Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
February 29, 2012


Horse Sense: If you are a member of the Coyote clan, Blow-By Racing also offers Stage 1, 2, and 3 cam upgrades for the latest 5.0 engine as well.

Here's what we ended up with when Matt and the crew at Pro-Fab Performance were done spinning wrenches on Joe Downs’ '05 Saleen S281 convertible. The color-coordinated JLT Performance cold-air intake was already part of Joe’s program, and even though they are known to add power, they weren’t enough to level the playing field with '11-'12 Mustang GTs…That's why Joe's car is under the knife once again. Matt had previously installed the aforementioned JLT cold air, a Shelby GT500 throttle body, along with Dynatech long-tube headers, FRPP's high-lift Hot Rod camshafts, and a Blow-By Racing flash tune. This time around, Joe wanted to dig a little deeper in the name of increased horsepower.

When the '05 Mustangs hit the scene, we thought they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. However, when the '11 Mustang GT hit the streets, the '05s were uncut loaves. Still bread, but now we had to do work to let 'em eat.

With the ultimate kick in the teeth to '05-'10 Mustang owners, the '11 Mustang GT brought an extra 107 hp to the table from the factory. With just a little tuning and a few bolt-ons, the Coyote-powered GTs were making in excess of 400 hp at the wheels. What's an '05-'10 GT owner to do?

Comparing an '05-'10 GT to an '11-'12 Coyote-powered GT just isn't fair. The '05-'10 Mustang GT is a great car, but the power department isn't up to par. However, we're here to help for your next trip down the strip.

To level the playing field, there are several options. The addition of a supercharger or turbo will yield rwhp numbers in the 460 to 470 range. Anything more than that and the engine's bottom end is living on borrowed time. Plus, an '11-'12 GT with a blower or turbo is going to make upward of 550 rwhp so an '05-'10 GT is still behind. You could always swap in a Coyote engine and Ford Racing Performance Parts Control Pack. You could even just go buy an '11-'12 Mustang GT and let someone else fool with the Three-Valve.

However, in these times, many people aren't able to plunk down big money on a new GT, or even on a power adder. So what's left? The next best idea is to do a heads, cam, and intake swap. Of the choices, the H/C/I swap is the cheapest route.

In the case of this installation exercise, we have an '05 Saleen S281 convertible. Owner Joe Downs was looking for performance upgrades to make it possible for him to keep up with '11-'12 Mustang GTs. He wanted a fair fight. His Saleen is flawless, and he really didn't want to part with it—he just needed more power to retain his street cred.

Before we did the install at Pro-Fab Performance just north of Tampa I took Joe's Saleen for a ride. Having driven several '11-'12 GTs, and my own daily driven '94 Cobra with a Coyote transplant, I really thought something was wrong with Joe's car at first. It had no "pull" whatsoever. It didn't want to get with the program it seemed, but I was driving the car in a spirited manner, it just didn't have the spirit under the hood to inspire.

What Joe did was get with Matt Larue from Pro-Fab to formulate a plan on remedying that lack of spirit. Having experience with this situation, Matt and Joe called Blow-By Racing for a pair of its Stage III CNC'd Three-Valve heads and Stage II cams. To which Joe added a FRPP Three-Valve performance intake. Though larger injectors aren't needed, to make sure the engine wouldn't starve for fuel, Joe threw in fuel rails. For good measure, Joe is also having Matt install a Hurst shifter, FRPP 4.10 gears, and BMR Suspension's tubular K-member, and rear control arms.

That's a lot of work, so let's get started.

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On The Dyno

To see how much power Joe's Saleen made after the heads, cams, and intake swap, we headed over to Proven Power in Tampa, Florida, so Brian Humlicek could tune the combination for maximum performance and driveability. We don't have dyno sheets for Joe's Saleen prior to the swap, but Blow-By Racing's Chris Jones says '05-'09 Mustang GTs with the additions Joe's Saleen already had are usually good for 325-330 rwhp. Of course, we hoped for a sizable gain with the Blow-By heads and cams and FRPP intake.

As you can see, the additions brought Joe's Saleen up to roughly 370 hp at the wheels. That's in the neighborhood of stock '11-'12 Mustang GTs, and the power curve keeps going up the mountain. Plus, Joe also had Pro-Fab add 4.10 gears to the mix, as well as a Hurst shifter. We'd say the playing field is much more level for him against the Coyotes of this world.


Now Level

Many times we're not able to get the comments of a car's owner after we perform upgrades. However, with Joe, we wanted to get his input on how he likes his Saleen after the swap. Here's what Joe had to say:

"The difference in performance with the combination of the heads, cams, and intake are phenomenal compared to the first go-round with just the headers and FRPP Hot Rod cams. The combination seems to draw so much power through the mid- and upper-rpm range, which is something I didn't have with the prior setup. The rev limiter is set at 6,500 rpm, and probably could have been a little higher, but getting there though the gears is a blast. I'm also glad Matt talked me into 4.10 gears, because that has made a world of difference in acceleration. I'm looking forward to putting some miles on the car to really enjoy the performance upgrades, which should satisfy my need for speed for now."

Notice Joe says, "For now." We're sure he'll be good for a little bit, but the first time he sees tail lights, he'll be ready for another round of modifications. Now Joe has only one route left, and that's a power adder. However, he has many power- adder choices should he want to go in that direction. He could choose a positive- displacement supercharger, a centrifugal supercharger, a turbo kit, or even nitrous. The only limit at this point is the Saleen's bottom end ... and Joe's wallet.