Stealth Fighter

Herrod’s mod­ded ’Stang stalks the streets with a mighty su­per­charged 507kW punch


IT'S A pretty bleak sort of June day up at Heath­cote Park Race­way. A damp fog is still cling­ing to the higher hills and even though the sun is try­ing to cheer me up di­rectly over­head, it's a mean, wa­tery sort of sun­shine. Like a cake let down by too-thin ic­ing. Weather-girl/celebrity chef stuff out of the way, this also means the Heath­cote hot­mix is colder than a well-dig­ger's arse. On the flip-side, the air is cold and we all know how much su­per­charged en­gines love that. Yin. Yang. Take it as it comes, Grasshop­per.

So, pull the Mus­tang's T-bar into Sport, flip the driv­ing mode to Track, spool the en­gine up on the brake a lit­tle and then squeeze the throt­tle so that it hits the floor about the same time as the tranny hits se­cond. My self-con­trol loses the fight with my foot just as the tyres lose their bat­tle with torque. But eff-me if the thing hasn't leapt out of the hole pretty well and is head­ing for third gear. Into third and the gear-spe­cific boost map, which has just given the top of se­cond gear a breather in the name of driv­e­line longevity, sud­denly gets an­other pound or two to work with at the ex­pen­sive end of third and sends the V8 charg­ing to red­line. Christ, this thing is haul­ing.

Fourth gear slots home and I'm vaguely aware of the lit­tle num­bers flash­ing up on the Drift­box screen, telling me that I've cov­ered 400m and I should prob­a­bly back off now to avoid wind­ing up in the next par­ish (Axedale, if I'm not mis­taken). I still have eyes like din­ner plates as I haul the 'Stang down with­out ini­ti­at­ing a tank-slap­per in the process, but even then, I'm start­ing to process what just hap­pened. I know, for in­stance, that a stock Mus­tang GT will cover the first 400m of a de­cent

sur­face in about 13.4 at around 175km/h. So, I’m think­ing along the lines of maybe a high-12 from this car. But my first glance at the Drift­box read­out has me swear­ing out loud to no­body in par­tic­u­lar.

Bloody Nora – 12.1 sec­onds at 197 klicks. And that’s not all; nought to 100 comes up in 4.2 sec­onds and the ’Stang re­quired just 2.2 sec­onds to get from 80 to 120km/h. This thing hasn’t just shat­tered the

MO­TOR record for the new Mus­tang, it’s also just dropped ev­ery quick fac­tory Ford or FPV we’ve ever tested fair on its head. Throw a set of slicks on it and you’re look­ing at a dead-set 11-se­cond ter­ror. Yet, on the stan­dard Mus­tang GT hoops it was born with and on which it just ran that 12.1, you’re look­ing at a car that not only com­plies with all ADRs (we’ve seen the pa­per­work) but also car­ries a full Ford Per­for­mance Parts driv­e­line war­ranty. What’s go­ing on here? Two things: forced in­duc­tion and Rob Herrod. Not nec­es­sar­ily in that or­der.

Rob Herrod you al­ready know. He’s the love-child of Henry Ford and NASA and has been crank­ing out se­ri­ously quick Ford-badged prod­uct since he was trick­ing up his own daily driv­ers and hav­ing the neighbourhood boys ask­ing him to do the same to their rides. The other piece of the puz­zle is an Ea­ton su­per­charger, straight from the pages of Ford Per­for­mance Parts. Yes, of course, there’s more to it than that, but you get the pic­ture. The point is, you can drop your new Mus­tang off at Herrod’s work­shop set on Stun and pick it up a cou­ple of days later set to Kill (fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing, of course).

The process in­volves strip­ping the V8 down to the val­ley, ma­chin­ing off some bosses and bulges here and there and then bolt­ing the 2.3-litre Ea­ton twin-screw pump in place. It’s not a sim­ple drop-in on the Coyote-equipped Mus­tang ei­ther, as the droop of the snoot re­quires the blower to sit very low. Herrod reck­ons the blower alone takes around 12 or more hours to fit. The kit still al­lows for the in­ter­cooler di­rectly un­der the Ea­ton, so the low bon­net doesn’t com­pli­cate things per­ma­nently. There’s also a cat-back ex­haust as part of the deal with a few clever heat shields in the mix and a Ford Per­for­mance Parts tune for the ECU. As a nice lit­tle touch, the stan­dard Mus­tang’s El Cheeso man­ual bon­net strut is re­placed by a pair of hy­draulic struts, nec­es­sary for show­ing the neigh­bours your new en­gine. Why ex­actly Ford didn’t deem a set of hy­draulic struts a walk-up start on a rel­a­tively high-end car like the Mus­tang is be­yond us. The end re­sult of all this is 450kW at the tyres which, if you’re as old as me, works out to a neat 600 horse­power at the treads – or 507kW at the crank, reck­ons Herrod. That’s on a boost-max of about six psi, so there’s still plenty of head­room in this mad­house.

Herrod also in­cludes in this pack­age – dubbed the Com­pli­ance Pack – a set of slightly lower, stiffer springs, tak­ing the price of the pack to $21,500. Wheels and tyres? Big brakes? A body-kit? Herrod reck­ons you can make up your own mind about those things, so the Com­pli­ance Pack cen­tres on the hard­core go-fast bits. Driv­ing the mod­i­fied car

with the new springs re­veals a bit of a ner­vous ride on pim­ply sur­faces. It’s not ter­ri­ble, you can feel that the spring rate has been fid­dled with but the dampers have not. The so­lu­tion is to dig a lit­tle deeper and opt for the S550 Mus­tang Han­dling Pack (again from the FPP cat­a­logue), which gets you some al­tered rear sus­pen­sion bushes, a pair of fat sway-bars and a more se­ri­ous set of dampers at each cor­ner. You’re still in and out in un­der $25K, but trust me, those dampers re­ally turn the ride qual­ity around and give the car back its svelte.

In fact, it feels al­most like a stan­dard car in ride qual­ity terms, yet it’ll hur­tle through bumpy corners with no dra­mas. The steer­ing re­tains the fairly nat­u­ral feel of the stock Mus­tang GT set-up and the sense as you look out over that long, long bon­net that you’re sit­ting more or less over the back axle. The de­gree of poin­ti­ness through the helm feels about the same too and, just like the stocker, the se­lectable steer­ing modes ap­pear to do bug­ger-all. Per­haps not that much. But there’s def­i­nitely less body-roll and a cor­re­spond­ing abil­ity to pile into corners with no sense that you’re about to over­cook things. In fact, for what is es­sen­tially a big car, you can get it to flow from one cor­ner to the next pretty well and, should you mess up and wash off too much speed, that monster en­gine will bail you out. Mess it up the other way and the stock ’Stang stop­pers are well up to the job. We man­aged a very tidy 35.8m haul-down from 100km/h.

What’s even nicer about the way this car feels is that the mod­i­fied en­gine is a bit like the sus­pen­sion tune: it feels amaz­ingly stock to drive nor­mally and it’s only when you re­ally plant the boot that it re­veals its fe­roc­ity. Thanks to that gear-spe­cific boost map­ping, there’s none of the unan­tic­i­pated axle-twist­ing, tyre-fry­ing an­tics that many a 700-horse­power car would oth­er­wise have. Which is not to say it isn’t hellishly fast, rather that the throt­tle cal­i­bra­tion and power de­liv­ery add up to a car that’s easy and pre­dictable to drive.

You could ar­gue that the grunt is all stacked up high, but it hon­estly isn’t like that. Rather, the thing has been tuned to make the most of the grip the plat­form can gen­er­ate and while there’s al­ways a sur­plus of urge, the ’Stang doesn’t feel as though it’s about to tear your head off and stuff it up your hole. There’s not even a sin­gle trace of blower-whine and ab­so­lutely no hunt­ing or pogo-ing at part throt­tle. But then, when you do start beat­ing on it, the Coyote has a top-end rush that Han Solo would recog­nise.

Even the cat-back doesn’t make the car nasty in any way. Sure, there’s a bit more au­ral in­ter­est, but it never drones on the free­way or threat­ens to give Of­fi­cer Dib­ble an­other rea­son to pull you over. My only ob­ser­va­tion (as op­posed to a full-blown crit­i­cism) is that the throt­tle-by-wire map­ping seems to have been dumbed down a frac­tion, prob­a­bly in the name of emis­sions com­pli­ance. If a re-map of the gas-pedal curve can keep a 500kW-plus car within the leg­is­lated emis­sions pa­ram­e­ters, then dammit, I’ll live with it.

We drove two ver­sions of the Herrod car: a man­ual and an au­to­matic. While the man­ual is prob­a­bly more en­ter­tain­ing (speak­ing per­son­ally), the auto was def­i­nitely the quicker over the 400m. Where the auto pasted down con­sis­tent 12.2s and that one ban­zai 12.1, the best I could do with the man­ual was 12.6 at 196.7km/h. That ter­mi­nal ve­loc­ity strongly sug­gests that there’s a low-12 in the man­ual and be­lieve it or not, I was well and truly into fifth gear be­fore the quar­ter-mile was up. But the man­ual just doesn’t 60-foot like the auto and there goes that half a se­cond.

Now, when I per­son­ally know guys who’ve spent many thou­sands to give an en­gine an ex­tra 100 horse­power, it oc­curs to me that the 200-plus ponies lib­er­ated by the $21,500 Com­pli­ance Pack are to­tally good value nags. That you can drive it past the lo­cal cop shop with­out fear of be­ing set upon and it won’t make your in­surer start gag­ging on their bel­uga is just the ic­ing on the cake. And nice, thick ic­ing it is too, not that thin, wa­tery muck.

Herrod leaves ex­te­rior adorn­ments up to the in­di­vid­ual tastes of the buyer, but we kind of dig the sleeper look, any­way

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Only a few sub­tle badges hint at the monster within – just the way some own­ers will like it

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