Standing on the loud pedal the Gen 3 Coyote barks out through its high-flowing exhaust. As the tach climbs beyond 4,000 rpm, the boost swells and our heads press back against the supple leather of the Recaro seats. The Vortech YSi takes over and the forged 5.0 is eagerly screaming toward the redline, but it’s but a fleeting burst that offers a mere hint at the capabilities of this 2018 Steeda Q850R Mustang.
The Optima Challenge has five parts and I believe I can safely compete in all of them. — Doug Liechty, Steeda Q850R owner
There is nothing ordinary about Steeda’s top-tier Mustang, but this one is simply extraordinary. The package starts at $30,000 atop a new Mustang, and its owner Doug Liechty ordered this particular example with nearly every possible option, and many, many more — including three sets of wheels and tires — making it the most highly optioned Steeda Mustang ever created and easily pushing its price tag into the six-figure zone.
Doug Liechty’s 2018 Steeda Q850R is no sleeper. Hinting at the performance lurking under its sheetmetal is the Steeda Q-Series front fascia, which adds a more aggressive visage to the second-gen S550. (Photo Credit: Steve Turner)
Known as “Mustang Doug” to friends and fellow enthusiasts, Doug takes his Fords seriously. He left home at an early age and flipped cars to make ends meet, but these days he retains several special machines.
“I bought and sold Mustangs to pay rent and buy food. I have owned 400 Mustangs. I have owned all models — many Shelbys, Saleens, and Roush Mustangs,” Doug explained. “I have owned my own auto shop, Doug’s Auto Inc., in Orem, Utah, for 38 years. I have been President of the Northern Utah Mustang Owners Association and I am President Elect again. I drag race and road race and do lots of car shows. Everyone calls me ‘Mustang Doug’ — even at church.”
Featuring a few Steeda appearance upgrades, including logos on the doorsills and seats, the interior of Doug’s Q850R is not too far removed from its origins. Look behind the front seats, however, and where the rear seat once resided is a rear-seat delete kit framed by a four-point roll cage. The latter wears a fire extinguisher and serves as a mount for the four-point harness belts.
I have been successful in making Mustangs go fast on the track with Steeda parts. — Doug Liechty
“We go to SEMA every year. We have stayed in Vegas for the weekend to watch the Optima Challenge and my brothers and I thought, why don’t I do that?” Doug said. “I road race at Utah Motorsports Campus at NASA events and have run autocross events off and on. I have always modified my cars. I have a few trophies. The Optima Challenge has five parts and I believe I can safely compete in all of them.”
To that end, he turned to a familiar speed merchant to create the kind of multifaceted performer needed to succeed in this demanding measuring stick of street-worthy performance.
With the whoosh of Vortech boost pumping up the built Coyote 5.0-liter engine, this Lightning Blue Steeda Mustang is as quick as a bolt from the heavens. It also has the suspension needed to put that power to the ground and the braking to keep it under control.
“I have been a Steeda parts dealer for 22 years. I have been successful in making Mustangs go fast on the track with Steeda parts. They are the best quality and have a lifetime warranty,” Doug enthused. “The Steeda crew and I put our heads together and discussed what would be best for my use of the car. We picked every option and added about 40 more…”
What they came up with was a version of the company’s top-of-the-line Mustang with a racy suffix and enough options fill up a secret menu.
“The Q850R is part of our Q850 StreetFighter lineup,” Bob Adams, President of Steeda Performance Vehicles, said. “Featuring forced induction and added enhancements, the Q850R is race-ready and the most capable street/track performance machine with many modifications specifically engineered for the race track while maintaining full street-ability. Think of it as a race car with a license plate and air conditioning!”
It is one of the most potent Steeda vehicles we have ever built! — Bob Adams, Steeda Performance Vehicles
“This car certainly ranks near the top of the list as far as options and equipment added to a Q-Series car,” Bob added. “It is one of the most potent Steeda vehicles we have ever built!”
We’ll forgive you if you aren’t completely familiar with Steeda Performance Vehicles, which is the production division of a company best known for creating aftermarket upgrades for Ford vehicles. SPV takes those parts and creates purposefully engineered packages, which you can buy from a participating dealer.
From the Steeda lettering across the trunk lid to the Steeda decals on its flanks, it’s clear that this 2018 Mustang is something special. The front and rear tow rings are a telltale hint that this street machine is ready for the racetrack too.
“When Dario Orlando first started Steeda, his mind was centered on racing success. Along with that quest came the opportunity to design, engineer, and manufacture the best performance products for Ford vehicles,” Bob said. “The end result is that today Steeda is a company that manufactures the highest quality performance products designed exclusively for Ford vehicles. At Steeda Performance Vehicles we take that same commitment and those same performance products and create the best-performing Ford vehicles possible…”
These turnkey packages not only take the guesswork out of modifying a Mustang, but they are more wallet-friendly because you can finance the upgrades along with your new vehicle.
“There are people out there for many reasons that do not want to modify their car themselves. They prefer to buy a vehicle that they can drive right off the showroom floor with levels of performance that exceed the average version of that vehicle that can be purchased at their local dealer,” Glen Vitale, Vice President of Operations at Steeda, explained. “The Q series Mustangs give the people an option to finance through their preferred credit agency a serialized vehicle that is ready to tear up the road or track right off the showroom floor.”
We purposely created the car so that handling and powertrain performance is optimized for that series… — Bob Adams, Steeda Performance Vehicles
Not only does buying a complete car offer a financial advantage, but it also allows SPV to put together a combination that will work in concert.
“It is a superior option because the consumer gets parts that were carefully chosen to work together based on the level of the package they chose. Furthermore, they get piece of mind that the parts were installed the correct way for their intended use versus having to trust a local shop or even themselves, who may not have the expertise in installing the parts on that particular vehicle,” Glen added.
This is the street configuration for Doug’s Steeda Q850R. In this form it rides on Velgen wheels wrapped in Nitto Invo rubber.
That is definitely key for a car designed to compete in several different disciplines mandated by the Optima Search For The Ultimate Street Car competitions — Design & Engineering, Road Rally, Speed-Stop, Autocross, and Road Course — like Doug’s Q850R.
“Our directive from our client was to build a car that could win the Optima Challenge Series,” Bob explained. “We purposely created the car so that handling and powertrain performance is optimized for that series which is a test of track and drag strip challenges. Yet, it is fully comfortable for cruising the streets.”
Delivering The Goods
To do so, the SPV team completely revamped the suspension with its Steeda G-Trac Suspension/Chassis Stage II Ultimate Package. Highlighted by two-way adjustable dampers, a full bolstered independent rear suspension, and Steeda springs, this suspension is tasked with planting the power produced by the aforementioned Vortech-boosted Gen 3 Coyote.
To get acclimated to his new ride, Doug flew out to Steeda’s Valdosta facility in advance of it is annual event at South Georgia Motorsports Park. He wanted to sample the car before it shipped out to his Utah home, and the first impression was a positive one.
“It was exciting taking delivery at Pony Wars. I chose to leave the stock wheels and tires on it for photos and driving. My traction was limited, but I wanted to learn the car’s characteristics,” Doug shared. “The car is built to be a beast but it drove like a Lincoln — no hiccups and a firm but comfortable ride. The powerband is perfectly smooth and gradual. The brakes can launch you through the windshield, but they are not grabby. The car had almost no body roll. It was predictable and easy to control. Did I mention it sounds fantastic?”
We can agree that it sounds great. Likewise we already know this car ranks highly on the list of Steeda Mustangs, particularly because of its long list of options. How does it rank, however, among the over 400 Mustangs owned by Mustang Doug? Apparently only a supercar can rival this potent pony car.
This car has some of the DNA from our championship-winning 20 car, and record-breaking Silver Bullet drag car. — Glen Vitale, Steeda
“I have owned or driven every kind of Mustang made. I also own a Ford GT. I show my cars and cruise in them. I have mostly raced my GT500s. I liked them a lot. My 2014 Roush Stage 3 Phase 3 was a super-smooth street car. My 2011 GT350 was one of my favorites,” Doug elaborated. “Not counting my Ford GT, my Steeda Q850R is my favorite car…”
We have all seen Mustangs with two sets of wheels — one for the street and one for the track. Doug’s Q850R, however, has three different wheel and tire combinations so it can transition between all the competitions that make up the Optima Search for the Ultimate Street Car. Doug has Velgen VMB9/Nitto Invo (street), Forgeline GTDI/Nitto NT05 (road race), and Weld Racing S71/Mickey Thompson (drag race) wheel and tire combos at his disposal.
That is high praise indeed, and it speaks to the special combination that SPV cooked up for the Steeda Q850R. That combination is based on its experience on both the drag strip and the road course.
“I believe it is its capabilities this car can spend a day on a road course and then the night going down the drag strip take it home clean it up and take it the next day to your local Cars and Coffee,” Glen said. “This car has some of the DNA from our championship-winning 20 car, and record-breaking Silver Bullet drag car. All Q Series cars have that DNA but usually it caters to one side or the other where this car got large doses from both sides.”
2018 Steeda Q850R Features
Block: Gen 3 Coyote aluminum
Crankshaft: Forged steel
Cylinder Heads: Stock
Power Adder: Vortech V7 YSi
Fuel System: Stock w/ VMP Performance Plug ’n Play fuel pump voltage booster
Exhaust: Long-tube headers w/ Ford Performance exhaust system with removable catalytic converters