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Michael Zwick’s 2012 Mustang GT Stands Out From the Crowd
Dialed In: In a world of big boost, Michael Zwick’s 2012 Mustang GT stands out from the crowd
The road less traveled is, for good reason, the harder choice. In the case of late-model Mustang performance, taking the road less traveled means opting out of the popular boost-enabled horsepower and keeping it all natural. It would’ve been easy—Michael Zwick could have simply selected a turbo or supercharger system from any one of the dozen and a half companies that specialize in Mustang-specific kits, and off he’d go into the tens with what would seem like an no effort. The Maryland-based enthusiast, however, elected to do things the hard way with his 2012 Mustang GT, and he made it look easy with mid-10-second performances—sans power adder.
“I could’ve gone to a forced induction, but the car stands out for what it runs. Otherwise it would be just another supercharged car,” said Zwick when we prodded him about his lack of power adder decision. It was difficult to resist as his past life included a low nine-second Buick Grand National, a Gen 2 Lightning, and even a modded Mitsubishi Conquest TSI with upgraded turbo and all. But the chosen path of natural aspiration has all worked out, with the best time being a 10.59 at 128 mph in (more or less) street trim. For track action, Zwick only swaps from E85 fuel to a special blend of FTW fuel and from street wheels to the Weld RTS strip-oriented wheel package with Mickey Thompson rubber in the back.
Lest you think this is some high-winding, race-only type application, the Coyote 5.0L long-block is essentially untouched from the cylinder heads down to the oil pan. The key has been a longtime relationship with Adam Browne of Revolution Auto. Zwick says, “I had done basic modifications after 100 miles on the odometer.” The typical starter mods included a K&N air filter, mail-order tune, some lowering springs, and a steeper set of gears. As Zwick’s moved from California to Maryland thanks to a promotion at work, it was there where he met Browne, and the goal of going mid-tens naturally aspirated was hatched.
Zwick had Revolution Auto change one thing at a time, but the shop skipped over a few steps and went right to the good stuff. The factory plastic intake was tossed into the parts bin in favor of a Ford Performance Cobra Jet intake manifold, which has been smooth over and painted to match the car. The engine also breathes easy thanks to a Revolution Auto cold-air intake and a mono-blade throttle-body. All of the free air coming into the engine with the new induction components is nothing without the other two vital parts to the equation: fuel and ignition. The spark isn’t fancy, just the factory setup. The story on the fuel side is only slightly more aftermarket. A set of eight 47-lb/hr fuel injectors delivers the E85 (or FTW in race conditions) and that is it—the rest is all stock. The 6R80 automatic transmission is very basic, with an Exedy clutch upgrade, a Circle D 5C torque converter, and a transbrake its only modifications.
Exhausting the spent gases is the job of JBA long-tube headers with 1 7/8-inch primary tubes, H-pipe, and Shelby GT500 axle-back exhaust. The basics of horsepower are always in play, and parasitic loss from front-end accessories has been minimized with a short belt and a Meziere electric water pump. Zwick likes to note that the A/C compressor is still operational because the car is far more street than strip, having logged nearly 8,000 miles in 2015 on his “weekend” car. The car has 36,000 miles on the odometer.
For those keeping track of the goodies, be sure to mark that this Mustang features a complete UPR Products system in the front and back to help stance and performance. The tubular front-end and rear control arms help transfer weight, plant the rear tires, and reduce the overall girth of the large S197-style body. A UPR antiroll bar and Viking adjustable shocks and struts are also part of the equation, which results in 1.42 60-foot times. The Mustang still tips the scales at 3,510 pounds in race trim with Zwick strapped in behind the wheel and the Weld wheels at the corners. The street wheels/tires put curb weight at 3,650, with the driver.
The Mustang is a weekend beater and, despite its pristine condition, sits outside in the elements. Zwick isn’t afraid to drive long distances, including race days at Cecil County Dragway and Maryland International Raceway, one of which is an hour north and the other two hours south of his home in the greater Baltimore area. Zwick frequently takes road trips, especially down to the coast. He simply tosses the luggage in the trunk and rolls out of town without fear or regret. The Coyote 5.0L knocked down 24 mpg—with the A/C set at blizzard—on one of his jaunts this past summer.
“I think there is more. On the 10.59 run I think the injectors were maxed with the FTW fuel,” said an exuberant Zwick. In addition to an upgrade in the fuel system, a set of ported heads is also on the agenda after the winter, at which time the car should thrust its way to the severely low 10-second range.
But the best part about it? “I just put the key and drive!” Sometimes the path less taken isn’t so bad after all.