KJ Jones
Brand Manager, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
February 1, 2009
Photos By: KJ Jones
Phil Watson of Justin's Performance Center puts the finishing touches on our latest heads, camshaft, and intake manifold swap. Chuck Bosley's once-stock '92 rag-top LX served as our test mule for Tri-State Cylinder Heads' new FloTek 5.0X aluminum pieces, a Ford Racing E cam, and Professional Products' upper/lower manifold set-a good, power-making top-half upgrade package for 'Stangbangers on a tight budget.

Horse Sense: This project marked the end of our three-week tech bonanza on the East Coast: a grueling (but great) tour of 'Stang shops from New Jersey to Virginia. We hope you've enjoyed this dose of Mustang flavor of points far from our Southern California tech base. We plan on visiting more remote locations in the future, so let us know about your favorite Pony corral and we just may stop by.

At this point, some of you may think we're starting to sound like a proverbial broken record, as we once again present another evaluation of a bolt-on cylinder head/camshaft/intake manifold (H/C/I) combination for 5.0-powered Ponies.

OK, we acknowledge we've been hitting you pretty hard with details on this particular upgrade. However, it's important that you know we feel strongly about H/C/I swaps, mainly because we think this basic mod equally benefits newcomers to late-model Mustang performance, as well as 'Stangbangers who've been around for a while and are finally making changes on mostly stock, fuel-injected '87-'93 Foxes.

As is the case with most small-block Ford performance parts, the power-making potential of aluminum cylinder heads, cams, and EFI intake manifolds for 5.0-based engines ranges from just a little to a lot more than you thought possible. When properly matched-based on criteria such as the port sizes and shapes in the heads, runner volume (heads) and runner length (intake), the heads' combustion-chamber and valve sizes, and the camshaft profile-the three components basically work together to intake, process, and expel the maximum amount of air and fuel possible to achieve increased performance. So when selecting an H/C/I combination for your Pony, it's important that you consider how you will use your Mustang (daily driver, street/strip, full race car, and so on), whether or not you use or intend to use a power-adder (blower, turbocharger, nitrous), the amount of performance you hope to gain from the upgrade, and, of course, cost.

After baseline testing the convertible on JPC's Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno (an eddy-current unit), Phil removes the radiator, power-steering pump, and alternator; then tears down Chuck's engine to its short-block.

In these times of tight funds, we fully understand how important it is to make wise economic decisions, especially when buying hop-up parts for a 'Stang. In the spirit of good economics, we're taking a look at what arguably may be the least expensive heads/cam/intake package we've worked with to date.

Our budget-minded H/C/I trio is led by Tri-State Cylinder Heads' FloTek 5.0X aluminum heads (PN TSCH198, $798 per pair), Ford Racing Performance Parts' E303 hydraulic-roller camshaft (PN M-6250-E303, $225), and Professional Products' polished Typhoon upper (PN 54124)/lower (PN 54122) intake manifold setup (approximately $400) and 70mm throttle body (PN 69201, approximately $140), which we're installing on Chuck Bosley's bone-stock '92 LX convertible.

Here's the bone-stock induction package that was removed from our test Mustang's engine. All of the parts are as outstandingly clean as the car itself. While the market for take-off OEM equipment isn't huge, it does exist (restorers, NHRA Stock Eliminator racers, and so on), so it's important to carefully assess your Pony's factory parts. They could bring a small return on your investment for the new stuff, if they're in good condition and you've got what another 'Stangbanger needs.

The A356 aluminum FloTek castings first hit our radar at the 2007 PRI show in Orlando, Florida. We didn't know much about the company or its offerings for 5.0-based engines, but after expressing our interest in evaluating the heads in one of our H/C/I tech projects, your tech editor received a new pair of 5.0X Tri-Pro heads for testing almost immediately upon returning to Southern California.

It took us a little time to get the entire project together, mainly because we wanted to adhere to a strict low-cost theme. Yes, times are getting tougher, so it's important to let you know about the affordable alternatives for increased performance, as well as the pricier upgrades for those who can afford to play a bit harder.

This H/C/I package-complete with all the necessary incidental parts, such as 30-lb-hr fuel injectors, a calibrated mass air meter, gaskets, timing chain, hydraulic-roller lifters, rocker arms, and more-comes in well below the $3,500 average price of other top-half combinations we've tested.

But does it make power?

The answer to that question lies here in these pages, as we cover Phil Watson, one of the do-it-all technicians at Justin's Performance Center in Glen Burnie, Maryland, transforming Chuck's Pony from stone stocker to street rocker.

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As you see by the numbers, this low-buck H/C/I package follows in the tradition of others we've tested by raising our once-stock 5.0 convertible's rear-wheel horsepower. The surprising gain comes on the torque side, with a stout peak-to-peak increase of more than 28 lb-ft at the tires. (With porting-simple gasket matching on the lower intake manifold and opening up the throttle-body bore on the upper-we estimate an additional 15 horses is quite possible).

One thing we failed to mention earlier is the fact that Chuck's 'Stang is equipped with an AOD transmission and stock gears. We're confident that installing a lock-up torque converter and/or simply bolting-in a 3.73 ring-and-pinion set will work well with the Pony's new engine top-half and improve it's street/strip zippiness considerably.