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Aeromotive's 07 Shelby GT500 - Aeromodular
Fueling The Modular-Powered fire, Aeromotive Sets The Record Straight With Its '07 Shelby GT500.
Some time last year, we got word that Steve Matusek, president of the popular fuel-component company Aeromotive Inc. (Lenexa, Kansas), was building a modular-powered, Pro 5.0-style tube-chassis car. A press release and accompanying artist's rendition confirmed the rumor.
A modular-powered Pro car is nothing new, as both J.R. Granatelli and John Mihovetz have both been pioneers in this field. To our knowledge, Mihovetz recently set the record for such a vehicle at 6.35 seconds at 222 mph.
The concept of the new Aeromotive car was to create a high-tech, high-profile Mustang that used state-of-the-art technology with a powerplant consumers could relate to. As it is, the engine is based off of an '07 Shelby GT500 DOHC 5.4 powerplant.
"These engines appeared to have enormous potential," Matusek says. "It seemed that if we could get behind it and garner help from our peers in the industry, it would be possible to take this package far beyond where it had gone before. We felt this car was a testament not only of Aeromotive's resident knowledge and experience with fuel systems, but also with racing and performance."
It was decided that this new ride would be a multipurpose machine, legal for numerous sanctions including the NMRA, NMCA, and Fun Ford, as well as the NHRA's Competition Eliminator class. With the concept laid out, it was time for construction.
"When I decided to build the car, I wanted to go with someone who could not just design and build the chassis, but also someone who could help us with managing the car down the track," says Matusek. "I've known Larry Larson for years, and every time I went to a racetrack, he was there. Larson Race Cars (Oak Grove, Missouri) is responsible for building some of the fastest cars in the country for drivers such as David Schorr, Mike Moran, Tony Nesbitt-the list goes on and on, so we went with him.
"It has been an awesome experience working with Larry, from the thought put into not just building the car, but also to weight distribution, maintenance, and setup. He has been there for every race and was responsible for teaching a rookie driver, setting up the car, and managing our mistakes without missing a beat."
Constructed from 4130 chromoly, Matusek's Mustang is based on a traditional tube-chassis Pro Stocker design, featuring a single framerail. Front-suspension components include tubular A-arms with Strange Engineering shocks and springs. The full-floater rear suspension uses Koni shocks with Strange springs. The axle assembly is a Larson-built, sheetmetal housing with Strange axleshafts, 4.11:1 ring-and-pinion gears, and a spool. Total build time was around five months.
Whereas many of today's turbocharged Mustangs have the turbos mounted in front of the engine, Larson opted for a slightly different position. The turbos are placed off to the sides of the engine, which improves the balance of ballast in the car overall. Shorter header tubing means the turbochargers spool up quicker, and having the turbos tucked down in a relatively unused area allows for easier access to work on the engine. That ease of maintenance was also a priority with regard to intercooler placement.
"I've seen too many guys trying to work on the clutch with the intercooler in the way, so I wanted to mount it up front to allow more room inside the car," Larson says. The intercooler and associated plumbing was shuffled around up front for about a day or so until a position that offered neat and tidy plumbing, along with easy maintenance, was found.
On our MM&FF tech sheet, Matusek filled in the Horsepower box with "A Lot" and the Torque box with "Stupid Amount." Matusek and his team had planned to use a modular engine as motivation, but before he got started, he consulted famed turbo tuner and engine builder Kenny Duttweiler regarding his engine choice.
"I told him to make life easy on himself and do a small-block Ford," Duttweiler says. "In the end though, power-wise there's no difference, and the heads flow as good as the average Yates head. Once you got over the modular stigma, it really turned out pretty good and easily made the power numbers. The only downside is that there are four cams instead of one, and 32 valves instead of 16, so assembly and labor time are increased."
Power for this Pro car starts with a Ford GT 5.4-liter supercar aluminum block that's been milled by VT Competition Engines (Lansing, Michigan) to accept a Darton Modular Integrated Deck. If you're not familiar with the Darton MID design, basically the cylinder walls of the block are milled out, leaving an open rectangular shape. The MID consists of interlocking metal cylinder sleeves that are precision fit into the block.
Once that was complete, the block was filled with Hardblock, a concrete type of mixture that solidifies once it is poured in. Duttweiler says this was done mainly to prevent blown head gaskets from spewing water out of the side of the heads, which could possibly get under the tires. It also makes the block a lot more stable and less prone to distortion. Once the Hardblock has filled the block, the water passages are then welded up in the heads, and the only thing that the head gaskets have to deal with is cylinder pressure, which is easily accomplished. Duttweiler says that the small bore size of the modular engine family helps them seal better. Flatout Gaskets of Mundelein, Illinois, supplied the copper gaskets and O-rings that seal the heads to the block.
Once the GT block was worked over, it was filled with a destroked Kellogg crankshaft with a 3.75-inch stroke, MGP aluminum connecting rods, and JE pistons that fit the 3.70-inch bores. Displacement is now 323 ci, and when combined with the CNC-ported GT500 cylinder heads, provides a stout 11:1 compression ratio, which is possible thanks to the location of the spark plugs in the combustion chamber, as well as the use of 118-octane race fuel.
From the beginning of this project, Aeromotive's director of technology, Brett Clow, has been instrumental in numerous areas of the project.
"Brett has headed up our technical department for years, and when I decided to take on this project, I thought I'd give him a shot and see if he could manage this program, and we haven't looked back," Matusek says. "He managed the entire program, from turbos, to tuning, to engine assembly/maintenance and cylinder-head port design. I knew he was talented, but I didn't realize the extent. The project would have never gotten off the ground without him."
Noland's Head Service (Kansas City, Missouri) performed the valve job, cut the valve seats, and welded the coolant passages on the heads. Noland's was also charged with machining the cam tunnels to fit Babbitt-style bearings. These allow the cam to spin more freely at high rpm, and the reduced resistance also keeps the camshafts cooler. Knowing that hand porting each individual runner was going to take a lot of time, Matusek and Clow contacted Fox Lake Power Products in North Lawrence, Ohio, to port the heads on its CNC machine. After that, Clow installed the custom Ferrea valves and Comp Cams beehive valvesprings.
With the cylinder-head work complete, attention was turned toward camshaft selection, and the Aeromotive team really did its homework. Duttweiler is largely responsible for providing the specs, and with help from Comp Cams, the team has been very successful with some out-of-the-box designs.
"Scooter Brothers from Comp Cams and I spoke at SEMA 2006 about this project," Matusek says. "As usual, Scooter opened the floodgates, and the next thing we knew, we were at Comp in Tennessee testing the cams on their Spintron that were spec'd out by Kenny Duttweiler and designed by Billy Godbold at Comp. Scooter then sent Billy, Bradley and Dave Heninger from F.A.S.T. to Duttweiler's shop in California to assist in dyno testing." The use of Jesel solid roller cam followers and cams that are about 0.050-inch larger than any cam ever used in this type of engine was the result of this extensive testing relationship. "We've already turned the engine over 9,200 rpm with no valvetrain issues, which is not possible with the hydraulic cam followers," Matusek says. With the heads and cams ready, it was time for assembly.
"VT Engine and Development helped us choose the block and heads, did all the exten-sive machining in installing the Darton sleeves, performed its magic on the crankshaft, and helped and educated us on how to assemble and maintain the mod engine, including timing the cams," Matusek says. Clow took the bundle of high-performance parts to VT's Michigan facility, where the group assembled the modular motivation.
Utilizing the GT's dry-sump oiling system, Clow employed a Peterson Fluid Systems (Henderson, Colorado) oil pump, along with a Moroso reservoir tank and oil pan. Aeromotive provided the fuel-system components, including its Professional-Series billet fuel rails, 160-lb/hr injectors, fuel pump, and fuel-pressure regulator. To fill the massive gap between the cylinder heads, Matusek called Wilson Manifolds. "Wow," he says. "From the CNC runners to the welding, it's a piece that should be in a museum, not on a car."
Precision Turbo provided the pair of 76mm turbochargers. Size-wise, they were chosen to put the modular Mustang in a good position to run in the NMRA Pro 5.0 category. Boost has varied since the first day the engine was fired, but they're more than capable of 40 psi.
To gain ultimate control over its functions, Matusek sought help from the folks at F.A.S.T. and its XFI engine-management system to feed the fuel and fire. "Jay Rohrback, Lance Ward, and Dave Heninger have not only assisted with tuning issues, but also have written custom tables to allow us to change our maps while enabling the Power Adder functions in the system," he says. "All that popping and banging you hear on the starting line-which is done to spool the turbos and make boost-is a direct result of their efforts. This is critical to the performance of the car as boost on the starting line dictates the torque and power generated by the engine, and maintaining a certain level of power is extremely critical in chassis and clutch setups."
With all of the pieces of the puzzle falling into place, the engine was taken to Duttweiler's shop in Saticoy, California, where some adjust-ments were made with regard to piston-to-wall clearance and engine-oil viscosity. After that, the mill was fired up and run on the engine dyna-mometer, producing more than 2,000 hp and 1,500 lb-ft of torque.
In the team's first couple of outings, the car ran 6.70 e.t.'s at about 208 mph. Tire shake persisted on the One-Two shift, and it wasn't until the NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green that the car's true potential leapt forward. Covering the first 60 feet in 1.02 seconds, the GT500 charged to a 6.54 at 218 mph; which is the quickest and fastest pass in NMRA history.
By the time you read this, the Aeromotive Mustang will have traveled to Las Vegas for the Pacific Street Car Association's (PSCA) Street Car Supernationals. Matusek told us the tune was going to be set on "kill," so Mihovetz's modular record may be in jeopardy. Larson thinks the car has a 6.20-6.30 in it once all of the power has been put to the pavement.
There's no doubt Matusek has had a lot of friends in the industry help make this Mustang a success. His family has been equally-if not more-instrumental in both the success of this project and the success of Aeromotive.
"I'm thankful to be granted this opportunity and could have never even imagined it without my wife, Lori; my oldest daughter Amanda; my middle daughter Jessica; my youngest daughter, Kristen; and even our team dog, Buster. My dad, John Matusek, has been there since the beginning and is there every time I strap in. Even at 68 years old, he comes into work every day, rips the engine and tranny out of the cars, and goes and tests with us on those 100-plus-degree days. He is what Aeromotive is all about. In 2006, all three of my daughters competed in the Junior Dragster class." The oldest has recently moved up to the family's Super Gas '70 Maverick. Is there a turbocharged ride in her future? One can never know, but we're pretty sure Dad won't give up his seat anytime soon.
Here are more photos that didn't make it to print!