5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
Fox Mustang Ignition System - Flight Command
MSD's Programmable 6AL-2 Brings Consistent Launches And Tunable Timing To Street/Strip 5.0 'Stangs
Horse Sense: Unfortunately, we were not able to get to the track to test Sal's Mustang before our deadline for this report. We plan on following up to see how his high-miles engine runs with its new ignition pieces, and if having the ability to dial-in launch consistency and a top-end timing curve has improved his coupe's dragstrip performance. Look for a follow-up to this report on our website, www.50mustangandsuperfords.com.
We've said it before and we'll continue to say it: We always enjoy seeing and hearing about new concepts and technology that aftermarket manufacturers apply to many of the tried-and-true performance products available for Fox-body ('79-'93) Mustangs. As our hobby's illustrious run continues (can you believe it's been 30 years?), it's crazy to think that despite all of the major advancements being made in the world of bolt-on gear for 'Stangs of the post-Fox era, we still honestly dig putting our hands on cool stuff for pushrod-powered Mustangs from time to time, simply because we feel it's the best way for us to pay homage to the Pony that got us here.
While it's oftentimes overshadowed by air and fuel when discussing the way an engine runs, spark actually is the most important element of the trio. Spark helps transfer heat to an engine's air/fuel mixture and initiates the combustion process. Having strong, solid spark is paramount for a Mustang's engine, especially whenever modifications are intended to increase horsepower.
Thanks to the emergence of yet-to-be-modified Mustangs we've recently encountered (stone-stock 'Stangs such as the cherry piece our freelance newbie Sharad Ridalis scored), improving a 5.0's spark supply--better known as making spark hotter--is one of those DIY-friendly Mustang-tech projects that seems to never go out of style. The procedure usually is highlighted by adding an ignition amplifier of some sort, and complementing the spark box with a stronger coil, billet distributor, and wires that have higher conductivity than the 7mm found on stock engines. Increased voltage from an upgraded ignition creates a broader flame in each cylinder, which results in more efficient fuel burn and improved engine performance.
For a long time, MSD's 6AL ignition box (PN 6420; $226.60) reigned as king of the ignition upgrades for 5.0-powered Mustangs. With nearly 115 millijoules (mJ) of spark energy and 480 volts (V), 'Stangbangers were quick to add 6ALs to their street/strip Ponies to meet the increased spark demand brought about by nitrous systems, turbos, and blowers. (Later versions of the 6AL included such features as a single rev limiter and provisions for plugging in a timing accessory.) Well, the second generation of MSD's 6-Series ignition box is now upon us, and 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords is lucky enough to be chosen as the first 'Stang mag to use it. That's right--the company recently rolled out its all-new Programmable 6AL-2, and we're taking it out on its inaugural test drive by installing it in our buddy Sal Ybarra's (of Sal's Speed Shop) 11-second '93 LX coupe.
The new digital ignition box was developed with a lot more voltage and spark energy than its predecessor (535 V/135 mJ). However, improved spark isn't the unit's only--or greatest, for that matter--quality. The new box includes three rpm-based rev limiters; a burnout limit, a variable, clutch/transbrake-triggered limiter for consistent launch rpm; and a provision to set a high-end rev limit that will protect an engine against damage caused by missing a shift, spinning tires, or drivetrain failure. But the bigger news is that the 6AL-2 also includes features (advanced timing retards for launch consistency, top-end performance, and boost) that once were only available in MSD's race-specific boxes, such as the Programmable Digital-7 unit in our '86 T-top coupe project Mustang.
We selected Sal's 'Stang as our tester because it truly fits the description of a street/strip Fox that will benefit from receiving an ignition makeover. Sal's LX is long in mileage (130,000 miles on the stock short-block), and although it's naturally aspirated, the engine has many of the typical bolt-ons (Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, a custom camshaft, BBK cold-air induction and Pro-M Bullet mass air, FRPP Cobra intake manifold, and more) that give 5.0s plenty of need for hotter spark. Sal uses the aforementioned MSD 6AL to provide his Pony's bullet with the spark it needs, but the box is more than 10 years old. As the 'Stang has slowly but surely become more stripcentric--driven wide-open when Sal competes in Pacific Street Car Association events on the West Coast--we think it's time to set up Sal's ride with the full collection of CARB-approved ignition pieces (Programmable 6AL-2/PN 6530, $410; TFI High-Performance Coil/PN 8227, $49.70; '86-'93 Pro-Billet Distributor/PN 8456, $290.10; and Super Conductor 8.5mm spark plug wires/PN 35399, $91.40) that it really should have to be more consistent in Mustang Maddness, the Open-Comp-style, 'Stangs-only PSCA class he competes in.