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FR500S Radiator and Fan Upgrade: Race-Bred Cooling System Perfect for Daily Driven S197 Mustang
Keep Your Cool: The race-bred cooling system that’s perfect for a daily driver
A few years back we attended a tire launch at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. At the time, the Mustang fleet was composed of what were essentially mildly modified S197 GT street cars for the Mustang Challenge School, and of course a fleet of FR500S race cars. The thing that struck us most about both cars was how similar the engines were to factory stuff. Our instructor told us that despite the overly aggressive and newbie drivers that abused the Mustangs on a daily basis, the cars very rarely had any mechanical failures. The one thing that had to be done though, he said, was upgrade the cooling system.
Now, obviously it gets hot in the summer in Utah, and racetrack surfaces and sustained high rpm exacerbate the situation, but it’s pretty much a flat-out fact that the stock radiator in all V-8 S197 Mustangs is inadequate for track use no matter where you live. The all-aluminum 3V 4.6L does a decent job rejecting heat, but after 15-20 minutes of hard throttle the cooling system is at or beyond its limit. Both the Challenge cars and the FR500S (and the FR500C, we’ve heard) used the same radiator: the all-aluminum one developed by Ford Racing Performance Parts specifically for the FR500 program. It was so good that a few years later it was carried straight over into the Boss 302S race cars.
That limit we’re referring to is just considering mostly stock 323-440hp 4.6L and 5.0L engines. If you’re packing forced induction and a much bigger power number, you’re already over capacity without a cooling system upgrade. Fortunately, Ford Performance made these race ready parts readily available and they will drop right into any V-8 Mustang from 2005-2014 with zero modification.
The 2005 GT for our swap is a daily driven car that needs to be able to sit in Southern California traffic with the A/C on and stay safe and cool on the occasional autocross or track day. Luckily the Ford Performance radiator is up to both tasks.
1. Here’s our increased cooling package. Based on Ford Performance’s racing program, the all-aluminum radiator is original equipment on FR500S and Boss 302S race cars, but it’s still a direct bolt-in upgrade for all 2005-2014 V-8 Mustangs, both auto and manual trans. We decided to go one step further and pick up an FRPP fan. It’s also a race-capable bolt-in for all V-8 S197 Mustangs, and is actually original equipment on 2013-2014 GT500s. We found that Summit Racing Equipment had the best price, and free shipping, on both.
2. The first step is to drain the cooling system. You can drop the lower plastic cladding, but it’s not required since there is a drain hole. Just be aware you may have to wipe out some coolant if you choose to leave it. We left ours only because the chin spoiler would also need to be pulled.
3. To get to the radiator, the plastic shroud needs to be removed. Six plastic screws hold on the radiator cover; we used a small flat-head screwdriver to lift up and pull them out.
4. Before we could pull the coolant reservoir, the overflow hose needed to be removed. The clamps come loose easily with a set of pliers.
5. It connects to the top of the radiator on the driver’s side. We’ll be reusing it, so be cautious when wiggling it loose.
6. Two bolts hold the reservoir to the radiator. Once these are removed, it’s loose.
7. Loose, but not yet free. The hose on the bottom is the return into the system and uses a larger version of the same squeeze clamp.
8. Over on the driver’s side, the power steering reservoir need to be removed. Fortunately none of the hoses need to be pulled; just tuck the reservoir back behind the coolant manifold seen to the right.
9. The upper and lower hoses also use the same style clamp. The upper is easy, but the lower can be a bit tricky to get to, especially if you chose to leave the lower plastic in place.
10. The connection to the electric fan is on the top passenger side of the radiator. It’s a bit hard to disconnect just because of the various other wire looms running through, but will easily unclip.
11. These top plates with their rubber grommets that isolate the posts on the radiator are the main retainers for the radiator. Two bolts hold each to the core support.
12. This is probably the most difficult part. Four bolts hold the radiator to the A/C evaporator, but they aren’t easy to get to. The top two are accessible by pushing the radiator toward the engine. Don’t push too far, otherwise the evaporator connections could be strained.
13. The two bottom bolts also retain the power steering cooling loop. These are actually easier to take off despite having to be accessed through the lower grille opening. With everything disconnected, the radiator and fan assembly will wiggle out together as one unit.
14. Side-by-side the two fans look very similar, which is why it is a direct bolt-in for all 2005-2014 V-8 Mustangs. The seven-blade FRPP fan on the right pushes 3,286 cfm of air.
15. Besides solid aluminum construction versus the plastic tanks used on the factory radiator, the Ford Performance radiator is dramatically thicker for increased coolant volume and greater overall cooling capacity.
16. The J-clips that mount the evaporator to the radiator need to be transferred over. These will slide off easily when you lift the locking tab with a small flat head screwdriver.
17. There’s no secret to getting the new radiator and fan into the car except patience and wiggling. Ford Performance made sure to use all of the available real estate for the radiator, so it is a tight squeeze. Basically you simply have to find the right combination of movements and it will drop right in.
18. For us, the hardest part was getting the bottom bolt holes and the power steering cooling loop to all line up with the new radiator. This is another case of just being patient and working to make all the stars align.
19. This is the only issue we ran into with the new assembly. The fins on the back of the cooling fan wouldn’t allow the power steering reservoir to bolt back into place. We assume this is because of the different placement in the race cars and the 2013-2014 GT500.
20. Luckily it was an easy fix. We used a small, flat machine file to shave down the fin and increase the size of the reservoir’s mounting hole slightly.
21. With the power steering reservoir mounted, everything went easily back into place. When refilling the system, make sure you replace the coolant with nothing other than Ford’s own Motorcraft Premium Gold coolant, or Zerex G-05. Those are the only two approved for these cars, especially if the system has not been completely flushed clean.