Vinnie The Hitman
December 1, 2007

It's no secret that Roush Performance is at the forefront of automotive technology and performance. Roush produces some sick Mustangs and trucks for public consumption, as well as a catalog of parts for late-model Fords. Jack Roush has had major success in Trans Am, drag racing, and of course, NASCAR, and seemingly each week on tracks and on the street, he continues to build his racing empire. While he guns for championships in NASCAR, his son Jack Jr. and his daughter, Susan McClenaghan, drive towards their own championships-Jack Jr. in the Grand Am KONI Challenge series and Susan in the NMRA's Modular Muscle class.

This ROUSH Mustang is still owned by the Livonia, Michigan-based Roush group and was used several years ago as a dyno and track mule to help develop the Stage 3 Roush Mustang. Now that the Sonic Blue and Sterling Silver GT has been retired from engineering duties, it can be seen in NMRA's Mod Muscle class with Jack's daughter, Susan McClenaghan, behind the wheel, running mid-10-second e.t.'s.

With such intense dedication, it's no wonder Roush parts work well and fit right, and the family's racing has a lot to do with that. The company's street vehicles look and perform great, and its racing teams are always in the championship hunt. But we hardly hear what happens behind the scenes; in particular, how parts get developed and integrated into new Roush vehicles. We often see the shiny bits land in our nearest catalogs, but you have to wonder, how does it come to fruition?

The answer is right in front of you in the guise of this '01 Mustang GT, piloted by Jack's daughter, Susan. Despite having only a few years of drag racing experience, Susan has shown great ability behind the wheel of this 10-second Mustang. By day, the talented heiress is also the caretaker of the Roush Automotive Collection that currently has a fleet of more than 115 very cool and interesting cars.

In its heyday, Susan's Stage 3 served as Roush's engineering workhorse for emissions certification, calibration, and development of its Stage 3 engine package for the then-current '99-'04 Mustangs. The folks at Roush's Special Vehicles division wanted a rock-solid foundation to develop hard-charging engine components, so they turned the otherwise-stock GT into a dedicated track star-albeit one that would face real-world competition in the NMRA Keystone Ford Racing series.

Susan recently scored a runner-up finish at the NMRA Atco event, which moved her up in the championship points chase.

There was no time to waste, so the vehicle was gutted to a pure shell, and its transformation from street car to race car was underway. A full cage was installed to reinforce and underpin the Fox-4 chassis, while the crew started the sus-pension build with AJE's tubular K-member, lower front control arms, and coilover springs with a set of Koni struts. The workshop then did away with the Mustang's stock rear sus-pension and fitted a set of RJ Race Cars ladder bars to locate the Moser 9-inch rear. With Strange double-adjustable shocks and Hypercoil springs left to manage the motion, it was up to the motivating forces under the hood to get the party going.

Since downtime would have been detrimental to the Stage 3's supercharger development period, this car needed a bulletproof foundation with a failure rate of zero. At the same time, it had to be similar to what a typical Mustang owner would drive, so the displacement remained the same as stock while key internal upgrades were made for the sake of reliability. Essentially, the engine is what you'd find in a Stage 3 Mustang, but it's been treated to a few racing tricks. Starting with the stock '01 iron block, a slight cleanup hone allows the Wiseco pistons to slide freely in the standard-size bores. With a steel Cobra crank replacing the GT's cast unit, and a set of steel I-beam rods by Roush moving the shiny new slugs to and fro, compression is dialed in at 9.6:1. A Cobra oil pump provides the slippery stuff to all the bits on the topside, while the remainder of the Two-Valve mod motor is blue-printed for exacting performance.

The stock-appearing Stage 3 engine that sits underneath the RoushCharger still sports 281 ci, but it has been upgraded with a Cobra crank and some other beefy internals like Wiseco slugs and 4340 steel rods. The engine is now running a FAST management system with individual MSD coils being triggered for precise combustion. Some say it's all in the name of science, but we think it's all in the name of speed. You can't argue with 430 rwhp and a best of 10.45 at 127 mph.

The top half of the 281-incher is where things get interesting. Using Roush's own CNC-ported PI castings, the heads are optimized with a set of custom-ground Comp Cams camshafts, with matching Comp springs wrapped around stainless valves in the stock diameter. The crowning jewel is the RoushCharger positive-displacement supercharger that pumps 7 pounds of intercooled boost into those hungry intake manifold runners. To dial everything in, a FAST engine-management system is used, and a set of MSD coil packs are individually fired for the utmost in reliability and repeatability. Bolted to the other side of the heads are Hedman 151/48-inch long-tube headers that run wide open to the atmosphere. These components generate 430 hp at the wheels through an automatic tranny. On the strip, the hammer is dropped to the tune of 10.45 elapsed times at 127 mph. Just in case you were wondering, that's with a 1.409 60-foot time and a single click at half track to activate the Hughes two-speed with its 5,500-stall converter.

"My husband, Dale, and I have competed in a time/speed race called The Great Race, which is a trans-continental event that runs about 4,000 miles," Susan says. "We compete in a '39 two-door Deluxe Ford convertible called 'Georgetta,' and we've won one championship and tied for Grand Champion once.

Meaty 28.5X10.5 Mickey Thompsons sit on 10-inch Weld Aluma-Stars, but upon closer inspection, you can see that they sit a bit differently than usual. That's because there's now a narrowed 9-inch rear sitting on a pair of ladder bars. So far, it's a combination that has been effective enough for low-1.40-second short times. Wilwood brakes all around bring the fun to a safe and secure end.

"The opportunity to drag race came about in the fall of 2005 when Roush Performance Parts rented [Milan Dragway] for testing. We took some cars out there, and it was the first time I had ever gone down a dragstrip in my life. I did it a handful of times, and my father, who is a hard-core, old-school drag racer, was excited about seeing his products back at the strip. Don Bowles, a good friend of my father, was getting back into drag racing as well, and he offered his rig to haul the cars around. It's been Dale's dream to drag race, and I thought I could be a test driver to help drive these cars and put them through their paces to see what works and what doesn't. It didn't take long before it was real competition. I first raced in a street car-an '03 Jack Roush Classic-then in my current car." Currently, she is Fourth in championship points.

Susan's attraction to drag racing revolves around the family aspect of the sport. "What excites me most about this program and drag racing is that I can do it with my family, and I can set an example for my daughter, Josie Rose, in an environment like I grew up in," she says.

As you can see, not every engineering mule goes into that great big scrapyard in the sky. Like all the cars that sit in the Roush Automotive Collection, the Roush team recognizes the significance of every one that has been pivotal in either the company's performance parts or NASCAR racing business. As a result, nothing is left behind or forgotten. The next time you see this two-toned terror sitting at the back of the museum or at the track, just remember how much work this car has gone through and how it continues to impact the Mustang world.