KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
December 1, 2008
Photos By: KJ Jones

Horse Sense:
The word simple is one of the most relative terms a magazine editor can use when describing the installation of parts for late-model Mustangs. Yes, there are often occasions when mags are stone-cold guilty of calling an install simple, without taking into account the fact that a project's degree of difficulty may actually depend on the skill and ability of the person doing the work. Rest assured, we try to weigh all the variables associated with putting parts on Mustangs before we start talking about how simple it is. What might be easy for one enthusiast could be a nightmare for another.

Testing and reviewing the latest technology for Mustangs makes up a large part of the work we do, so we constantly try to think of new ways to put parts, especially high-performance parts, for Fox, SN-95/New Edge and now S197 'Stangs, through the proverbial "wringer" to tell you all about how they perform.

When we discuss 5.0 and 4.6 engine upgrades, we're also mindful of the cost for parts being used-individually or as a system or package-the ease or degree of difficulty for the modification, and the end result, more commonly known as the difference in rear-wheel horsepower and torque that the change or changes make.

While we work hard to maintain some sense of balance in the way we cover the different Mustang platforms from a tech perspective, our editor, Steve Turner, recently acquired an '08 Shelby GT500, which has definitely increased the interest for exploring different methods of modifying the special-edition, factory-supercharged Ponies. Steve's car, also known as Project Vapor Trail (for its Vapor Silver finish), is our in-house GT500 lab rat, of sorts. As we hope you've noticed, Steve has joined the steadily growing crowd of Shelby owners that get props from us for digging right in and making improvements to their cars-in some cases, before they even get them home. Case in point: Steve added the all-new Ford Racing Performance Parts' Shelby GT500 upgrade supercharger-the blower is covered by Ford's warranty, since it was installed by Anderson Ford-and a beyond-bitchin' Glassback roof from CDC ("Fortunate Sun," Oct. '08, p. 128) right away. In the wake of those improvements, our leader also added underhood aluminum dress-up pieces from Moroso (detailed in Steve's blog on our website), as well as VMP Tuning's trick, boost-building, 2.65-inch Stock-Look blower pulley. The car also has a custom tune, made with SCT tuning gear while the GT500 was strapped to a chassis dyno at VMP's headquarters in Debary, Florida ("The Invisible," Nov. '08, p. 96).

The bone-stock, supercharged 5.4 in Carlos Cortez's Shelby GT500 didn't have the steam we thought it should, but the situation wasn't anything that a few good bolt-on parts couldn't fix. Yes, we're jaded.

Yes, in only two short years, the full-on, bolt-on phenomenon has made its way to Shelby GT500s, too. And similar to the '03-'04 Cobras, there's one particular group of pieces-a cold-air intake system, a smaller blower pulley, free-flowing mufflers, a larger heat exchanger, and PCM modifications using a hand-held tuning device-that really seem to do wonders for the Shelbys when they're in bone-stock trim. It's become a budget-friendly mainstay for the factory-boosted S197s.

Thanks to Editor Turner's vested interest in all things Shelby GT500, we've decided to install the top five entry-level bolt-ons, selected by Steve, and give you the low-down about their effect on the receipient, a 1,700-mile '08 stocker owned by Carlos Cortez.

As the owner of SI Valves of Simi Valley, California, the company that set us up with new Competition Series stainless-steel intake and exhaust valves for our T-top coupe's damaged cylinder head last year, Carlos is a performance-minded enthusiast. His "just-let-me-know-what-day-you-need-it" response when we asked to use his new ride for a tech project confirms that Carlos is a card-carrying member of the Ain't-Scared Club-a rapidly growing secret society of Shelby GT500 owners who clearly have no interest in keeping their 'Stangs totally stock for the length of the factory warranty period.

The boss chose parts from Bassani, DiabloSport, Fluidyne, JLT, and Steeda for this tech effort. You may recall our previous report on a similar evaluation of GT500 bolt-ons from Gibson, K&N, Metco, Paul's High Performance, and SCT. Check out those performance results in the archive of tech articles on our website (www.50mustangandsuperfords.com).