Tom Wilson
August 1, 2005

Complex. Now there's a word to keep in mind when tuning an '05 Mustang. With more mechanical gizmos and electronic tricks than any previous Mustangs, the '05 calls for a new level of tuning sophistication. We've touched on this before, but it was driven home when we returned to Kenne Bell to see how its '05 Mustang GT blower kit was coming along.

Turns out, the Kenne Bell kit was almost ready for production during our visit, and its development provides a fascinating insight into those '05 GT complexities as well as the power to come from supercharging.

The Complex Horse
Let's start by reviewing the new Mustang's Three-Valve engine. It's lightly built using the Mach 1's aluminum block, powdered metal rods, and hypereutectic pistons, so its ability to withstand killer boost, and especially detonation, is still up in the air. On the other hand, its Three-Valve cylinder heads breathe nearly as well as Four-Valve Cobra heads, so its power potential is excellent. Furthermore, the new engine introduced significant new technology to Mustangs, namely an electronic throttle and adjustable cam timing. Finally, Charge Motion Runner Controls are employed to boost low-end torque, along with a new, faster, powerfully sophisticated Spanish Oak engine management.

Put together, these new technologies mean the '05 GT engine is much more integrated than before-change one thing and everything else falls to pieces. That, and as we saw when testing this same car a few months ago at Kenne Bell's, Ford didn't leave easy horsepower on the table. "These aren't the good old days anymore," is how Ken Christley, Kenne Bell's overworked in-house electronic tech puts it.

No kidding. Ken went on to explain how the all-seeing Spanish Oak computer is both a speed density unit and a mass air system. It employs both strategies, and uses one to check the other. In fact, with the electronic throttle, Spanish Oak has more secret police than the Soviet Union dreamed of. Getting it to accept a supercharger has been a mean feat.

In prototype form, the Kenne Bell '05 GT blower kit is a bundle of test wires and temperature probes. But with the supercharger on top where it can be seen, plus the big air-inlet hose, the production kit promises to give a late-model look to match its umph. It certainly won't be this "wiry."

For example, while others we've spoken to said they had no issues with moving the mass air meter from its perch in the air filter box lid, Ken says when he moved it, the engine threw a fit. It's one of the touchiest mass air meters he's seen, and Ken has hot rodded more than his share.

The '05 engine is super sensitive to ignition timing, too. With the blower, Ken says his timing tests have shown the Three-Valve engine picks up 8 hp per degree of ignition timing advance-roughly double what other Ford V-8s yield. This sensitivity requires finesse when the computer decides to pull timing due to rising temperatures, for example.

Of course, there is good news. The new engine is fitted with knock sensors, and they are great. Ford has tuned the knock sensors so well to the stock engine that the Spanish Oak is actually programmed with premium fuel ignition and fuel tables, but the car is sold as a regular-gasoline car. That means, with regular fuel, Ford is relying on the knock sensors to constantly maintain timing because the computer is trying to run aggressive, premium-fuel spark tables all the time.