Kevin Tetz
October 23, 2013

Be Prepared

Part of having a successful tuning session is being prepared for it. Here's a check list that DBR gave us before we even brought the vehicle to the shop. Going through this list gave us the opportunity to closely inspect important components for safety and function, and more importantly avoid problems before they happen. A tuner can't tune out mechanical problems. Having everything mechanically sound before you drop in saves everyone time and money.

Tire quality: check for cracks and adjust air pressure to what the tires are rated for. Your rear wheels will be spinning well past 100 mph in most cases, so check the speed rating as well.
Driveline: U-joints, axle seals, torqued lug nuts, brake cylinders, transmission seals, and more.
Fluid levels: Engine oil (fresh oil and filter), trans fluid, gear oil.
Fluid leaks: Leaks can lead to problems…investigate every one.
Fuel filter: Always install a new fuel filter, no exceptions.
Full tank: Always fill the tank! Use the octane level you'll be using most. This eliminates any starvation potential; sometimes vehicles are not level while on rollers and a half tank may not provide full fuel delivery if the car is not sitting level.
Air filter: New or freshly serviced.
Drive Belt Condition: Replace belts with cracks or glazing…no exceptions.
Vacuum lines: Visually inspect and check vacuum lines and sources. Vacuum leaks create dangerous lean conditions, especially on boosted vehicles.
Fresh plugs: Consult your tuner before the tune; discuss gap and heat ratings.
Exhaust Clearance: Make sure nothing is in contact with exhaust; it will get hot! You can't really ever look under your car at highway speed while it's on the road, but you can on many above-ground dynamometers. A visual inspection of the driveline in action is a unique opportunity, so take advantage of it if the shop allows!

Power In The Palm Of Your Hand

We're going to be focusing on a fuel-injected '66 Mustang with a modern drivetrain donated by an '04 Cobra, a full-frame Schwartz G-Machine chassis, and ISIS electrical system. "Jaded" is the name of this coupe, and it's been a build in progress for the better part of three years, finally debuting at the 2012 SEMA show. Jaded borrows the engine, transmission, and most of the interior from a wrecked Terminator Cobra, (RIP '04 Mystichrome Cobra!) and shares many of the mods that Cobra guys are familiar with, including a ported blower, a larger throttle body, a smaller 2.76-inch blower pulley, long-tube headers, and larger injectors. Ford rated the Terminator Cobra powerplant at 390 hp, and as much torque, but the Cobra boys found out quick that uncorking a Terminator nets impressive results, and with an unusually strong bottom end and deep-breathing four-valves-per-cylinder heads, these engines can be pushed to amazing power levels and still live a long and reliable service life; thus the popularity of the '03-'04 Cobras, and the attractiveness of this engine swap into a vintage vehicle.

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We wanted to see the net gains of all the bolt-ons, as well as what the more detailed modifications would do for project Jaded, especially since we see so many Terminator Mustangs reporting rear-wheel numbers north of 500 hp, and that was the target power number for Jaded while planning the build. More importantly, and way more important than hero-numbers at the wheels, we wanted to make sure there was no danger of detonation, or any other dangerous condition that might be hidden under a bunch of shiny paint. Then, once things were balanced and safe, we can really see what "Terminator" horsepower and torque feels like in a car much smaller and lighter than its intended vehicle.

14. Know your vehicle, have your goals clearly defined before you begin, consult with your calibrator, and more importantly, educate yourself to what system you’re using to measure power. Realize that you may be comparing apples to grapefruits if you compare your numbers with someone else’s. The bottom line is that this author knows that we can beat on Jaded all day long—the drivetrain and all of the vehicle components are tested, calibrated, and balanced together. Jaded is a handful to drive and it’ll be many miles before we feel the need to improve on the performance. When the time is right, the aftermarket is filled with upgrades that will take us as far as we want to go with power…and with a well-chosen dyno shop it will be safe power!