NPD Nov 22


Legit 10-second Daily Driver Mustang

The plan almost seemed too simple—find a car that with only a few bolt-ons could run 10s. The catch, be able to do it driving the car to virtually any track in the country, as a truck and trailer are not in the plans. With 2011-2014 5.0 Mustangs coming down in price, it was a great time to take advantage of Ford’s 5.0 Coyote.

Times have changed, technology has improved, and with today’s modern muscle cars, specifically the 2011-2014 S197 Mustang, there has never been a quicker, cheaper, or more reliable path to building an absolute monster, capable of 10-second quarter-mile times while, maintaining enough drivability to go to the grocery store or coast-to-coast.

So with that, our vehicle of choice was fairly obvious. While there were several possible candidates, we purchased very clean a 2014 Mustang GT premium with low mileage. Of course you should be able to duplicate our results with any solid 2011-2014 GT.

Power of the Coyote was dramatically increased with a VMP supercharger and JLT CAI. The mill cranks out over 600 RWHP on 93-octane pump gas.

Put simply, S197 Mustangs offer the best bang for the buck among modern muscle cars. With 420-horsepower from the factory (depending on actual year), we’ve already got a solid platform to start with, and their sleek styling ain’t half-bad, either. There is an endless array of bolt-on parts available to jump-start the Ford Coyote engine and when it comes to budget, there are deals to be had. 

In this instance, we picked up low-mileage a race red ’14 Mustang in the spring of 2015. Our pony was nicely equipped with leather seats, a Shaker 500 audio system, and 19-inch wheels. It had just 7,700 miles on the clock and was obviously well cared for without a single scratch, dent, or scuff.

Owner, driver Kevin McKenna not only built a 10-second Mustang, he puts it to the test in NMRA and Hot Rod Drag Week competition. And during race season, he can be found just about every Wednesday testing at his home track, Indianapolis Raceway Park.

The original sticker price was over $34,000 and we paid about $27,000. That was five-years ago and we got a nearly-new car. Today, low-mile S197s can be had for a lot less, which makes this project even more of a bargain. A quick internet search will turn up a multitude of clean, low-mileage vehicles available in the $15,000-$20,000 range, and that price can go substantially lower if you don’t mind a few blemishes or a high-miler. 

McKenna drives the car to every NMRA race in Florida, Georgia, St. Louis, and many other states. He’s racked up over 200 passes and thousands of miles in the pursuit of fun and 10-second time slips. And yes, it does wheelies!

Driving directly from dealership to dragstrip, we were able to throw down high 12-second elapsed times almost immediately. The subsequent addition of 17-inch JMS Avenger wheels and Mickey Thompson 305/45/17 drag radials made for very consistent 12-second runs.

Put simply, S197 Mustangs offer the best bang for the buck among modern muscle cars. With 420-horsepower from the factory (depending on actual year), we’ve already got a solid platform to start with, and their sleek styling ain’t half-bad, either. There is an endless array of bolt-on parts available to jump-start the Ford Coyote engine and when it comes to budget, there are deals to be had. 

For almost any performance enthusiast, a wheel and tire combo is a reliable and cost-efficient way to deliver improved performance, and it’s a necessary one if you plan on adding power. Since our car was equipped with an automatic trans, our driving technique was about as simple as it gets. Turn off the traction control, rev the engine to about 2,200-rpm, and then mash the gas on green. Tire technology has come a long way and it’s easy to find a multi-purpose tire that works well on a dragstrip and is also D.O.T. approved for street use.

Goin' Lower

This is where things get trickier. Running 12s in a nearly stock Mustang is one thing. To hit our target of consistent 10-second E.T.s was going to take more work. In bone-stock trim without even an exhaust system mod or cold air kit, our Mustang made 347 rear-wheel horsepower. We needed closer to 600 to produce 10s, so rather than knock gently, we decided to kick the door down with the addition of a good old-fashioned power adder. 

Strange axles provide strength and peace of mind.

Between nitrous oxide, turbos, and several variations of superchargers, there were plenty of options available, and on some level, nearly all of them made sense from a performance and economics standpoint. After a bit of research and deliberation, we opted for a TVS (Twin Vortices Series) 2.3-liter Gen II supercharger from VMP Performance. The VMP supercharger is a compact, efficient unit that delivers a serious amount of hp-per-dollar fun. It fits under the stock hood and features a bypass so it’s barely noticeable at anything less than about half-throttle. That means under normal daily driving conditions, the car’s average fuel consumption of 20-22 mpg would not be affected. And since the Ford Coyote engine features four-valve-per-cylinder heads, it’s almost tailor-made for forced induction.

A FTI 3,800-rpm stall converter was selected over stock.

At this point, our Mustang was consistently in the high 10-second zone, but once we got into the summer months with warm and humid conditions, we were stuck in the low 11s. Fortunately, we had several solutions and most of them were relatively low-cost and low-effort. Our issues were solved using Boostane, a fuel additive or octane-booster, which bumped the octane rating from 93 to more than 100. This meant our tuner could get much more aggressive in regards to timing, which forced induction engines absolutely love. We played around with a couple of different tunes, got the Mustang to run in the high 10s under just about any weather conditions and ultimately improved our best run to a strong 10.64 with a top speed of over 130 mph. The additional upside of using Boostane, it can be used whenever or wherever necessary, and it does not affect day-to-day driving.

Six months after finishing the original build, we decided to go out on a limb and signed up for Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week, a competition regarded by many to be the ultimate test of man and machine. The Drag Week premise is simple; five stops over five days, each at a different drag strip. The catch is each vehicle must be driven from track to track and take a specific route with checkpoints along the way. All told, the route is nearly 1,000 miles and there are no trailers and no tow vehicles permitted. All support equipment must be contained within the vehicle, which in our case, meant carrying a floor jack, tools, electric impact and our drag radial wheel and tire combination, along with luggage and personal effects. Given the small trunk and limited room in a Mustang, it was a tall order, but we managed to squeeze it all in. 

Our goal for Drag Week was to maintain a 10-second average for each of the five days and we passed that test with flying colors, ending with an average of 10.95-seconds even though the weather was unseasonably warm at one of the tracks, Bristol Dragway, which sits well above sea level. Drag Week proved to be so much fun that we returned for a second shot in 2019 and clicked off another week’s worth of 10-second passes. Taking into account the driving distance to and from both events, we managed to put nearly 6,000 miles on the Mustang without as much as a hiccup.  

Heading into 2020, we’d made well over 100 trouble-free runs, but there was always the awkward feeling that we were living on borrowed time. Newer muscle cars like our Mustang are built for big horsepower, but it’s never a bad idea to be proactive, especially with an eye towards to safety and overall expenses. Since we’d already upgraded our driveshaft, we thought it might be best to tear into the Ford 8.8 rear-end assembly and replace the stock components with high quality aftermarket parts including Strange axles, an Eaton Tru-Track posi unit, a fresh ring and pinion from Richmond Gear and a set of QA1 double adjustable shocks. Once we tore into the rear, we were pleasantly surprised to see that none of the stock components showed signs of excess wear and tear, but the peace of mind afforded by the new parts was invaluable. It’s worth mentioning that we also installed a billet engine oil pump, as the stock one is a weak link.

With the drivetrain properly upgraded, we thought it would be a great time to take the next step and install a new torque converter from FTI Performance. When it comes to mods for our Mustang, this is a big one. The stock converter had a stall speed of about 2,200 rpm (completely maxed out) and our new unit would move that needle to approximately 3,800 rpm. This finally meant we could start to harness more of the power provided by our supercharger. Our new converter provided a dramatic reduction in 60-foot times from 1.60 to 1.45-seconds on average!

All-Time Low (ET)

Our first test with the new combination netted extremely positive results with a new personal best of 10.52 seconds, while still using the “softest” 93-octane pump gas tune. We were bracket racing during this outing so we resisted the temptation to pour in the Boostane and install our killer race tune-up. Had we chosen to do so, there is little doubt we could have run in the 10.30s or perhaps quicker. We were initially apprehensive about what the new converter might do to affect our drivability, but those concerns quickly disappeared with a few miles on the new unit. Yes, the car feels a bit different, especially when leaving a stoplight, but it doesn’t take long to get used to. As soon as the converter locks up at approximately 30 mph, the slip isn’t noticeable and our gas mileage remained steady at nearly 20-mpg on the highway.

Now, two years into our build, we far-exceeded our original goal of not just building a fast and fun car, but doing so on a modest budget. To be honest, it wouldn’t take much effort to put this car into the nines, and who knows, we might just look into that, although we’ve almost reached the point where additional performance gains would require additional safety equipment, specifically a roll cage. In the end, what we ended up with is exactly what we wanted, a car that can scream down the track at a mid-to-low 10-second clip and still be driven daily without concerns about excess wear and tear or parts failures. We’ve maintained the stock exhaust, save for an X-pipe, and that’s something that would have been almost unheard of just a decade ago. Indeed, these ARE the good old days!

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