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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What the driver feels in the euro-spec cars we drove is the joy of reduced weight along with willing power. Even on small, non-performance tires and a mom-and-pop suspension tune, the 1.0-liter Fiesta really hangs in the corners with a light, quick-on-its-treads feel. And the power, if not bristling in a Mustang sort of way, is surprisingly meaty down low with 148 lb-ft of torque and revvy until it goes flat a little before redline—it's amazing what 20 pounds of boost will do. The calibration engineers have worked in a rather aggressive throttle pedal. A little bit gives you a whole lot initially—which is an old trick to make small engines feel larger, but they didn't have to. The 1.0 and five-speed manual combination give enough thrust for daily driver entertainment. Throttle lag is non-existent, and, if anything, the torque response is a hair touchy when you're going at it on a twisty road. We wish Ford would firm up the brake pedal, and we're hoping the gear shift won't be as sticky coming out of gear once it gets a few thousand miles on it, but overall the 1.0-liter Fiesta hits our buttons for a 40-plus mpg (official figures weren't set at deadline) daily driver.

Also not announced was pricing, but assuming a $1,000 premium for the EcoBoost over the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder Fiesta engine, the 1.0 version might be had for $15,500 but probably more with options. Acknowledging the nicely finished, big-car ambiance Ford builds into the Fiesta, a feeling aided by the plentifully electronic options, pleasant materials, a quiet cabin, and an overall superior refinement, the Fiesta looks like a good value, too. Plus, for those wanting more heated leather seats, automatic climate control, and push-button starting are some of the Fiesta options you can't get anywhere else in the B-segment. —Tom Wilson

Our House

Loyal 5.0&SF readers know that our operation runs from coast to coast. We are based in both our Tampa, Florida, and our El Segundo, California, offices so we can cover the Mustang performance world from both ends and everywhere in between. We often have people tell us we have the best jobs in the world, and if you'd like to get a glimpse of what it's like behind the walls of 5.0&SF, this is your chance. Right now we are eyeballing Friday, April 19, right before the big Fabulous Fords Forever show at Knott's Berry Farm (www.fabulousfordsforever.org).

While you're there, you'll be able to grab some eats while you check out the expansive SIM shop where our esteemed Senior Tech Editor KJ Jones works his magic documenting installs for the magazine. Of course, KJ and your editor will be around to shake hands and chat. We'll have some of our Mustangs on display, and you can show off your ride for everyone in attendance. While you are there you can enter into our raffle for a chance to take home some great prizes from the finest companies in the aftermarket. We'll also raffle off a few subscriptions to the magazine.

We hope you'll come by and visit with us, so stay tuned to our website and social media outlets for more details as the date approaches.

5.0 feedback

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Daily Only

I have been a subscriber for a while and longtime reader. I have always enjoyed reading your Bench Racer column (Feb. '13, p. 15). I have never responded when you have asked for feedback. This time, I wanted to share my opinion about the hypothetical buildup of one of the new Mustangs.

I have a few friends that went out right away and purchased the new Mustang back in 2011. I have driven some, and I know that you have too. Here is my take on them. You have a car that approaches 4,000 pounds that has 420 hp. What is the point of building it up? It's a $30,000 car, that in my humble opinion, is good looking, but it has to have a ton of power thrown at it to get real numbers at the track.

For instance the new GT500 ... 1,000 hp to get in the 9s? Seriously? It's ridiculous to me. I have a Fox Saleen with a small-block and a 91mm turbo. It has over 1,050 rwhp and I drive it on the street. If it ran in the 9s, I would be sick to my stomach. It doesn't have perfect driveability, but it's the nature of the beast to me.

I was recently looking for a new daily. I tried the Camaro. I still can't understand what GM was thinking—it is hideous. The new Challenger is an overweight and underpowered piece of s*!t. The new Mustang was the best of them. I still can't get over the power-to-weight ratio.

I understand your article was hypothetical. Why make the new Mustang your "fast" car? I hope I don't come over as a a-hole, but all the raves about them, I just don't see it. To me, the new Mustangs are just daily drivers.

Kevin Daugherty
Via email

To each his own, Kevin. I certainly wouldn't plan on making a race car out of a brand-new 'Stang, as there are lighter, more suitable Foxes that are tailor-made for that duty. However, as the basis for a fast, fun street car, the lastest Mustangs are tough to beat. They are silky smooth, they readily take to bolt-on power increases, and they have all the creature comforts. You might not want to make one your fastest car, but there's nothing wrong with making one faster.

Decisions, Decisions

"Onward or Upward" (Bench Racer, Feb. '13, p. 15) really rang true for me. A few years ago I went through the upgrade cycle on my '96 GT convertible. That first-generation 4.6 tended to struggle a bit, and my last boost upgrade was too much for the stock rings. When that happened, I had some money saved up, and I had to make a tough choice. Do I abandon my beloved California car for something new or do I go over the top on my triple-black beauty?

I started shopping for a new car. I drove all kinds, and was really liking the new GT convertible. It's a beautiful car through-and-through, but the sticker at my local dealership was shocking—$42,000 for a convertible Mustang? This couldn't be true! I couldn't get over the sticker, and turned to my friend Kelly for help.

He pulled together all the parts, finding an '04 Cobra block that had been freshly built, and a Tremec six-speed. We started putting it all together. It ended up being a massive Frankenstein project, much more than we expected, and so we turned to a great local shop, Precision Autosports. Jeff and his team there finished the build, and it was well worth the wait on all counts.

So I kept my beautiful triple-black convertible (including fresh paint), and for my driving style, it has a bulletproof drivetrain with all the amenities still included. It's also a unique car now—how many '96s do you know that are running a built Cobra motor? I haven't seen any!

It's always a tough decision, but so long as you make the choice you are happy with, it's the right one.

Keep writing a great magazine.

Dave Plotts
Via email

Thanks for sharing your story and for the kind words, Dave. Yes, the downside to making a move to a newer car is you pay a lot up front. You get a nice car, but as Mustangs have improved, they have gotten pricier. It sounds like you made the right move for your situation. If you really love the car you have, making it even better is a great idea.

Real Respect

After reading Bench Racer ("Quibbling Rivalry," Jan. '13, p. 15), I would like to comment on it.

First, I'm a proud original owner of a mint, low-mileage '91 Wild Strawberry GT Convertible with a Coyote power plant. Over the years, I've heard many negative comments from older, Mustang owners dissing my car, going as far as saying my '91 isn't a real Mustang! This I would expect to hear from the import or Bow Tie crowd. Even at judged car shows, especially when there is participant voting, my car does poorly compared to older 'Stangs of lesser quality.

I respect all automobiles—old or new—regardless whether I like them or not. I find it amusing that owners of Foxes and newer 'Stangs have similar appreciations of each other's rides, but owners of older 'Stangs (and most other older car owners, for that matter) continually put down cars like mine and newer ones. I think this attitude stems from us constantly blowing their doors off and the owners being closed-minded and pissed off! I would love to hear from other people if they feel the same way.

I still hope to get my car in at least the Showcase section. I had some computer issues awhile back and I sent in pictures via snail mail.

Mike Sima
Via email

Anyone that doesn't give a Wild Strawberry Fox the proper respect loses some Mustang cred in my book, Mike. While I have my favorites, which range from the '82 through the current generation, I can appreciate any well-appointed Mustang for what it is. While older Mustangs might not seem "real" to some people, if they didn't carry on the lineage, we wouldn't have today's Mustangs. In any event, what's most important is that you enjoy your car. After that, it's all gravy.

Short Times

NMRA, NMCA, and NMCA WEST Series named Dave Werremeyer as their Technical and Communications Director. "Hiring a guy like Dave is an investment in our future," said Charlie Harmon, president of ProMedia Events. "We have a commitment to building and maintaining a competitive, balanced and fair racing programs across all of our racing divisions; adding Dave to the full-time staff, with his advanced technical background, will offer a fresh and qualified perspective. Dave has done an awesome job helping build a competitive program at ProCharger and we are elated to add him to the ProMedia team. His experience, and exceptional knowledge of our market, along with his vision and passion will combine to play a major role in maintaining a fair playing field for all three of our racing series."