Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Four-Valve Engine Build - Still Superfly, Part 1
Still destroying hideous Camaros. One of our long-term project cars gets a heart transplant.
During the infancy of the Mustang's modular powerplants, enthusiasts were left with more questions than answers. Fanatical owners used to the power and simplicity of the familiar and loved pushrod 5.0L-based Mustangs were greeted with complex multi-cam engines, lackluster performance from the 215-horse Two-Valve GT, and a desperate yearning for more excitement. Then-editor (now editorial director) Jim Campisano--Campy as we know him--saw the need to explore the uncharted territory of the modular engine platform, specifically, the Four-Valve SVT Cobra engine, and he used Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords as the platform for his expedition.
In May of 1997, Campy picked up his new Rio Red SVT Cobra, and from day one, this was his vehicle of exploration. Over the next few years, this Cobra was at the forefront of dual-overhead-cam, V-8 technology. As Campy, along with the rest of the MM&FF staff, navigated these unexplored waters, Superfly, Destroyer of Hideous Camaros, became a legend (at least in our own minds).
From the outset, the goal of the project was to find out what made the new 4.6L tick, from basic bolts (underdrive pulleys, mass air meters, computer tunes, and such) to reworked stock heads and a high-compression short-block. Ultimately, the plan was to build an 11-second daily driver that sacrificed nothing, was emissions legal, and could run strong at any road course in the country.
"We tested anything and everything on this car as soon as it came out," recalls Campisano. "Long-tube headers versus shortys, H-style mid-pipes versus X-style mid-pipes, throttle bodies--you name it. My wife thought I was nuts for taking a beautiful brand-new car and modifying the hell out of it. We broke a lot of parts, but I think we broke a lot of new ground and had a heck of a good time doing it."
It wasn't apparent at the time, but Superfly would be molded by some of the biggest names in the Mustang aftermarket. Mustang standouts such as Kenny Brown, Sean Hyland, Paul Svinicki, Dario Orlando, Al Papitto, Dave Jack, and Jim D'Amore all played a roll in bringing this early Four-Valve to its centerstage seat in the spotlight of the Mustang world.
With 330 rear-wheel horsepower, Superfly ran a best of 11.95 at 113 in the quarter-mile (naturally aspirated) on pump gas and 100 percent emissions legal. Later, we swapped in a new set of cams and brought the total to 360 ponies.
Fast-forward 14 years and Campy can still be found behind the FR500 steering wheel in Superfly on a daily basis. Though the scenery has changed and times are different, Superfly is still a stand-out in terms of performance.
"What amazes me about the car 14 years later is that it's still so comfortable and docile on the street, yet it turns into an animal when you slam the gas pedal," said Campisano. "If I didn't have to drive it 1,100 miles to Florida when I moved, I'd have left the 4.88 gears in it. The thing loves to rev to 7,800 rpm."
Over the years, the car has been used as daily transportation, a drag car, an open-track star, an autocrosser, and in its most basic form, a huge ball of fun. Unfortunately, years of high-rpm use have taken their toll on the modified cylinder heads' valvesprings and seats, and in this day of 427ci LS motors, the Sean Hyland Motorsport 283ci modular mill is simply too small.
With one of the longest running project cars in the magazine's history and its reduced power level, we were faced with a few options. We could freshen the nostalgic Four-Valve mill that served as a test piece for so many parts over the years, or build a new bullet using the latest and greatest in modular technology. Can you guess which one we picked?
Now, we could throw a mild, stroked cammer together, fill it with a little (or a lot of) boost, and make boatloads of power, but one of Superfly's best qualities is its lifelong lack of forced induction. In keeping with the spirit of the original build, we are building a badass big-bore, stroker, DOHC, 323ci 4.6L-based powerplant to breathe new life into our '97 Cobra.
Livernois Motorports has taken hold of the modular platform and run with it. Couple Livernois' extensive knowledge with the amazing selection of parts in the aftermarket, and we'll have a recipe for some serious horsepower. Over the next few issues, we are going to cover the parts, build process, swap, and ultimately tear up the track with Superfly--just like back in the day!