Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
April 10, 2013

The Two-Valve 4.6 came out of the gate dragging an anchor. When it debuted in the '96 Mustang GT, the modular replaced our beloved push-rod 5.0. The Two-Valve made the same power as the outgoing push-rod engine. However, no one knew how to work on it, and it didn't make any torque. Was it smoother and more fuel efficient than the push-rod combo? Sure. But that didn't ease the transition. Our push-rod 5.0 was gone. The horsepower apocalypse was surely upon us—or so we thought.

Truly, history has not been kind to the Two-Valve. What with Four-Valve performance and the new Coyote engine, the Two-Valve has become the red-headed stepchild of Mustang engines. Let's not be too hasty, however. If you're one of those who thinks the Two-Valve is only good for a boulevard cruiser, West Nyack, New York's Keith McDermott and his '99 GT beg to differ.

Before you think Keith joined the Mustang party after the rest of us, skipping the push-rod era, that's not so. He could plead ignorance in defense of his Two-Valve choice. Keith's love in the Mustang game started at the age of 14 when a high school friend owned a HCI-improved '89 Fox. "I don't think I will ever forget the first time I rode in it,” Keith affirms. Once he was of driving age, Keith purchased an '89 Saleen, "blowing every last cent on making it fast,” as he puts it. Thanks to running Quality Auto Service, a local body shop, alongside a small performance shop as part of that gig, has his Mustang addiction still going strong.

In February 2012, Keith fell and hit his head, or so it seemed. He sold his 14,000-mile '03 Cobra. There wasn't really a head injury, but who would sell an '03 Cobra to buy a Two-Valve? Really, Keith?

"The Four-Valve cars, especially the '03-'04 Cobras, are easy to make power with,” Keith says, "But the Two-Valve crowd always had it harder, and I really admired that.”

Keith's close friend Wes Ryan and his immaculate and powerful '01 Bullitt, a past feature car, helped Keith see a Two-Valve's giant-killer potential. "I've always been impressed with the Two-Valve crowd and never owned a Two-Valve car,” Keith adds. He was about to change that.

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In March 2012, Keith made the trek to New Hampshire through a snow storm to pick up the car. "When I pulled up to the house, my initial thought was what the hell am I thinking,” he says. As is usually the case, the car wasn't what Keith expected, but it had a solid drivetrain, so he went through with the deal and dragged the GT home. When he got it home, he unloaded it off the trailer, which had been treated to several fresh oil drippings on the way back to New York. What's more, the GT wouldn't idle and it smelled like a wide-open gas tank.

The hits kept on coming when Keith's wife, Candice, laid eyes on the car. "She walked outside, looked at it, and said ‘You really bought this thing? What the hell is the matter with you?!'” If that didn't have Keith second-guessing his purchase, I'm not sure what would. Needless to say, Keith saw a lot of potential that the wife couldn't quite see.

Keith admits to having buyer's remorse on the way home, wondering why he sold the Cobra to take a technological step backward, not to mention a huge step down in horsepower. "I put the car in the garage and figured it would look better tomorrow when I wasn't so tired,” Keith says. No such luck. The car was just as bad as it was the night before, but its weeping fuel lines had transferred that open-gas-tank smell to the whole house. Candice was none too pleased. "That was strike two with the wife,” Keith says.

While Keith was on the verge of falling on his sword, his Quality Auto Service boss, Anthony "Tony” Prestano, came over to look at the car. "He looked over the body while I went on a rant, pointing out all the flaws,” Keith says. Once Keith was done ranting, Tony said, "Don't worry about it, it's only paint. I'll take care of the body and you take care of the mechanical.” Keith tells us Tony was one of the main people who helped see the car through to its current condition.

The next day they towed the GT to the shop to begin its rebirth. Keith worked on the car every night after work and on weekends. Basically, every mechanical aspect of the car had to be gone over and redone. The 8.8 was rebuilt, the engine received new gaskets, the intercooler piping and much of the car's wiring was redone, and all new fuel system components were installed. "Every screw, nut, bolt, clip, and wire was gone back over, all fluids were changed—everything I could do, I did,” Keith says.

You may be asking yourself why Keith wanted this car when he had a fully operational '03 Cobra. The reason was that under all this mess was a Shrader Performance-built 304ci Two-Valve with a Vortech YSi supercharger. Having experienced Shrader Performance's own Steve Shrader's New Edge GT at the 2012 King of the Street competition, we can easily understand why Keith saw the forest through the trees. With the engine and supercharger, Keith knew he was onto something. He just had to straighten out a few maladies to help the car reach its full potential.

Once those issues were corrected, he headed over to Wicked Motorsports so Kevin Hand could throw a tune in it. Keith tells us Kevin was anxious to get his hands on the car to see what kind of power could be made. The previous owner told of 662 standard horsepower at the rear wheels. We all know that using standard, uncorrected horsepower just isn't right, and Keith wanted SAE numbers—and big digits at that.

Kevin strapped the car down and started off by checking the previous tune. He then did a short pull to 4,800 rpm. He jumped out of the car with a smile, proceeded to add a couple straps, proclaiming "This thing is going to make some snot!” We're not sure if "making snot” is a good thing, but it seems to be in this context. With a baseline established, Kevin started over with his own tune, making 680 SAE horsepower at just 5,500.

Since the car featured 60-lb/hr injectors, Kevin told Keith he needed a set of 80-pounders. Keith and Wes Ryan swapped out the injectors right there. With the 80s on board, horsepower jumped up to 730 at 20 pounds of boost.

Then the boys dumped out the 100-octane fuel in favor of a few gallons of Shell URT Advanced fuel. We've documented the gains possible with the URT, so to hear Keith's GT improved to 775 hp at 7,000 rpm is no surprise.

At this point, the mass air meter was at its limit, but Keith didn't care. He now had a 775-rwhp GT with stock driveability and a perfect idle. "It was all thanks to the man with the keyboard,” Keith says, referencing Mr. Hand.

With dyno numbers and much-improved mechanical manners, Keith was excited to start on the body, as was his boss. "Tony is one of the best painters and bodymen I have ever seen. He's completely old-school and an artist at what he does,” Keith says.

Tony took his car as a personal project, working on it for two weeks straight. He removed the rear wing, smoothing in the decklid in the process. He then fixed every dent, ding, and scratch on the car.

For color, they decided on Ford Metallic Silver, but with a stripe graphic. Keith wanted an old-school, marbled effect, but there was some disagreement between the two of them about that. Ultimately, Tony let Keith win. Using PPG paint products, Tony applied the silver and blue stripes, taking two full days to perfect the look. "After the car rolled out in the sun, everyone was amazed at what it looked like and how far the car had come in such a short time,” Keith explained.

He started on the car March 6, 2012, and it was "done” and back in his garage by the middle of June. Between paint, mechanical, and tuning, Keith tells us the car has over 300 hours into it. "The drive home was one of the most rewarding things in my life since I had my hands in every single part of the project,” Keith says, "and it was finally my own from start to finish.” 5.0

Horse Sense: Keith's wife, Candice, wasn't really on board with Keith's choice at the beginning, but he says she came around quickly. Well, yeah, with just a three-month turnaround, she didn't have time to stay mad.

5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block
FRPP Boss modular
Crankshaft
Cobra forged eight-bolt
Rods
Manley H-beam
Pistons
D.S.S. Racing custom w/ Total Seal rings
Camshafts
Bullet custom
Cylinder heads
Trick Flow Twisted Wedge Track Heat 44cc
Intake manifold
Stock w/ FRPP 75mm throttle body, Trick Flow plenum, and Pro-M mass air meter
Power Adder
Vortech YSi supercharger w/ Treadstone TR25 intercooler, 26 pounds of boost, and 2.85-in supercharger pulley
Fuel system
Twin Ford GT Supercar pumps w/ Aeroquip lines, Fore Innovation rails, FRPP flow-matched 80-lb/hr injectors
Exhaust
FRPP short-tube headers w/ Magnaflow off-road X-shape crossover pipe with Magnapack after-cat exhaust
Transmission
Hanlon Motorsports-prepped Tremec TKO 600 w/ SPEC clutch, Steeda Autosports Tri-Ax shifter, and an FRPP aluminum driveshaft
Rearend
8.8 w/ ‘03-'04 Cobra differential, 3.73 gears, and Strange Engineering 31-spline axles
Electronics
Engine management
Stock Computer w/ SCT XCal3 tune by Kevin Hand
Ignition
Coil-on plug, MSD coils, NGK TR6 spark plugs
Gauges
Stock w/ Auto Meter boost, oil pressure, fuel pressure, and water temperature gauges; and an Innovate Motorsports wideband
Suspension and Chassis
Front suspension
K-member
UPR Products tubular
A-arms
UPR Products tubular
Struts
Lakewood 90/10 w/ Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plates
Springs
UPR Products coilover
Brakes
‘03-'04 Cobra w/ Rotor Pro rotors, and Hawk ceramic pads
Wheels
FR500 replica, 18x9-in
Tires
Kumho Ecsta MX 275/35-18
Rear suspension
Shocks
Strange Engineering 10-way adjustable
Springs
Stock, cut one coil
Control Arms
Steeda Autosports
Brakes
Stock GT w/ Rotor Pro rotors, and Hawk ceramic pads
Wheels
FR500 replica, 18x10-in
Tires
BFG 295/35-18

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