaries and 3-inch-diameter collectors. The 3-inch stainless exhaust tract merges with an X-pipe and American Racing mufflers. Engine output and its staged release became the dominion of celebrated tuner Mike Wilson out of Dallas, Texas. Wilson retained the OE Mass Air Meter but snapped in 47-lb/hr injectors. The fuel pump regulator and fuel pressure are still factory-calibrated. With that, he extracted 713 hp and 690 lb-ft from 302 ci.
All this pop is backed by a completely stock six-speed automatic and torque converter, but the driveshaft is a one-piece, 3 1/4-inch carbon fiber unit from the Driveshaft Shop in Salisbury, North Carolina. To accommodate the vibrant grunt, Grubbs fixed the 8.8-inch axle with a Moser Wave-Trac differential, 3.73:1 gears, and a girdle. Grubbs went further, fabbing some 9-inch ends to accept the 31-spline 9-inch axles, bearings, and retainers. With driver and fuel, Ball’s sled easily tops 4,000 pounds, but Grubbs had no problem estimating mid-10-second track times in a car that routinely gathers up 20 mpg on the open road.
So does Roland Ball tool this horse during the daylight hours, or does he crank it from one Taco Bell to another every evening? If you tilt your head in the right direction you might think it was the Midnight Special high-ballin’ down the line, but you’d be wrong. It was likely Roland . . . and two trains runnin’.