5.0 Mustang & Super FordsProject Vehicles
How to Build a Budget Terminator - Cheap Snake
Tedd Mason is building a beast on a bare-bones budget from a 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra that he purchased in bone-stock trim!
It's been said that money is the root of all evil. While we acknowledge money can lead to bad choices, currency is a critical element in just about any automotive upgrade effort. However, we all know there's nothing evil about modding a Mustang. With that in mind, we can't in good conscience say that costs shouldn't be considered when planning and performing upgrades.
Tedd Mason is a Southern California longtime Mustang enthusiast who knows this full well. He is a recent college graduate just getting his feet wet in the working world.
In the summer of 2013, Tedd emailed us about his dream Mustang build, explaining his intent to find, buy, and then upgrade an '03 Cobra, without paying a fortune to do so.
As we explained in our Project Cheaper Sleeper series, as well as in the 2013 edition of Mustang Performance (our annual special issue that last year was focused on budget builds), there's a lot of good that can be said about smart shopping for go-fast parts. By smart shopping, we mean turning to such resources as Craigslist, eBay, and the increasingly popular Mustang forums on the Internet to locate and purchase the pieces for your Pony.
Tedd told us his intent was to use all of these outlets to buy the Terminator of his dreams, and transform it from bone-stock into a 550hp (on 91-octane pump fuel) street beast—for as little dough as possible.
The photos and information here are on the first segment of the project, basic bolt-ons, and detail how Tedd is making it happen—on his own, with assistance from the Mustang specialists at GTR High Performance in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
On the Dyno
As you see in the graph and rundown of numbers, there's really nothing atypical about the 30hp gain, which is a result of the first stage of upgrades that Tedd Mason performed on his virginal '03 Cobra. The parts Tedd added are long established as basic pieces that can produce 25-30 additional ponies on stockers (actually a little less with stock exhaust, but Tedd's Snake does have a slightly better/freer-flowing exhaust system),
The big deal in Tedd's performance increase is the manner in which it came about; through Tedd's diligent shopping (remember, he only paid $22,000 for an immaculate, one-owner, black Terminator that had less than 26,000 miles), and performing the initial upgrade tasks himself.
Tedd's detailed spreadsheet on his project's expenses breaks down the actual amount he's spending on upgrades in relation to the horsepower and torque his Mustang gains. Here's a look at the status after the basic bolt-ons were added. The fact that Tedd's bottom line is still well below the amount that's being fetched for lesser '03-'04 Cobras, really is a testament to the virtues of being patient, as well as detailed, and taking advantage of great deals when you find them.
|1||Flowmaster American Thunder Exhaust||5/1/2012||$250|
|2||Bassani Catted X-Pipe||5/1/2012||$250|
|3||LFP Throttle Body & Plenum||4/4/2013||$370|
|4||Throttle Body Gaskets||4/12/2013||$20|
|5||SCT BA3000 Mass Air||7/8/2013||$148|
|6||JLT Ram Air Intake||8/23/2013||$80|
|Baseline Horsepower and Torque||404|
|Post-Installation (CAI and TB) Horsepower and Torque||430|
|Dollars Spent Per Horsepower/Torque Gained||$43|
More to Come
As '03-'04 Cobras go, the common performance-upgrade set includes the bolt-ons featured in this report (pulley swaps are also among the first basic mods), and eventually culminates with replacing the stock Eaton supercharger with an aftermarket, twin-screw or TVS supercharger.
Tedd Mason chose to bypass bolting pulleys on his '03 Cobra's engine, and instead is going straight to the increased forced air of a 2.3-liter twin-screw. Like all of the other pieces that make up the project's upgrades, Tedd scored the complete supercharger system through working the Internet, and capitalizing on a killer deal with a fellow Cobra owner.
As we mentioned early on in this report, there are instances in a budget build where using brand-new parts is important. While unopened, never-used equipment sometimes can be scored on the cheap, there are times when the new stuff you need isn't available in killer-deal form. A new, better-than-stock clutch certainly is a necessary item for a Cobra project like Tedd's, where big-time power and torque are anticipated. In a better-now-than-later move, Tedd had GTR High Performance install McLeod Racing's RXT twin-disc clutch system. And, as the exhaust had to come down for the clutch procedure, Tedd agreed it made good sense to install BBK Performance's long-tube headers, too.
GTR High Performance will be taking care of the blower install; an effort that we'll present in our next installment on Tedd's real-world, low-budget project.
Horse Sense: Some of the feedback we've received about our own builds, while mostly positive, has also included remarks about the perceived “limitless” budgets that magazines have for executing such projects. For the record, the 5.0&SF team doesn't have a blank check for building project Mustangs, and we really are concerned about costs when it comes to making changes.