Richard Holdener
July 18, 2011

In case you haven't noticed, the winds of change have shifted the economy. Whether you blame the policies of the past or our current government, the reality is that times are tough. Fact is, this uncertain economy has forced performance enthusiasts to tighten up the old purse strings and make every dollar count.

Truth be told, the vast majority of us are bang-for-the-buckers anyway, the economic downturn just forced others to join our cause. The problem with having a light-beer budget is that it does nothing to lessen our appetite for the taste of champagne (or at least a quality brew). Who doesn't love a trip to the wrecking yard, especially on those rare occasions where you strike gold?

Count yourself a real car guy (or gal) if you look down nearly any isle in the boneyard and see nothing but potential! Do you ponder the aerodynamics of an old turbo T-Bird? The potential of a stripped Fox Mustang? Or how about the sheer nostalgia of an early Comet or Ranchero?

If you see more than some old, rusty parts cars, then you, my friend, are a real car enthusiast! Real bang-for-buckers reside somewhere in betweenùwhere you maximize performance and minimize cost. Sure, we can drool over the 1,000hp turbo strokers, but can we really afford them?

For our low-buck turbo build, we are trading effort and elbow grease for cubic dollars (there is no free lunch). The extra work pays for itself twofold, as not only do we save money, but we are also rewarded with a sense of pride that only comes from doing it yourself. The icing on the cake is when you motor past a guy who spent three times as much on his combination!

To illustrate the low-buck approach, we applied our knowledge to the legendary 5.0L Mustang. The goal of this exercise was to more than double the power output of a stock, high-mileage 5.0L for about the cost of a set of aluminum heads.

Are we crazy? The answer to that question is a resounding yes, but when it comes to 5.0L performance, let's just say we're crazy like a Fox!

Though low-dollar turbos abound on the internet, we were concerned about both price and performance. What good is an affordable turbo if it disintegrates after a month or two? Having had excellent results with its products in the past, we went back to CX Racing ( We selected the largest turbo availableùthe 76mm. In truth, we had previously run one of these turbos successfully on a 4.6L mod motor for our sister book Hot Rod with impressive results.

The 76mm turbo features a 4-inch compressor inlet, a 2.5-inch discharge, and a 3-inch exhaust outlet. The 0.96 A/R, exhaust side worked well in previous testing, so we knew it would be at home on the torquey 5.0L. The turbo was combined with a massive air-to-water intercooler (air-to-air versions are also available). In truth, the intercooler was oversized for our stock 5.0L application, but it's always nice to have an intercooler core that will support 1,000 hp should you upgrade at a later date. The turbo and intercooler set us back just $639.

While the turbo and intercooler were the major components of the turbo system, we also needed a wastegate, boost controller, and aluminum tubing to connect the turbo to the intercooler and the cooler to the throttle body. CX Racing once again came to the rescue with an affordable aluminum tubing kit. For the paltry sum of just $85 (after a little haggling), CX Racing offered an eight-piece tubing kit that included 3-inch (other diameters are available) polished aluminum tubing with beaded ends to minimize leakage, along with a complete set of silicone couplers and T-bolt clamps. You can even choose the combination of bends needed for your application.

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