KJ Jones
September 9, 2013
Photos By: KJ Jones

With the naturally aspirated calibration set, we then focused on building a nitrous tune. For nitrous, ignition timing typically is retarded when the unit is activated while fuel is enrichened. With target air/fuel set at 12:1, Sleeper's stroker responded best to 6 degrees of timing retard, hitting the dyno hard with 354 horsepower and 427 lb-ft of killer torque at the feet.

As an expert who works with all types of high-end engine-management systems and consults with manufacturers on ways to improve them, Brian gave his thoughts about the Modotek BlackBox v2.0. "BlackBox is a great ECU for the price," Brian said. "The system is full of awesome features, and there is no shortage of modifiers in the software that will allow beginner and advanced tuners to get almost any engine combination running well, as long as all of the general specifics for the engine are in order. Honestly, had this system been around when KJ's T-top Coupe was built, that supercharged Mustang could actually have a mass-air sensor and be tuned to make the same 1,000 hp that it currently makes," Brian said.

Drag Day

As you can imagine, we were really excited about taking Project Cheaper Sleeper to the dragstrip and evaluating how the additional power (hopefully) improves the Pony's previous-best e.t. and speed. In the spirit of your tech editor's experience participating in Hot Rod magazine's Drag Week 2012, the decision was made to conduct a "Drag Day," loading all of the racing essentials into the ‘Stang's hatch and driving to the dragstrip in Bakersfield, California…140 miles away (one way) from KJ's home…and back.

In a nutshell, the effort was a total success! The project ‘Stang was flawless in both driving segments of the road trip. And on the track, the gain of nearly 1.5 seconds and close to 10 mph over the best factory-stock performance (naturally aspirated) is awesome when you consider the car's 3,500-pound weight and that passes were made without manually shifting the AOD. The Performance Automatic tranny was run in D for the duration of our test day to replicate the manner in which the ‘Stang was driven (with the stock engine and AOD) in our baseline runs.

Unfortunately, time ran short on our test day and we were not able to fire the nitrous system. However, we're happy with the results and what we learned by running the car in naturally aspirated trim first. Now, of course, we know there are plenty of similarly configured Foxes out there that post better numbers than this and may be just as capable of performing as efficiently on the street. The important thing to keep in mind for our ‘Stang is that from the project's outset we noted there's no desire to set the world on fire with this Pony. Doing that typically carries a hefty price tag, even when you're smart shopping and finding good deals.

The horsepower and torque gains that we saw on the dyno and in the mile-per-hour increase in the quarter-mile are strong indicators that by simply adjusting the TV cable (to extend the transmission's shift points when racing in D) or by manually shifting the AOD, Sleeper definitely is a 13-second/100-plus mph ride. We also know that by installing a looser torque converter, swapping heads and intake for better airflow, putting the heavy Pony on a diet, and focusing on a few more racier mods, Sleeper probably would be in the 12s—without the nitrous.

Other than possibly knocking off a few pounds, don't count on seeing such changes any time soon. We're proud of the solid accomplishments that were made thus far, and remember, we still have a 150hp shot of nitrous to play with the next time Project Cheaper Sleeper is at the track.

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The track and back trip totaled 285 miles. Project Cheaper Sleeper completed the journey with zero problems, confirming that it has the run-hard-on-the-track-and-drive-it-anywhere cred that we hoped it would at the outset of the project.

More Hidden Pleasures

There are all sorts of cool upgrades that are buried within Project Cheaper Sleeper. This is a sampling of a few more sneaky mods that we came up with—cool yet functional and efficient changes that play right into our stealth street/strip ‘Stang concept.

While we've emphasized throughout this project that mods like these can come cheap through smart shopping, deal-making, and so on, we must add one caveat. Custom-made wheels like the big ‘n' little-style 10-holes that Pico Wheel Service created are among the few pricier items. You probably won't come across a set of hoops like that on the used market, and by the time you have a set made, have the wheels powdercoated (notice the black accenting on our wheels), and then add Mickey Thompson rubber, you'll have spent a little more than a grand.

Yes, that's a pretty big ticket for cool. However, if you plan well and make good moves in other areas, scoring nice custom pieces certainly can happen despite a tight budget.

Spy photos of Sleeper’s modified 15-inch, 10-hole wheels created quite a buzz on our Facebook page.

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