Michael Galimi
June 1, 2008

Step By Step

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The stock short-block in Keith Johnson's '00 Mustang GT was tired. It had produced 486 rwhp (see graph on page 112 with a set of Fox Lake-ported heads, a TFS intake, AFM camshafts, a ProCharger P1SC, and a few other bolt-on items. It was time to upgrade to something a bit stronger.
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Ford Racing Performance Parts' Aluminator short-blocks come in many different variations, including Two-Valve and Four-Valve setups, with a Three-Valve combo available around the time this issue hits newsstands. Aluminator is also offered in long-block form with Four-Valve Terminator heads.
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The Aluminator is basically a Terminator '03-'04 Cobra engine in an aluminum block. The Terminator engines are known for their toughness and durability--and soon the Aluminator will be as well. It's a great foundation for any modular-powered Mustang. Switching to an aluminum block saves 65 pounds, enhancing handling, braking, and overall performance of your Mustang.
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FRPP's engineering department put the aluminum block through a rigorous beating during its testing phase. Here, you can see the four-bolt main caps on the bottom side, as well as the steel crankshaft and steel rods.

Adding a power adder to a mod motor seems to be easy these days. Forced induction and nitrous kits are abundant in the marketplace and priced to fit anyone's budget. Out of the box, the manufacturer has perfected the fit, finish, and performance to be repeatable, reliable, and--much of the time--50-state legal. The companies ship a product that, when installed correctly, provides an increase in performance without the hassles of failure or too much difficulty during its installation. As with everything in our hobby, however, a little is good and more is better, and it's much too easy and tempting to up the boost and nitrous hit to levels far greater than the manufacturer has set in the kit.

The current crop of Three-Valve engines seems to be tough, and MM&FF has tortured its fair share of them over the past several years. However, when it comes to the Two-Valve market, the story changes, and the short-block seems quite a bit weaker. It's our opinion that roughly 420-430 rwhp is the safety limit for the venerable stock bottom of the Two-Valve engine series. It can go higher, but that's a stick of dynamite with the fuse lit. We've seen people make upward of 500 rwhp with stock short-blocks, but it's risky, in our opinion. This includes our in-house Project Ice Box, which made 520 rwhp before getting a 300ci stroker engine.

We cram the cylinders with additional fuel and air in order to create a more powerful combustion process. The weakest link is usually found under those hard loads--typically it's the powdered rods that fail first. The rods from Ford aren't the only things to worry about, though. "In addition to the rods, the pistons are weak links in Two-Valve engines," says Mike Dezotell of Dez Racing. The rods or pistons fail long before the crank and block could be a problem.

Over the past six months, we've used Keith Johnson's '00 Mustang GT for a series of tests. It began life as a relatively stock car with a ProCharger P1SC blower, exhaust mods, and a set of Anderson Ford Motorsport F-42 camshafts. In this trim, the car pounded out a respectable 441 rwhp and 413 rwtq. Our first tech article with his car consisted of adding a TFS intake manifold. The result was 454 rwhp and 415 rwtq.

A few months later, we added a set of Fox Lake-ported heads, and power shot up to 484 rwhp and 433 rwtq. The heads really woke up the car, but Dez restrained himself from getting too wild with the tune-up due to the fragile bottom end. Thanks to conservative tuning and a stout fuel system combo from Lethal Performance, Johnson drove the car with 485 rwhp for a few months before bringing it back to the shop for another round of modifications. We can't stress enough the importance of having adequate fuel (quantity and quality) and proper tuning, which guarantees longevity and reliability in a near-500-rwhp combination and stock bottom end.

In this issue, we're replacing the wimpy, stock short-block with Ford Racing Performance Parts' Aluminator--a tough and durable piece--in order to up the power to over 600 rwhp. The Aluminator is FRPP's recently released line of crate engines that are ready to ship and are reasonably priced. They're take-offs on the success of the Terminator engine from the '03-'04 Cobra. Essentially, these engines are similar to the Cobra bullets, but with the addition of the aluminum block rather than a cast-iron one. Despite the lighter-weight block and aluminum material, the Aluminator lineup is built to withstand massive amounts of horsepower, well in excess of what the average street car is looking to achieve.

The Aluminator begins with an aluminum block, saving approximately 65 pounds over cast-iron modular blocks, and is filled with heavy-duty parts. An '03-'04 Cobra steel crank is first to make its way into the aluminum foundation. Then FRPP's engine builders add a set of H-beam steel rods, and forged pistons are dropped into place. Engine displacement is standard 4.6-liter fare, which is 281 ci for those who prefer standard cubic-inch displacement measurement to the metric equivalent.

FRPP offers the Aluminator in many variations to suit the needs of the marketplace. We ordered the short-block version, which has two options--one for Cobra replacement and one for a cast-iron Two-Valve engine replacement. Thanks to our over anxious attitudes, we ordered the Four-Valve replacement engine rather than the Two-Valve one. It isn't a problem; the only difference is how the Two-Valve front engine cover is bolted on. If you make the same mistake as us, you can just get a few dowels to replace some bolts and call it a day. FRPP has a Four-Valve long-block (replacement Terminator piece) listed as being ready to ship, and you can even get an FRPP/Whipple 2.3L blower if you so choose. It's basically a mail-order 700-plus-horsepower combination that's durable and reliable. The Three-Valve-style Aluminator should be ready by the time you read this.