KJ Jones
August 22, 2011

We're fully aware that the wheels of Project T-top Coupe's comeback progress are moving glacially, but despite various delays, those wheels have not come to a full stop. Those of you keeping up with the coupe's affairs already know that a brand-new A.R.E. Performance and Machine-built 352ci bullet is now installed in our rare '86 notchback, and the engine's crankshaft and Paxton Novi 2000 supercharger are sporting big and little cog-drive pulleys respectively, for achieving major boost.

Of course, making big boost has never been an issue for the project. However, sustaining the Novi's 21 psi over multiple dyno pulls or dragstrip passes had become a bit of a challenge-even with a 10-rib serpentine belt. While the conversion to cogs remedies belt slippage, we're a lot more excited about another addition to the coupe's performance mix-a water-to-air intercooler system.

In a boosted application, heat is considered the arch enemy of the piston (typically the weakest link in an engine's rotating assembly). We've experienced the truth in this assessment firsthand, as super-hot inlet-air temps and cylinder pressure have reduced the coupe's slugs to melted aluminum on two occasions. Sometimes it really does take three attempts at something to get it right. This type of repetition is unfortunate-and there's no doubt it becomes expensive after a while, as our experiences with catastrophic failure have shown us.

Hopefully it has also shown you the importance of building engines with internal hardware designed for supporting big-time power under severe-duty conditions. As we explained in our last installment on the T-top project (Grand Scheme, Mar. '11, p. 75), loading the engine with JE Pistons and adding a Vortech Mondo water-to-air intercooler are the major changes we've made in this third, and hopefully final, stab at making Couptie a legitimate 1,000hp street 'Stang.

As a general rule of thumb, it makes no difference whether you're using nitrous oxide, water-methanol, alcohol (as fuel), or some other cooling agent. The bottom line is that cold, dense inlet air is a must for ensuring the kind of combustion efficiency that promotes big steam. Vortech's water-to-air intercooler unit definitely will play the co-starring role in lowering our blown beast's air-charge temperature.

You're probably thinking the Igloo chiller itself is the lead component in this setup, but we're actually giving ice the top spot. That's right. Ice cubes are without question the most important ingredients necessary for making water cold enough. While hard-core details on the intercooler are featured in the sidebar (Tough Gig) of the aforementioned article in our March issue, plumbing the 'cooler's water works is our focus in this month's effort.

Transferring ice-cold water from Point A (a 5-gallon aluminum reservoir mounted in the rear-seat area of the coupe) to Point B (the intercooler) is the second-most-important aspect of the Igloo system, and we want to be sure the unit gets plenty of frosty fluid when the blower and engine are at full scream. To do this, we're installing a suite of braided hose and aluminum AN fittings from Earl's Performance Plumbing, and laying everything out so that it doesn't stray too far away from T-top Coupe's street-'Stang persona.

Scott McLaughlin is one of three new guys (our friends Rick Anderson and Ricky Best are the other newbies on Uncle Robin Lawrence's team) at Holley Performance Products. Scott brings an extensive background in high-performance automotive plumbing to the group, which makes him a natural for working with Earl's (a division of Holley) products. Lucky for us, Scott also is a big-time Ford enthusiast. As such, Scott graciously provided his time and assistance with design, product selection, and installation of our project Mustang's intercooler-plumbing bits.

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Our work was performed in the cozy confines of T&M Performance in San Fernando, California, and Tech Editor Jones' home garage in Reseda. T&M is Tim McLaughlin's-Scott's dad-cool little man cave, and we thank Tim immensely for giving us access to a twin-post hoist and full run of his place for a day. As you'll see in the following photos and captions, duplicating Project T-top Coupe's slick new intercooler plumbing only requires a good set of cutters, handtools, and a solid plan. However, while the project can be accomplished without a twin-post hoist (using a jack and jackstands to safely lift the car), we strongly recommend the hoist.

Horse Sense: The idea of intercooling any boosted application is to remove heat from intake air charge before it enters the engine. The Igloo intercooler consists of three 4.5-inch-thick cores that measure 13.5x9 inches inside a sealed, cast-aluminum box that bolts to the lower intake manifold. Using ice-cold water as the cooling agent, the hot supercharged intake air passes through the cores twice and is cooled down dramatically before entering the heads (without any significant loss of boost pressure). The Igloo has a maximum 2,000-cfm flow rating, which is well within the airflow parameters we'll need to make 1,000 horses.

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Air Command

When you look at automotive plumbing on a big-picture scale, it's important to understand that there's more to it than simply channeling fluids throughout a Mustang's engine, drivetrain, and accessories. Air is another entity that is "plumbed," primarily into the engine. However, it also can be routed toward brakes and other segments of a 'Stang, typically for cooling purposes.

Our focus in this report obviously has been on the liquid side of T-top Coupe's plumbing. However, as part of this effort to make 1,000 rwhp, we also had to make sure there is sufficient tubing in place for feeding supercharged air into the intercooler.

Special thanks go out to Mike Reagan and is team at Vortech's Engineering department for creating a smooth, one-piece discharge tube for our application (that incorporates a huge MaxFlow bv57 bypass valve). With hood clearance (cowl size) being high on the list of important concerns when designing the tube, the finished piece is perfect and will serve us well as we head for the dyno and making big steam.

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