Michael Galimi
August 22, 2006
One of our test subjects, an '06 Mustang GT with a stick-shift transmission, was driven to Englishtown without one modification. It left the dragstrip running 12.50s at 108 mph using simple, tried-and-true, bolt-on parts.

It's almost a given that whenever the '05-newer Mustangs come up in conversation, its enormous size is always a hot topic. That's because the S197 Stangs are larger than any Mustang Ford Motor Company has produced since the '70s. Their size gives them noticeable presence on the road, but also casts doubts to its performance capabilities.

We decided to take a couple of S197 cars and flog them at the dragstrip to find out how they would respond to basic bolt-on parts. More than a dyno test, we spent the better part of a day proving the parts where they count--at the track.

It's not like we haven't beat the S197 cars to death on the 1,320 for the past year or so, but this test was different. We took two cars that were close to stock and performed the modifications that most Stangbangers would do. Our goal was to hit the 12s with regularity and simplicity.

Our focus was to remove unnecessary weight, which always translates to quicker elapsed times. We also wanted to perform upgrades that would take only 20-30 minutes and could be done trackside. We enlisted the services of Justin Burcham of JPC Racing to conduct the testing, and to be our head wrench for the day. He brought a box of tools, several parts, and two '06 Mustang GTs--one automatic and one a five-speed. The testing parameters were simple: use a pair of Mickey Thompson ET-Streets (26x11.50) to keep the cars consistent. Multiple runs were also made to back up initial results.

Let The Fun Begin
The automatic car came in at a baseline weight of 3,570 pounds, with Burcham's small frame behind the wheel. The automatic car rolled through the gates with a few basic modifications, including a prototype 3,000-stall JPC Racing torque converter, and the rear gears were swapped to a set of 4.10 cogs from Motive Gear. Burcham also added a C&L cold-air kit and modified the tune-up with a DiabloSport Predator. To our surprise, the car ran in the 12s on the first run (12.89 at 106.5 mph). Those simple modifica-tions proved to be highly effective, and we were excited at the notion of pushing this car even further into the 12s. Two backup runs resulted in 13.02/104.2 mph and 13.06/104.3 mph.

We used two Mustangs for our testing--a stick GT (left) and one with an automatic transmission.

We swapped the ET Streets to the stick-shift car and made three runs. In that trim, Burcham coaxed a best of 13.19 at 104.34 mph while leaving moderately and driving consistently. The two following runs were 13.52 and 13.65 at the same 101.5 mph. Burcham said he could get a bit more e.t. out of the stick car, but he wanted to keep his technique consistent to accurately evaluate the effects of the upgrades. The differences between the runs in the stick-shift car were the 60-foot times (1.84 vs. 1.91 and 1.88, respectively).

We attributed the noticeable drop off in performance with both vehicles to heat soak in the engines. Throughout the day it seemed as if the first run after a long break was always a tenth or more quicker. These engines don't like to be too warm, which could make things interesting in True Street competition.

Our stick GT tipped the Englishtown Raceway Park scale at 3,600 pounds, also with Burcham sitting in the hot rod. When it cruised onto the property, the odometer showed less than 1,500 miles. The car was 100-percent stock, as delivered from Flat Rock. The red Stang had every option available, including 18-inch wheels, which aren't the greatest for drag racing thanks to their heavy weight. The stock gear ratio (3.55:1) remained in the stick car, and it was of the opinion of all involved that a set of 4.10s or 4.30s would have been worth a few more tenths.

The stick-shift car's first mod was the C&L Performance race cold-air kit and new tune using the supplied DiabloSport Predator. With the mods, it ran identical 13.19s at 105.3 and 105.2 mph in two back-to-back runs. Being the car was a lot warmer than our initial baseline, we can summarize that the kit was worth, on average, 4-5 tenths of a second and almost 4 mph. The C&L kit was super easy to install--it took longer to reflash the computer than to get the cold-air kit on the car.

John Franco (owner of the stick-shift car) compares the two driveshafts. On the left is the two-piece OEM shaft, and the one of the right is the chromoly JPC Racing one-piece. We saved 26 pounds--OEM: 45, JPC: 19.

JPC Chromoly Driveshaft
It was time to try the lightweight parts and chart their effect. First on the list was a chromoly driveshaft from JPC Racing. A one-piece shaft weighing a scant 19 pounds offered a 26-pound savings over the OEM two-piece driveshaft (weight: 45 pounds). Installation took 23 minutes according to our stopwatch, and both the cars improved in the e.t. department with the unit installed. The best with the automatic was 12.82 at 105.6, while the stick-shift car responded with a best of 12.95 at 105.6 (backup runs were 13.02 at 105.9 and 13.07 at 105.5).

Expect to pick up anywhere from 0.10 to 0.20 of a second with the addition of this lightweight component. JPC was still testing the automatic version of its driveshaft, so we used a prototype shaft in this test. The driveshaft we installed in the stick car is available now and ready to ship, according to Burcham. Apparently, Ford uses two different style driveshafts for the different transmission types. Both stock shafts weighed the same but have different part numbers.

BMR Fabrication Front Antiroll Bar Eliminator/Tubular Lower Radiator Support
Next up was the front antiroll bar eliminator/tubular radiator support from BMR Fabrication. We didn't think it would help weight transfer; as you can see in some of the accompanying photos, as the front struts seemed to be at full extension at the launch before the BMR kit. The antiroll bar usually limits the travel of the front end, but that was not apparent in our test Mustangs. The bar eliminator/tubular lower radiator support kit removed unnecessary weight off the nose of the car. In side-by-side comparison, the factory front bar tipped the scales at 32 pounds, while the BMR kit was a scant 8. We removed 24 pounds off the front in roughly 37 minutes. All swaps were made in the staging lanes (during a private track rental) and can easily be done in your driveway.

Which would you rather have in your Mustang? BMR: 8 pounds, OEM: 32 pounds--'nuff said!

The stick-shift car tipped the scales at 3,544 pounds, while the automatic ride pushed 3,515 pounds. You math whizzes out there might have come up with a slightly different number using the weight savings from the parts--the JPC driveshaft and BMR kit saves a combined 50 pounds. The track scales showed 6 pounds lighter with the stick-shift Stang and 5 pounds lighter with the automatic car, if you deduct the weight savings from the parts versus our baseline weights. The extra weight savings comes in the form of fuel consumption. Remember, 1 gallon of gasoline weighs 6.2 pounds.

We made three runs with the red rocket, and as on previous runs, the first was a bit of an anomaly. Burcham wheeled the Stang to a 12.75 at 107.1-mph performance; the back-up runs produced a 13.01 at 105.8 mph and a 12.98 at 105.9 mph. We picked up over two tenths on one run, and on the following hot-lapped runs it ran similar times. But there was more mph when compared to passes with the OEM antiroll bar and lower radiator support in place. The weight savings is what dropped the times--like we said before, the front struts were fully extended on previous runs, and the car seemed to transfer fine. The 60-foot time on the 12.75 pass was a 1.73, while the following two runs netted identical 1.79s.

The automatic car was up next, with the BMR front antiroll bar/tubular lower radiator mount in place. A 12.98 run got things started, and it was backed up with a 13.02 and 13.10. The speed dropped off on each run due to heat soak in the engine--104.5, 103.8, and 102.9 were the numbers--however all three runs produced identical 60-foot times at 1.85 seconds. At this point, the automatic car was having slight vibration problems with the prototype driveshaft, so we decided to park it rather than chance breakage. We reinstalled the stock driveshaft and readied the car for the next wave of modifications.

Bogart Welded R/T Wheels and Mickey Thompson Tires
Our final upgrade was a set of Bogart "big and little" wheels. A set of Welded R/T wheels were chosen for their awesome looks and, of course, their light weight. Up front, a pair of 15x3.5 wheels were wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber. Out back, we ran a pair of 15x10 wheels, featuring a custom backspace spec'd out by JPC, with Mickey Thompson ET Street (26x11.50-inch) tires. Before we could install the rear Bogart/Mickey Thompson wheel/tire package, we had to make a slight modification. The rear antiroll bar mounting location needed relocating. Thankfully, BMR sells a nifty little relocation bracket to remedy the situation. A saw is needed to cut the old brackets, but installation is simple.

The 15x10 Bogart Welded R/T wheels with a custom JPC backspacing fit perfectly on our test Stangs.

Swapping to the Bogart rims made a huge performance gain thanks to the super light weight when compared to the 18-inch and 17-inch wheel combinations we had been running all day. Having the Bogarts up front netted a 66-pound savings, while the rear wheels removed a total of 16 pounds. Instantly the car had the front wheels off the ground, and Burcham banged the gears to a 12.51 at 108.19 mph. Getting the front wheels to come off the ground in the stick car with stock 3.55 gears, stock rear suspension, stock shocks, and stock struts is quite an accomplishment. We were impressed. At this point, we simply ran out of time and were unable to back up the final performance numbers. But given the severe weight reduction and the already warm engine, we have no doubt this car would have run in the 12.50s again. We feel that with a longer cooldown and iced intake, this car would have broken into the 12.40s.

By the end of the day, we had reduced the weight of the stick-shift Stang from 3,600 pounds to 3,460 pounds using simple, proven methods. Our day started off with a car that was bone-stock and running mid-to-low-13s and we turned it into a bona fide mid-12-second monster. The automatic car was equally impressive, but this is the first step for this Mustang. Burcham is working on running 11s without the aid of a power adder. Some tried-and-true tricks proved to be worth their weight (pun intended)--running 12s with the S197 Mustangs is a lot easier than people expected.

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