Photo: Rebecca Reiss

Photo: Rebecca Reiss

Our newest 2011-’14 project car, Project Grabbr, recently entered the StangTV stables at the end of last season.

The S197’s final iteration represents perhaps the greatest buy in terms of all-round performance for the Mustang. With the recent release of the 2015 models, the prices have dropped on the 2011-’14 machines, and they can be had for relatively reasonable prices for cars that are just a few years old. As many enthusiasts who have the means (and wallet) look to step into the 2015 GT and EcoBoosts, the slightly older cars are proving to be an excellent foundation for performance.

Project Grabbr is our Grabber Blue 2011 Mustang GT. For this project, we’re focused on true bolt-on performance for enthusiasts who drive their cars daily and don’t want to deal with broken parts, or a prima-donna engine that will only run on certain fuels. Grabbr will focus on installed projects that any handy and enterprising enthusiast can complete in a single afternoon or weekend without breaking the bank, and without ruining the qualities that make the S197 platform such a great daily car.

As the 2011-’14 platform used the Coyote engine, an enthusiast has to pick which route to go for improved performance. Some choose to install either the FRPP Boss302 or Cobra Jet intake manifolds, lumpy camshafts, and spin them to the moon. Others choose to go the tried-and-true route of adding forced induction, which is what we’ve done for this project.

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October 29, 2015 - Fall Update

When I last left off at the end of the spring, I managed to coax Project Grabbr into the 11s, with an 11.96 at 118.83 mph at Cecil County Dragway — a solid pass, still “off the pace” for someone looking for an all-out competition best — but a number I was totally happy with given that this is a true daily driver. I don’t have the ability to park it if I break something, so we have to make modifications in steps, and I can’t put it on the limiter at the track and hope the axles and clutch decide to hold up on the launch.

So what’s the next step in our modification train — that’s what you’re really here to read. Since the Coyote engine has been proven by countless others to respond so well to forced induction, that’s the direction we decided to go with Project Grabbr. The fine folks at ProCharger answered the call with one of their P-1-SC1 supercharger systems, which arrived here at my house back before our spring update, due to scheduling conflicts, it sat here for a while in the box while I tried to line up the stars to have it installed and tuned. To make a long story much shorter, it’s now on the car thanks to Kris Mustacchio, Nick Edelman, and the guys at All Out Automotive in Glassboro, New Jersey.

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When the system was ordered from ProCharger, I had them spec it out in the stealthy black finish they now offer, and I also selected the helical cut gearset to stay in line with the stealth approach. In fact, you can barely hear it when the car’s running. The system was sent as the Stage II Tuner kit, which omits the fuel injectors and tuning device, as we had plans to use a larger injector than the standard 52 lb./hr. pieces they supply to give us some extra room to grow for the future. The Stage II kit also comes with a larger intercooler to help reduce air intake temperatures, something I felt would be very valuable for those times when I am stuck driving the car in the horrendous Philadelphia-area traffic.

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UPR’s catch-can assembly mounts to the inner fender and draws from both valve covers to keep the oiling system in check.

Other components I picked up for the install are a set of 650cc fuel injectors from RC Engineering, a new X4 handheld tuning device from SCT, and a plug-and-play FuelMAX fuel pump booster setup from JMS. We also picked up one of UPR‘s new catch-can setups designed to keep the engine oil out of the intake manifold.

Without going into all of the details about the install and subsequent tuning sessions (you’ll be able to read about those in the upcoming install article), we hit the All Out shop for the install, which was for the most part seamless. As there were plans to do a true custom dyno tune at a later time, we pulled a couple of strings with our friends at ProCharger, who set us up with a safe base calibration to use our injectors with the kit.

Mustacchio made some quick-and-dirty mods to the ProCharger tuneup after the install was complete, and during our install day we managed to spin the roller to 589 horsepower at 6,350 rpm. At that point we called it a night, as we had been on the job working the install and tune for the entire day and night. It was 3AM before I got into the car to roll home, with instructions to “keep your foot out of it” until I had a chance to get back there to finish up the tune.

Our install day was a long one, stretching from 10AM to 3AM the following morning, but we accomplished a lot in that time period.

Our install day was a long one, stretching from 10AM to 3AM the following morning, but we accomplished a lot in that time period.

Think about this for a minute. You’ve given a guy a ProCharger, boosted horsepower from 412.9 to 589.7, and then said “don’t get into boost”… the days that passed until until I got back to the dyno were the hardest days of my life.

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And that’s where Ken Bjonnes and Lund Racing come into the picture. The Coyote engine — while incredibly powerful — has also proven to be challenging to tune, especially in the areas of drivability, and Lund Racing has established themselves as one of the leading tuners with respect to these engine combinations, as evidenced by the numerous records they’ve set, not only on the dragstrip but also in competitions like the Texas Mile.

Just a few days ago, I headed back to All Out Automotive, where I got to witness firsthand the magic that is remote tuning. Basically, Bjonnes set me up with his base tuneup built around the modifications to the car, Mustacchio loaded that into the processor and ran it on the dyno, utilizing the datalogging capabilities built into the SCT device, then sent over the datalog through the Lund Racing Support website.

A few hours later, some back-and-forth with different tuneups and changes to the configuration, and by the afternoon, Bjonnes had the car ripping up the dyno with stout numbers of 618.7 horsepower at 7,350 rpm, and torque values of 473.8 pound-feet at 5,650 rpm. While the torque values may appear low on the graph, we realized after I got home that the pull was made in fourth gear instead of the 1:1 fifth gear, which will skew those numbers lower according to Bjonnes. Boost figures hovered around 9 psi on the vent-mounted gauge on the dyno to achieve those power figures.

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And then I got to drive the car home — and see the boost gauge climb. Not only does the car have an immense amount of power when you put your foot down, it’s usable power, with a nice broad torque curve and near-stock drivability. I even saw 21 mpg on the two hour drive back here through Philly traffic.

Happy is not the word; even two days later as I sit here writing this, I can’t wait until the next time I get to take the car out. I’ll be going to Cecil County Dragway on November 14th for the final track session of the year to see what the boosted power will bring on the dragstrip, and then it will be time to decide whether I want to install a rollbar into my daily driver. And upgrade the clutch, and maybe some axles. Have plans for the winter…

May 21, 2015 - Second Spring Update

When I left off with the last update, Project Grabbr had turned in a best quarter-mile pass of 12.394 at 117.99 mph during a street night event at Cecil County Dragway - with an awful 2.015 sixty-foot time. The MPH told the story - there was an easy 11-second car lurking, but I needed to make a few alterations to the drag setup in order to bring it out.

That left me with one choice; I needed sticky tires. The 20-inch Nittos that are usually on the car are great for everyday driving, but for the dragstrip they leave much (everything?) to be desired. They were very inconsistent, making clutch management on the starting line a trick proposition at best. That’s where the fine folks at Mickey Thompson Tires come into the picture.

The all-important shot of the tire on the car. It fits perfectly in the wheelwell with no rubbing, even though this car is lowered approximately 1.25-inch in the rear

The all-important shot of the tire on the car. It fits perfectly in the wheelwell with no rubbing, even though this car is lowered approximately 1.25-inch in the rear

The company has a couple of new tire designs that are just making it to the market. In fact, I haven’t been able to find any testing on them at all yet. But you get to read about one of those tires - the ET Street R - and how it performed for us, right here, right now. When you’re done reading this update, click here for an in-depth article on the tires themselves.

But first I have to tell you about what transpired leading up to the tire install.

Since Project Grabbr is equipped with the MT-82 manual transmission (and still has the stock clutch at this time), I made the choice to go with the ET Street R in the 28×11.50×15 size, which uses bias-ply construction. Although a radial would probably be a better choice to drive on regularly, I wanted the additional sidewall height of the 15-inch tire, since it would absorb the hit at the launch better than a radial tire would with the manual transmission - especially if track prep is dicey.

This necessitated a few other modifications in order to make everything happy under the car. First, I needed a set of 15-inch wheels. Since I didn’t have plans to drive on the tires every day, any wheel would do - and it just so happened that my longtime friend Bill Tumas of CJ Pony Parts had a set of used 15×10 Race Star Industries Dark Stars sitting in his garage that he offered up for the princely sum of $200.

So I met up with his wife on Sunday morning, traded the loot for the wheels, and brought them home. Still needed lug nuts, so I ordered those from CJs for another $46. And in order to fit the wheels on the car, I also needed to relocate the rear sway bar mounts. A quick call to Steve Gelles at UPR Products, the numbers on my debit card, and they sent one of their sway bar relocation kits along.

Brandon installing the sway-bar relocation kit. This only took about half an hour to accomplish, although we did have the benefit of a lift and air tools.

Brandon installing the sway-bar relocation kit. This only took about half an hour to accomplish, although we did have the benefit of a lift and air tools.

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That wasn’t all that I needed. You may remember the article we published in January on Baer’s Eradispeed rotor kit that we installed at both ends of Grabbr. They look great, and help the car stop more quickly - but the rear 14-inch rotors don’t fit inside the Dark Stars. That’s right - I’d need to reinstall the stock rotors in order to make all of this work together. Since the originals were sent to the scrapyard long ago, I did what any enterprising enthusiast would do - hit up eBay, where I found a stock-replacement rear pad and rotor kit for $60 to my door.

Now that I had all of the pieces in hand, I headed down to my local shop, Midnight Auto, where Brandon Abbott took the time to install the sway-bar relocation kit, swap out the rear brakes, and mount and balance the tires for me. The tires balanced up nicely, requiring a minimum of weight to zero out, and I was ready for my next track trip.

Fast-forward to last night - Wednesday, May 20th, and Cecil County Dragway’s Street Night. Cecil County is about 70 miles from my house, over back roads and down I-95 - a true torture test for the tires.

I’m happy to report that they performed flawlessly on the ride down. You definitely know they are back there, and I wouldn’t recommend trying any high-speed slalom course action, but I had them up to (and maybe above) legal highway speeds, changing lanes, basically driving like I would with the 20-inch low-profile tires on the car, and I was very impressed with their road manners.

(Left) There's no shortage of stick available here. (Right) Midnight Auto's Brandon Abbott mounting up one of the tires.

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But you’re not here to read about that - you want to know how they performed at the track, right? Right? Here’s the deal.

I made six passes. Before I started, I aired the tires down to 16 psi. What I found is that the tires like to have a four or five second burnout around 5000 rpm in second gear. My best 60-foot time of the night, on the last attempt, was 1.741-seconds, with a 5000 rpm clutch dump. That’s an improvement of .25-second over my best 60-foot time with the 20-inch tires (1.97), and I feel like there might be a bit more to be had, but since I’m still rolling with the stock clutch at this point I didn’t want to heap too much abuse on it since I still had to make the 70 mile drive back home.

Most importantly, the improved stick from the tires allowed me to cruise to a stout 11.962 at 118.83 mph, an improvement of .432-second from no performance changes other than the installation of the Mickey Thompson ET Street R tire. I’m sold.

There’s still much more in the car - I was fighting some issues with the shifter not wanting to go into gear again, especially as the clutch heated up towards the end of the night, but it was an overall very successful session. I have a solution in the works for the shifting issues, but have to shake the couch for some loose change first.

On my best-ET pass, the 60-foot time was only 1.869, .128-second slower than the best 60-foot of the night. There is no doubt in my mind that there’s an 11.60 or better hiding in the car, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it back to the track again before our next project segment deadline for the ProCharger installation.

And that’s when things will really start to become fun. Wink-wink.

Best ET pass on the left, best 60-fot/330 pass on the right. You can see from these results that there's still more in the car, but i have to sort out why it doesn't want to go into gear all the time. I foresee a new clutch and shifter, which will become even more important once the supercharger is on.

Best ET pass on the left, best 60-foot/330 pass on the right. You can see from these results that there’s still more in the car, but i have to sort out why it doesn’t want to go into gear all the time. I foresee a new clutch and shifter, which will become even more important once the supercharger is on.

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April 20, 2015 - Spring Build Update

We recently made the trek up to PSI Speed Solutions to visit with Frank Soldridge and Sean Dill to have some work done on Grabbr. As the track wasn’t open yet, our visit there (and dyno session) would have to become our baseline for the 2015 season. While at PSI, Dill took the time to install a set of JBA‘s polished 304 stainless-steel long-tube headers [PN 36685S] and matching off-road H-pipe onto Grabbr in preparation for the next step of the project - a ProCharger P-1SC-1 supercharger and supporting mods.

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Prior to performing any work, we hooked Grabbr up to the dyno to establish a baseline number for our modifications. With the factory H-pipe installed and huffing through the factory short-tube manifolds, Grabbr knocked down 402 horsepower and 363 lb.-ft. torque on the PSI Mustang dynamometer. After Dill was done performing the work, the car boasted a strong 415 rear-wheel horsepower and 368 lb.-ft. torque, with the gains coming in the upper RPM range.

The increased breathing ability will provide a serious boost in performance (no pun intended) once the supercharger is installed. This portion of the project can be considered preparation for the future. You’ll be able to read about the header install in an upcoming article.

Dyno results pre- and post-JBA header/off-road H-pipe installation.

Dyno results pre- and post-JBA header/off-road H-pipe installation.

Mods List:

  • Stock Engine
  • MT-82 stock transmission
  • JLT Cold-Air Induction
  • Tune
  • Bassani Axle-back
  • 255/35/20F and 275/35/20R Nitto NT555 tires
  • 3.73 Gears
  • JBA Long-tube Headers and off-road H pipe
  • BMR adjustable upper control arm and mount
  • unknown origin billet lower control arms and relocation brackets

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Track Testing

Now that the headers were installed, it was time to head to the track for our first test sessions of 2015.

I should provide a disclaimer - as this is my personal daily driver, I won’t be enlisting anyone else to drive the car at the track, and this is an accurate representation of what an average driver (I’m being generous with myself here!) can expect to see with this level of modifications at the track.

For the first round of testing, I made a visit to Atco Raceway on April 2nd. The first time down the track was the first time I had been behind the wheel of a manual-transmission equipped Mustang on street tires in approximately 15 years, and the first pass reflected that rustiness. I had the tire pressure set at 28psi and did a short cleanoff of the tires - no burnout, as suggested by a number of people I spoke with prior to my trip.

I launched at approximately 1,500 rpm and attempted to feather the clutch, and the tires didn’t hold that great. As the run progressed I did not powershift - only a fast clutch actuation, and went through the traps with a 14.100 elapsed time at 113.29 mph. The elapsed time was embarrassing, but the trap speed held promise of the car making decent power - if I could only figure out how to drive it. As we were there on Street night, there was no track prep to speak of, and it was up to me to figure out how to get the car down the track on the big street meats.

By the fourth pass (my last of the night) I managed to cross the stripe with a vastly-improved ET of 12.766 at 115.78 mph. Throughout the evening, I tried to maintain the same consistent launch procedure and focus on improving my shifting and clutch management on the starting line. My best 60-foot time of the session was 1.97 - but that didn’t come on my best pass, leaving me with hope for improvement the next time out.

It was a humbling experience, especially since it was my first time to the track with my own car - and with my wife in tow, who had never seen me race before. But I left in high spirits, convinced that I could get the car to perform even better with a bit more time behind the wheel.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Reiss

Photo Credit: Rebecca Reiss

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Let’s fast-forward to the second track session, which took place on April 15th, this time at Cecil County Raceway in Maryland. Again, I dragged my wife along for moral support and to provide a second set of eyes. Cecil County is approximately 70 miles from my house, through an hour and a half of horrendous traffic on I-95 (those of you who live in the Northeast will understand the frustration of this). Once we got there, I dropped the tire pressure to the same 28 psi from the first test, let the car cool down for a few minutes (maybe five as I was anxious), and hit the starting line.

I was immediately rewarded with a 12.501 elapsed time at 116.71 mph - much better than that which I was able to achieve in the first session, and with my second-best 60-foot time yet of 1.98 seconds. I was pumped…until I hit the track the next few times, and learned the hard way that the 2011’s clutch does not like to be hot-lapped, as the elapsed times kept getting worse.

By the end of the night, I made seven passes in all and eleven on the car to date. The best pass, achieved at Cecil County after a solid cooldown, was 12.39 at 117.99 mph with a 2.015 60-foot clocking. The MPH shows great promise, but the street tires just don’t offer the type of consistency we need to improve performance much over what we’ve seen so far. But for a full-weight Mustang (with the spare still in the trunk), we knocked off the test sessions feeling that this is a relatively accurate representation of what the average driver will be able to achieve with this level of modifications.

Stay tuned as we get the ProCharger installed onto the car and add a set of sticky tires in the upcoming weeks, then head back to the track to find out just what this thing can do.

From beginning to end, we made eleven passes in all. That first one sucked! The last one felt pretty darned good.

From beginning to end over two sessions at two tracks, we made eleven passes in all. That first one sucked! The last one felt pretty darned good.

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February 11, 2015 -Winter Build Update

The wintertime is shaping up to be a good one for Project Grabbr. While the snow in the Northeast has us chomping at the bit to feel some warmer weather, it’s also prevented us from turning any wrenches on the machine - but that’s about to end. As you can see from the above photo, Grabbr’s wearing its winter wheels and anxiously awaiting the weather break.

JBA's polished long-tube headers and off-road H-pipe await installation.

We have a couple of great updates on the way for Grabbr. Over the winter, we’ve picked up a set of JBA‘s 1 7/8-inch long-tube, polished headers and matching H-pipe for installation in the beginning of March, at PSI Speed Solutions, helmed by none other than Drag Radial star Frank Soldridge.

We’ll be rolling the dyno before the installation, and again afterward, to demonstrate the real-world gains one can expect from swapping from the factory short-tube headers and catalytic-converter-equipped H-pipe to the aftermarket pieces. We’ll also be providing details on the complete installation and any difficulties we might encounter along the way. While we’re in there, an upgrade from the factory motor mounts to a new set of adjustable polyurethane mounts from UPR Products will take place.

Following that, we’ll make our way to the dragstrip for the first testing on the car (and the first testing the driver has had since 2012!) to determine a baseline for performance - and set the stage for our second round of mods for the year.

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That black finish looks good, doesn't it?

That black finish looks good, doesn’t it?

We’re taking the boosted route for this project, in the form of a ProCharger P-1SC-1 supercharger. Again, installation will take place at PSI Speed Solutions, with the necessary tuning taking place, before we roll the dyno yet again. The supercharger will initially be pullied for ProCharger’s recommended 7.5-8 psi boost, with the potential for more in the future. We ordered the Stage II Tuner system, which comes with the upgraded front-mount intercooler.

Along with our ProCharger, we’ll also be installing a set of RC Engineering‘s 62 lb./hr. fuel injectors, one of JMS Chip‘s plug-and-play PowerMAX voltage boosters to ensure we have enough fuel when the loud pedal is hammer-down.

Then it’ll be time to go back to the track, where we’ll get a chance to see what these upgrades are worth in the real world. For reference’s sake, all testing will be done on a drag radial tire. We expect some challenges making everything work with the MT-82 that’s in the car, but since we have access to some of the racing industry’s finest minds, we’ll keep plugging away at it.

A 10-second elapsed time from a real daily-driven car sounds awfully nice. We’re going to do our best to get there!

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