Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
August 10, 2010
Photos By: Paul Rosner

Today's marketplace is a blur. Spurred by the immediacy of the Internet, companies must react to consumer demand much quicker than they did before we were all connected. We want it all, and we want it right now.

This is just as true for performance cars as it is for consumer electronics. The moment a new performance car hits the dealer lots, the clock is ticking. People want to see how quick it is and how much power it makes right away. As soon as those baselines are set, the gloves are off. Gearheads want performance milestones and performance parts immediately.

Of course, the trick is balancing the development with parts for street vehicles and the drive to set milestones for glory. This is especially a challenge with modern performance cars that exhibit a level of complexity that dwarfs that of their predecessors.

When it comes to getting performance from a new platform early and often, Evolution Performance knows the value of an aggressive development program. The company made its name attacking the then-new '07 Shelby GT500 with an abandon that resulted in numerous e.t. records on the dragstrip, including dropping the first 8- and 9-second passes on the scoreboard. Main men Fred Cook and Nelson Whitlock have shown a laser-sharp focus in pursuing those plateaus in the GT500 world.

"Basically, we were a regular Mustang shop, so we were grouped with other Mustang shops. I needed something to slingshot us out there. I knew that car would be the second coming," Fred explained. "It was massive. We were getting calls from all over the country. This was monumental. It was to the point that Ford recognized us, and our car was on display at Ford's SAE event. It was the first time a non-Ford-owned car appeared at Ford's SAE meeting."

With the announcement of the '11 5.0 Mustang, the Evolution boys were looking to evolve beyond the high-end world of the Shelby GT500 by adding the mainstream performance of the '11 GT to their repertoire. When it came to sharing those exploits with the world, who else would they call but a magazine with a name like ours?

Of course, broadening the company's horizons also called for a re-evaluation in the way Evolution operates. Just as the '11 Mustang GT appeals to a broader range of consumers, Evo wanted to take a more consumer-oriented approach-at least at first. The GT500 crowd has its wild bunch, and so does the Mustang GT, but most people will seek out bolt-on performance mods for their brand-new 'Stangs.

"We needed something fresh. We needed a challenge. Easy is no fun. That's why we didn't rip apart the car when we got it," Fred revealed. "We know how to do that, but that's not how the average consumer would do it. For the first time, I wanted to pretend to be the consumer-try a few things at a time and see how it performs, without sacrificing any streetability."

And so this quest began on April 28, 2010, as the Evolution crew picked up a fresh '11 Mustang GT and drove straight to the dragstrip. With no cool-down or burnout, the car laid down a 13.2 at 110 mph with a 2.10 60-foot. A day later, the car was on the company's in-house Mustang dyno for a baseline of 368.60 hp and 352.48 lb-ft at the feet. From there, it was all about learning what the car liked and getting it ready for the dragstrip.

Step one was having Jon Lund plug into the OBD-II port and tweak the factory calibration for a bit more aggression. Naturally, he refined the air/fuel ratio and the spark advance. (Later he would adjust the TiVCT control and tweak various rev limiters.) "The MAF is frequency based. It doesn't use the traditional volts. The front O2's on the car are widebands, and the car actually has a targeted air/fuel, and the computer maintains that for safety," Fred explained. "The hardest part going forward is figuring out what the TiVCT likes. It can be figured out, but it will take time."

This was the cutting edge of Copperhead tuning at the time the car was released, as many of the commercial tuning companies had not released tuning for the '11 Mustang. With that in mind, these learning endeavors will result in ready-made Evo tunes ready to ship when the '11 flash tools are ready to ship. That will no doubt happen by the time you are holding this issue in your hands.

During that maiden voyage down the track, Nelson Whitlock quickly learned that wheelhop was still part of the Mustang landscape despite some changes in the factory suspension geometry. To cure that ailment, Evolution installed its complete suspension, including an '11-compliant upper control arm, which was designed longer anyway. On the engine side, the '05-and-up cars benefitted from a K&N drop-in filter, which added a couple ponies on its own, and that custom tuning. Those mods accounted for an increase in rear-wheel horsepower to 384 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque.

Though it had more power and a better suspension, the Evo '11 retained the stock wheels and tires and the heavy Brembo brakes. All told, it clocked in at 3,824 pounds with Nelson behind the wheel and a tank full of gas. In this configuration, it was time to return to the dragstrip. After the initial trip to Cecil County Raceway in Maryland, the Evo crew practically lived at Atco Raceway (www.atcoraceway.com) in Atco, New Jersey. On this trip, the freshly modded GT ripped off a series of 12-second passes on those factory tires, including a best pass of 12.85 at 111 mph with a 2.0-second 60-foot. A quick switch to Bogart rear rims and Mickey Thompson ET Streets dropped that to 12.49 at 112.55 mph with a 1.80-second 60-foot.

Elevens were looming, so it was time to get more serious. To reduce front-end weight and rolling resistance, it was off with the big Brembos and on with stock GT front brakes. This also allowed for adding the matching Bogart wheels and skinnies. It was time for some exhaust mods as well, but the '11 features an all-new exhaust design, so the '10 stuff wouldn't fit. Evo had to build a custom off-road X-shaped crossover and a custom after-cat built with Borla Stinger mufflers, resulting in 405 horses and 375 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. Back to Atco with this combination found Nelson battling with the rev limiter going through the traps. Still he was able to click off a 12.04 at 117 mph with a 1.70-second 60-foot. So close, but the clutch seemed hurt.

"We brought the car back to our shop and pulled the transmission to inspect the clutch and flywheel. We cleaned up the clutch disc, flywheel, and pressure plate and put a little moly grease on the input shaft," Fred explained. "While everything was apart, we added a 4-inch aluminum driveshaft, which is 20 pounds lighter then the stock two-piece." At this stage the car weighed 3,618 pounds with driver and Jon Lund had raised the rev limiter. Upon another trip to Atco, the car reeled off several 11-second passes, including a best run of 11.82 at 118 mph with a 1.63 60-foot, making it the first 11-second '11 Mustang.

After eclipsing the 11-second barrier, the next goal was obvious. However, Fred and Nelson were determined to do it in a streetable fashion. The next round of mods included a prototype of Steeda's forthcoming cold-air induction system, which moved the needle over to 407 hp and 377 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.

Obviously the CAI is tied to a tune these days, and the Evo car was already tuned with a drop-in K&N, so there was a smaller window for gains. Remember Ford engineers said there was only 7-percent airflow loss in the stock induction system, so there isn't a huge restriction in the first place.

Combined with some new adjustable Ford Racing Performance Parts shocks and struts, the Evolution '11 GT rolled in the NMRA event in Atco New Jersey to participate in the Super 'Stang Class. In the third round, Nelson improved on the GT's 11-second status thanks to an 11.65 at 119 mph. The higher mph indicated the freer-flowing induction was helping a bit on the top-end.

Though Evolution hadn't given up on the progression of naturally aspirated modifications, Fred knew the 10s were calling. The world wanted a 10-second '11 Mustang. It was time for nitrous, just like in the early days of the push-rod 5.0. On went the kit with the 100hp pills installed, and the Evolution '11 GT rocked the rollers on the Mustang dyno to the tune of 469 hp and 513 lb-ft of torque. With the car tuned up for this duty by Jon Lund, it was back to Atco Raceway on May 20 to shoot for the 10s. It wasn't the first car to do it, but the Evolution car laid down a string of 10.90 passes, and a best pass of 10.88 at 126.66 mph with a 1.59-second 60-foot.

When you step back and consider that the Evo team achieved this feat with a full interior on drag radials, it's simply astounding. This is a new Mustang with bolt-on parts. Sure it has a good list of bolt-ons, but it has no internal engine mods and is running the 3.73 gears that came from the factory. "It feels really odd (to) run an 11 and get excited," Fred shared. "Then we ran a 10 and got more excited, when we are used to 8- and 9-second passes."

It's truly like starting over again. We are a spoiled, jaded a lot too, but just a few years ago, such an achievement would have seemed fictional. Not anymore. The 5.0 is back and rewriting the record books within weeks of its release. Imagine how good it can get from here.

On the Dyno
So the Ford engineers left the aftermarket a little room to improve the performance of the latest 5.0 engines after all. We were pretty concerned that the engine was so optimized from the factory that the gains would be difficult to achieve. Apparently that's just not the case. With some carefully chosen bolt-on upgrades and the tuning of Jon Lund, the Evolution '11 GT picked up 45 hp and 32.52 lb-ft of torque at the feet. Seasoning those bolt-ons with a whiff of nitrous tacked on another 55 hp and a whopping 128 lb-ft. This is just the beginning. Engine modifications and more unnatural aspiration are on the way. Stay tuned to these pages for more details on this and other 5.0 project vehicles as the development of this instant legend continues.

'11 Mustang GT
5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block Aluminum
Displacement 302 ci
Crankshaft Forged steel, fully counter-weighted, induction-hardened
Rods Forged steel
Pistons Cast aluminum
Camshafts

  • Duration: 260 degrees intake, 263 degrees exhaust
  • Lift: 12mm (0.472-in) intake, 11mm (0.432-in) exhaust
  • TiVCT Range: 50 degrees for both intake and exhaust
Power Adder Zex nitrous oxide
Cylinder Heads Four-Valve aluminum
Intake Manifold Composite shell-welded with runner pack w/Steeda cold-air intake
Throttle Body Stock 80mm
Fuel System Sequential mechanical returnless with 32.8-lb/hr injectors
Exhaust Stock short-tube S44100 stainless steel Tri-Y tubular headers w/Evolution Performance Custom 3-inch off-road X-pipe, Evolution Performance custom after-cat exhaust system
Transmission MT82 six-speed manual w/Evolution Performance 4-inch aluminum driveshaft
Rearend 8.8 w/Eaton True-Trac differential and 3.73 gears

Electronics
Engine Management Copperhead w/Jon Lund custom tune
Gauges Stock

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
K-member Stock
Control Arms Stock
Springs Stock
Struts Ford Racing Performance Parts adjustable
Caster/Camber Stock
Swaybar Removed
Brakes 336(13.2-in)x36mm vented discs; twin-piston, 43mm floating aluminum calipers
Wheels 15-inch Bogart Racing wheels
Tires M&H 26x4.50x15-in DOT Front Runners
Rear Suspension
Springs Stock
Shocks Ford Racing Performance Parts adjustable
Control Arms Evolution adjustable upper control arm and mount, Steeda billet lower control arms
Brakes Stock
Wheels 15-inch Bogart Racing wheels
Tires M/T 28x12.50x15-in DOT ET Street Tires
Chassis Stiffening Evolution Panhard bar brace, Evolution Panhard three-point torque box braces