Rare breed

AUSSIE DRIVE Roush-tuned Ford Mustang

by DAVID MORLEY pics CRISTIAN BRUNELLI

Why wait for the herd to arrive when this right-hooked íStang from Mustang Motorsport is ready to be saddled up?

S EEMS like everybody is on the edge of their seats waiting for the all-new Mustang to hit Aussie showrooms, and even when it does lob, thereís a chance demand will mean youíll need to wait your turn to get your mitts on a new Pony. But head honcho of Melbourne-based Mustang Motorsport, Craig Dean, isnít that patient. So his solution has been to import his own Mustang and convert it to right-hand drive himself. Patience may well be a virtue, but sometimes youíve just gotta act.

Obviously, this is doing it the hard way, so why wouldnít he just wait until local examples arrive, grab one of those and save himself a whole mess of toil moving the tiller across the cabin? Well, it pays to remember that Dean has lots of experience converting cars from left- to right-hook, and his Crossover Car Conversions company has the skills to prototype stuff like the new firewall required for the switch. But thereís more to it than that.

ďWe wanted to be first,Ē he explains. ďAnd our customers want to be first with the latest.Ē

Dean already has one customer to prove the point.

She snapped up the sister car to this one, figuring the extra cash was worth it to be cruising around in a new S

Forget about getting cute in fi rst gear, because itíll just end in a smoke-fest

Mustang instead of ringing the Ford dealer and asking ďwhen?Ē every few days.

Itís also true that having a Mustang on the road now enables Mustang Motorsport to showcase its range of special bits, some of which have been developed locally, others coming from the hallowed house of Roush Industries in the US. That ability to showcase whatís possible with a new Pony car is even more important when you consider that Ford Australia has no plans to import the tastier, high-end, hi-po variants of the íStang. This means, of course, that if you want a nag with more drag, you need to be talking to people like Mustang Motorsport, or Rob Herrod.

So, how is this car different from the stuff youíll be able to get over the counter at a Ford dealership? It starts with details like the central gauge cluster, the vented GT bonnet, Recaro chairs and the fact that the line-locker that our nanny-state authorities have ruled out for Australia is still functioning (along with launch control).

Locally developed gear includes the coil-over suspension, two-piece front rotors (the calipers are already Brembo units) and a stiffening kit for the rear suspension cradle to dial axle-tramp out of the independent-rear-suspension equation.

The Roush gear, meanwhile, starts with the body kit that leads off with a new grille, front bumper and splitter. Then thereís the bonnet scoop, guard flutes, winglets on the side-skirts, rear spoiler, upper and lower quarter-panel scoops and the rear valance.

The headline act from Roush is the supercharger, a twin-screw unit with 2.3 litres of displacement, a water-to-air intercooler, cold-air intake and an axle-back exhaust with a bi-modal valve and four tips (which forced the new valance). On the dyno, the combo grunts out 468kW at the crank (hence the R627 tag) and, combined with the Performance Pack GT Mustangís 3.73:1 Torsen LSD, Getrag sixspeed manual and a set of just-released 20-inch TSW ĎBathurstí alloys (9.0-inch at the front; 10.0-inch out back) youíve got yourself a pretty serious piece of hardware. Looks tough, too.

My first attempt to slide into the driverís seat is made a bit more complicated than it should have been thanks to the too-low steering column, a generic Ford thing given my experience with FG Falcons.

Turns out that, no, it was set up that way to make the set-up perfect for when this carís showroom duties are done and the race-seat goes in (Dean is a keen competitor on the tarmac rally scene, and this car will eventually be turned to that task). Yes, the column is adjustable, but even at the top of its travel, itís too close to my knees. Ah well.

Things improve when I give the starter-button a jab and the blown 5.0-litre blatts into life. This thing is loud, although closing the bi-model flap would shut it up. But Iím not here for that, am I?

The shifter isnít quite rifle-bolt sharp, but itís not far off it. So can somebody please tell me, then, how a mob can make a shifter so good and then fit it with a reverse lock-out collar that rattles on every shift? Americanos, eh? The clutch itself, though, is extremely light, yet has a positive feel, and it lets you in on precisely where the friction point lives. This is not an engine youíre going to be stalling first up, either Ė it feels like it has plenty of flywheel and itís smooth to boot.

The ratios in the six-speed manual seem to be relatively short for the first five gears, with a big jump to the super-overdriven sixth (100 kliks in top equals about 1700rpm). Thanks to those closely stacked first five, fifth gear is viable even in 70km/h traffic and its feel encourages you to shift up early.

Get the thing spinning above about 2000rpm, however, and you can feel the meat of that 10 or 11 pounds of boost wading in to the fight. Go further íround the tacho face and the Coyote just gets more and more serious. By the time youíre getting anywhere near redline, the thing is going off its nut. Not in a bad way, mind, and thereís never any blower-belt whine or other hysterics from under the lid.

There is, however, a monumental racket from those four exhaust tips. And the DOHC, blown-and-injected wonder has that neat trick of feeling and sounding like all the good bits of an old-school V8. It has the full-fat mid-range, for instance, and, I swear, the noise totally reminds me of an old 351 Cleveland at full chat, including the bass notes and that distinctive thongclap racket when youíre poking it with the really sharp stick. But while it does well torque-wise as you get to

around 3500rpm, the engine is also remarkably linear and progressive.

What you put in with the right foot is always met with the output at the back wheels youíre expecting.

Of course, even with 295mm rear Dunlop Sport Maxxes, there are always sufficient newton-metres heading through the driveshafts to unhook them. In fact, you can forget about getting cute in first gear, because itíll just end in a smoke-fest. Even rolling off in second and jumping on the noise will see the hoops melting before 4000rpm has been logged.

Happily, though, the braced rear cradle seems to do the job it was designed for and the wheelspin is easily managed and doesnít send the whole car into a juddering spasm of axle tramp. If Ė and itís a big if Ė you could hook it all up, youíd be looking at a lazy low-12-second car here. But youíd want a can of VHT with you on the day. Dean reckons the independent rear suspension leaves space under the car for a set of 305mm rears, and, after the supercharger box, thatíd be the first one Iíd be ticking.

This isnít a one-trick pony, and the sticky tyres and taut chassis play along. The coil-overs were set for our test drive at about the mid-way point for stiffness, and itís quite remarkable how well the thing rides.

Thereís a hint of dullness through the helm in the manner of most modern power-steering systems, but the car is relatively pointy without feeling flighty.

Thereís a toggle-switch that changes the weighting of the steering, but setting it to Sport just seems to add weight, not feel. This made some corners a graceless series of stabs, as the tiller suddenly didnít want to be moved from where it was pointing at that moment.

The Mustang could be a bit nose-heavy, too, but youíre going to need to take it to a racetrack to really explore that territory.

Dynamically, the biggest complaint is driveline shunt. Itís not as bad as some Iíve driven, but I canít recall a single full-sized, rear-drive Ford product Iíve ever driven with a manual íbox that didnít snatch and root at low speed, in a low gear, on light throttle.

Again, Iíve driven a lot worse than this one, but it still surprises me that it should be so in 2015.

The quality of the left-to-right conversion is flawless from what I could see, but it does lead to some elements that, to be fair, have to be called characteristics rather than flaws. For instance, the original driverís footrest remains in the passengerís footwell (no point removing it and leaving a big hole in the carpet, Dean says) and the bonnet release is still on the left.

That this is not a factory supercharged car is also evident from the gauge in the dash which measures manifold vacuum and, predictably, goes utterly off the scale when you start making boost. Other oddities include the bonnet scoop which is non-functional and the plastic covers over the rear three-quarter windows that turn an already big blind-spot into a monster that makes lane-changing a captainís call in the truest political sense of the term. If this was my Mustang, Jack Roush would be keeping those covers.

Anyway, none of that stuff would be a deal-breaker for most people, and at the core of this thing is a very fast, very capable car that suggests the whole Mustang thing will gain legs in this country.

So you want to get your hands on a Mustang- Motorsport enhanced, Roush-blown Mustang, how do you get one? Actually, you donít. Thereís simply no point in converting a left-hooker when you can start with an Australian-delivered car with the steering wheel already in the right spot. Besides which, this car would cost something like $175,000 to replicate, and that just wonít add up for would-be Mustang buyers.

So, this car is one of only two that will ever be made this way.

The point is, all the bits and pieces that make this one so impressive will work with your locally delivered íStang. And the good news is you can cherry-pick the parts you want and pass on the ones you donít. M

Roush? Who's he?

The man behind the legend

BORN in 1942, Jack Roush heads up Roush Industries, which now employs 3000 people, mainly in the engineering and prototyping side of the transport industry.

But the Roush brand is best known for its motorsport activities and the rap sheet is a corker. It covers stock-car (NASCAR), sportscar and drag racing, and includes 32 championships and more than 400 wins over more than four decades.

Roush moved to Detroit in 1964 to work for Ford and was immediately drawn to the motorsport world, joining a group of like-minded individuals called The Fastbacks in about 1966. By 1970, Roush was running successful drag-racing teams and, in 1976, he formed Jack Roush Performance Engineering.

In the 1980s, it was sportscar racing and then NASCAR at the end of the decade. Roush has also supplied engines and pretty much everything else to other supersuccessful race teams around the world. These days, the focus is on designing and making fully integrated performance gear using the knowledge gained from nearly 50 years on race tracks. Stuff like the blower on this car, for instance.

MUSTANG MOTORSPORT R627

BODY 2-door, 4-seat coupe DRIVE rear -wheel ENGINE 4951cc V8, DOHC, 32v, supercharger BORE/STROKE 92.2 x 92.7mm COMPRESSION 11.0:1 POWER 468kW @ 6800rpm TORQUE 729Nm @ 4500rpm POWER/WEIGHT 278kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual WEIGHT 1681kg (stock GT) SUSPENSION (F) A-arms, coil-overs, anti-roll bar SUSPENSION(R) multi-links, coil-overs, anti-roll bar L/W/H 4784/1916/1381mm WHEELBASE 2720mm TRACKS 1570/1637mm (f/r) STEERING Electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion BRAKES (F) 380mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers BRAKES (R) 330mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers WHEELS 20.0 x 9.0-inch (f); 20 x 10.0-inch (r) TYRE SIZES 265/35 ZR20 (99Y) (f); 295/30 ZR20 (r) TYRE Dunlop Sport Maxx Race PRICE AS TESTED $175,000 (est) RATING 1111

If Ė and itís a big if Ė you could hook it all up, youíd be looking at a lazy low-12-second car