TICK, TICK, BOOM

Tickfordís hotted-up V8 Mustangs aim to blow Holdenís establishment into premature retirement

WORDS ANDY ENRIGHT PHOTOS CRISTIAN BRUNELLI

HO KNEW that comparing apples and oranges could be this much fun?

The brief was to gather Tickfordís breathed-on Mustangs and see how they stacked up against more familiar home-grown fare from Holden and HSV. For this fleeting snapshot in time, Aussie buyers can back-to-back blue-collar right-hand drive V8s from opposite sides of the Pacific. It was an opportunity too good to pass up, fruit analogy notwithstanding, and with a combined 1574kW of the good stuff split between them, drawing some sort of conclusion from this melee was never going to be a genteel discussion.

In the blue corner we have a pair of pugnacious ponies that Tickford reckons can land first round knockouts on the lineal champs in red. It divides nicely into a dust-up between two naturally aspirated and two supercharged powerplants and thereís not too much to separate them on price. The 304kW Commodore SS-V Redlineís sales proposition is easy to identify. Itís the cheapest car here and in terms of metal for your money, this is the default pick. If youíre cash strapped, read no further. At $54,490 in this manual guise itís ceding a fat wodge of grunt to the Tickford Mustang Power Pack 360, which takes the standard GTís 306kW and adds another 54kW. That seems a hefty amount for an exhaust, cold air intake, throttle body spacer and ECU tweak. Pricing for the engine work alone will set you back $6990 over the standard Mustang GTís $54,990 list.

Upping the ante quite extravagantly is the HSV Clubsport R8 LSA, presented here in 30th Anniversary guise. This sees power creep up 10kW to a thudding 410kW, while torque also eases its belt a little to 691Nm. The only automatic car of the quartet, the Clubbieís $82,490 price tag reads like a misprint when the same amount can just scrape you into an entry level 140kW 1.8-litre Audi A6.

To keep the Clayton hellion on its toes is Tickfordís supercharged Mustang offering. All 500kW of it. This car is still a development work in progress and fills a void created by Ford Australiaís aim of selling a factorywarranted Roush supercharged car falling foul of Australian Design Rules.

Thereís no such worry for Tickford, the company honouring its work for the balance of any existing warranty. Pop the bonnet and the tidily finished Roushbranded blower clamps itself to the top of the Coyote V8 like some sort of belt-driven facehugger. Tack another $19,490 onto the price of the $55K Mustang GT and youíll find yourself behind the wheel of a car with an almost embarrassing surplus of kilowatts.

THEREíS no lake and not really much of a mountain at Lake Mountain. What there is makes the early start from Melbourne well worth the suburban schlep. With the holiday crowds gone, thereís a snaking road to nowhere, nothing open at the end of it and nobody to object to any perky driving. First to be pointed at the bitumen thatís lazily



draped over the hill folds is the SS-V Redline. Thereís a familiarity to slipping into this VFII Commoí and even with Holdenís focused FE3 sports suspension, thereís a languid flow to its body control thatís immediately endearing.

The chassis is decently tied down in extremis and has just enough reassurance about its pitch and roll axes to let you know exactly how hard itís working the tyre contact patches.

Almost everything about the Redline speaks of a car thatís enjoyed some decent budget and a clear development path that traces back over a decade to the introduction of the VE generation. Teething issues have been massaged away one by one, leaving a car that feels admirably suited for local conditions. Itís quick too, especially over roads that throw malevolent compressions, cranky cambers and inconsistent surfaces at it. You need to dial 4000rpm onto the clock to really get the 6.2-litre lump into its stride and while the LS3 has never been an inherently musical engine, the in-cabin note is purposeful enough, largely thanks to that cheap but effective Baillie Tip exhaust. The pedals are beautifully positioned for heel and toeing down through the gears and the brake pedal feel and progression is about as good as it gets, in this class at least. Whatís not so great is visibility through tighter corners, the big-boned A-pillars capable of hiding an oncoming B-double.

The manual gearbox, while not bad of itself, is at odds

FOR THIS SNAPSHOT IN TIME, AUSSIES CAN BACK-TO-BACK V8S FROM OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE PACIFIC

with the efforts of the rest of the Redlineís controls.

The steeringís more delicate than the carís macho affectations might suggest, the pedals reward a deft touch and then thereís this hairy-chested throw that feels like youíre trying to smash an 8-ball pool break.

Whatís more, manual gearboxes with electronic parking brakes as fitted here are a wholly dispiriting combo.

Itís hard to argue with the way the SS-V Ė a vehicle with a bigger footprint than a millennial BMW 7 Series Ė demolishes a set of switchbacks, though. The front end is just mighty, the 19-inch Bridgestones doggedly keying into the scabby blacktop, helped by the benign long-travel brake and accelerator affording the rubber every chance to weasel out any residual adhesion. A consequence of that travel is that you need to really commit to big braking, something that can lead to a heart-in-mouth moment if youíve stepped from something a little more overservoed. Something like a Mustang with the Tickford 360 Power Pack, for example.

Everything is immediately more direct in the Mustang, for better and for worse. On the run to the drag strip at Heathcote, itís apparent that there are some roads where this car just doesnít work very well.

Anything with sudden and sharp compressions quickly sees the short travel suspension run out of answers. Itís the only car Iíve ever climbed out of with bruised pinky fingers from being repeatedly crashed into the steering wheel spokes. Occasionally it feels as if a combination of heave and pitch sends the longitudinal axis a long

HERRODíS ADDED PUFF FOR MAGIC PONIES

Tickford isnít the only local outfit with skin in the blown Mustang game.

Herrod Performance has been upgrading Fords for more than 30 years and officially distributing Ford Performance Parts since 2012. More than 100 supercharged Mustangs have been built at its workshop in North Melbourne.

The Herrod Compliance Package retails for $21,500 and uses a rigorously tested Ford Performance supercharger kit to lift engine power of the Mustang GT to around 500kW. Rob Herrod (right) insists the package (which also includes a sports exhaust, underbody heat-shielding, lowered suspension and Ford Performance badging) is legal everywhere in Australia with certification to prove it. A limited warranty covers all components fitted by Herrod, backed by Ford Performance.

Further cosmetic upgrades include Roush bodykits and Shelby GT350 parts.

Since our test, Ford Australia has confirmed it will offer a selected range of Ford Performance parts through its dealer network. Mustang GT owners can specify a sports exhaust ($3584), lowering springs ($1260) and a short shifter for manual gearboxes ($805). A Track Handling Pack ($4130) adds revised anti-roll bars, dampers and lowering springs.

Ford will apply the same new car warranty of three years/100,000km to all Ford Performance upgrades when fitted at the point of sale.

way aft, the whole front of the car bobbing its head.

Get the Mustang onto a more consistent surface and it feels special. The body control is sharper than the Commodoreís, turn-in is more incisive and throttle mapping far more aggressive. It feels like a supersized Toyota 86 until you try to drift it like a Hachi-roku, whereupon you find that the neurotic throttle response requires equally rapid hands.

The 3.0-inch mandrel-bent exhaust and engine work gives the Coyote 5.0-litre the voice it so signally lacks in standard form. Thereís that characteristic Bullitt wubwub at idle and, unlike many tuner cars, thereís clearly been a lot of work put into linearity of engine response rather than merely achieving a big number. About the biggest compliment youíd pay to the power uptick is that it feels factory-grade.

This car also wears a Tickford wheel and tyre set, featuring 10-spoke satin black alloys and staggered width 20-inch Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT tyres. With tyre pressure sensors, locking wheel nuts, fitting and balancing, thatís going to leave you a McDonaldís mealís worth of change from $4500. Then thereís the Tickford sports suspension that lowers ride height by 25mm for that great hunkered-on-its-rubber look, but which could use a little more gradation in compression damping. The tyres tramline more on city streets than the Holdenís slimmer 19-inch hoops, sniffing out and nibbling at any minuscule contour in the surface.

The engine requires a few more revs on the board than the Redline, getting into its stride at 4500rpm, so you need to be a bit more diligent with gear selection when attacking a tight corner. The pedal box isnít as well set up as the Holden either but the steering feels far meatier, the front end even more tenacious and the brakes feistier, although it requires a more measured pedal application.

The Mustang also sounds much more aggressive on the way out. What it doesnít feel is a lot faster, something that our performance data attests to. The Tickford doesnít get its snout in front until 160km/h, and thereís a mere tenth of a second between the two cars to 400m. For a car with a 56kW power advantage and which is hefting 80-odd kilos less timber up the strip, weíd have expected a wider gap. Time to see if some forced induction can open up a wider advantage.

The HSV Clubsport R8 LSA is a formidable package we know well, and the 30th Anniversary versionís massaged outputs are unlikely to make us like it any less. The bi-modal exhaust has been tweaked on this version to go louder sooner but the biggest news for

THE ATMO TICKFORD DOESNíT GET ITS SNOUT IN FRONT OF THE SS-V REDLINE UNTIL 160KM/H, AND THEREíS A MERE TENTH BETWEEN THEM TO 400M

keen drivers is that the Clubbie not only gets the Bosch torque vectoring set-up as seen on the GTS, but also beefs up the stoppers with chunky four-piston calipers.

Six-piston AP Racing items are an option.

Parked next to the Redline, the HSV looks enormous, the bulkier chin and butt mouldings, lower ride height and more pronounced lateral lines making it look half a class bigger. Itís not a car that shrinks around you on a tight road either, but itís astonishingly lithe for such a hefty unit. The torque vectoring helps here, although that requires some fairly focused throttle commitment to generate that degree or two of yaw to fire you out of a corner in vaguely the right direction. The front end takes longer to trust than in the Redline, largely due to the stiffer sidewall hysteresis of the OE fit Continental ContiSportContact 5P tyres, which grip harder but are a little more taciturn than the Holdenís malleable Bridgestones.

The only car here with an automatic gearbox seemed likely to make a decent show on the strip and so it proved, the Clubbie being comfortably the quickest off the mark, the extravagantly overstuffed supercharged Mustang only coming past above 130km/h. We managed 14.5 seconds to 200km/h in less than perfect conditions.

Away from the straight-line swagger, the 6L90E sixspeed auto isnít quite as satisfying. Most of the time itís still a better fit for the Clubbie than the Tremec manual, but that denial of downshifts as you lean on the brakes into a corner can be frustrating. After a while you give up on pinging the paddles and see if the software can make a better fist of things, which often feels Ė and sounds Ė clumsy.

The Clubsport promises real potency, but it can be caught surprisingly off guard for a supercharged car.

Peak torque is at 4200rpm and peak power a heady 6150rpm. The net result of this is that it feels more significantly less linear in its power delivery than you might expect. The flipside of this is that itís endowed with a surge to the redline thatís laugh-out-loud hysterical. I havenít heard such a manic shriek since Uncle Martin snagged his scrotum in a split plastic sun lounger while on holiday in Milford-on-Sea. For a car thatís so refined at cruising speeds, this unhinged duality of personality sets the HSV apart.

The supercharged Mustang doesnít do bandwidth.

Getting in this car at the start of a challenging road is like being thrown into a Central American prison.

Your mouth goes a bit dry, youíre hyper alert and you know youíre going to have to wrestle it into submission before it escalates the violence out of hand. It has no benign side. That said, it shares the same suspension set-up as its atmo sibling, which is fantastic on the Lake Mountain road. Nothing can really live with the black car up here. Full throttle is something you need to work up to, and keeping the throttle pinned for even a handful of seconds sends a raucous caterwauling howl across the valley, overlaid by the shrill keening of the supercharger. Itís hilariously traction-limited, notching the sprint to 100km/h only four-tenths quicker than its naturally aspirated sibling, but it reaches 200km/h fully five seconds ahead. We donít have many roads that really do this car justice.

Point-and-squirting up here in the hills will do for now, though. The steering feels best in its heaviest mode, working nicely with the MT82 manual íbox. The auto would make life easier, but the manual suits the blown Mustang. The rest of the car puts no effort into making life easy, so why not stick with three pedals? Besides, it sounds so much cooler when you blip a big flare of revs on the way into a hairpin when you know the HSV driver behind is flailing impotently at a plastic flap and hoping for the best. If you absolutely must win traffic light

THE SUPERCHARGED MUSTANG DOESNíT DO BANDWIDTH. IT HAS NO BENIGN SIDE

WHO IS TICKFORD?

Aside from the name, thereís no real link between this Tickford and the Tickford who used to make gofaster Ford Capris and custom work for Aston Martin Lagonda. Most of us will associate Tickford with fast Falcons such as the first XR8 and the AU TE50, developed by FTE (Ford Tickford Experience).

This outfit was acquired by Prodrive in 2001, and rebranded to Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV). With Ford and Prodrive pulling the plug on V8 Supercars, Rusty French and Rod Nash have stepped in to buy the racing team and have acquired the Tickford brand as part of the deal.

HOLDEN SS-V REDLINE

64 wheelsmag.com.au Performance Power-to-weight: 170kW per tonne Redline/cut-out: 6000/6250rpm Speed at indicated 100km/h: 95 Speed in gears 69km/h @ 6000rpm 100km/h @ 6000rpm 144km/h @ 6000rpm 206km/h @ 6000rpm 250km/h @ 5170rpm* 250km/h @ 4150rpm* Standing-start acceleration 0-20km/h: 0.9sec 0-40km/h: 1.7sec 0-60km/h: 2.6sec 0-80km/h: 4.0sec 0-100km/h: 5.3sec 0-120km/h: 7.5sec 0-140km/h: 9.4sec 0-160km/h: 12.0sec 0-180km/h: 14.9sec 0-200km/h: 18.5sec 0-400m: 13.6sec @ 171.3km/h Rolling acceleration: 3rd/4th/5th/6th 80-12Okm/h: 3.4/4.7/8.2/12.5sec Braking distance 10Okm/h-0: 35.8m

Verdict 8.5/10 All-round sporting appeal; ride/ handling compromise; amazing value Heavy-duty manual shift; A-pillar blind spot; the end of an Aussie era Track: Heathcote dragstrip, dry. Temp: 22ļC.

Driver: Nathan Ponchard. Warranty: 3yr/100,000km.

Service interval: 9 months/15,000km. Glassís 3-year resale: 41%. AAMI Insurance: $1418. * Speed limited. ** Includes ($550 prestige paint). 1 2 3 4 5 6 $54,490/Tested $57,740** Drivetrain Engine V8 (90ļ), ohv, 16v Layout front engine (north-south), rear drive Capacity 6162cc Power 304kW @ 6000rpm Torque 570Nm @ 4400rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Chassis Body steel, 4 doors, 5 seats L/W/H/WĖB 4966/1898/1471/2915mm Front/rear track 1593/1608mm Weight 1793kg Boot capacity 496 litres Fuel/capacity 98 octane/71 litres Fuel consumption 16.4L/100km (test average) Suspension Front: struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar Rear: multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar Steering electric rack-and-pinion Turning Circle 11.4m (2.7 turns lock-to-lock) Front brakes ventilated discs (355mm) Rear brakes ventilated discs (360mm) Tyres Bridgestone Potenza RE050A Tyre size 245/40R19 (f), 275/35R19 (r) Safety NCAP rating (Aus)

HSV CLUBSPORT LSA 30

Power-to-weight: 217kW per tonne Redline/cut-out: none/6150rpm Speed at indicated 100km/h: 97 Speed in gears 62km/h @ 6150rpm 107km/h @ 6150rpm 164km/h @ 6150rpm 219km/h @ 6150rpm 250km/h @ 5200rpm* 250km/h @ 4100rpm* Standing-start acceleration 0-20km/h: 0.8sec 0-40km/h: 1.6sec 0-60km/h: 2.4sec 0-80km/h: 3.4sec 0-100km/h: 4.6sec 0-120km/h: 6.0sec 0-140km/h: 7.7sec 0-160km/h: 9.7sec 0-180km/h: 12.2sec 0-200km/h: 15.1sec 0-400m: 12.7sec @ 183.9km/h Rolling acceleration: Drive 80-12Okm/h: 2.6sec Braking distance 10Okm/h-0: 33.3m 9.0/10 Huge pace and ability for the money; soundtrack; character; styling; space Mass and grunt work tyres/brakes hard; manual better in corners Track: Heathcote dragstrip, dry. Temp: 22ļC.

Driver: Nathan Ponchard. Warranty: 3yr/100,000km. Service interval: 9 months/15,000km. Glassís 3-year resale: 47%.

AAMI Insurance: n/a. * Speed limited. ** Includes six-piston AP Racing brake upgrade($4648). $85,490/Tested $90,138** V8 (90ļ), ohv, 16v, supercharger front engine (north-south), rear drive 6162cc 410kW @ 6150rpm 691Nm @ 4200rpm 6-speed automatic steel, 4 doors, 5 seats 4991/1899/1453/2915mm 1616/1590mm 1890kg 496 litres 98 octane/71 litres 20.2L/100km (test average) Front: struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar Rear: multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar electric rack-and-pinion 11.4m (2.7 turns lock-to-lock) ventilated discs (367mm) ventilated discs (372mm) Continental ContiSportContact 5P 255/35R20 (f), 275/35R20 (r) (Aus)

TICKFORD MUSTANG 360

Power-to-weight: 206kW per tonne Redline/cut-out: 6600/7000rpm Speed at indicated 100km/h: 96 Speed in gears 66km/h @ 6600rpm 99km/h @ 6600rpm 142km/h @ 6600rpm 183km/h @ 6600rpm 240km/h @ 6600rpm* 250km/h @ 4500rpm* Standing-start acceleration 0-20km/h: 0.9sec 0-40km/h: 1.9sec 0-60km/h: 2.8sec 0-80km/h: 4.1sec 0-100km/h: 5.4sec 0-120km/h: 7.6sec 0-140km/h: 9.3sec 0-160km/h: 11.9sec 0-180km/h: 14.5sec 0-200km/h: 19.8sec 0-400m: 13.7sec @ 174.4km/h Rolling acceleration: 3rd/4th/5th/6th 80-12Okm/h: 2.9/3.8/5.5/11.5sec Braking distance 10Okm/h-0: not tested 8.0/10 Gives atmo Mustang the bent-eight burble it deserves; looks brilliant Performance gain over standard V8 GT not huge; barely a four-seater Track: Heathcote dragstrip, dry. Temp: 22ļC. Driver: Nathan Ponchard. Warranty: 3yr/100,000km.

Service interval: 12 months/15,000km. Glassís 3-year resale: n/a. AAMI Insurance: n/a. * Speed limited. ** Includes 360 Power Pack ($6990), wheel & tyre package ($4490), sports suspension ($3990) and leather upgrade ($4490). $54,990/Tested $74,950** V8 (90ļ), dohc, 32v front engine (north-south), rear drive 4951cc 360kW @ 6500rpm 585Nm @ 4250rpm 6-speed manual steel, 2 doors, 4 seats 4784/1916/1366/2720mm 1582/1655mm 1747kg 383 litres 98 octane/61 litres 16.9L/100km (test average) Front: struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar Rear: multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar electric rack-and-pinion 12.2m (2.6 turns lock-to-lock) ventilated discs (380mm) ventilated discs (330mm) Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 265/35R20 (f), 295/30R20 (r) (Aus)

TICKFORD MUSTANG 500

Power-to-weight: 277kW per tonne Redline/cut-out: 6600/7000rpm Speed at indicated 100km/h: 96 Speed in gears 66km/h @ 6600rpm 99km/h @ 6600rpm 142km/h @ 6600rpm 183km/h @ 6600rpm 240km/h @ 6600rpm* 250km/h @ 4500rpm* Standing-start acceleration 0-20km/h: 0.9sec 0-40km/h: 1.7sec 0-60km/h: 2.7sec 0-80km/h: 3.6sec 0-100km/h: 5.0sec 0-120km/h: 6.2sec 0-140km/h: 7.8sec 0-160km/h: 9.4sec 0-180km/h: 12.2sec 0-200km/h: 14.4sec 0-400m: 12.8sec @ 185.4km/h Rolling acceleration: 3rd/4th/5th/6th 80-12Okm/h: 2.2/3.4/5.4/8.0sec Braking distance 10Okm/h-0: 37.9m 8.5/10 Wildly potent and adrenalin inducing; bad-arse black Struggles to put full power down at times; limited hard-driven range Track: Heathcote dragstrip, dry. Temp: 22ļC.

Driver: Nathan Ponchard. Warranty: 3yr/100,000km. Service interval: 12 months/15,000km. Glassís 3-year resale: n/a.

AAMI Insurance: n/a. * Speed limited. ** Includes Supercharger Power Pack ($15,500), exhaust and rear diffuser ($3990), wheel & tyre package ($4490), sports suspension ($3990) and leather upgrade ($4490). $54,990/Tested $87,450** V8 (90ļ), dohc, 32v, supercharger front engine (north-south), rear drive 4951cc 500kW @ 6850rpm 739Nm @ 5000rpm 6-speed manual steel, 2 doors, 4 seats 4784/1916/1366/2720mm 1582/1655mm 1807kg 383 litres 98 octane/61 litres 19.3L/100km (test average) Front: struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar Rear: multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar electric rack-and-pinion 12.2m (2.6 turns lock-to-lock) ventilated discs (380mm) ventilated discs (330mm) Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 265/35R20 (f), 295/30R20 (r) (Aus)

drags, then a Mustang probably isnít the best car for you anyway. Itís a sorry realisation that more often than not, youíll be blitzed by an A45 AMG.

Placing these cars in any kind of order seems invidious. The supercharged Mustang is by far the biggest event, with charisma in spades and no shortage of talent either. If pressed, Iíd probably forgo the suspension mods and just opt for the engine work. The pitiful 61-litre fuel tank combined with its frightening thirst inject a bit of tedium into the Tickfordís day-today functionality, having you planning cross-country strops like a Tesla owner. On balance, the highs this supercharged Tickford delivers more than compensate for the frequent servo visits.

The HSV Clubsport R8 LSA is endowed with far more bandwidth. It can do grey Monday morning commutes as happily as itíll tackle a track day at Phillip Island. Itís hard to knock the value proposition, the Clubbie having been worked into a hugely impressive all-rounder. Itís too big for its own good as a sporting car and that places huge demands on consumables like tyres and brakes but otherwise grumbling feels churlish.

The Tickford Mustang Power Pack 360 progressively wormed its way into our affections, however the V8 coupeís appeal is as a budget sports car and piling on extras soon sees the bottom fall out of your value proposition. It never feels as quick as the manufacturer claims but it now has that extra V8 attitude that the standard íStang lacks. For $62K, if you just opt for the exhaust and engine tweaks, itís an easy recommendation. For Australian roads, the suspension work probably needs a do-over.

The car that everybody said theyíd buy if they were spending their own money was the unassuming SS-V Redline. Thatís as good as a winning definition as youíre likely to get and itís rare that the slowest and least extrovert car of the bunch will win the popular vote. We donít subscribe to the Ďeverybody gets a medalí school of thought here at Wheels, but these are four very worthy performance cars. The Commodore just gets more right more often, and for less money than any of the others, and thatís testament to the experience in local tuning. Itís no surprise that the best car Iíve driven on a British B-road is a Lotus Elise, the best car to tackle a French autoroute is a big, soft Peugeot wagon, and the finest autobahn weapon Iíve sampled is a Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG. For covering kilometres in Australia, the SS-V just flat-out works.

The Mustang will doubtless come very good, but itís a work in progress, trying to hit the ground running to finesse something that Holden has taken years to learn. This VFII isnít going to be around for too long, however, and weíll miss it when itís gone. Whereas the Falcon felt as if it had run its course, the rear-drive Commodore is going out at the top of its game. Yet the Tickford Mustangs lay down a heck of a marker in this asymmetrical skirmish, and fans of blue-collar V8 muscle arenít about to be short-changed. Setting aside old allegiances? That might take a bit longer.