Jim Smart
January 1, 2001

If you've been following our "Plan for Ponies" series since it first appeared in the Oct. 2000 issue, then you understand that usable real-world power does not come easy. West Coast Classic Mustang's Jerry Choate provided us with his father-in-law's dead stock '65 Mustang GT hardtop as a test mule for our effort. We drove it across Southern California's San Fernando Valley to Mike Morgan Motorsports in Burbank for a quick analysis of how much power an aging stock Mustang could produce. Derek Real of Mike Morgan Motorsports pulled the Mustang onto the chassis dyno on a hot day last June for that first pass in stone stock condition right off the street-untouched: horsepower was 128.4 at 4,100 rpm and torque peaked at 193.9 lb-ft at 3,400 rpm.

We popped the hood for a closer look. For starters, the vacuum advance wasn't working-thereby causing a lapse in power. Stock ignition points and condenser were marginal at best. We installed a Pertronix Ignitor, which netted 2.7 hp and 1.1 lb-ft of torque. This told us that the Ignitor is more about reliability and smooth performance than power. Idle quality improved with the Ignitor as well.

After we installed the Ignitor, we removed the air cleaner for a modest increase in horsepower and a slight loss of torque. Fresh spark plugs made very little difference in performance.

When West Coast Classic Mustang installed the Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold and carburetor in Part Two ("How To Plan For Ponies: Part Two in a Five-Part Series," Nov. 2000, p. 42), we expected an obvious increase in power-but that's not what we received. We actually lost torque and noted a modest increase in horsepower. Derek Real super-tuned our 289 for modest gains in horsepower and torque. We gained a total of 16.3 hp and 7.4 lb-ft of torque with super-tuning and an induction swap; however, adjustments in spark timing and changes in carb jetting didn't do much for performance. Not bad, but nothing to go bench racing with either.

When we installed Hedman headers and the Turbo 211/44-inch exhaust system from National Parts Depot in Part Three ("How To Plan for Ponies: Part Three in a Five-Part Series," Dec. 2000, p. 38), we witnessed increases in power-especially with more super-tuning from Mike Morgan Motorsports. With a fresh exhaust system and carburetor tuning, power jumped to 224.7 lb-ft and 158.5 hp at the rear wheels. Just for fun, we uncapped the headers and let the Mustang scream with a loss in torque yet an increase in horsepower. The exhaust-system back pressure gives us torque, especially when valve overlap is optimum. So uncapping the headers isn't always going to help you at the dragstrip. In fact, it can hurt you out of the hole.

This leads us to the entire point of our power lecture. In order to generate real power, you have to modify your engine as a package-not piecemeal. Tuning and a better ignition system netted modest increases in power. An Edelbrock intake and carb bumped the power considerably. But our 289 didn't really wake up until we rounded out the package with Edelbrock Performer RPM cylinder heads. Performer RPM aluminum cylinder heads sport larger-than-stock valves and ports. What's more, the port design is cleaner. Aluminum heads help eliminate combustion heat, enabling us to advance spark timing without the risk of detonation and engine damage.

West Coast Classic Mustang removed the stock 289 4V heads and installed the Edelbrock pieces fitted with Comp Cams' roller rockers and pushrods. Here's how Part Four played out.

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As you can see, a head swap does a lot for horsepower. Horsepower is up 17.8, and torque is up 6.3 lb-ft. We're convinced that this engine would create even more horsepower if pushed beyond 5,000 rpm. Because the engine's structural integrity is unknown, we've kept it conservative. We're more interested in the overall gains throughout our test. Since our baseline test, we've gained 37.1 lb-ft of torque and 47.9 hp. Call this an easy 50hp gain at the drive wheels-with aftermarket heads, an intake manifold, a 600-cfm carburetor, Hedman headers, National Parts Depot's Turbo 2-1/4-inch dual exhaust system, and super-tuning by Mike Morgan Motorsports.

So what does this tell us about aftermarket parts? It tells us that we should think of our modifications as a package for best results, then enjoy the benefits of power when the job is finished. Next month, we will round out this package with a more aggressive hydraulic camshaft from Edelbrock, along with one last trip to the dyno for good measure.

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Dyno Run No. 1
Baseline Test
rpm power torque
3,400 125.5 193.9
3,500 125.7 188.6
3,600 125.9 183.6
3,700 127.2 180.5
3,800 127.1 175.6
3,900 127.1 175.6
4,000 128.0 186.0
4,100 128.4 164.5
4,200 127.5 159.4
4,300 125.8 153.6
4,400 125.1 149.3
4,500 123.7 144.4
4,600 123.7 144.4
Dyno Run No. 2
Upgrade to Pertronix Ignitor
rpm power torque
3,400 126.3 195.0
3,500 127.6 191.4
3,600 129.3 188.6
3,700 130.0 184.5
3,800 131.0 181.0
3,900 131.1 176.6
4,000 130.7 171.6
4,100 130.6 167.3
4,200 129.6 162.1
4,300 128.7 157.2
4,400 128.7 152.8
4,500 128.0 147.9
4,600 123.6 141.2
Dyno Run No. 14
Edelbrock Performer RPM Heads
rpm power torque
2,600 102.1 206.3
2,700 117.6 228.7
2,800 122.5 229.7
2,900 127.2 230.3
3,000 132.0 231.0
3,100 135.8 230.1
3,200 139.7 229.3
3,300 143.4 228.2
3,400 147.0 227.1
3,500 150.4 225.6
3,600 153.3 223.6
3,700 156.7 222.0
3,800 159.3 220.0
3,900 161.4 217.4
4,000 163.5 214.7
4,100 166.8 213.7
4,200 168.5 210.5
4,300 170.1 207.8
4,400 172.1 205.4
4,500 173.5 202.5
4,600 174.4 199.2
4,700 175.4 196.0
4,800 176.1 192.7
4,900 176.3 189.0