Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
August 1, 2005
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Lap after lap, the burnt-orange '05 Mustang gobbled up BMW, Cadillac, and Porsche opponents, passing what seemed a handful each time it completed the Daytona asphalt. Its engine purred as it revved through the gears, and the chassis moved deftly through the turns. If we squinted while watching the burnt-orange 55 car, we had flashbacks of Parnelli Jones ripping it up in Trans-Am in the late '60s and early '70s, but this was February 2005, the track was the famed Daytona International Speedway, and the race was the Grand Am Cup 200.

Naturally, the Mustang in question was an '05 Mustang, but not just any '05 Mustang. The burnt-orange car, driven by David Empringham and Scott Maxwell, was the result of a development program designed to create the Boy Racer. You may recall getting a peek at this car's development on the Discovery Channel. That little piece of reality TV captured the development and initial testing, but at Daytona, the cars were thrust into the real world of competitive road racing against some of the best in the world. Better yet, these race cars, which now go by the official name of FR500C, not only qualified well, but they also won in their first outing.

As a bit of background, the FR500C racers (the artists formerly known as the Boy Racers) were designed and constructed by a Canadian outfit, known as Multimatic Motorsports. Involved in Ford and racing for many years, Multimatic was most recently associated with bringing to life the Focus Daytona prototypes that also race in the Grand American Road Racing series using a Yates-built version of the FRPP Cammer 5.0 ("Reality Racing," Sept. '03, p. 55). Suffice it to say, Multimatic knows how to get cars around a racetrack in a hurry. Moreover, these guys are hard-core racing enthusiasts led by the likes of wild man and technical director Larry Holt (you'll remember him from the hula dancer on his dash in the Discovery Channel show).

In short, Multimatic took the new Mustang as a body-in-white, and reworked the chassis and suspension via testing and computer modeling to create a race car that's ready to run out of the box. And run it did. While the Ford Racing/Multimatic Motorsports team cars fared quite well, it was actually a customer car run by Blackforest Motorsports that took the top of the podium at Daytona just days after the team took delivery of the car. Having little or no experience with the car's handling, fuel mileage, or performance, drivers Ian James and Tom Nastasi held on to put the FR500C '05 Mustang in the record books soon after the street cars hit the showrooms.

In another 35 years, we might be looking back fondly at the beginning of a racing legacy for the S197 Mustang. Fortunately, we were there to see it with our own eyes.

Behind The WheelYears ago, an editor suggested I suffered from "newsenheimer's disease," an unfortunate affliction members of the press develop. "You learn quickly, write about what you learn, then completely forget it," he said. Consequently, before I cranked the engine in the Ford Mustang FR500C race car, I went back and reviewed the test I wrote on the '00 SVT Mustang Cobra R five years ago.

Granted, unlike the Cobra R, the FR500C is a full-fledged race car, not remotely street-legal and already track-proven, having won its first race, the Grand-Am Cup 200 at Daytona International Speedway last February. The win, achieved by the privateer team Blackforest Motorsports, just days after it took delivery of the car, was no fluke, as suggested by the Second-place finish of one of the two Multimatic Motorsports team Mustangs.

Multimatic is the Canadian company that developed and assembles the FR500C for Ford customers, the sort of duty that has traditionally fallen to companies such as Roush or Saleen. Multimatic has a long history building parts for all the major manufacturers, but the relationship with Ford is especially close-when the company needed an ultra-light rear deck for the overweight Focus fuel cell car, they turned to Multimatic and its expertise in carbon-fiber construction. And Multimatic fielded the prototype car in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona driven by Roush NASCAR stars Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth.

There was one constant with my drive of the Mustang Cobra R and the Mustang FR500C-the presence of race driver Scott Maxwell, who helped develop both cars, finished Second at that Daytona race, and who also co-drove the Rolex 24 with Busch, Biffle, and Kenseth. "Both the Cobra R and 500C are relatively easy to drive," Scott says. "But the FR500C had to make fewer compromises."

I took a few laps with Scott, wedged into the passenger seat in the white number 05 FR500C, sister car to his gold racer. The 05 car took Ninth at Daytona, though its lap of 2:04.360 was the second fastest of the race, eclipsed only by the Third-place BMW M3 of Finlay Motorsports. The 05 has also been the development mule for Multimatic, first taking to the test track in May 2004.

We were at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the NASCAR oval, driving on a portion of the infield road course. The tight little track limited the FR500C to the first four gears, though Scott said he used all six at Daytona. In the longest straight at Homestead-Miami, I hit about 6,200 rpm-Scott and Sean Mason, motorsports manager for Multimatic, said that the engine's power drops after 6,700 rpm anyway.

Inside the FR500C, it's a tight but comfortable fit in the cockpit. Instruments are basic and attached to a stock dashboard cover, per Grand-Am rules. Instead of wiring and A/C ducts behind it, though, there's just a horizontal cross member. Flip a couple of switches and press a button, and the engine cranks to life with a nice burble. The exhaust manifold is moderately restrictive, but it leads to open pipes. In June, Sean says that Grand-Am will require mufflers for the rest of the season.

The Tremec T56 transmission's shifter has a comparatively long but secure throw. Clutch action is light. First gear gets you rolling, but Second gear is fairly tall. Mason says the Cammer 5.0 V-8, based on the 4.6 V-8 mod motor, pumps out 416 hp, and that feels about right.

The FR500C's rearend, of course, uses a solid axle, as do all the new Mustangs-even the GT 500, debuted at the New York auto show in March. Why no independent rear? Cost, we're told. After all, "the solid axle is already race-proven," says Alan Hall, SVT spokesman.

And that's fine. The only place at Homestead-Miami that the rigid axle made its presence known was at an extremely bumpy pit exit, where the rear end danced under hard acceleration. Apparently, it looked more dramatic than it felt from the cockpit, as it was easily controlled.

In fact, the FR500C is one of the most neutral rear-drive race cars I've driven. The brakes-Brembos up front, stock brakes in the rear, per the rules-are excellent and quite fade-resistant. The Hoosier tires, also required by Grand-Am, are durable and predictable as they wear. In fact, Blackforest Motorsport's win at Daytona was due, in part, to the fact that they ran one set of tires for the whole 200 miles.

So how does the FR500C compare to the SVT Cobra R I drove during a 24-hour endurance test at the Texas Motorsports Ranch in 2000? Well, there are similarities-the Cobra R had the same Tremec T56 transmission, and with 385 hp from the 5.4 V-8, power is similar. But the FR500C is lighter at 3,200 pounds-that's after Grand-Am penalized the car by adding 75 pounds to its weight after the dominating Daytona performance-and the Cobra R weighed 3,580 pounds.

But the FR500C is much more rigid and better-balanced. Multimatic spends a lot of time welding every possible seam in the platform, and that structural enhancement shows. This new Mustang is better than the old Mustang, as it should be.

It is also more expensive. Multimatic and Ford will sell you an FR500C for $120,000, race-ready. Sean says there are five in Grand-Am now, and he expects five more by the end of the 11-race season. Multimatic can build about one a week.

The Cobra R cost $55,845 in 2000, and in retrospect, it was every bit the bargain then that it seems now.

But the advantage of the FR500C is that you can build one yourself. At, you can find almost everything you need to build one, including a body-in-white for $3,500. But don't get any ideas about buying that body for your street project-to buy that body-in-white, you have to pledge that you won't resell the parts, and that you will use it for racing.

If you have the money, though, buying an FR500C turnkey is the easiest way to get into the Grand-Am Cup. Sean expects the FR500C to be used in other series, such as SCCA T1, autocrossing, drag racing, or even track days, but he isn't sure what changes would have to be made to make the car legal for non-Grand-Am series.

In five years, I expect I won't need to refer to my notes to recall my drive of the FR500C-I'll just remember that it's a fully realized, competent race car with no bad manners, no unpleasant surprises. And as a writer, I'll never be able to afford one.-Steven Cole Smith

Tech SpecsEngine And DrivetrainBlockFRPP 5.0 CammerDisplacement302 ciCylinder HeadsFord GTCamshaftsCustomIntake ManifoldFRPPThrottle BodyStock Cobra dual-borePower AdderNoneExhaustFRPPFuel SystemWalbro 255-lph fuel pump, ATL custom 20-gallon dual dry break fuel cell TransmissionFRPP/Tremec T56 six-speed w/FRPP clutchRearend8.8-in with 4.10 gears and TracTech C-Locker differential

ElectronicsEngine ManagementEEC VIgnitionStockGaugesEFI digital dash system, datalogging and display

Suspension And ChassisFront SuspensionA-ArmsMultimatic MotorsportsSpringsMultimatic Dynamic Suspensions coiloversStrutsDynamic Suspensions three-way adjustableWheelsFikse 18x10TiresHoosierBrakesBrembo four-pistonRear SuspensionTraction DeviceMultimatic Dynamic Suspensions adjustable antiroll barSpringsMultimatic Dynamic Suspensions coiloversShocksDynamic Suspensions three-way adjustableWheelsFikse 18x10TiresHoosierBrakesStock Mustang GTChassis StiffeningFully seam-welded unibody with integrated safety cage