Tom Wilson
November 1, 2008
Coupled with a 3.31 rear axle without Traction-Lok, Explorer Express says its blown V-6 has no trouble besting stock Mustang GTs and can handle most bolt-on cars. After our boot around the block, we agree.

Horse Sense: To us Ford fans, Dave Vanek is the main man at Explorer Express. To Nissan types, he's The Z Doctor. Besides hot-rodding Nissans, he has been supercharging Ford V-6s in Explorers, Rangers, and Mustangs for a decade.

Passing a gas pump doesn't have the same thrill as passing a bottle-fed Camaro, but thanks to $50 fill-ups, it's getting so that fuel economy is more fun. As with any other maneuver, the more gas pumps passed, the more amusement had.

This is especially true of daily driven Mustangs. Sure, gas mileage isn't a concern for track toys and Saturday-night shakers, but daily drivers are another story. Punishing the wallet isn't fun, yet slugs don't work either. What's needed is a balance between performance and economy, meaning all the performance possible with enough economy to make the pain bearable.

Enter Dave Vanek. We're ashamed we don't cover his equipment as often as we should, although we've been reporting on his V-6 creations for nine years. It's all good stuff, but it's too balanced and real-world to get much ink with the over-the-top hardware built today. It's strange when "too real" is a problem, isn't it?

That excuse doesn't cut it when you slide behind the wheel of Dave's latest supercharging package for the 4.0 V-6 in the current S197 Mustang. While the entry-level Mustangs are fine runabouts in stock trim, Dave's X-Charger blower packs a torquey punch. It's enough to turn the V-6 into a mid-13-second machine at the dragstrip or, more importantly, a snappy hitter that outruns stock GTs on the street. Combine that realistic power with the V-6's lower purchase price, better fuel economy, and reduced insurance profile, and you have a fun car for the real world.

Since the goal isn't to beat knuckle-dragging V-8s or extract the ultimate power, and because costs count, Explorer Express [(757) 254-7025; www.explorerexpress.com] builds its blower kit around the Eaton/Magnuson MP90 Roots-style supercharger. The Eaton's lower cost, near-silent operation, and OEM longevity are true advantages, enough to offset the modest efficiency. Furthermore, since the rotor pack and gear cases are manufactured by Eaton and everything else by Magnuson, the unit is tailored for use as a 4.0 Mustang blower.

Bill Scott owns this silver X-Charger-equipped V-6 that Explorer Express used as a demo car during our visit. Besides the blower, Bill bumped up the visuals with some classy paint and body panels. He drives a truck to work and uses the Mustang as a fun weekend project car with his son.

Charge cooling isn't used, avoiding $1,500 to $2,000 or so in kit pricing, as well as the increased installation cost, weight, and underhood shoehorning associated with charge cooling. This means boost is typically limited to the single digits to avoid seriously heating the charge air. In a modest-boost, daily driver application where stock manners are paramount, it's the correct compromise. Screaming-high rpm, high-boost power isn't the goal, but rather a big torque hit off idle and carried as far as possible up the tach. That's what the Explorer Express kit delivers.

Associated hardware is nicely limited to only what's needed. A bypass valve is integrated into the system to retain fuel economy and avoid charge-air heating when off boost; larger fuel injectors are required, as are colder spark plugs. All of these items are included with the Explorer Express kit, along with the electronic tune, longer serpentine belt, mounting plate, and aluminum intake manifold, as well as the usual small stuff needed to mount the supercharger. Because the 4.0 V-6 uses the same fuel pump as the V-8 GT, the stock pump and fuel controller are more than adequate and require no attention.

Options are few. The X-Charger is offered in two levels: standard and high-output. The standard 4.0 kit is 50-state legal and includes everything needed to install the blower. Its characteristic feature is a stock Mustang GT airbox and mass air meter, along with the GT's inlet hose, which is ingeniously flipped 180 degrees to fit the V-6.