Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords Magazine 20th Anniversary - 20th Century Fox
The 5.0L Mustang Spawned A New Age Of Performance.
In 1986, Ford changed the face of performance with its new Port Injected 5.0 H.O. Mustang. Featuring free-flowing cylinder heads and intake manifold, tubular exhaust manifolds, a computer system that was friendly to modifications, and a real dual exhaust, the 5.0 Mustang had an overall lightweight package, a cheap price tag, and darn quick times in stock trim. It was the first time in nearly 15 years that Detroit produced a package worth selling to car enthusiasts who wanted real, affordable muscle. The fuel-injected 5.0 High Output engine appeared in the '86 Mustang GT and LX models, but it wasn't until the 225hp version in the '87 model that it was launched into the performance-market stratosphere.
Boasting redesigned "aero" looks and an increase in horsepower, this Mustang was a smashing hit. Hot rodders and magazine journalists were hooked on the super-light shipping weights, and the fact that you could do a few tweaks and slam gears into the 13s. Of course, many feared the new EFI setup, but it didn't take long for the masses to get on board.
The now-defunct Cars Illustrated magazine, the forerunner of MM&FF, pounded multiple 5.0 Mustangs, invented the 10-minute tune-up, and did things like adding gears and generally teaching Ford freaks how to go fast with lessons on powershifting and launching techniques.
By the late '80s, Mustangs were starting to take over local test-and-tune nights at tracks, and the aftermarket began ramping up for growth. Countless companies are where they are today because of the 5.0 Mustang, including this magazine, which was the first to focus solely on late-model Mustang performance.
Most traditional hot rodders were scared of EFI, but a new generation of enthusiasts were poised to take control of the market and push forward. It all centered on the 5.0 High Output engine, and this magazine is a testament of its impact on the industry. It had been a long time since a car had been so quick-high 13s in some cases-and cost so little. This was the car that the pizza-delivery guy could afford to own and modify, as well as some high-end guys like Stormin' Norman Gray, who was one of the first guys to throw big bucks and big modifications at a 5.0. Popularity grew, and the magazines of the time took an increasingly bigger interest in the burgeoning Mustang market. One such magazine was the aforementioned "in-your-face" Cars Illustrated. The editors shot from the hip, and it was a knuckle-dragging rag that left the fluffy stuff to the California-based magazines.
Cars Illustrated's driving forces were Neil Van Oppre, Steve Collison, and Tony DiFeo, and they pushed the boundaries of journalism. Their work is stuff legends are made of. They made fun of readers with stupid questions, and had no problem street racing press cars, as well as their own. Most people remember when they actually street raced a Grand National from the GM Press Fleet on the local street scene. Then they'd let you know what cars to look out for and which ones were easy prey. Cars Illustrated didn't make a huge impact on the newsstand because a small New Jersey niche publishing company called CSK Publishing put it out. Circulation wasn't as high as the giants Car Craft and Hot Rod, but those who did read the magazine became cult followers. A few are on this staff today.
Then came a special project the Cars Illustrated crew worked on-a one-shot called MUSCLE MUSTANGS& FAST FORDS magazine. The editors knew the Mustang market was hot, and they decided to throw together a magazine to capitalize on it. The first MM&FF issue came out with a Fall 1988 cover date. Seasonal Fall issues in this industry usually carry an October cover date, marking our first issue as the October '88 one-amazingly, 20 years to this issue!
The first copy was thought to be just a one-time thing, but that quickly changed when the results came back as overwhelmingly successful. The former owner of CSK, Steve Schneider, made the decision to forge forward with more issues of the mag. He named the late Steve Collison to head up this new phenomenon as its editor. Cliff Gromer is credited as being the first editor, but Collison took over from there. It took several issues for MM&FF to find its stride as the voice of the 5.0L market. Editorial Director (and former MM&FF Editor) Jim Campisano actually served as proofreader on the second issue. Early on, the magazine covered all years of Mustangs and everything Ford. It rivaled the dominant rag of the time, Super Ford magazine. Collison saw energy, excitement, and a future in the 5.0L market, and he pushed the book solely in that direction, despite rumblings from management. He left the door open for Super Ford to cover the rest of it, as he was adamant on bringing MM&FF to the forefront of the 5.0 craze. It worked.
Every accomplishment on the dragstrip and every new part that hit the market was covered extensively in MM&FF. Collison was a drag racer; he was hard-core and hired only hard-core guys and gals to work on the magazine. If you had only a passing interest, there was no place on staff. He thrashed cars to get the best track times, and that creed is followed today. You'll rarely, if ever, find a car tested that runs a quicker published time. Credit our driving ability and what we learned from Collison and Campisano for that.
MM&FF was quickly recognized for pushing the envelope with Mean Mr. Mustang, the very first 5.0L Mustang project vehicle that started in Super Stock and Drag Illustrated, then Cars Illustrated, and was carried over to MM&FF when Collison took the helm. That car paved the way and showed the average guy and gal how to go fast with simple mods. The 5.0L movement just kept growing and growing, and so did the magazine.
In October 1993, Jim Campisano took the reins and picked up where his friend Collison left off. Current Editor Evan Smith was also on board as a freelance writer/photographer and a dedicated Mustang owner. As the market progressed, so did the magazine, as it blossomed from a small rag to a giant one, with well over 200 pages and a massive circulation. Before anyone knew it, the magazine increased to 250 pages, and CSK was bought out by McMullen-Argus Publishing (turned Primedia and now Source Interlink Media). The buyout only helped push MM&FF ahead as the clear market leader, as McMullen-Argus execs saw gold in the title.
Thanks to the 5.0L and the new modular-powered SN-95 Mustangs, MM&FF continued to prosper as it covered all the happenings and wild racing events. At times this magazine swelled to over 300 pages of tech, features, event coverage, and the biggest companies that cater to the Mustang crowd. In 2006, MM&FF saw only its fourth editor in its 18-year history as Evan J. Smith took over for Campy. Our godfather, Campy, still watches over his baby as editorial director. To have so few editors is astonishing, as attrition usually takes its toll at other car enthusiast magazines. On average, an editor's term lasts only three or four years.
Drag racing is a mainstay in this magazine because that's one of its founding principals. Before chassis-dyno testing, the only way to chart if a part worked or not was through dragstrip testing. Other titles didn't do it-the reader had to take its word-but the Cars Illustrated/MM&FF editors were at Englishtown nearly every week, putting new parts through their paces. That concept still thrives today, as the current staff follows the same principals and backs it up with chassis-dyno testing. It's part of the magazine's mantra for being the 5.0 and 4.6 (as well as 5.4) power source, and we carry that sentiment into every editorial meeting and article
In addition to testing parts, we sure do love Mustang drag racing, and it's a vital part of the magazine. The Mustang drag racing scene has blossomed from a bunch of wild kids at test-and-tune nights to two major sanctioning bodies today focused solely on racing Mustangs and fast Fords. Thanks to the people pushing these cars further each year, manufacturers have stepped up to provide better products. Continual evolution in superchargers, turbocharged V-8 engines, and so on can be directly credited and sourced to Mustang drag racing. The racers pushed street parts to the limit, and needed more boost, better intercoolers, and overall better parts. Think of the advancements in how race cars are built today in the street-legal drag-racing segment. Turbocharger mounting, large air-to-water intercoolers, low-seven-second stock suspension systems-the list goes on and on.
You can look at the Outlaw 10.5 market and small-tire Mustang drag racing scene to see the effect of the 5.0L market. Many of the tricks and combinations were derived through what Mustang drag racers developed in the '90s and early part of this century. As the Mustang grew in popularity, the staff continued to follow the trends where enthusiasts trade paint in road-racing series, including NASA, SCCA, and the Miller Cup, as well as open-road racing from North Carolina to Nevada. Street parts were developed and perfected thanks to the racing efforts of so many companies and enthusiasts.
Thanks to Ford and the 5.0L Mustang, this magazine was formed and has survived for two decades-and the future only looks brighter. Thanks for reading MUSCLE MUSTANGS & FAST FORDS. We look forward to continuing to be the best late-model power source for years to come.