KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
April 1, 2009
Photos By: Courtesy of Anderson Ford Motorsport
Anderson Ford Motorsports' infamous mule S197 Mustang has seen more than its fair share of bolt-on upgrades in its four years of service as the shop's primary test vehicle. The '05 GT features a D.S.S. SuperMOD short-block with Anderson/JDC hand-ported heads, stock cams, 60-lb-hr fuel injectors, an Anderson Power Pipe, a Vortech T-Trim supercharger, and the new DBX 97mm digital mass-air meter from Abaco (with an 8-inch air filter).

Horse Sense: Product evaluations that involve shotgun-style, back-to-back-to-back-to-back (and then some) installation and the test and removal of similar parts (made by various manufacturers)-like the header slam we're reporting on in this story-are exactly the type of research projects that Rick Anderson lives for. On most workdays, Rick can be found hunkered down in Anderson Ford Motorsports' dyno facility for hours, doing whatever it takes to make max power with the aftermarket's performance offerings for Mustangs. While upgrading '05-'09 Mustangs may not be every enthusiast's proverbial cup of tea, we've noticed that many S197 owners are down for whatever when it comes to modifying their Ponies.

Of course we always do our best to keep you updated on the latest high-performance bits and pieces that are being made for the newest 'Stangs in Ford's stable. Sometimes, however, due to forces beyond our control, we really can't be as in-depth with our research as we'd like.

Whenever we work on a Mustang project with Rick Anderson, we end up with enough data to fill nearly every page of the magazine, let alone the four to six pages of our normal tech reports. That's just the way it is with Rick; almost as though the man lives for using AFM's dyno to uncover every granule of information that can be gleaned from a particular part or system that has an effect on a Mustang's performance.

We're familiar with Racecraft's chassis-components Mustangs (the company's K-member sits up front on our '86 T-top coupe, and Project Boss 340 will be fully suspended by Racecraft's pieces). For this header-swap marathon, the mule's OEM engine cradle was swapped for a Racecraft '05-'09 Mustang K-member ($1,099). The new 4130 chrome-moly piece features a lightweight polyurethane-dampend engine mount that is a lot less bulky than the stock mount and provides plenty of clearance for long-tube exhaust systems on the new 'Stangs. Rick Anderson says the K-member makes S197 header swaps or installations doable in about four hours (without using a hoist).

For this tech effort-a comparative test of seven long-tube header systems for S197 'Stangs (Bassani Xhaust, BBK Performance, Hooker Headers, JBA Headers, Kooks Custom Headers, MAC Products and Stainless Works)-we're taking research on the rollers to the max by having Rick install each set of tubes on Anderson's mule '05 Mustang GT, dyno-testing all of them to find out which system performs best, as well as provide details on their installation, fitment, and son on. (Note: Each manufacturer decided which of its '05-'09 Mustang header systems we would test. The tests were performed with 11 psi of boost and air/fuel constant at 11.8. Rick used Anderson's "beta" S197 PMS to make timing adjustments only in order to maximize the horsepower for each application).

Most of our tests with S197s have focused on various methods of bringing air into the Three-Valve engines of S197 GTs (cold-air induction systems, throttle bodies, mass-air sensors, and more). Prior to this experiment, we really hadn't done much beyond flirt (by incorporating various post-catalytic muffler systems in Three-Valve bolt-on projects) with any real study of exhaust pieces that send spent gases into theatmosphere and help (or hurt) low-end performance for the high-winding modular engines.

Buckle up, 'Stang fans! The following photos, detailed specs on each header set that we tested, and the all-important dyno data are the result of the most comprehensive study of S197 exhaust headers any Mustang magazine has done thus far. Hopefully it will provide insights to help you select the right header system for your Three-Valve Pony.

Although Bassani's ceramic-coated, S197 header system was the most time-consuming to install, the tubes made impressive gains on both the power (17.39 average horsepower gain) and torque sides of the dyno graph. Each header is made up of four individual tubes merged together by way of slide-on collectors.

Tube Order
At HeadAt CollectorAt CollectorAt Head
7-6-5-86 84 21-3-2-4
 5 73 1 
 Baseline Bassani Difference

Rick had to shorten two bolts on the BBK headers in order to get them fitted properly; a small alteration that would not be necessary if studs were provided with the system. Overall, the finish is excellent on these stainless-steel headers, and they performed admirably on the dyno (gaining 17.39 average horsepower).

Tube Order
At HeadAt CollectorAt CollectorAt Head
7-6-5-88 64 21-3-2-4
 7 53 1 
 Baseline BBK Difference

Despite clean fit and finish, Hooker's ceramic long-tubes fell a bit short of the typical horsepower (14.57 average) and torque gains. Peak horsepower was 466.55 at 6,000 rpm; peak torque was 446.5 at 5,300 rpm.

Tube Order
At HeadAt CollectorAt CollectorAt Head
7-6-5-87 84 11-3-2-4
 5 63 2 
 Baseline Hooker Difference

The JBA header kit is clean, and also installs and fits well. Although the mule's horsepower barely squeaked into the 470 range with JBA's stainless setup in place (17.82 average gain), the tubes really gave the test 'Stang's low-end performance a boost.

Tube Order
At HeadAt CollectorAt CollectorAt Head
7-6-5-85 81 21-3-2-4
 6 74 3 
 Baseline JBA Difference

Kooks' stainless pieces scored well across the board. Fit and finish, as well as horsepower (23.59 average) and torque increases at the feet, were all great with Kooks headers.

Tube Order
At HeadAt CollectorAt CollectorAt Head
7-6-5-85 62 11-3-2-4
 7 83 4 
 Baseline Kooks Difference

MAC's ceramic long-tubes are the surprising performer of our S197 header shootout on the dyno (best "peak" horspower, and a 22.52 gain average). That said, Rick reports the mule's trey-valve bullet required a bit more jacking than it did for the other headers, in order to get the tubes in place.

Tube Order
At HeadAt CollectorAt CollectorAt Head
7-6-5-87 62 11-3-2-4
 8 53 4 
 Baseline MAC Difference

The Stainless Works long-tubes required the most finagling for installation on the test Mustang. The system doesn't utilize an H-pipe, and Rick had to cut the intermediate tubes in order to complete the installation. On the dyno, Stainless Works' headers helped the mule post solid horsepower (12.78 average gain) and torque numbers.

Tube Order
At HeadAt CollectorAt CollectorAt Head
7-6-5-85 84 11-3-2-4
 6 73 2 
 Baseline Stainless Works Difference

There's really no such thing as completed research for Anderson Ford Motorsports' resident dyno-maven Rick Anderson. Not long after completing our extensive S197 Mustang exhaust evaluation, Rick was back at it, pushing the power envelope with AFM's trusty mule. This second effort involves adding Vortech's new air-to-air charge cooler (PN 8N301-390; $1,770.95) to the '05 Pony's Vortech T-Trim blower system and noting the gains-should there be any-that are brought about by dropping the temperature of incoming air.

The TIG-welded 'cooler's core measures 24x13x3.5 inches, and the system features mandrel-bent, 3-inch, aluminum, high-flow charge tubes; silicone couplers and stainless steel clamps; twin Bosch compressor bypass valves; a supercharger pulley retainer; coolant-reservoir relocation pieces; and a DiabloSport MAFia interface adapter, which extends the voltage range of the mass-air meter. (Note-For our intercooler test, Abaco's 85mm DBX is used. The adjustable, blow-through mass-air meter eliminates the need for a MAFia for this application).

Vortech says its charge cooler is capable of supporting as much as 900 hp in supercharged '05-'09 Mustangs. Rick recorded nearly 600 rwhp and 533 lb-ft of torque thanks to the addition with the mule still sporting the Kooks long-tube headers from our test, timing dialed in at 27 degrees, and 20 psi of cooled boost being forced into its engine.

The dyno numbers show the non-intercooled GT sporting MAC's long-tube headers as the MACs were the top peak performers in the header test.

Does a cooler intake-air charge really make a difference? Check out the numbers!

 MAC Intercooled Difference