Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsHow To Engine
Breathing new life into a 2001 Bullitt with new valvetrain, intake, and exhaust mods
These days in the Mustang world it’s all Coyote, all the time. Rightfully so, because that engine has already reached legend-status. However, what has happened is that every other Mustang engine platform gets ignored in the process. Ask anyone about building a Two-Valve, and they act like you’ve lost your mind. Better yet, call up a Mustang shop, and ask about doing work to your 1996-2004 Mustang GT? Go ahead, we’ll wait. If they’ll work on it, they won’t be excited about it, and the shop might even talk you out of doing anything to it.
The 1996-1998 SN95 GT and New Edge GTs have reached the age where they’ve been beaten into submission, and then combine that with the fact that every other bolt will most likely break when taking the engine apart, and you can see why the dismay is there. Plus, compared to the Coyote engine, the Two-Valve engine is out of its league when talking about horsepower numbers; they aren’t even close. It takes a power adder on a Two-Valve to make the same power as a stock Coyote.
Yeah, we know the Two-Valve is capable of making wicked power, but the power ceiling for a Two-Valve is much lower compared to a Coyote. Let’s face it, the Coyote engine has basically put every other Ford engine platform out to pasture. The aftermarket support is no longer there, and there wasn’t much support to begin with in the first place. Even from a tuning standpoint, it’s tough to find someone who will tune a Two-Valve SN95 or New Edge GT. Everything is so Coyote-based that many shops and tuners wish to only work on those combinations.
Even so, we can’t ignore the fact that the modular-powered SN95 and New Edge GTs are plentiful and unbelievably affordable, which makes it tempting to get into one. A pretty decent New Edge can be had for $3,500-$4,000, and even the nice ones are just $6,000-$6,500. For a 1996-1998 GT, the prices are even lower. So for those looking for a budget-minded Mustang, a Two-Valve SN95 or New Edge fits the bill. Plus, many Mustang enthusiasts count the SN95 and New Edge body style as their favorite.
Thankfully, there are a few that will help us make power with our Two-Valve Mustangs. One such shop we’ve known about for a few years now is Shrader Performance, located in Gastonia, North Carolina. When our 2001 Bullitt screamed for more power, we knew Steve Shrader was the guy who could do it. What we didn’t know is the arduous process we would undergo with our Bullitt before getting it to Shrader’s place, however.
We initially planned to drive the car to Shrader’s location from our Florida hometown the last week of March, and then take in the inaugural Ponies in the Smokies event in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. However, the Thursday before I was scheduled to leave, the problems started. At first, the heater hose tee up by the firewall disintegrated, but that was an easy fix, or so we thought. That was fixed the following morning.
Unfortunately, upon our first test-drive, the engine kept heating up. We thought it could be a stuck thermostat so we made preparation to replace it. While removing the thermostat housing bolts, one of them broke, so it had to be drilled out, and a Helicoil put in place. We thought the problem was solved, but in the words of Jeremy Grey, “The problem’s not solved.” It was still heating up when we would drive it.
Next up was a compression test. We took it to David Piercey’s Mustang Performance in Tampa, and thanks to the test, we found the engine had a blown head gasket. So in an instant we had some decisions to make. Should we drop the engine out at Dave Piercey’s place and try to do the work there, or go ahead with our plan to have Shrader handle the install? Since Dave doesn’t delve that deep into modular engines, we decided to stick with getting the car to Shrader’s.
However, your author doesn’t have a truck, or a trailer, so it was time to get creative, and call on the help of friends and family. First off, the Bullitt is your author’s only means of transportation, which meant I needed some wheels. A Buick Cemetery was borrowed from my brother John Johnson to get me here to there (Yeah, I know). Then to get my Bullitt to Shrader’s place I borrowed a truck from Jeff Scofield, and a trailer from Dave Squire.
For the install, we chose to forego the existing engine in the Bullitt, and call up MPS Auto Salvage for a replacement that could be sent to Shrader so he could get started on the upgrades. Our initial plan was to simply add Comp Cams 270 cams, along with new Comp valvetrain components like valve springs and retainers, and Summit Racing valve seals. We also wanted to open up the exhaust so we called up BBK Performance for a pair of long-tube headers with the corresponding X-pipe, and for the intake we called up our friends at JLT Performance for a Dark Highland green ram air intake.
When the blown head gasket entered the picture that’s when we looked into getting the engine from MPS. However, when Steve dove into the MPS engine and started to install the cams, he discovered a little piston-to-valve clearance issue with the Comp 270s. It appears someone had either decked the block, or milled the heads, and Steve said we could either notch the pistons or get thicker head gaskets. We chose the latter, calling up Summit Racing once again for a pair of Cometic .051-inch gaskets. These head gaskets would give Steve the clearance need to arrive at the right amount of piston-to-valve clearance. So, we added the head gaskets to our list of products, and forged ahead.
Our plan was to drop the existing engine out from the bottom, disconnect the engine from the transmission, and basically have the new-to-us engine ready to go in the car, and put everything back together. In a nutshell, Steve had the new-to-us engine ready to go when we arrived at his shop on a Monday morning, and we drove the car out of his shop Wednesday evening.
For the complete skinny on the installation, check out the captions.
1. When we wanted to add some lope, and more power, to our 2001 Bullitt, we looked to Comp Cams and its XE270AH camshafts, along with the requisite valve springs and steel retainers. Comp says the XE270AH cams are designed to improve low- and mid-range torque, and more power. Comp recommends valve springs, which we’re also adding to the mix, as well. The RPM range for these cams is from 1,800 to 5,800, with a lobe separation of 113-degrees, and intake centerline of 109-degrees. With 270 intake duration and 274 exhaust duration, Comp says these cams boast a noticeable idle. Having heard them for ourselves, Comp wasn’t kidding. The cams have a very nice chop to them.
2. Believe it or not, the whole impetus for this install came from the fact that our existing engine was burning oil. We tried everything to make it stop smoking, but we eventually gave in and realized the only way to fix the problem was to add new valve seals. However, we wouldn’t be performance enthusiasts if we didn’t want to do way more than just replace valve springs. We sourced ours from Summit Racing.
3. With our existing Bullitt’s engine having over 150,000 miles on it, we thought it a good idea to replace the timing chains, guides, and sprockets with a Ford Performance M-6004-462V camshaft drive kit. Yes, they’re still available for Two-Valve engines, and this kit is a good idea for high-mileage engines. Once we made the call to get an engine from MPS, we stayed with the plan to replace all these components since we really didn’t know the exact mileage of the replacement engine. Instead of using factory cam sprockets, though, we used Comp Cams’ new adjustable cam gears, which really came in handy when Steve Shrader ran into clearance issues with the new-to-us engine.
4. Steve actually installed the Comp cams twice. The first time he installed them he discovered piston-to-valve clearance issues with the increased lift of the cams. He surmised that the MPS engine’s block was either decked or the heads milled at some point in its life, and that was causing the interference. To cure that problem, Steve had to do two things. One, the engine needed thicker head gaskets, and two, he had to retard the cams, which is when the Comp adjustable cam gears came in handy. The head gaskets we used are Cometic part numbers C5119-051 and C5118-051. We once again called upon Summit Racing for the head gaskets.
5. This tool is what Steve calls his super special top secret valve spring installer. Steve doesn’t remember who made it, but it’s a Two-Valve-specific valve spring installer. “Shaves a ton of time from the install,” Steve says. Comp Cams recommended new valve springs, so we added the company’s Beehive offerings designed increase valvetrain stability and a much lighter valvetrain. We also added Comp Cams’ steel retainers, as well.
6. With the new valve seals, valve springs, and retainers installed, Steve set his sights on the Comp cams. Using cam lube on the journals, he lowers the cam in place on the cylinder head, and then installs the cam retainers. There are specific torque ratings and procedures for many of these actions so have a tech manual at your disposal should you try this at home.
7. Using a Moroso Pro-Wheel, Steve timed the engine and cams, and even with the thicker Cometic head gaskets, Steve had to retard the cams 4 degrees to avoid piston-to-valve interference. “We’re just delaying the opening of the intake valve by 4 degrees,” Steve says. “But retarding the intake valve opening also retards all other cam events. However, since it’s being tuned we just alter the spark timing to work better with the cam timing.” Plus, when you retard cams it aids in high-RPM power; whereas advancing cams will help bottom end power.
8. Hidden behind the Moroso Pro-Wheel in the previous picture is the Ford Performance M-6600-D46 high volume oil pump, but it also comes with a pickup, as seen here. Adding a performance oil pump and gears should be priority with any modular engine build. We also added a new oil pan gasket before Steve reinstalled the oil pan.
9. Making progress on the engine build, we added BBK Performance long-tube headers, and once we get the engine in the car, we’ll add the corresponding X-pipe, as well. These are BBK’s ceramic-coated headers, which will resist corrosion and staining. The headers are 1 5/8-inch with 3-inch ball-and-socket collectors for unrestricted airflow and leak-free performance. Anyone that has worked on a Two-Valve, or any modular already knows we were optimistic about fitting the engine to the transmission with both headers installed. We did have to remove one side in order to mate the two together.
10. This is how we removed the engine and transmission from the car; we dropped it out from the bottom. Seasoned veterans already know this, and practice this method on every modular-powered Mustang. Remove, and loosen the front struts from the spindles, and disconnect the A/C compressor and power steering pump before dropping the engine, and of course, the radiator hoses and all electrical connections. Lower the car down on jackstands to support the K-member and transmission, and remove the K-member bolts and transmission crossmember bolts. Of course, we’ve already removed the driveshaft and shifter, as well, to make sure we don’t destroy anything when we raise the car.
11. We transferred the valve covers, using new gaskets, and the Bullitt intake onto the new-to-us engine before setting it in place on the factory K-member. As you can see we’ve also joined the transmission to the engine, and reattached the headers. Keen eyes will also notice we were ahead of ourselves when we installed the Bullitt’s upper intake without installing the fuel rails. Once we loosened the engine from the hoist, we had to go back and remove the upper intake and install the fuel rails.
12. Of course, we couldn’t finish the install off by reinstalling the factory air intake. We sourced our good friends at JLT Performance for one of its ram air intakes in Dark Highland green, of course. The intake comes with everything needed for a clean installation.
13. Once we have everything reattached under the hood, Steve finishes it up by reinstalling the belt. You may see an underdrive crank pulley in some of the previous photos, but we ended up removing that and installing the factory crank pulley so we could use our existing serpentine belt.
14. When it came time to tune our new combination, we sourced SCT for one of its X4 handheld programmers, and Steve worked his magic. You can do so many things besides downloading new tunes with the X4. You can even get a windshield or A/C vent mount and see live mechanical events on it. It’s so much more than just a handheld programmer.
15. During the initial run, and tuning process, the car wouldn’t idle, and Steve had to change a few parameters to even try to make it idle, but he traced the problem to a bad idle air control valve, or IAC. We replaced the IAC, and everything was good to go for the tune. When all was said and done, our 2001 Bullitt put down 283 horsepower and 287 lb-ft of torque on Shrader Performance’s in-house dyno. Notice up top in the RPM range how flat our horsepower numbers stays, without dropping off. Yeah, we know those aren’t earth-shattering numbers, but compare those numbers to a stock Bullitt, which is good for around 230-235 wheel horsepower, we can honestly say we picked up a solid 50 horsepower over stock. For just adding cams, headers, a cold air intake, and a tune, we’re very happy with the results.