Eric English
January 3, 2006

Horse Sense: Most of you realize propaneis a gas at earth's normal atmospheric pressure, but is liquified whencompressed into an appropriate storage tank. Did you know that propaneis also heavier than air, as opposed to another dual-fueloption--natural gas--which is lighter than air? Now you do.

Let's face it--the end of an era is upon us, and it happened faster thanmost people would've ever dreamed. We're talking about cheap gasoline,which is anything but inexpensive what with a doubling of consumerprices in little more than a year. But could there be a silver lining tothe whole affair? Well, with economics being the motivator they are,rising costs may well be the catalyst our society needs to think outsidethe box. As pump prices take a substantially bigger bite out of ourwallets, many of us will reevaluate the decisions we make abouttransportation and open our minds to new ideas.

As it turns out, British Columbia, Canada's Rene Vandriel has beenthinking and working out of the box for a long time now. While hisefforts may not be the solution that allows us to thumb our noses athigh oil prices, it does give us solace to know options are coming tomarket. Rene has long been involved in the propane business, and he'snow brought a technology most often seen in fleet service to the worldof high-performance Mustangs. Not since Ford's own Special VehicleEngineering group whipped up its '97 Super Stallion have we seen aMustang that addressed a fuel beyond gasoline--and that one ran E85ethanol, not propane. As far as we can recall, this is a first.

An immaculate shine is ever-present under the hood, but you aren'tlikely to spy this setup coming or going to a car show. Rene would liketo change our thinking in this regard, and makes a strong case forpropane in a performance application. Could the infamous movie line "ifyou build it, they will come" hold true?

In truth, this Laser Red GT didn't begin as a platform for showcasingalternative fuels; rather, Rene's wife, Carol, bought the car brand-newfor nothing more than droptop fun. Predictably, minor modificationsbegan a couple years later, with some of the first including suspensionupgrades and exhaust. World events soon had Rene pondering theopportunities to promote propane beyond the typical fleet use, and herealized a perfect platform was already in the couple's possession.Great as an '00 convertible may be, Rene and Carol realized they neededto up the ante in order for the flex-fuel effort to garner the desiredattention. Visually, they've accomplished the feat by combining aCervini's Cobra R hood, a Roush wing, and other subtle additions to theconvertible's New Edge exterior. More eye candy and legitimateperformance come in the form of 20-inch Raceline rims, teamed withserious Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Said rolling stock makes the mostof a typically modified suspension made up of Steeda sway bars, aquartet of H&R springs, and Bilstein dampers.

Despite the look-at-me exterior, it's under the hood where this Mustangcharts new territory. One look and you know this is no copycat enginebay.

In the space formerly occupied by the battery, we now find dual Prinspressure reducers. These regulatory devices not only bring the pressureto the appropriate level, but also serve to vaporize the liquid propane.We should note that Bart Vanaerle of Prins was particularly helpful inseeing this project through to the end.

Taking nothing away from the polished ProCharger P-1SC, the underhoodview is no longer dominated by the intercooled blower--rather, you'llimmediately take note of the unusual hoses and injector packs locatedforward of the Accufab plenum and 75mm throttle body. What you see isthe propane injection system made by the Dutch company Prins, andconsisting of the injector packs, 93cc propane injectors, dual pressurereducers, a piggyback Prins computer, and the necessary plumbing to makeit all work. Ask Rene why, and he's happy to relate the benefits ofpropane-fueled vehicles, which include a reduced fuel cost, reducedgreenhouse gases, and perhaps best of all, an octane rating on the orderof 112-115. The latter is clearly the biggest attribute from aperformance perspective, though none of us will frown if cleaneremissions come along for the ride.


If you can live without the factory spare tire, the doughnut-style20-gallon propane tank nestles perfectly in the tire well of the trunk.The relocated battery makes room for the dual reducers under the hood,but of course provides better weight balance as well. Think this setuplooks vulnerable in a collision? Rene reports that propane tanks are 20times more puncture resistant than conventional fuel tanks.

Rene's conversion was done at his Canadian place of business, AutogasPropane Ltd. The company is both a propane supplier and fleet conversionspecialist, converting literally thousands of vehicles. Propane is aneither-or proposition, meaning you run on gasoline or propane, but notboth at the same time. Switching is accomplished by the simple push of adash-mounted switch, which shuts down the gasoline injectors and fuelpump, powers up the auxiliary injectors, and opens a solenoid to allowthe propane to flow. On consecutive dyno runs at Brown Brothers Ford inVancouver, B.C., the convertible made 5 more horsepower and equal torqueon propane compared to gas. The hidden truth is, while the car is fairlywell maxed on pump gas, the higher-octane propane has more left wereRene willing to spool up the blower and fiddle with the tune.Unfortunately, that would be tempting fate with the stock SOHC 4.6internals, but with a beefed bottom end, it appears the propane wouldreally be in its element.

While not everything to everyone, Rene and Carol's propane Pony has hitupon an interesting alternative for the high-performance realm. As if toprove the point further, Rene spilled the beans on another Mustangproject he has in the works, which we'll be sure to check on whencompleted.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, Rene is quick to thank severalparties that were instrumental in this effort coming to life--ProCharger,Baer, Brown Brothers Ford, Prins, and Autogas Propane. Suchout-of-the-box thinking will provide us gasoline swillers with viableoptions, and hopefully reduce our reliance on foreign oil. The stakesare high, so we're happy to hear of efforts that have legitimatepromise. Anyone else willing to play?

The interior of Rene and Carol's '00 remains mostly stock, save for thealways cool Auto Meter Lunar gauge cluster and boost gauge. Contents ofthe propane system are monitored by the low-key LEDs to the right of theinstruments.

The Big Three

As alluded to in the main text, propane's attributes are largelythreefold. Here's a closer look.

Reduced fuel costs: This would seem theprimary motivator for examining alternative fuel options, yet it may notbe the most compelling argument of the three we're considering. Reneexplained that during the last 10 years, the cost of propane hasaveraged 42 percent less than gasoline, though we currently found asmaller price differential in my hometown of Seattle. With premium pumpgas running around $2.50/gallon, propane was quoted at $1.99/gallonincluding all applicable road taxes, which equates to an approximate 20percent savings in favor of propane. Keep in mind that despite propane'shigher octane rating, fuel mileage comes in about 10 percent less thanwhen running gasoline. By our estimation, the net result is a somewhatsmall, though valid, savings in fuel costs--yet who's to say what thefuture holds? Will the spread be back to 30-40 percent next year?Clearly, considering the cost of a conversion, you'd be hard-pressed tojustify it on economics alone, though even small cost savings can turnbig in a fleet operation.

Superior octane rating: The advantage of propane's high octane rating(112-115) is obvious, and if we compared propane's cost to an equivalentrace fuel, the savings would be significant indeed. The benefit of thehigher octane isn't yet realized on Rene and Carol's '00 due to a stockreciprocating assembly, but we expect that might change the next timearound.

Reduced emissions: Propane is said toemit 20-25 percent fewer greenhouse gases as compared to gasoline, alongwith reductions in ground-level ozone (CO and particulates), and toxicemissions. Take a drive through the L.A. basin or many other urbanlocales, and imagine the benefits of such reductions.

Rene provided two Web sites that offer additional information on propaneconversions. Try www.autogaspropane.com and www.prins-lpg.com

5.0 Tech Specs

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN

Block: Stock
Displacement: 4.6 liters
Rotating Assembly: Stock
Cams: Stock
Cylinder Heads: Stock
Intake Manifold: Stock w/Accufab plenum
Throttle body: Accufab 75mm
Mass Air: Ford Lightning 90mm
Power Adder: ProCharger P-1SC
Fuel System: FRPP 42-lb/hr injectors, Aviator fuel pump/Prins sequential propane injection w/93cc injectors, dual Prins reducers
Exhaust: Catalyst-equipped Magnaflow X-pipe, Borla Stinger after-cat
Transmission: Stock automatic w/B&M shifter
Rearend: 8.8 w/3.73 gears and FRPP diff cover
ELECTRONICS
Engine Management: EEC V w/DiabloSport Predator, Prins piggyback computer
Ignition: Stock
Gauges: Auto Meter Lunar

SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS

FRONT SUSPENSION

K-member: Stock
Control Arms: Stock
Springs: H&R Race
Struts: Bilstein w/Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plates
Brakes: Baer 13-in
Wheels: Raceline 20x8.5-in
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport, 255/30YR-20
REAR SUSPENSION

Springs: H&R Race
Shocks: Bilstein
Control Arms: Stock
Brakes: Stock calipers, 13-in Baer rotor kit
Wheels: Raceline 20x10-in
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport, 295/25YR-20
Chassis Stiffening: Steeda subframe connectors