Kenne Bell Ram Air
Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
July 1, 2013

One day I was chatting with a fellow enthusiast about one of Ford’s rivals locking down its latest cars’ computers to the point that the aftermarket was really struggling to modify them. Some hardcore fans of those cars even resort to swapping older PCMs and complete wiring harnesses to allow for more comprehensive modifications. That’s obviously an extreme scenario, but it underscores how much people love to modify their modern muscle cars.

From time to time, I have heard rumors that Ford has planned to encrypt its PCMs to make modding more difficult. Even typing that makes me flinch. It goes without saying that I consider it a bad idea. Note that it was only a rumor. People love to talk. In the age of the Internet there is plenty of information, but much of it is unreliable. That said, it does bear consideration given that we are on the precipice of another new Mustang.

Obviously we don’t want our Mustang computers locked out. I know that our audience is a hardcore bunch that might go for swapping harnesses and such, but no one really wants to go that far. Up to this point, Ford has been one of the most aftermarket-friendly automakers, and let’s hope it stays that way.

In fact, it’s more important that one of the most modified cars in history remains easily modified. With its Brand X rival carrying a lot of sales momentum, a new Mustang needs every advantage it can get. The impact of the Mustang’s customizability can be overstated. In our world, people stockpile parts before they even own a Mustang. Ford even has an online Mustang customizer.

I’m not saying the sky is falling, but after ruminating over the subject for a bit, I was left thinking on how the idea of modifying Mustangs took over my thoughts as a teen. I spent hours reading and re-reading magazines, studying ads, and mentally planning out fictional projects in my head.

I haven’t grown up, obviously, but as I was thinking about Mustangs and mods, it brought me back to how something as simple as one modification can make you want a car. When I owned a carbureted Fox, I loved it, but when EFI came around, I was a bit envious. When parts started arriving on the scene, that’s when I really find myself planning to upgrade.

With any luck, my cautious meandering will remain just a supposition and the Mustang will happily continue to inspire our modification plans for years to come

It’s been quite a while, but if I could narrow it down, I’d have to say that it was the ram-air kits for EFI Foxes that amped up my desire for one. That sounds silly now, I know. But often those easy, DIY mods are the most fun to install and receive that instant gratification. I’m certain that’s why cold-air intakes, mufflers, and tuning are among the most popular modifications for modern Mustangs.

If you were honest, I bet there’s been a time you wished you had a certain Mustang model just so you could add that one really cool part. OK, it might be several parts, but you know there’s one that outranks the others.

I recently had a flash of that sensation when I saw a new carbon-fiber grille for the 2013 Shelby GT500. I went straight to wanting the car so I could have that part. Certainly, I don’t need any extra reason to lust after a new GT500, but all the cool stuff available for them doesn’t hurt. Don’t worry, I quickly snapped back to reality, but that little rush of part desire reminded be of when I first fell for these cars.

Now I realize that everyone might not be quite as nutty as I am, but even if you aren’t gaga for ram-air kits or carbon-fiber grilles, there are undoubtably mods that you dream of adding. Often these dreams don’t get fulfilled till years later, but it’s these desires that can keep us on track to eventually buy that car.

In the end, it’s this sort of modification that keeps our performance Mustang world spinning. I can’t imagine how sad it would be if we were locked out of modding due to a totalitarian PCM. It certainly would take some of the anticipation out of a new Mustang, and drive many of us to stick with older cars.

With any luck, my cautious meandering will remain just a supposition and the Mustang will happily continue to inspire our modification plans for years to come. Either way, I want to know if there’s ever been that one modification that tipped the scales and pushed you to purchase a certain Mustang. If there was—or you just think I’m nuts—hit me up at 5.0mailbag@sorc.com.