Richard Holdener
June 28, 2011

Our affinity here at MM&FF for all things forced-induction is well known, or at least it should be. Running normally aspirated motors is fun, but with Ford's turn to small-displacement, we rely on the power gains offered by a little boost.

With a normally aspirated motor, you can run through the usual lash adjustments (assuming a solid flat-tappet of roller cam), adjust the air/fuel and timing, and maybe play with different weight synthetic oils, but the gains offered by the available tuning are minimal compared to a boosted motor. In contrast, add a few psi to even the most humble of normally aspirated combinations, including a wimpy little stock 5.0L like our test motor, and watch the power escalate.

Need even more? Crank up the boost! Obviously there is a limit to how far you can take the big-boost process, but the gains are certainly respectable. The one potential downside to all this wonderful power is obviously cost, as blowers and turbos cost some serious bucks, right?

The answer to that question depends on your perspective, and budget. The Vortech 5.0L supercharger kit used for our test was available from Summit Racing for just $1,899! Not an insignificant amount of money, but with good 5.0L cylinder heads running from $1,200 to $1,500 per set these days, the price of this low-buck blower kit was looking even better. The icing on the cake is that the 5.0L Vortech supercharger kit has the potential to offer significantly more power (by 2-3 times) than any set of heads applied to an otherwise stock 5.0L.

Of course the ideal setup is to add boost to a modified 5.0L motor equipped with aftermarket heads, cam, and intake, but that is another test for another day. For now, we decided to take a hard look at a low-buck blower kit and see what it was all about.

For this we decided to run the little 5.0 on the dyno and see just what the kit had to offer. Taking things one step further, we elected to illustrate a very important point about the low-buck blower approach--its ability to accept future upgrades.

In sticking with a low-buck approach, we selected the original low-buck king--the 5.0L Mustang. Things are now confusing with the introduction of the new 5.0L Four-Valve from Ford, but that motor is considerably more pricey (and powerful) than the original fuelie 5.0L. Given the current value of a used 5.0L Mustang (circa '86-'95), the cost of performance upgrades must be kept in perspective. Where the owner of a new 5.0L Mustang might not think twice about dropping five grand on a blower kit, that same five grand could buy a complete (ready to run) original 5.0L Mustang. Knowing this, Vortech decided to offer a cost-effective blower kit designed specifically for the original 5.0L market.

Priced (through Summit Racing) at $1,899, the affordable blower kit was hardly short on performance. Included in the kit was a self- contained, V3 SCi-trim supercharger. The blowers have come a long way since the days of the original A-trim. The ultra-efficient (as high as 75 percent) V3 SCi-trim blower was capable of supporting as much as 17 psi, 1,050 cfm, and over 725 hp. That is more than you'll ever get away with on your stock 5.0L block (at least for long). The great thing is that this blower will be able to grow with your power needs, should you upgrade your heads, cam, and intake, or even step up to a stroker.

Also included is a blower mounting bracket (and hardware) along with a discharge tube and pulley system designed to provide 5-6 psi of boost on an otherwise-stock motor. Additional components include an air inlet system designed to attach the mass air meter and cone filter to the inlet of the blower. Vortech also supplied a filter box to protect the open-element filter from fan wash and heated engine compartment air.

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Obviously, the extra airflow provided by the blower must be accompanied by additional fuel, so Vortech included a rising-rate fuel regulator better known as an FMU. Not ideal for high-boost or modified motors, the FMU can, and has, worked well on blowers installed on stock applications. The author ran one in his '88 5.0L LX, while participating in the Silver State Classic open-road race. The fuel pressure gauge was pegged at over 100 psi, but the combination ran flawlessly for over 90 miles, and to this day may still be the only Mustang to have ever won the race outright. In terms of boost, the kit was supplied with a six-rib, 3.33-inch blower pulley and a 6.00-inch crank pulley. This combination netted a peak boost pressure of 6.1 psi on our stock motor.

The test mule was completely stock internally, but configured with no accessories, and it had a Meziere electric water pump and a set of Hooker 1-3/4-inch Super Comp headers feeding 18-inch collector extensions.

Since we were running the Fast XFI engine management system, we elected not to run the FMU and instead installed a set of 36-lb/hr injectors. Since the Fast XFI is a speed-density system, it wasn't necessary to run an MAF.

Prior to the installation of the Vortech, we ran the motor normally aspirated to establish a baseline. With the impressive power outputs of the modern modular motors, it's easy to forget that the original 5.0L fuelie Ford was rated at just 225 hp (a far cry from the 444 hp offered by the new Boss) with virtually the same displacement. Run on the engine dyno at Westech, the stock 5.0L produced 252 hp at 5,100 rpm and 306 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm. Hardly the high-rpm screamer, the 5.0L is plenty torquey and offers a platform that responds well to performance upgrades.

Now it was time for some boost. We installed the Vortech onto the awaiting 5.0L test motor. The blower came properly oriented, so all we had to do was bolt the mounting bracket to the passenger-side cylinder head and bolt the blower in place. Next came the blower-belt tensioner, followed by the six-rib crank pulley and blower belt. We installed the silicone couplers onto the throttle body and discharge tube, then positioned the tube in place and tightened the clamps.

We liked that the self-contained V3 SCi supercharger eliminated the need to drill and tap the oil pan. It was necessary for us to space the crank and blower pulleys out to clear our Meziere electric water pump, but once tuned to perfection, the supercharged 5.0L produced 331 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. We know in these days of 1,000hp buildup that 331 hp doesn't sound like a lot, but remember the power output of the supercharged combination is a function of the boost and normally aspirated power output. Since the V3 will support over 725 hp, all it takes is more motor and more boost.

Future-Fast Charge Cooler Upgrade

In addition to the budget boost, the Vortech supercharger kit also offered something we refer to as future-fast. Future-fast is the ability to upgrade the system in the future as finances allow. Since the power output of the supercharged motor is a function of the normally aspirated power output multiplied by the boost pressure, we can further increase the power output of the combination by either upgrading the motor or increasing the boost.

Increased boost is a simple (and inexpensive) matter of a pulley swap, as either increasing the size of crank pulley or decreasing the size of the blower pulley will increase the airflow (and boost pressure) to the motor. The result of the increased boost is more power. The downside of the increased boost is elevated charge temperatures, as the inlet temperature rises with boost. To cure the inevitable increase in charge temperature, we elected to install an air-to-water Maxflow Power Cooler from Vortech Engineering. Though nearly as expensive as the supercharger kit itself, the Power Cooler is a natural upgrade when you go looking for additional power and boost pressure--especially for street use.

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To illustrate the gains of the Maxflow Power Cooler, we installed the system along with a pulley upgrade on the supercharged 5.0L test motor. Installation required reorientation of the compressor housing on the supercharger, as the inlet of the Power Cooler was positioned differently than the standard discharge tube. Installation also required running water lines to and from the cooler.

Vortech supplied not only the lines and clamps, but also a reservoir, pump, and secondary heat exchanger to complete the system. We ran only the lines to and from our dyno water source. Ice water would obviously increase the cooling effect, though the gains would be less prominent at our sub-10-psi test pressure.

Equipped with the Maxflow Power Cooler and 2.87-inch blower pulley, the supercharged 5.0L pumped out a maximum of 9.8 psi and 401 hp and 421 lb-ft of torque. From a percentage standpoint, the gains were significant, but we can't help but think we'd like to run this Vortech supercharger system (with an 8-rib pulley setup) on something other than a stock 5.0L to clearly demonstrate its ability to produce in excess of 725 hp.

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