K.J. Jones
February 7, 2006
Photos By: Steve Turner
"It really has only about 7,000 miles on it," Mike Jr. said. "I kept everything inside this car-even the heavy speaker box is still in the trunk. Come to think of it, it ran the 9.90 with that speaker box back there."

Horse Sense: Twin-turbo "street" kits for Mustangs can be called anything but new technology. Most 'Stangbangers either don't know or don't remember this fact: Twins have been on the scene since the early '90s. The dual power-adder concept unfortunately suffered a dark period not long after it was introduced-largely due to the emergence of heads-up Mustang drag racing and sanctioning bodies that did not include twin turbochargers in their class formats and rules. But it's cool to see twins making a comeback and claiming the streets as their domain.

Fire is an element Michael Palugi Jr. knows plenty about. Not only is he a seven-year veteran of the Memphis Fire Department, but he's also the lead mechanic for DynoSpeed Racing [5251 Elmore Rd., Memphis, TN 38134; (901) 373-1197]. DynoSpeed is the performance shop responsible for setting up Mike's incredible '03 Cobra and about 90 percent of the other fire-breathing 'Stangs that prowl the streets of the "Home of the Blues."

While the '03 isn't Mike's first go-round with the Mustang Cobra (he's also owned '93 and '94 editions of the snake), it's definitely his biggest venture in making one perform to the max. "I decided to buy an '03 Cobra because I had heard about its power potential with simple bolt-ons, and the black-with-red interior offered in the 10th Anniversary Package was a color combination I really liked," he says. "It's a car that's streetable, and I knew the stock engine has the potential to bust off nines in street trim with the right power-adder setup."

Michael Palugi Jr. (front), Mike Sr. (center), and Louis Gerra. "I have to thank Joe and John of DynoSpeed for custom-tuning this monster with such short notice, and getting it done in time for WFC." SCT also helped Mike's effort, providing the XCalibrator software used to tune the combination during the frantic, pre-WFC thrash.

After initially going the bolt-on route-adding headers, exhaust, pulleys, and many of the other basic performance parts available for the blown Cobras-it wasn't long before Mike's car had the shop's dyno blazing to a tune of 500 horses on the rear wheels (515 lb-ft of torque) and clicking off a best e.t. of 11.09 at 127 mph on the dragstrip. Those power numbers were plenty stout for just simple bolt-ons, and they only made him thirstier for more performance. But when 'Stangbangers start to modify their cars by increasing horsepower, it usually isn't long before they have morphed into cars that are just about ready for the track-and the track alone. Not so, in this case.

Regardless of his quest for more horses, Mike wouldn't compromise the Cobra's original street demeanor both inside and out. "My dad has been into drag racing since the early '70s. I do like racing, but I'm not a big fan of full-on race cars." So when the decision was made to replace the Cobra's Eaton supercharger with twin 57mm Garrett turbos, his primary goal was to try to make nine-second power with the stock engine, while maintaining the car's "street" persona, first and foremost.

Proving his commitment wasn't just talk, Mike made sure every accessory (stereo, air-conditioning, power windows, and such) remained stock and functional. The report from the mechanical side isn't much different. With the exception of the HP Performance '03-'04 Mustang Cobra twin-turbo kit, an enhanced fuel system, a Sullivan intake, an Accufab throttle body, and SCT's BA2800 mass air meter, the Four-Valve mill is sinfully stock. A few drivetrain upgrades were also made to handle the increasing horsepower (the six-speed tranny received a G-Force gearset, and the clutch was replaced with a twin-disc unit from McLeod). The car moves in a hurry when given some real exercise on the street or strip.

Stock components were also retained throughout the chassis and suspension on Mike's Cobra. Rear springs, brakes, driveshaft, and the 8.8 rearend housing are all factory pieces. Strange axles, Lakewood front struts and QA1's K-member, A-arms, and springs were added. Steeda shocks and control arms enhance the rear suspension, and its subframe connectors help keep it all tight under the car's massive torque output.

We met Michael Palugi Jr. and his dad, Mike Sr., at WFC8, where they gave us this up-close look. For those keeping score, the car currently makes 634.56 rear-wheel horsepower and 556.50 lb-ft of torque with its pump-gas, "street" tune-up (14 psi of boost). But, when race gas was added and boost was cranked up to 22 psi, this bad snake spit 811.35hp venom (717.52 lb-ft of torque) across DynoSpeed's rollers.

How stock is "stock"? This Cobra's mill still uses every piece of internal equipment that Ford gave it, from crankshaft to valves. DynoSpeed Racing added a Sullivan Performance intake manifold and fuel rails, 60-lb/hr fuel injectors, an Accufab throttle body, an SCT BA2800 mass air meter, dual fuel pumps courtesy of a Lincoln Aviator, NGK plugs, an HP Performance Twin-Turbo Kit that includes 57mm Garrett turbos (HP's '03-'04 Cobra kit comes with 50mm Garretts; the 57mm turbos are a $500 upgrade), and HP's air-to-air intercooler. DynoSpeed dials in the engine's tune-up with an SCT XCalibrator. The setup cranked more than 811 hp to the rear wheels of Mike's ride, and 717 lb-ft of torque. At the dragstrip, Mike has pushed the turbocharged/stick-tranny combo to a best e.t. of 9.90 at 143 mph.

5.0 Tech specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINIgnition
BlockStock EEC V
StockGauges
DisplacementAEM air/fuel, Lunar (boost), Raptor
Stock shift light
Cylinder Heads 
Stock SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
CamshaftFront Suspension
StockK-member
Intake ManifoldQA1
Sullivan PerformanceA-arms
Throttle BodyQA1
Accufab OvalSprings
Mass Air MeterQA-1
SCT BA 2800Struts
Air FilterLakewood
Twin HP Performance conicalWheels
Power Adder15-in Weld AlumaStar 2.0
HP Performance '03-'04 Twin-TurboTires
Kit, featuring 57mm GarrettMickey Thompson
turbochargers and air-to-air intercoolerBrakes
ExhaustStock
HP Performance turbo headersRear Suspension
and Borla mufflers w/ 3-in tipsSprings
Fuel SystemStock
Twin {{{Lincoln}}} {{{Aviator}}} fuel pumps,Shocks
Sullivan fuel rails, 60-lb/hr injectors,Strange
Aeromotive filter, Ford returnlessTraction Devices
fuel-pressure sensorNone
TransmissionWheels
Six-speed T56 transmission w/15-in Weld AlumaStar 2.0
G-Force gearsetTires
RearendHoosier Quick Time Pro 28x11.5-in
Stock Ford 8.8 live-axle rear w/Brakes
3.55 gears, Strange axlesStock
 Chassis Stiffening
ELECTRONICSSteeda subframe connector
Engine Management 
SCT Xcalibrator