Eric English
November 1, 2003
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

Horse Sense: Nearly all of us are familiar with the effects of decreasing the blower-pulley size on a centrifugal supercharger. Within reason, spinning the blower faster via this technique builds additional boost. Being exhaust driven, a turbo is a completely different animal, however, and primary duty for controlling boost falls to the wastegate, which bleeds off boost above a predetermined point. Ray Lee's system uses the adjustable Turbonetics Racegate.

Whether you realize it or not, we live in an unprecedented age of factory hot rods. Just three years ago, we were all slack-jawed over the introduction of the limited-production '00 Cobra R. This king among R-models was chock full of race-oriented, ultraperformance parts. It boasted the highest factory horsepower rating of any Mustang heretofore, and it put all the goods in action with no less than six forward gears. Talk about an ultimate piece! Of course, after a short period of relative normalcy, Ford unleashed yet another jaw dropper in the form of the '03 Cobra. Rather than being a high-priced near racer, the '03 brings supercar performance to the relative masses.

The question is, has such mainstream performance lessened the luster of the vaunted '00? Well, comparing the rest of the goods makes it clear the R-model is still in a league of its own. But the comparable power ratings for the two modular V-8s make ever clear the advantage of forced induction. Remember, the R's 5.4 makes its impressive power with a natural atmosphere, so there's an obvious mountain of potential waiting for those creative enough to bolt boost to the big-inch DOHC.

Ray Lee is one enthusiast who's followed through on the idea of a blown '00 R. Having experienced the supercharger rush on his prior '90 Saleen, Ray could predict the kind of before-and-after transformation such an upgrade would make. The trouble is, unnatural aspiration for the unique '00 Rs doesn't just grow on trees, so it's fortuitous that Ray is buddies with Robert Ansick at Forced Air Technologies [(602) 616-7001; www.forcedairtech.com]. The Phoenix-based purveyor of custom turbo systems was just the place for putting together a state-of-the-art power adder for Ray's factory racer. And, in the summer of 2002, the impressive project began.

While the exterior view of the car remains stock, a glimpse underhood tells the story. Forced Air Technologies' Robert Ansick says the custom turbo system could be duplicated again for any other Cobra R owner with the desire for big speed. He also wanted to express his appreciation to the local Garrett distributor, Scott Rakestraw at Turbos Direct, who was a big help to him on Ray's project. Nice work, guys!

Robert based the '00's performance stake on a Garrett T72 turbocharger, mounted low and forward on the pas-senger side of the 5.4 mod motor. Nearly all tubing in the system is fabbed from 304 stainless material-a case in point being the driver-side header that uses a 1 3/4-inch primary size. This traditional-appearing short-tube feeds a 2 1/4-inch crossover that travels under the tranny and into the passenger-side manifold, which Robert describes as a collecting rail of 2 1/2-inch diameter. Spent gases then enter the 72mm turbocharger and exit through a 3-inch downpipe. The exhaust system quickly enlarges to a single 4-inch pipe and MagnaFlow muffler before branching into stock-style 3-inch side exits. The Turbonetics Racegate is fed just upstream of the turbo inlet and takes a prominent front-and-center position under the hood. Inside the cockpit, an HKS electronic boost controller adds even more flexibility to the system, allowing Ray the ability to dial up the boost, given a fuel cell full of race juice.

Around town, Ray runs the system at a mild 6 psi at max rpm, the threshold of detonation on pump premium. In this configuration, the '00 has cranked up some 520 hp at the rear wheels, though the run was done with all other engine parameters in stock configuration-meaning stock computer, stock injectors, and so on. As a result, Ray and Robert know there's plenty more in the offing.

In fact, as we write this story, the car is undergoing yet another phase in the quest for big power. An upgraded turbo unit is in the works, as is an air-to-air intercooler, a larger air meter, and larger fuel injectors. The engine is apart so compression can be dropped from the stock 9.6:1 ratio via a set of custom JE pistons (allowing for more boost). The heads will be massaged by Bud Yancer at Mach Development. Coordinating all this will clearly require some electronic tuning wizardry, but the result should be a real thrill ride.

Ray plans to frequently enjoy the car at various Phoenix-area venues-primarily road-course in nature-but there will be the occasional run through the 1,320. Leaning on the rare R in such a manner is really a reflection of the "regular Joe" enthusiast makeup Ray represents. Being a city bus mechanic by trade, he didn't rely on unlimited resources to acquire his ultimate steed, nor does he find enjoyment or value in a museum-style shrine to the almighty factory racer. Instead, Ray gets his kicks by putting the R-model through its paces-a point of view we heartily endorse. After all, don't you figure that's what SVT had in mind from the beginning?

5.0 Tech Specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN31-spline halfshafts, Visteon
Blockhydromechanical diff
Stock 
DisplacementELECTRONICS
5.4 litersEngine Management
CrankStock
Stock forged steelIgnition
RodsStock
Stock CarilloGauges
PistonsStock
Stock forged aluminum 
HeadsSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
StockFront Suspension
CamshaftsK-member
StockStock
IntakeStruts
StockBilstein
Throttle BodySprings
StockStock Eibach
Mass AirBrakes
StockStock Brembo
Fuel SystemWheels
Stock w/ 20-gal Fuel Safe cellStock 18x9.5
ExhaustTires
Custom Forced Air TechnologiesNitto 275/40ZR18
stainless headers, 4-in single pipeRear Suspension
w/ MagnaFlow muffler, 3-in side-Shocks
exit tipsBilstein
Power AdderSprings
Custom Forced Air TechnologiesStock Eibach
turbo systemBrakes
TransmissionStock Brembo
Stock TTC-Tremec T56Wheels
RearendStock 18x9.5
Stock 8.8 IRS, 3.55 gears, GKNTires
 Nitto 275/40ZR18