December 9, 2002

No matter how many tech articles we do on the latest and greatest performance parts, or how many questions we answer in the Ask Bernie/Yo Ken section of the magazine, the letters, faxes and e-mails come piling in by the truckload. The most common questions are, "How do I get the most power for the least amount of cash?" And, "I have parts X, Y and Z, so how much power do I have?" Believe us, these questions are good because it shows that late-model Ford ownership is soaring and the faithful want to go fast.

At Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords one of our goals is to help you find the best buys on the best parts. That's why we constantly test new parts and different combinations on the dyno and at the track. It is this real-world experience that allows us to comment on how the parts fit, how they perform, and whether the manufacturer's claims are true or false. For gearheads, it's not enough to take someone's word for it; we have to find out the real deal. I guess that's why we have no less than nine Mustangs, one SVT Lightning, and one Focus between the four full-time staff members.

The topic of cheap speed is always hot around here, so during a recent MM&FF staff meeting we decided to piece together a list of the 10 best bolt-on parts for late-model Fords. That idea grew into the story you're reading now, which is actually a little more comprehensive than just 10 ideas. It now includes the best parts for your dollar in a few different price ranges.

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For less than $1,000 you can have your Mustang LX or GT running solidly in the 13s, or even the 12s, if you spend wisely and drive well.

UNDER $100

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Icing the intake
For the low, low price of about $1.25 (per bag) you can greatly increase the performance of your Ford by icing down the intake plenum of the engine prior to a dragstrip run. Chilling the intake cools the incoming air, which can add about 10-15 horsepower if the intake is cold enough. However, it's important to soak up any standing water before you race in order to prevent the melted ice from hitting the track or the ignition wires or dripping down on the clutch.
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Front Anti-roll Bar
There is free performance to be had by removing the front anti-roll bar. Discarding the unit will take about 25 lbs. off the nose of your car or truck, and it will also allow the front end to rise quicker to help transfer weight to the rear for improved traction.
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Learn To Drive
One of the single biggest performance advantages you can have over the competition is driver skill. Learning to cut good consistent lights and getting the best elapsed time through proper launch and shift technique can help you win more races than you think. Driving it right takes a combination of basic skill, natural talent, and lots of practice, and you may have to sacrifice a T-5 or two along the way, but the end result will be worth it.Our recommendation is to find a comfortable, upright driving position, wear shoes that provide good pedal feel, and get a shifter that has positive stops and a good overall feel. Then practice your launching and powershifting until your right arm and left leg are numb.
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Fab Diet
One of the oldest performance tricks in the book is to reduce the weight of the car. At the track you can take advantage of this by shedding all unnecessary weight. Some items include the seats and spare tire.
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Short-belt
Replacing the stock accessory drivebelt on your 5.0 with a "short-belt" that eliminates the power steering pump and the air pump will reduce the parasitic losses and increase the available power at the wheels. For the price of a belt (about $25), you can reduce elapsed time by another tenth of a second or more in the quarter-mile. Generally, this is worth about 10-15 horsepower on a typical 5.0 Mustang. In most cases ('87-93) a 70 1/2-inch belt will work, but your engine may require a slightly longer or slightly shorter one to work.
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Timing Advance
Another virtually free horsepower trick is to bump the ignition timing. Okay, so you need a timing light for this one, but by cranking the distributor a few degrees (from the stock setting of 10 degrees to 12-14 degrees) can add 5-15 horsepower to your 5.0 Ford. This can be worth as much as one-or two-tenths in ET. at the drags. In order to bump the timing you'll need to remove the spout connector (located near the distributor on '68-93 Mustangs and near the air filter box on '94-95 models), then set the base timing and re-install the spout. It's that simple. On '96-newer mod cars, see the "Steeda Timing Adjuster" tip later in the article.
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Air filter
The K&N filter has become one of the obligatory items on any late-model musclecar. It's one of the first things every performance-conscience Mustang or Lightning owner does because it usually equals cheap power. Installing any free-flowing air filter (and there are now about a dozen on the market) is often worth 5-15 hp depending on your application. Additionally, most can be cleaned and reused so your investment will last indefinitely.
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Driveshaft Safety Loop
While a driveshaft safety loop won't give your car any performance, it's required by the NHRA and IHRA if you use sticky tires at the track. Having a loop is like buying insurance because it will capture the driveshaft should a failure occur (as shown). Without one, the driveshaft can rip right through the bottom of the car and/or it can break the back of the transmission/engine causing physical and material damage. In this case the front yoke broke as the driver (shown) nailed Third gear. The spinning driveshaft opened up the HP Motorsports driveshaft loop, but this was the only damage.

UNDER $250

UNDER $500

UNDER $1500