May 1, 2013

Battle Born

Late in 2012 we were invited to partipate in a celebrity battle on Ford's popular Mustang Customizer. The challenge was to create a one-of-a-kind digital Mustang to take on three of our sister magazines in a battle for scribe supremacy. We're always up for a good-natured challenge, so we obviously obliged.

If you aren't familiar with Ford's Mustang Customizer you've surely had your head buried under your keyboard. The customizer is both a website www.ford.com/cars/mustang/customizer) and an app for Android and iOS. It allows you to take any Mustang model turn it into a custom ride by mixing and matching stock and aftermarket parts across any Mustang model. You can also customize its appearance with an infinite array of colors and several different stripe combinations.

"Since we relaunched the online Mustang Customizer for 2013 models in June, more than 120,000 people have registered and built more than 450,000 unique fantasy Mustangs," noted Brian McClary, Ford digital marketing manager, last August. "With the new app, fans will be able to configure their one-of-a-kind pony car any time they have a few minutes to spare."

What brought us into the game was the Customizer's Battle Mode, which lets you link your creation to your Facebook page and let other users vote on your car as it is pitted against other custom 'Stangs. In our case, we squared off against the other magazines, and we survived both rounds.

"We've significantly upgraded the Customizer this year," Brian added. "The original battle mode has been enhanced, and we've added celebrity battles, smack talk capability, new user stats and leader boards, badges and points for the activities on the site and apps."

What's even cooler is that most of the parts on the customizer are available from your Ford dealer, so you can actually buy the cars you create online. Moreover, Ford chose a few lucky Customizer users to win the cars they created online. How cool would that be?

We didn't win our car, but we did score some office bragging rights, and to do so we chose to start with a 2013 Mustang Boss 302. A Boss is no joke, but this was a competition, so we added a Shelby GT500 hood, a V-6 black mirror cap, a glass roof, Cal Special sidescoops, a Mustang RTR chin splitter, a Roush grille, a Ford Racing hoodpin kit, Mustang RTR sideskirt splitters, a Mustang RTR aluminum rear spoiler, Mustang RTR 20-inch wheels, a black textured decklid, a black race-style fuel door, and a 2012 Laguna Seca reverse-C stripe. Topping all that off, we created a custom blue paint scheme reminiscent of the Bimini Blue on early '90s Foxes.

In the end, the combo proved good enough to win the Mustang magazine battle, but even if we didn't win, it was a lot of fun creating this car.

Fiesta 1.0

Ford continues to amaze by releasing so many interesting new cars. The latest we've driven is the three-cylinder, 1.0-liter Fiesta, and we like it. Designed with fuel economy as its main goal, the new three-banger does not forget about performance. With an impressive 123 hp per liter—a Coyote puts out 84 hp per liter—the little turbo'd Fiesta mill sets new efficiency standards and gives the Fiesta unexpectedly good handling.

While the '14 Fiesta was tastefully freshened with new fascias, a new hood, and a slightly less Tokyo-at-night interior, the real news for motorheads is that little bag of tricks—the 1.0-liter.

We know of no other engine with so many interesting features. To hit the highlights, it's just three-cylinders, yet is purposely unbalanced to shake in a plane the two-part engine mounts can easily absorb so there's no weight-wasting balance shaft. Its fist-sized turbo uses exotic metals to spin at 248,000 rpm and offer excellent throttle response. The crankshaft is offset 10mm from the cylinders to reduce friction. There are two cooling circuits, one for the integrated cylinder head/exhaust manifold and another for the block. A variable-displacement oil pump reduces power losses, and the alternator charges more on decel than accel for the same reason. The timing belt was engineered to run in an oil bath for less noise, less friction, and greater longevity (Ford claims it never needs replacement). Finally, every moving part was optimized or coated or somehow massaged to reduce friction.

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