Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
December 8, 2006
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Many Mustang enthusiasts look to improve their Pony's performance but often don't know where to start when it comes to what mods to make. We get letter after letter asking what are the best modifications for this combination or that, but everyone has different expectations and a different budget, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Often, readers dream of big horsepower numbers and don't realize they need the big fuel system, performance transmission, and many other accessories to make that big blower or nitrous kit work the way it's designed. Thankfully, MM&FF is dedicated to performance, and we decided to cut out some of the research for you and gather the latest performance package recommendations from the top names in the Mustang aftermarket.

We've left out tires as a modification, as we generally recommend those as your first mod. If you're serious about dropping your e.t.'s or lap times, high-performance tires will take you a long way. Without traction you'll be spinning your wheels. A shorter rear gear ratio via a ring-and-pinion swap is also a great first mod and has much the same effect as performance tires in that it improves performance all around. So bumping the gear ratio is often a must, just like performance tires.

To streamline our performance packages, we have not included labor costs, either. We know many of our readers can swing a wrench or two, though many prefer to have others do the dirty work. That being said, if you decide to hire a shop, you can expect to pay between $75 and $95 per hour for labor. Some modifications, like custom tuning, have the labor cost built in, but you'll want to check with your local shop before deciding on what mods to make, as the labor costs can sometimes rival, if not exceed, the cost of the part itself.

Another thing to consider is the effect these modifications may have on the rest of your car. Fuel pumps, fuel injectors, or possibly the entire fuel system may not be up to the task of providing adequate fuel for your extra horsepower. While a properly tuned vehicle making more horsepower than the factory may provide many years of reliable and safe power production, the extra strain you put on the car while enjoying it may cause premature wear of such things as the clutch, tires, and brakes. In other words, plan your combination so that it matches your budget-and that includes wear and tear, and serviceable items. If it is a race car, include entry and travel fees in the budget, as well as spare parts and other necessary things like tools and food.

If you're in the market to have a shop install some go-fast goodies on your ride, do your research first. Ask your potential shop for references and check around to see if anyone has used the shop before. Compare prices with other shops and be sure to include all of the incidentals like gaskets, fluids, and other minor items. It will save you money in the long run if you shop intelligently and ask lots of questions. Also, remember that you get what you pay for. After all, it is your Pony they are working on and your wallet they are getting paid from.

Improving the performance of your ride has other effects, too. Depending on how well you hook at the track and how well you drive, your car may easily become illegal for use on the dragstrip. That is to say it may not meet the safety requirements for the given speed/e.t. range. It's not uncommon for supercharged and nitrous combinations to dip into the mid- to low-11-second bracket, at which time you'll need to step up to a roll bar and fire jacket, just to name a few items. For this we highly recommend that anyone who may be considering a trip to the drags spend a few bucks on an NHRA or IHRA rulebook. You may even think you have the "goods," like a rollbar, but is it installed to meet the proper specifications? Being informed and prepared is far better than being told to go home because you car lacks a simple safety device like a driveshaft loop. If the dragstrip isn't your thing, it's a cost you may be able to forego-but none-the-less, it's something to consider.

To help us narrow down the vast amount of parts, we solicited companies for their recom-mendations for various models, including '87-'95 Mustangs, '96-'04 Mustangs, and '05-and-newer Stangs. We also asked them to price out three packages for each model in $1,000, $3,000, and $5,000 increments. Not everyone has an unlimited budget and can afford to spend boatloads of cash at a single clip. In fact, you could break many of these packages down and purchase the parts piece-by-piece. Just be sure to check with the vendor, as certain pieces may be designed to work in conjunction with others. You may also want to verify the prices with each vendor as well. By the time you read this, 2007 will have begun, and prices/availability may have changed since then.

While MM&FF will keep answering your Yo, Ken questions and taking your e-mails, these pro-picked packages will get you on track and hopefully keep you there.

'87-'95 5-Liter Mustang Performance Packages

Brothers Performance
With experience in both NASA American Iron road racing as well as the dragstrip, Brothers Performance knows how to make a Mustang go fast, and it can put together a go-fast package for any late-model.

For the '87-93 5.0 Mustang, Brothers opens up the exhaust and intake for an estimated 30-35hp gain at just $1,033. Further expanding on the induction side of the $3,000 package, Brothers adds the new BBK SSI intake manifold, Edelbrock Performer cylinder heads, and a Ford Racing Performance Parts E303 camshaft with a set of 1.7:1 roller rockers to add more lift to the camshaft. The real kick in the pants comes from the Zex nitrous-oxide kit. Brothers says you're looking at a 150-200hp gain, and with the right chassis setup and tire, we say 11s here we come!

Brothers' $5,000 package offers the ultimate in horsepower production by adding a Paxton supercharger to the mix. The camshaft is nixed for better-flowing AFR185 cylinder heads, and the Zex kit is swapped for the all-power, all-of-the-time supercharger upgrade. Package 3 arrives just under our $5,000 cap at $4,952.

Package 1
FLO after-catFLO17116
BBK shorty headersBBK1515
BBK off-road H-pipeBBK1507
BBK 65mm throttle bodyBBK1517
BBK 65mm EGR spacerBBK1518
BBK cold-air kitBBK1557
BBK pulleysBBK1553
Total: $1,033
Package 2
BBK SSI w/throttle body BBK5002
BBK headersBBK1515
Brothers H-pipeBRO10010
FLO after-cat FLO17116
Edelbrock headsEDE6037
Ford E303 cam M6250E303
Crane 1.7 rockerCRA4474616
K&N panel filterK&N332015
Zex nitrous kitZEX82015
Total: $2,931
Package 3
BBK SSI w/throttle bodyBBK5002
Brothers H-pipeBro10010
FLO after-catFLO17116
BBK headersBBK1515
AFR 185 headsAFR1492
Paxton Novi 1000PAX1001830
30-lb injectorsM9593b302
Pro-{{{M}}} 75mmMAF PRMF7530
Total: $4,952