Miles Cook
November 1, 2004
Photos By: Jim Smart, Dr.Jamie Meyer

For many of us, a Mustang with additional horsepower under the hood is one of the best things about it. Whether it's the big power that comes from a stroker engine or the few additional oats provided by an upgraded ignition and a set of headers, getting your vintage Mustang to go faster is a big reason we're in the hobby in the first place.

The five ideas we're presenting run the gamut, from a minor ignition update to the burly stroker engine-supercharged, no less. Our discussion is limited to what we know will help an engine make more power, or allow it to make more power, like the ignition upgrade. We begin with the basics, like the improved ignition, and go to headers and a four-barrel carburetor. Then we reach for the sky with the big-ticket items-a stroker short-block or a supercharger. Why not both? Nothing wrong with dreaming, right?

Except for the supercharger, you can apply the other ideas and most won't know your car is anything more than a stock-looking vintage Mustang with a four-barrel carb and tri-Y headers. Can you say sleeper? We knew you could.

Ignition UpgradeThis upgrade won't necessarily make your engine produce more power, but it will make a big difference when it comes to reliability and turning up the power via carburetors, headers, and such. In other words, it's like a higher-capacity EFI fuel system. It won't make more power by itself, but it will allow you to with the other upgrades.

The PerTronix Ignitor II ignition is a drop-in upgrade that directly replaces the points and condenser in vintage Autolite and Motorcraft distributors. Requiring only about half an hour to install, this unit is the ideal way to bring a vintage distributor into the 21st century and still retain the look of the stock distributor and corresponding cap.

Four-Barrel-Carburetor UpgradeThousands of nice C-code 289 two-barrel Mustangs can be improved with a four-barrel upgrade using a factory-type Autolite 4100 four-barrel, the same carburetor used on A- and K-code Mustangs.

Pony Carburetors is a good source for a fresh Autolite 4100 or Holley carburetor to sit atop a factory cast-iron or aftermarket aluminum intake. The shop has been dealing with Mustang carburetors for many years. A freshly rebuilt 4100 and a cast-iron intake (for the factory A-code look) or an aluminum intake is the next logical step for smooth extra power from your vintage small- or medium-block Mustang V-8 engine.

Tri-Y HeadersInstalling headers is a time-honored upgrade and one of the first things many do to increase power output. We're going with the tri-Y angle to retain the vintage Shelby look.

With 289/302-based engines making more and more power these days, the tri-Y header scene has improved as well. Several companies offer tri-Ys, including Tony Branda Shelby and Mustang Parts and Stainless Works, which offers them with larger primaries and collectors. PerTronix Performance Products also offers tri-Ys under the Patriot name.

Paxton Supercharger For Carbureted Vintage MustangsNow we're stepping up the performance ladder in a big way. Paxton's Novi 1200 supercharger package is available for '65-'70 Mustangs with the 289 or 302 engine. On a relatively stock 289 with a four-barrel carburetor, expect a solid 50-75hp increase with modest 5-6-pound boost levels.

Better still, Paxton now offers a Novi 1200 that fits '69-'70 Mustangs equipped with 351W medium-blocks. Wouldn't a stock but freshly restored M-code 351W four-barrel Mach 1 be cool with a Novi 1200? If you want to return back to stock, simply remove the blower, which could be sold or installed on another car.

289/302 To 347 Or 351W To 393 Stroker Short-BlocksThis is the big-ticket item, and probably the easiest to hide. A stroker short-block is an ideal way to hot-rod a vintage Mustang and keep it hidden, effectively accomplished by dressing up the engine to look stock.

A 347 in any car originally equipped with a 289 or 302 is an ideal example. Replacing a 289 or a 302 with a stroked 351W is also a step up, but you're giving up the stealth factor significantly. Still, in the roomy engine bay of a '67-'70 Mustang, it's a compelling idea. It's a tighter fit, but many have already put 351Ws in '65-'66 Mustangs.

Combined with good aluminum cylinder heads (which can be painted to hide their aftermarket origin), the right cam, and good-breathing components, a streetable 347 with the manners of a 289 can easily be built to make 350 hp, or more than 400 if you want a big-time knuckle-dragger. Whatever you decide, the now popular stroker short-block is one of the best inventions in hot rodding since, well, the wheel.

Where Can I Learn More About These Upgrades?We've photographed and written installation how-to articles on all of the above subjects in recent issues. Here's where to find them:

Ignition October 2003
Headers February 2003
Carburetor March 2003
April 2002
Supercharger May 2003
Stroker Motor May 2003