Tom Wilson
June 1, 2008
Photos By: Guy Spangenberg
Looking racy and with the gruff to back it up, the Roush 427R Trak Pak is a dual-threat street machine and track runner. With an MSRP of $58,245, the supercharged, sharp-handling Trak Pak caters to those willing to pay for a turnkey car who also value the Roush name.

Horse Sense: Jack Roush's auto racing record is amazing. It includes everything from drag racing to road racing to Nextel Cup. To check out the 357 wins tallied so far, visit www.roushperformance.com, click on "About" and "Roush Racing Victories."

Is there one among the 100,000-plus people reading this magazine who hasn't dreamed of optimizing their good old street-driven Mustang for track or drag use? We certainly have, as evidenced by our in-house project '96 GT. It bristles with go-fast track goodies from Maximum Motorsports and slinks along the street from one open track to another.

We had to build our track car ourselves-OK, we had to talk Maximum Motorsports into building it for us. The point is, it's rare when new Mustangs arrive on showroom floors with the intent of driving the road-racing track. This is one of those rare times. Even better, it's Roush Performance that's offering a run of 100 road-course-ready Mustang GTs.

As the greater Roush organization has won umpteen Trans Am and GTO championships, in addition to its endless roundy-round experience, it's a safe bet that Roush's off-the-rack weekend track Mustang ought to be made of the right stuff. To find out, we borrowed a 427R Trak Pak and made merry for a week of street and track thrills, and it was good-as in a total blast.

From the rear, the Trak Pak offers a practical, Midwestern lack of flash-to-performance design. The big-tipped exhaust is loud enough to make itself known on the street, but on the track and wearing a helmet, we had to strain to hear shifting cues over the open-window wind noise.

The Trak Pak is superb for its intended market, which is the guy wanting a cool street machine coupled with the added ability of the occasional hassle-free day of track driving. This car truly delivers on the promise of driving to the track, ripping off some fast, satisfying laps, then driving home with the air conditioning on. Which is exactly what we did with it.

To straddle the divergent street and track worlds, Roush concentrated on tuning the chassis while relying on its standardized supercharged Three-Valve engine package for power. Thus, the engine is an internally stock Three-Valve 4.6 from Ford, but the induction is replaced by Roush's Eaton M90-based Roots supercharger and water-to-air charge cooling system, all nestled in a Roush cast-aluminum manifold and intake. The 73mm blower pulley fitted to the Trak Pak yields an appropriate 5 pounds of boost and 435 flywheel horsepower.

While this amount of supercharging is modest compared to the headlining mega-power options getting the buzz these days, it's wholly correct for a road-course car where the sustained high rpm and boost levels make heat soaking a real issue. Charge cooling is mandatory at the track, and keeping the boost to a low roar is also necessary to avoid detonation or frustrating power losses during a 20-minute track session. This is because the engine-management computer pulls ignition timing as the engine heat rises. Besides, 435 hp is plenty for track thrills when combined with the instant torque hit from a positive-displacement blower such as the M90.

Roush maintains the stock five-speed Ford transmission, but fits it with a more precise shifter. The handle is particularly tall and stout, and it features a traditional-and impossible to improve upon-round ball knob. Rear-axle gearing is 3.55 with a Detroit Truetrac limited-slip differential in place. The latter gives improved venting to the rear axle.

Thanks to Roush's immense racing history and success, we associate the name with hardcore performance, not nonfunctional hoodscoops such as this one. We have to admit the relatively minor body panel and graphics changes give the Trak Pak some visual rumble. We counted Roush signage in at least 24 spots around the car, with the only exterior examples being these Roush-charged scoop badges and the windshield banner. Track cars have often worn hood pins. Roush rigged it the right way-as additions to the stock release and wind latch. Underhood checks take more effort, but the hood won't blow broken glass into your face.

Roush stepped up to a coilover suspension for the Trak Pak to include single-adjustable shocks, progressive-rate springs, jounce bumpers, front and rear sway bars, and adjustable camber plates up front. The ride height is adjustable, as is rebound damping and camber.

Significant brake upgrades are also part of the Trak Pak. The vital front brakes are brought up to 14-inch two-piece, slotted rotors and six-piston calipers. Furthermore, brake ducts are fitted from the foglights to cool the front brakes during repeated, hard track action. The rear brakes maintain the stock Ford calipers but take a step up with slotted discs. As with the fronts, the rear calipers are fitted with stainless steel flex hoses, and they conduct high-temperature brake fluid.

While you may not normally think of the trunk when it comes to hot rodding, the Trak Pak Roush's bustle bears a quick peek. There you'll find a set of Hawk DTC 70 front and HT 10 rear racing brake pads. Putting all this go-fast hardware to use are 275/40-18 BFGoodrich g-Force KD tires at all corners, riding on five-spoke, dark-charcoal-painted alloy rims.

Inside, the Trak Pak cockpit is pumped up a bit for performance and definitely for appearance. The seats carry Roush leather surfaces, and the pedals sport new pads. The aforementioned shifter also makes a visual statement, as does the top-of-dash gauge cluster. For Trak Pak duty, the three-gauge cluster sports oil and water temperatures, as well as boost-pressure instruments. A shift light has been craftily incorporated into the gauge pod, between the left and middle instruments.

Outside, Roush decided the cost and weight of some dress-up parts would be good for business, so the Trak Pak sports a new fascia, chin spoiler, and nonfunctional hoodscoop, along with the prominent side-stripe graphics.

Roush's Eaton-based, 4.6-liter Three-Valve supercharger package is rated at 435 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque in Trak Pak trim. That's plenty for hot street and track action, especially because the torque comes on strong right away. Seamless power from idle on up is always on tap, with plenty of over-rev available if needed.

Options are few on this nearly $60,000 car, but our tester had four out of the five available. Most important, we'd say, is the $700 adjustable carbon-fiber wing, which Roush calls a spoiler. It's said to provide some downforce, and at the speeds we got it up to on the Fontana speedway banking-135 mph-it no doubt does.

The other options are all Victoria's Secret stuff: nice, but you'd still perform without. Best of the bunch are likely the white-faced, electroluminescent instruments in the main gauge cluster at $390. Their bright faces aid readability of the unfortunately deep-set S197 steam gauges. On the other hand, that means the MyColor instrument lighting from Ford is lost-hardly a major setback-along with the trip computer, which was definitely more useful.

Our car also featured the $350 carbon-fiber Dash Trim Kit, quarter-window louvers for $315, and $57 Roush doorsill plates. The one missing option was the $295 trunk-mounted toolkit.

Our first impression of the Trak Pak was as a street car. With its dark wheels, wing, and more aggressive body kit, just seeing it in the real world tells you this is a Mustang with attitude. Climbing in is easy-Roush opted for stock seat shapes to keep daily life with the Trak Pak manageable. The cockpit feels instantly familiar but with a purposeful edge. The big, tall shifter is stout in the hand, and the gauge pod evokes the minimalist instrumentation of a sedan racer. On the other hand, without a rollbar or an unused five-point harness hanging and clanging, the Trak Pak is salon-like compared to the knuckle-dragging track machine.

Fire it up, and the aggression steps up two notches as the supercharger growls and the exhaust rumbles. The auditory insistence only increases underway as our tester's rear axle whined and the tires rumbled and hissed across the pavement. Such boisterousness is naturally double-edged; when you're feeling sporty, the Trak Pak is a brother in arms. If you're trying to hear the radio, you'll have to turn it up. Knobby pavement is a pain in the ears as well.

Once you get moving, the real joy of the Trak Pak-chassis precision-shines immediately. This is one Mustang with enough spring, shock, bar, and tire to grab the pavement and let you know about it. The steering is light and considerably more responsive than stock, and the turn-in and grip rank are in the top tier of S197 hot rods. This is the Trak Pak's overriding characteristic, and it comes through loud and clear, from the easiest street cruise all the way to the track.

Next up is the ample power. The torque is a joy, warping the Trak Pak off the line with ease and lobbing the car down-street almost effortlessly. Rev it more and the power simply ramps up. You'd have to be drunk on turbo-boost to think there wasn't enough. Coupled with the light clutch effort and precise-but-beefy shifter, the blower power forms the basis for easy speed or rip-and-tear action as you want it. Way cool.

Quarter-window covers are optional on the Trak Pak. We'd definitely pass on these to maximize rearward visibility. The optional rear wing is carbon fiber and adjustable for angle of attack. From the driver seat, the wing can be seen in the rearview mirror, but it isn't a huge impediment to rear vision.

Definitely track-oriented, the Trak Pak suspension is polite on the street, with the front end working exceptionally well. Smooth roads are a joy, of course, but the rear suspension was too stiff on our car. Sharp-edged pavement heaved the rear skyward, our lower backs wincing with each bridge transition or ride over broken pavement. We didn't fiddle with the shock's rebound adjustment, but it couldn't have made that much difference: The rear is definitely stiff on this one.

There's also a tacked-together feel from the Trak Pak. You can't help but notice the large, wavering gap where the gauge pod was glued atop the dash, and the fire extinguisher in the passenger foot well is a rattling, calve-biting nuisance, but it's required by many open-track associations. The hot-rod tone from the blower gears and freer-flowing exhaust contributes as well, so despite the Trak Pak being a taut new car, it has just enough project-car feel to make driving excitement every time you strap it on or rattle-trap to the distaff side. It also draws attention thanks to the extroverted graphics, scoop, fascia, and wing. Expect approving stares from the in-crowd but nothing polite from PTA minivans or the law.

To get what the Trak Pak is about, you must enter it in an open-track. To put the street/track concept to the full test, we drove it an hour and a half to the Fontana superspeedway, entered a Speed Ventures open-track, put a borrowed lug wrench on the wheels to make sure a nut wasn't coming loose, zip-tied a timing transponder to the fuel-pump bracket, taped on some numbers, and put on a helmet. There was no support vehicle, no toolbox, no gas cans, no spare tires, no extra brake pads, and no friends tagging along to help. It was just us, the car, and a couple of understanding participants, who gave us tie wraps and cutters when we realized we had traveled too lightly.

White-faced instruments in the main cluster are optional. They glow blue-green at night, while the gauge pod lighting is white. Also curious is how the instrument cluster reuses the stock water temperature information-redundant to the more legible water temp in the gauge pod-instead of fitting an oil pressure gauge to this position. We did find the white-faced instruments easier to read on-track than the stock black-faced variety.

The results were impressive. Speed Ventures rented the big "roval" course at Fontana, giving us half the oval, complete with the towering Turn 1 and 2 banking, along with the infield road course. It was a great track for the Roush to play on, with the highest-speed sections in the western U.S., along with a mix of moderate and tight corners on the infield. Additionally, it didn't have the Mickey Mouse brake-test and pitch-it sections that bother such a large, heavy track car.

The power could really be unleashed. When we took it easy, we saw 125 mph on the banked Turn 2; when pushing it, 132 to 135 mph appeared on the speedometer. The 3.55 gearing was fine at Fontana, giving the right combination of acceleration and quiet cruising on the street. We could use Second through Fourth on most of the track, and Fifth on the oval when we wanted to rest the engine. We didn't wish for a more closely spaced (lower ratio) Fifth gear, as we were already going far too fast for a car with no 'cage or proper five-point harness.

Acceleration was exciting, the Roush blasting along with the best of the V-8 hot rods on-track with us. We didn't wish for any more power. Even better, what power we had was easy to dial in and out. The linear throttle and bulging torque made balancing the car (e.g., throttle steering) easy on corner exit, which is always a big part of track-driving fun. At the same time, there's so much power down low that you must be careful not to spin or abuse the rear tires or you'd bake them into grease balls. We tried the traction control on and off and couldn't tell a difference because Ford's software allows wheelspin (thank goodness), and we were able to drive smoothly due to the easily modulated power.

Temperature control was good: The oil got to 220 degrees, the water rising to 240 degrees when running all out. With the engine temps not out of line-most of the time the water indicated 220 degrees or so-the engine power didn't vary from the first to last laps. Granted, this was on a 60-degree late-fall day, so summer track sessions may require extra cooling or something less than a superspeedway to run on. We were even able to run without the supplementary engine cooling afforded by an operating heater/defroster, which made us more comfortable. Our lame, 91-octane, California-spec pump gas also seemed to work fine. We should also add that it was because of the Roush gauge-pod instruments that we were able to keep an eye on the temps and pressures-a requirement when pushing this long and hard.

Fitted with the optional carbon-fiber dress-up kit, the Trak Pak's interior broods darkly in keeping with the serious driving it was designed to oversee. Roush's leather reupholstery of the stock Ford seats adds plushness while retaining daily driver ease of ingress and egress. For track use, however, the seats and stock three-point belt lack lateral support, so we'd be tempted to install a racing seat and five-point harness if much track duty was in the offing.

On-track, we found the shifting occasionally clunky and long-levered, but even if it sounds strange, the manly lever and precise efforts were reassuring in the heat of track action. The shifter gave good feel, and lightning-fast shifting isn't a road course requirement, especially not open tracking. We should add that the shifter strongly reminded us of the Roush Winston Cup car we sampled at Road Atlanta ages ago, so we took its personality as authentic Roush engineering.

Once again, the handling was a highlight, especially when driven just short of "rage." The precision and grip we enjoyed on the street was still there on-track. Add in the linear, powerful throttle, and the Trak Pak felt composed and at home. It certainly never surprised us or made a white-knuckle move.

Some of this composure is due to the modest-to-moderate understeer Roush has left in the chassis. This reassures the driver, with the only downside being a push developing before the fastest drivers would want it. In slower to medium-speed corners, the understeer is barely felt-probably never felt by the majority of Trak Pak buyers. The only time we found it noticeable was when pushing through the Turn 2 banking. That meant 130-plus-mph speeds came with some heavy steering down to the apex, followed by an understeering slither up to the imposing concrete wall on the exit. Previous experience has taught us this turn feels this way in the best-prepped Mustangs until more than 3 degrees of negative camber are dialed into the right front tire, so the Roush's performance was just within track-car bounds and impressive for a showroom-stock machine in this demanding, specialized scenario.

While the dash-top instrument pod doesn't boast the last word in artful mounting, having large, legible oil and water temperatures, as well as boost pressure, within easy sight is a godsend on-track. We suspect drivers will need to manage engine temperatures during extended summertime track sessions, so front and center mounting is important. Curiously, the shift light-the small sliver bezel at lower left-proved invisible to us during our track sessions. Aiming the light upward would definitely help.

If the Trak Pak has a handling fault, it's the stiff rear suspension. A mere bother on the street, the car is heaved by ripples and bumps on-track, which hurts lap times. Getting from the infield and onto the oval, for example, was a headshaking, rear-axle-bouncing, full-throttle dance. The rear tires scratched and grabbed, but like a good stick-axle car, it never lacked control and kept clawing forward. Other spots, in mid-corner or under braking, show more on the stopwatch as the car can be upset during the more delicate corner-entry process. Granted, we didn't so much as adjust the shock damping, much less the tire pressures, so some of this could be tuned out by an engaged owner. Left as is, this isn't a huge factor unless you're racing on the Apian Way or something.

Most limiting was the braking. Yes, the Trak Pak has some excellent clamping hardware, but it also has a lot of power and good handling. That means the brakes get a workout, especially at a place such as Fontana where repeatedly going from 135 to 35 mph every two minutes is required. We were able to put in three hard-braking laps each session before the pads began to fade, and this was with the Hawk pads installed.

On the plus side, the front brake ducts are a huge help. The brakes come back to a firm peddle given just a few corners of light braking. Kudos to Roush for fitting these. Far too few outfits understand the importance of brake cooling.

Our thought on the Roush brakes is that the hardware is fine. Maybe the hardest-charging drivers will want higher performance track pads, but we'll bet better brake management (proper bedding, avoid glazing) will return much better performance. For all-out braking performance and constant track action, dedicated track pads and rotors-coupled with dedicated street pads and rotors for the drive home-are the only acceptable solution. Given an occasional open-track and plenty of street driving, the Trak Pak brake system is a great combination of excellent street manners and brute track-level brake torque generation. The only caveat would be that some track/driver combinations may require restraint from full-boogie braking.

There's no shame driving the Trak Pak when yellow Ferraris and such are at the same open-track. The taped numbers and a timing transponder were the only track prep we gave our test car, and it ran with the best of them at Fontana. For the guy who wants a hot street Mustang and runs the occasional open-track, the 427R Trak Pak fills the bill.

All told, we had a blast with the Roush at Fontana and minimal trouble being in the fastest third of cars present. As Speed Ventures attracts its share of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and prepped AWD Subies with 25 pounds of boost, that's no mean feat for a car that was driven to the track and back with no more prep than checking the oil level. We turned 1:59 laps, which is enough medicine for the average 'Vette, but not quite in the Z06 or turbo Porsche league. The little stuff you just blow by, which always feels good.

Does the Trak Pak meet its combined street and track goal? You bet it does. At the end of our track day, we pulled off the taped numbers, snipped the transponder's zip ties, tossed our helmet in the backseat, and drove home in a rocket of a street car. The tires were not chunked, the check-engine light never came on, and the worst maintenance ahead of us was rubbing the rubber flecks off the front fascia and refilling the gas tank.

If we've harped on the Trak Pak in this review, it certainly isn't because we're trying to steer anyone away from it. Rather, we recognize the incredibly difficult gulf the Trak Pak spans between street and track, and in the interest of full-disclosure, we've presented what we found in the most demanding driving. Like any car, the 427R Trak Pak isn't perfect, but even its flaws make it an exciting car to have in your garage-or pit space

Speed VenturesWhen we needed to get the 427R Trak Pak on-track on short notice somewhere within striking distance of southern California shortly before Christmas, Speed Ventures had an event for us. Catering to performance street cars and seeming to attract a good share of high-end Los Angeles-area exotica, Speed Ventures puts on nicely run, low-key events. The usual open-track amenities are available-instruction, performance grouping, five run groups per day, optional timing-with entry fees ranging from $150 to $320, depending on the track and days available.

We especially appreciate Speed Ventures booking Laguna Seca; a noise-sensitive, limited-access, high-dollar track with great ambiance and a thrilling layout. Most open-track groups don't bother with Laguna, but Speed Ventures had three events scheduled there in the first quarter of 2008 alone.

Other highlights include an active calendar and a cost-saving tire program with Nitto. Visit www.speedventures.com for more.

5.0 Tech Specs
GENERALoil temp, water temp, boost
Weightpressure in three-gauge pod atop
3,450 lbs.dash; Roush-badged, white-faced
Wheelbaseinstruments optional (fitted to
107.1-intest car)-140-mph speedometer,
Track6,000-rpm redline tach, fuel level,
{{{62}}}.3/62.5-in front/rearand water temp
Horsepower 
430 hp at 6,250 rpmSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
TorqueFront Suspension
385 lb-ft at 4,250 rpmSprings
 Roush coilover
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINShocks
Block{{{Ford}}}-based MacPherson design
Ford, aluminum Brakes
Displacement14-in slotted and vented two-piece
4.6-liters (28ci), 3.554x3.540-inrotor, six-pistons, Roush-script
bore x strokesix-piston caliper, Hawk high-
Rotating Assemblyperformance pads included in trunk
Stock FordWheels
CamshaftsForged five-spoke 18-in, painted
Stock Forddark charcoal
HeadsTires
Stock FordBFGoodrich KD Ultra High
IntakePerformance 275/40ZR-18
Roush-specific w/ integratedFord-based MacPherson design
supercharger and inlet tube, panelw/ Roush coilover spring/shock
air filterunits, Roush swaybar
SuperchargerRear Suspension
Roush-integrated M900 EatonSprings
Roots blower, water-to-air chargeRoush coilover
coolingShocks
ExhaustFord-based MacPherson design
Roush-spec 2.5-in high-flow,Brakes
enlarged exhaust tips11.8-in vented rotor, Hawk high-
Transmissionperformance pads included in trunk
Five-speed manual w/ 3.38 FirstWheels
gear and 0.68 Overdrive Fifth gearForged five-spoke 18-in, painted
Rearenddark charcoal
8.8-in differential, 3.53:1; DetroitTires
TrueTrac limited-slipBFGoodrich KD Ultra High
 Performance 275/40ZR-18
ELECTRONICS 
Engine ManagementOptions
Roush PowerFlash calibration,White-faced, electro-luminescent
Ford traction controlinstruments: $390
IgnitionCarbon-fiber dash trim kit: $350
StockQuarter-window louvers: $315
GaugesRoush doorsill plates: ${{{57}}}
Stock Ford instrument standard;Trunk-mounted toolkit: $295