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
PMAS 75mm MAFPRMF7519
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

HOLCOMB MOTORSPORTS
For the 5.0 Mustang, Holcomb Motorsports provides high-performance parts that work well and keep the cash in your wallet. Package 1 gets things moving with a higher-ratio ring-and-pinion, underdrive pulleys, a cold-air kit with a larger throttle body to get the air in faster, and high-flow mufflers and headers to expel the gasses quicker.

Package 2 takes leaps and bounds with a nitrous-oxide system, a better intake manifold, and an FRPP camshaft. With the highly improved power output of Package 2, Package 3 improves driveline and chassis integrity with a Zoom clutch, heavy-duty upper and lower rear control arms, and an aggressive ignition system.

Package 1

  • 3.73 FRPP ring-and-pinion
  • March underdrive pulleys
  • BBK shorty headers
  • Flowmaster mufflers
  • 70mm Professional Products throttle body and spacer
  • BBK fenderwell cold-air kit
  • Pro-5.0 T5 shifter
Total: $1,031.59

Package 2

  • Package 1 Plus:
  • Professional Products Typhoon intake
  • FRPP E303 Camshaft
  • Compucar 150hp Nitrous Oxide
  • Zex Power Racer Plugs
Total: $2,031.39

Package 3

  • Package 2 Plus:
  • Ram Powergrip clutch
  • MSD Mustang ignition kit
  • Professional Products mass air 75mm Bullet Meter
  • Outlaw 10 heavy-duty rear control arms (upper and lower)
Total: $3,001.19

JPC RACING
JPC's Justin Burcham knows a thing or two about going fast in a 5-liter Mustang, having successfully campaigned one in NMRA Real Street and Pure Street drag racing classes. JPC highly recommends high-performance tires for ultimate acceleration at the strip or on the street, and the company offers BFGoodrich drag radials at $300 a pair or M/T ET Streets for $320 a pair.

JPC's introductory 5.0 package starts off with a ring-and-pinion change, followed by a cold-air induction and larger mass air meter. To complement the improved airflow into the engine, an adjustable fuel-pressure regulator adds extra fuel and a new mid-pipe with catalytic con-verters improves the exhaust. Package 2 out of the JPC catalog includes the first set of compo-nents along with driveline mods like a clutch, a flywheel, a driveshaft, and a few more pony-producing bolt-ons. JPC's third upgrade packs a wallop with a supercharger, or you can substitute that for Trick Flow Specialties heads/ cam/intake combo.

Package 1

  • Kirban adjustable regulator and JPC gauge
  • Motive Gear ring-and-pinion and Royal Purple Max Fluid
  • MAC cold-air kit
  • Pro-M mass air
  • Bassani x mid-pipe with cats
Total: $1,000

Package 2

  • Package 1 Plus:
  • MAC underdrive pulleys
  • Zex nitrous kit
  • Bassani after-cat system
  • Upgraded Centerforce clutch or TCI torque converter
  • Fidanza aluminum flywheel
  • FRPP aluminum driveshaft
Total: $3,000

Package 3

  • ProCharger supercharger
  • Motive Gear ring-and-pinion and Royal Purple Max Fluid
  • Bassani x mid-pipe
  • MSD 6AL, MSD coil and MSD plug wires
  • AFM Power Pipe
  • Denso plugs
  • FRPP aluminum driveshaft
Total: $5,000

OPTIONAL

  • Package 2 plus Trick Flow top-end kit
Total: $5,000

'96-'04 4.6-Liter Mustang Performance Packages

BROTHERS PERFORMANCE
Stepping into the '96-'04 modular-powered Mustangs, basic mods at $1,000 start out the same in getting the air in and out faster, thus Brothers Performance sets you up with a BBK x mid-pipe, a 75mm throttle body, and a BBK cold-air kit for an estimated 22-27hp gain. Package 2 offers every modular bolt-on available, in addition to the new Typhoon intake manifold and a Zex nitrous kit, for a 125-175hp gain. Package 3 builds a no-holds-barred, naturally aspirated setup with Patriot cylinder heads, Comp Cams bumpsticks, a Typhoon intake manifold, and all of the accessories to help move the airflow in and out of the engine, for a 90-120hp gain.

Package 1
BBK x pipe system BBK1669
BBK 75mm throttle body/plenumBBK1761
MIL eliminatorsBBK1675
BBK pulley kitBBK1559
BBK cold-air kitBBK1718
Total: $905
Package 2
BBK cold-air kitBBK1718
Typhoon manifoldPrp54061
BBK throttle body and plenumBBK1761
BBK long-tube headersBBK1541
BBK shorty x pipe systemBBK1635
MagnaFlow after-catMAG15671
Zex nitrous kitZEX82023
March pulleysMAR1175
Stage 8 header boltsSTG8906
BBK O2 extensionBBK1676
Total: $2,955
Package 3
BBK cold-air kitBBK1718
BBK throttle body and plenumBBK1761
Typhoon manifoldPRP54061
Comp Cams camshaftCOM102500
Patriot Stage 3 headsPAT1006
BBK long-tube headersBBK1541
BBK shorty x pipe systemBBK1635
BBK O2 extensionBBK1676
MagnaFlow after-catMAG15671
March pulleysMAR1175
{{{Diablo}}} tunerDiau7146
Head gaskets and bolts N/A
Total: $4,988

HOLCOMB MOTORSPORTS
Holcomb Motorsports motivates your modular powerhouse with mild bolt-ons in addition to a ring-and-pinion change for under a G-note. For three large, you get a UPR intake spacer so you don't have to cut up your intake tubing for the Compucar nitrous system. A new mass air meter, throttle body, and intake elbow are also included along with the parts from Package 1. If you plan to drive your car hard, you'll want to step up to Package 3, which includes Package 2 but beefs up the clutch and adds the new Typhoon 4.6-liter intake manifold.

Package 1

  • BBK fenderwell cold-air kit
  • 3.73 FRPP ring-and-pinion
  • Steeda Underdrive Pulleys
  • Flowmaster mufflers
  • Hurst billet shifter
  • Steeda timing adjuster
Total: $1,009.60

Package 2

  • Package 1 Plus:
  • Compucar 125hp nitrous
  • Upr intake spacer w/nitrous port
  • Professional Products 75mm throttle body
  • Professional Products intake plenum
  • Professional Mass Air mass air sensor 75mm
Total: $2,014.35

Package 3

  • Package 2 Plus:
  • Clutch kit
  • Professional Products Typhoon intake
  • Auto Meter Digital Pro shift tach and shift lite
Total: $3,004.20

JDM ENGINEERING
Team JDM claims a 25-30hp increase, 1-2 mpg better fuel economy, better throttle response, and 0.3-0.5 second e.t. reduction with its $1,000 '99-'04 4.6 Mustang package. For $3,000, you get the goods from Package 1 along with exhaust upgrades and a ring-and-pinion change for a 40hp increase with big midrange torque gains. JDM says e.t.'s should drop 0.5-1 second.

If you're really looking to make a big impact on your Pony's performance, you should see an extra 70hp with Package 3 and a 1- to 1.5-second e.t. reduction thanks to better camshafts and a new intake manifold.

Package 1

  • Sct Xcalibrator 2 programmer with custom tune
  • Jdm cold-air kit
  • After-cat exhaust
  • Spark plugs
  • Fuel filter
Total: $1,000

Package 2

  • Package 1 Plus:
  • Underdrive pulleys
  • 4.10 gears w/fluids
  • Long-tube headers, x pipe system, cats, and install hardware
Total: $3,000

Package 3

  • Package 2 Plus:
  • 75mm throttle body and plenum
  • Performance Products typhoon intake manifold
  • Jdm cams, springs, retainers, spacers, and sprockets
Total: $5,000

JPC RACING
JPC starts the modular mayhem with a computer tune from DiabloSport, then ditches the factory mid-pipe for a high-flow piece, and gets the SN-95 moving with a ring-and-pinion swap. Package 2 swaps out the stock after-cat system, adds a cold-air setup and underdrive pulleys along with a torque-improving nitrous-oxide system. Beyond that, your modular-powered ride gets ported and polished cylinder heads and high-performance camshafts.

Package 1

  • Motive Gear ring-and-pinion and Royal Purple Max Fluid
  • Bassani x pipe system with cats
  • DiabloSport tuner
  • K&N filter
Total: $1,000

Package 2

  • Package 1 Plus
  • Bassani after-cat system
  • Zex dry nitrous kit
  • Accessories for nitrous kit-gauge, bottle heater, blowdown tube, purge kit
  • MAC cold-air kit
  • ASP underdrive pulleys
  • FRPP aluminum driveshaft
Total: $3,000

Package 3

  • Fox Lake Stage 2 heads
  • Comp Cams camshafts
  • Stage 2 package minus K&N, driveshaft, and nitrous accessories
Total: $5,000

STEEDA
For $1,000, Steeda can make your ride a solid performer that's capable of high-12-second elapsed times with an aggressive driver. A PI head swap is recommended as the next upgrade for '96-'98 Mustangs, while '99-'04 cars can get right to the performance bolt-ons. For $5,000, Steeda goes right for the jugular with a Vortech supercharger and a MagnaFlow exhaust system.

Package 1

  • Steeda cold-air intake 555-3116
  • Steeda SCT Flash tuner 388-9415A
  • Steeda underdrive pulleys
Total: $868.90

Package 2: '96-'98

  • PI head swap
  • Steeda cold-air intake
  • Steeda underdrive pulleys
  • Dragon 70mm throttle body
  • Dragon ported upper plenum
  • MagnaFlow x mid-pipe with cats
  • After-cat exhaust system
  • 4.10:1 gears
Total: $3,000

Package 2: '99-'04

  • Steeda cold-air intake
  • Steeda SCT flash tuner
  • Underdrive pulleys
  • Dragon ported upper plenum
  • Dragon 70mm throttle body
  • MagnaFlow x mid-pipe with cats
  • Steeda after-cat exhaust
  • 4.10 ring-and-pinion
Total: $2,626.75

Package 3: '96-'04

  • Vortech supercharger
  • MagnaFlow x mid-pipe with cats
  • MagnaFlow after-cat exhaust
Total: $4,600-$5,200 depending on whether it is a '96-'98 or a '99-'04

'05-'07 4.6-Liter Mustang Performance Packages

BROTHERS PERFORMANCE
Unlocking the potential of your S197 Mustang is easy with Brothers Performance's cold-air kit and throttle body. A Diablo tuner lets the computer know about the extra air, and Brothers normally sees a 35-40hp gain. Package 2 replaces the entire exhaust system with MagnaFlow components and adds a Zex nitrous-oxide system to the mix, for a gain of 130-205 hp. Five large will buy you a Vortech supercharger and complete MagnaFlow exhaust system, along with a 135-155hp improvement.

Package 1
BBK cold-air kitBBK1736
BBK twin 62mm throttle bodyBBK1763
Diablo tunerDiau7140
Total: $967
Package 2
C&L Cai w/tunerC&L10699
BBK 62mm throttle bodyBBK1763
BBK headersBBK1612
MagnaFlow x mid-pipeMag15449
MagnaFlow after-catMag15881
BBK Sfi pulleysBBK1653
Zex nitrous kitZex82034
Total: $3,043
Package 3
Vortech S-Trim w/tuner 4fu218010sq
BBK 62mm throttle bodyBBK1763
BBK headersBBK1612
MagnaFlow x mid-pipeMag15449
MagnaFlow after-catMag15881
Total: $5,005

HOLCOMB MOTORSPORTS
Holcomb's $1,000 S197 Mustang package lets you master the muscle beneath your ponycar's hood. A 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion change is made, while a BBK cold-air kit and DiabloSport tuner unleash a few extra ponies. A Hurst shifter makes sure you have a handle on things. Package 2 adds a throttle body, a Flowmaster exhaust, and underdrive pulleys, while the $5,000 setup nets you a Zex nitrous kit and a Ram clutch to handle all the extra power.

Package 1

  • 3.73 FRPP ring-and-pinion
  • BBK cold-air kit
  • Hurst billet shifter
  • Diablo tuner
Total: $1,079.80

Package 2

  • Package 1 Plus:
  • BBK 62mm throttle body
  • Flowmaster axle-back exhaust kit
  • Steeda Underdrive Pulleys
Total: $1,979.65

Package 3

  • Package 2 Plus:
  • Zex 175hp nitrous kit
  • Ram Powergrip clutch kit
Total: $2,979.50

JDM ENGINEERING
JDM has seen a huge increase in S197 traffic, and its $1,000 package is said to yield 25-30rwhp gains while increasing fuel economy and knocking off 0.3-0.5 second from your elapsed times. Stepping up to Package 2 includes Package 1 components in addition to Kooks long-tube headers and x mid-pipe, underdrive pulleys, and 4.10 gears. JDM expects a 40hp increase and 0.5-1 second in e.t. reduction.

For those who still need more, JDM offers two options for the '05-newer Mustangs. A nitrous-oxide system and other bolt-on mods can be purchased, or you can skip everything else and go straight for the Saleen supercharger, which according to JDM, produces 425 rwhp and high-11-second track times.

Package 1

  • SCT Xcalibrator 2 with custom JDM tune
  • JDM air kit with 90mm mass air
  • Axle-back exhaust
Total: $1,000

Package 2

  • Package 1 Plus:
  • Underdrive pulleys and belt
  • 4.10 gears and fluids
  • Kooks long-tube headers, x pipe system, cats, and hardware to install
Total: $3,000

Package 3

  • Package 2 Plus:
  • C&L racer intake tube
  • Twin 62mm bore throttle body
  • IMRC delete plates
  • Nitrous Express wet plate kit (50-150 shot)
  • Aluminum driveshaft
Total: $5,000

Optional

  • JDM Stage 1 Saleen supercharger package:
  • Saleen supercharger kit
  • SCT Xcalibrator 2 tuned by JDM
  • JDM cold-air kit
  • 90mm lightning mass air/harness
  • 39-pound injectors
  • 8-psi boost pulley
  • Belt
Total: $5,695

JPC RACING
JPC proprietor Justin Burcham made S197 history by chalking up the first 10-second runs with his Three-Valve, 4.6L '05 Mustang GT, so it figures he would know a thing or two about making them perform. His introductory setup includes cold-air induction with a DiabloSport tune-up, better rear gears, and Royal Purple synthetic oil. Package 2 gets you a Zex nitrous kit, exhaust and driveline mods, while Burcham's $5,000 recommendation steps up to an ATI ProCharger supercharger, a ring-and-pinion swap, and JBA mufflers.

Package 1

  • C&L cold-air kit with DiabloSport tuner
  • Motive Gear ring-and-pinion and Royal Purple Max Fluid
  • Royal Purple racing oil
Total: $1,000

Package 2

  • Package 1 Plus
  • Zex nitrous system
  • JPC one-piece driveshaft or JPC torque converter
  • JPC underdrive pulleys
  • Bassani mufflers
  • Bassani x pipe system with cats
Total: $3,000

Package 3

  • ProCharger supercharger kit
  • Motive Gear ring-and-pinion and Royal Purple Max Fluid
  • JBA mufflers
Total: $5,000

Optional

  • Package 1 Plus
  • Fox Lake heads
  • Comp Cams camshafts
  • JPC driveshaft if five-speed or JPC 3000-stall converter if auto
  • JPC underdrive pulleys
Total: $5,000

STEEDA
Steeda's S197 power packages really unleash available horsepower. Steeda estimates Package 1 to be worth 35-40 hp, while Package 2 gives you a 55hp bump and will make your Mustang a solid 12-second performer. Steeda's own in-house vehicle went 12.72 with a similar package, which did not include the MagnaFlow x pipe system on drag radials.

There's no doubt that Package 3 is where it's at, with the Magna Charger Roots-type supercharger system-the same one used on Steeda's Q400 and Q445 vehicles. Package 3 is said to produce 375-420 rwhp.

Package 1
Steeda cold-air intake with inlet tube 555-3131
Steeda SCT Flash tuner388-9415ST
Steeda underdrive pulleys701-0005A
Total: $998.{{{90}}}
Package 2
Steeda cold-air intake with inlet tune555-3131
Steeda flash tuner388-9415ST
Steeda charge motion plates555-3125
Steeda underdrive pulleys701-0005A
Shorty headers513-MW0506
MagnaFlow high-flow cat x pipe system263-15448
Steeda axle-back exhaust system 040-130040
4.10:1 gearsN/A
Total: $2,787.25
Package 3Total: $5,495
Steeda/Magnuson Magnacharger supercharger system
N/A