Mustang faithful muscling up

Is America’s pony car hairy-chested enough? That so many Kiwi Mustang buyers are immediately implementing increasingly wild performance upgrades suggests not, but Ford’s not worried.


THAT many new Mustang sign-ups have immediately chosen to upgrade their cars’ performance is not a sign that factory outputs are too wussy for Kiwis.

That’s the word from Ford New Zealand, responding to being told more than 100 owners have so far chosen to spend an average $7000 on aftermarket performance kits to rev up their rides.

“It’s a normal thing, right?” Ford New Zealand spokesman Tom Clancy said. “That’s Mustang, isn’t it? The owners are pretty hard core people.”

“You get a lot of enthusiasts who are always tweaking and adding to it. You go onto YouTube and there are countless videos of people who are hotting up Mustangs.”

Even though the local market seems to be stopping short of the excesses of the United States – where some specials are expressing extreme (and extremely expensive) outputs of 745kW to 894kW (that’s 1000 and 1200bhp in the old money) – Kiwis are not being shy about making their cars, especially the already riotous V8 GT, wilder still.

They’re turning to local distributors for America’s big name tuners, many of whom have associated with the pony car for decades. Roush, Hennessey and Shelby are leading lights in an aftermarket business that has hit new stride now that Ford’s decision for right-hand drive production – the first in 50 years – has opened the international doors. The tuners have bought in by creating dedicated right-hook kits and the options are diverse.

Most attention has been meted to the 5.0-litre V8 that purists will always say sits more naturally in the car than the alternate entry 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder that Ford has brought in to give the Blue Oval brawler a green edge.

Even so, the entry engine, which Ford New Zealand believes will ultimately also achieve solid sales (though for now its in the minority league), is not being cold-shouldered.

One particular beneficiary of the power games is CTB Performance and Accessories, an Auckland after-market specialist – ironically for Holden, as well as Ford – that acts for Ford Performance Racing, one of America’s biggest providers.

FPR is brand-sanctioned and CTB owner/operator Sam Bakalich says his operation is the only one working with Ford New Zealand and its dealers.

It’s a different kind of relationship than in America, where FPR parts are available through appointed dealerships, as occurred when Ford Performance Vehicles exists.

However, Ford New Zealand has determined that its business is to simply sell the car so it has chosen to leave the hot stuff in independent hands – a call that means it cannot reap direct return from the fast expanding opportunity.

FPR offers everything from body kits to a wide range of chassis, electrical and driveline enhancements – even race-tuned crate engines - including some from Roush and Hennessey. Bakalich told Motoring Network business is brisk.

“We have 120 cars booked in for various levels of works … I guess that’s not too bad with around 600 cars having come into the country. I’m proud of the number of cars that have come in – it’s a good number for one shop.”

Some dealers were more proactive than others; one standout was a lower North Island operator, Courtesy Ford. “Fifty percent of the cars they have sold have come to us.”

The FPR selection is a manna for fans who might have thought Ford NZ was going lite by only offering a limited range of showroom options, including racing stripes a black roof, nickel lustre alloys and metallic paint.

FPR styling enhancements are much wilder, embracing everything from bespoke body kits comprising body-colour bonnet, body side and quarter window scoops, to 20-inch forged or polished wheels, leather Recaro seats, billet pedals, manual shifter ball and even illuminated door sills.

While Kiwis are picking up on the dress-up items – with wheels and bonnet vent slates being popular choice – they seem even keener to splash out on energizing the engines.

Muscle-building options run from engine management rechips that give a modest 7kW boost but enliven the sound and power feed to the ultimate offer of a supercharging option, co-developed by Roush and FPR, that boosts output from the 303kW factory 5.0-litre to 467kW.

One impending option is a mega Roush Stage 3 supercharger kit first revealed under the bonnet of the King Cobra concept at the 2014 SEMA aftermarket show in the US that delivers the same spec as the 2014 Shelby GT500.

In America this rev up, known as the ‘full stage 3 package’ includes the supercharger kit, plus a quad-outlet active exhaust system, adjustable-height coil-over suspension with extreme-duty Taxles and 20-inch wheels with ultra-high-performance tyres.

It also comes with a full body kit – including a signature bonnet scoop - plus a numbered/signed engine bay plaque and Roush dash medallion.

There are other avenues. Vaunted specialist Shelby, started in 1962 by legend Carroll Shelby – the brains behind the 1966 Ford GT win in which Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren placed first and compatriot Denny Hulme second – is also a player.

While Shelby’s searing and highly collectible naturally-aspired 5.2-litre Shelby GT350 and GT350R will not be produced in right-hand drive, enough Shelby options will also be available to create a similar kind of experience.

Also set to unleash down-under potency is Hennessey, whose HPE700 and HPE750 supercharging upgrades have won huge acclaim in America.

The top shelf reworks can conceivably cost as much as the donor car does; here that’s at least $57,000 for an EcoBoost and $79,880 for a V8 convertible.

For now, the majority of CTB’s customers seem happy to steer away from absolute extreme performance and opting for sometime more livable. Bakavich says presently his most popular V8 option is a Stage Two refettle that takes output to 360kW, a 57kW lift, and adds a sports exhaust, GT strut tower brace, an airbox and engine retune, plus FPR badging.

Clancy says he isn’t surprised, nor disappointed, some customers are “going for the works.”

That’s just how it goes with fans of American performance hardware, especially Mustang. It doesn’t mean the standard engines are under-cooked, he suggested.

He confirmed many brand-new cars were going straight off the delivery boat to CTB “to add some more bits and pieces” even before their owners saw them.

CTB also offers an entry package for the 5.0-litre and can retune the EcoBoost 2.3 to make 230kW, a 7kW lift, or 275kW. That’s still not the extremis: Roush reckons the 2.3 could easily deliver 370kW.

However, Bakalich says relatively few EcoBoost cars have come to CTB.