Rob Kinnan
April 5, 2000
Photos By: David Freers

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COLLECTOR SERIES #12 SVE's Super Stallion 590hp blown DOHC 5.4

The bean counters at Ford should be strapped into John Coletti's Super Stallion and taken for a ride. Maybe then they'd allow more than one of these cars to be built, and you and I would actually have a chance of owning one.

"Understanding this car is very simple" explains Coletti, the manager of Ford's Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE) department. "This car is the ultimate-aspiration street Mustang. You couldn't want it to have anything else, 'cause there's really nothing else to want."

That sounds like a dare to true Mustang nuts. But look at the list of stuff done to this car, and you'll agree with him: a Roots- supercharged, intercooled, 5.4L DOHC engine; a Borg-Warner six-speed trans; a pushrod-actuated independent rear suspension; a double A-arm front suspension; and enough tasteful bodywork and paint to make even the best customizer green with envy. This car has all the subtlety of Mike Tyson at a feminist rally, rocks and rolls to the tune of 12.70s in the quarter-mile while burning the hell out of its monster street tires, and can see the high side of 175 mph with enough road in front of it.

But the bottom line is all-important in the automotive manufacturer's world, and it's next to impossible to convince the Taurus-driving accountants and upper execs why a car like the Super Stallion must be mass-produced. It doesn't make financial sense. It's too radical. It's too fast. It's just too...I dunno...nasty. Which is exactly why Coletti and the rest of us want it to be produced. Nasty is cool. Nasty is fun. We want nasty, and we're willing pay for it.

Coletti pulled no punches in building this car, save for one. Because there is a glimmer of hope, however small, that the execs may be persuaded to build a more realistic version, Coletti put the requirement to his engineers that the floorpan remain uncut. Everything else was open territory in the pursuit of the ultimate Mustang. See if you think they met that goal.

Drivetrain

The rumors seem to change every day about engine size and the Mustang, but it appears that we'll have a 5.4L Cobra R in 1999. Unfortunately, there'll probably only be about 200 of them built. Coletti's car has shown how it should be done. A 5.4 truck short-block is fitted with a set of Cobra four-valve heads featuring what Coletti calls "unique" ports for max flow. The 5.4 shares the 4.6's bore size, so the heads don't require a lot of work to fit the bigger short block. Is this a harbinger of things to come? One can only hope.

Dropped down in the valley between those pretty heads is a Garrett 2.1L supercharger blowing boost into a custom water-to-air intercooler before heading for the valves. Upstream of the blower is a pair of 80mm mass air sensors fed by polished aluminum tubes and K&N filters, which pick up the fresh air through carbon-fiber scoops on either side of the grille opening. The blower is also equipped with a hydro-electric clutch with an on/off switch ala Mad Max for economical cruising when the need for speed is not of primary importance.

If that isn't enough, the engine can run on either regular gasoline or a mix of 15 percent gas and 85 percent ethanol, known in the trade as E85. Ford is not alone in producing dual-fuel vehicles, but it plans on stepping up production to a quarter-million of them starting this summer. So Ford figured why not and used the Super Stallion as a testbed for a high-performance application. Coletti no doubt likes it because it adds another checkmark to the list of "there's nothing else to want" on the car. The fuel system and computer have alcohol-sensing electronics that can tell whether or not the engine is getting gas or E85, and adjusts the calibrations accordingly. There's no switch to flip. Just pump in whatever fuel you want, and the car figures it out.

With 93-octane gasoline, the supercharger is limited to 8 pounds of boost, and the engine grunts out 545 hp at six grand. The E85 is more knock-resistant, so the boost can come up to 10 pounds and the ignition can see more advance, which raises the output to 590 hp. Holy crap! The horsepower level and volume demands of the E85 require a new fuel system using bigger lines (0.50-inch from a stock 0.375-inch) and a pair of 190-lph fuel pumps feeding two injectors per cylinder. To put it into perspective, a stock Cobra uses a single 110-lph fuel pump.

Cramming that much air and fuel into the engine means that the exhaust had better be top-notch, and that's exactly what it is. Long-tube 13/4-inch stainless headers with 3-inch collectors lead into 3-inch Walker cats and Walker Race Magnum mufflers, finally exiting the car through a set of polished stainless sorta-oval tips. The exhaust note does not cater to pussies, bud.

Aft of all this engineering wonderment is a 10.5-inch McLeod dual-disc clutch and a Borg-Warner T56 six-speed, which sends all 497 lb-ft of torque (537 on E85) to the custom independent rearend that sports 4.10:1 gears.

Suspension

The Mustang's strut front end and solid-axle rear suspension are dependable and cost-effective (remember the bean counters?), but a compromise at best when it comes to handling performance. The Super Stallion is a no-compromise machine, so it should come as no surprise that the stock suspension was thrown into the Ford dumpster and replaced with the best that money could buy and engineers could design.

Each front strut was replaced with two unequal-length control arms and a long spindle for two reasons. One, struts don't lend themselves to favorable camber gain in compression, and tuning is most certainly not as complete as a control-arm setup; and two, it allowed the engineers to do away with the strut towers in the engine compartment, freeing up some room for Mr. Bad Ass under the hood.

Coletti's crew elected to build an independent rear suspension (IRS) instead of screwing with the live axle. Making a solid-axle car handle in the extreme requires stiff springs and bushings, which kill ride quality and add considerably to harshness and noise. Also, a live axle is fine on a smooth surface, but bumps in the corners really throw it for a loop. There's just no beating an IRS for the best of both worlds. The Advanced Technology Group, headed by Neil Ressler, developed a billet-aluminum cradle that carries a pair of Koni double-adjustable coilovers that act on the short- and long-arm suspension setup through huge bell cranks and pushrods. It's similar to the way an Indycar is suspended.

The whole deal is mounted in a Plexiglas box (nicknamed "the fishbowl") in the trunk, under the package tray. How serious is it? Those carbon-fiber scoops mounted where the quarter windows used to be are used to duct fresh air to the shocks to keep them cool. The crowning touch is massive Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers and 13-inch front/12-inch rear rotors. The Mustang Cobra's antilock system works with the Brembos to contribute to the phenomenal 60-0 stopping distance of 116 feet. The tires are Goodyear Eagle F1s sized 265/40ZR18 mounted on dynamite-looking 18x9.5 Speedline wheels.

Body

The drivetrain and suspension were developed and perfected in a mule car, then transferred into the Super Stallion after it had received all the body trickery. The car had to look like a Mustang, but it also had to look like no other Mustang, so a custom front fascia with a carbon-fiber lower piece was created to bolt to the stock fenders and headlights. A pair of huge PIAA rally lights fill the lower opening. The hood is crafted of carbon fiber with two Mach 1-style scoops and a wide air-escape slot at the base of the windshield.

Moving back, we find custom rocker moldings and functional air inlets in the side coves to cool the rear brakes. The mirrors are also custom made in carbon fiber, and the door handles are shaved. Like a street rod, the doors operate with electric solenoids operated by a keyfob remote. The quarter-panels have been stretched out a bit for tire clearance, and the rear-bumper fascia was bobbed, but the most obvious change to the rear is the molded-in wing that attractively extends the car's stock body line. The finishing touch is a graphics package designed by the late Larry Shinoda and executed with BASF Deep Metallic Blue, Green, and Pearl White paints. The paint job is different side to side--the driver side is predominantly white, while the passenger's side is blue and green--so eye-witness reports will no doubt conflict.

Interior

The Super Stallion's interior is the most subtle part of the car, but it too has its share of modifications. The black-leather bucket seats double as the seatbelt mounts and have a tricky-dicky deal that Ford engineers call "active seat bolsters." A side-load sensor and microprocessor automatically tighten the backrest bolsters against the driver's torso when the car is cornering hard. Carbon-fiber trim panels adorn the stock dash. An A-pillar gauge mount holds two gauges, one of which is for boost. And mounted to the headliner is a Vericom computer so that Coletti can get instant feedback on performance improvements. A nine-speaker, 630-watt stereo is about the minimum required to hear Nine Inch Nails over the barking exhaust.

Notice that there's no rollcage, a dicey deal on a car with damn near 600 hp and 175-mph top-end capability. Coletti hates rollbars. And when Motor Trend's Jack Keebler inquired why the ultimate Mustang doesn't have the ultimate electronic gadget, a global positioning system, Coletti responded "This is a car to get lost in. No navigation devices. Maybe if I were doing an Expedition. But no cell phones, no faxes, and no global-positioning nonsense. I'll know where I am and I'll know where I'm going when I'm driving this car." 'Nuff said, John.

Driving the Beast

Unfortunately, your author did not get to drive the Super Stallion, but those lucky guys at Motor Trend did. And Coletti even let them strap a fifth wheel to the car and get instrumented performance data, as the chart shows. Quarter-mile performance of 12.70s at 112 and a 0-60 sprint of 4.3 is nothing to sneeze at, but sheer numbers aren't the only story.

As Keebler noted, "At idle, it shakes the ground like a Boss 429 with a full-race cam, cackling with explosive exhaust pulses and setting off every car alarm in the county."

The only way he found to launch the car effectively was to keep rpm down to 1,600, drop the clutch, and gently feed in throttle. "Full throttle is impossible until you're well into Third gear, but it's still one helluva handful to drive." The 12.70 e.t. is even more respectable when you take into account that the tires are pouring smoke the entire distance. With a set of slicks, who knows how quick it'd be?

Conclusion

The odds of Ford actually mass-producing the Super Stallion to take on the Corvette and Viper are less than Ted Kaczynski winning the Humanitarian of the Year award, but portions of Coletti's amazing car make sense and could be feasible for production. The blown 5.4 and six-speed seem like naturals. We'd love to see Ford equip all Mustangs with the Stallion's suspension, but that isn't likely. Remember the bottom line: Struts and solid axles are cheaper and easier from a cost and assembly-line-installation standpoint.

But wouldn't it be nice to round up everybody within the Ford organization who makes the financial decisions, and let Coletti take them for a trip around the proving grounds? Maybe then they could understand. Maybe then we would see something like the Super Stallion in Ford showrooms. One can dream, right?