The SN95 Mustang is not a common car in Brazil. In fact, there are less than 100 of them in the entire country. However, it’s not the rarity alone which makes this car a standout; this once ordinary Mustang now serves as a rolling billboard for Sao Paulo’s best-known Ford-oriented speed shop, BTS Performance. Ken Osborne handles the tuning and provides consulting services for certain builds, while Fernando Batista owns and manages the company. Between the two of them, Fernando’s father, and a bucket of leftover parts, this once basic Mustang went from bland to truly exceptional.
The BTS-built Mustang is still a street-driven car, but just barely. The fixed seats, cage, and creature comfort removal keep it from being a daily driver. The fact that earplugs are necessary for a drive to the movie theater doesn’t help the car appeal to anyone other than racers with a masochistic streak. Between the bellow of the Windsor engine and the whine of the racing gearbox, the experience in the cabin could never be called pleasant. Still, it is road legal and it gets driven around the streets of Sao Paulo every so often. That’s done mostly for marketing purposes, though it’s a more effective sales tool when it’s demonstrating its capabilities at the track.
This SN95 started as a base model car; bone-stock, V6 engine, and unimpressive by any measure. However, it was cheap because it had been wrecked by a client, who lacked the funds to repair it. As we’ve learned, Mustangs aren’t quite so plentiful and affordable outside the United States.
Luckily, Batista had also been accumulating a stockpile of SN95 parts from years of working on customers’ vehicles. This is mainly from discounting work if the client wants to leave their take-off parts. The availability of parts and the heavy import taxation makes this practice normal. All imported parts incur an 80 percent import tax. This made the prospect of converting the V6 to GT specs reasonable—even full track preparation wouldn’t break the bank.
BTS began by stripping the car of the major creature comforts. The car was void of most parts with the exception of its original glass, dash, door panels, and some of the carpeting. The suspension and brakes were converted to GT spec using mostly stock parts, with the exception of some lowering springs and a set of used struts. The rubber bushings in the suspension arms were replaced with polyurethane for some much-needed crispness. However, they did not modify the suspension mounting points. The next step was to bolt a set of 17×10-inch wheels on the chassis, for its intended purpose of being thrashed on the track.
One of the important Ford parts Batista utilized on the build was the engine, nicknamed “Hero.” This 351W-based, 408 cubic-inch engine has powered several different race-cars over the last few decades.
The engine’s reliability was only part of its significance. “Hero” was built by Batista’s father, Senhor Batista. One of Brazil’s first hot rodders, Batista Sr. is a respected figure who’s known for his capabilities with Ford engines. Part of Batista Sr.’s appeal in such a tax-limited environment is due to his history of building incredibly reliable engines without using unrealistic parts.
The engine was last refreshed about a decade ago, yet it still puts down an impressive 500 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels. Originally, the engine was run with a carburetor and distributor setup, but it now relies on a FuelTech 500 ECU to control both fuel and spark. It also enjoys the occasional 100-shot of nitrous.
To handle that grunt, Batista decided on a Jerico five-speed dogbox. This five-speed transmission is stout, compact, and was already in Batista’s possession after being removed from a previous project. What is unique about this transmission is that it still retains its original magnesium case. Batista also happened to have the rear axle from a 2012 GT500 laying around, so that was installed, as well. With these parts in place, the car was ready for its lapping foray at Interlagos—or so they thought.
At the first track session, the brakes quickly faded and boiled the brake fluid. The stock V6 power steering pump grenaded after just a few laps, which forced them to loop the power steering lines and run without power steering. The stock radiator wasn’t adequate for the demands of long sessions in the middle of summer. Additionally, with the power the car now made, it was able to reach 150 mph at the end of the straightaway, just before entering the corner known as “Senna’s Curve.” Without any real aero, every entry into that tight left was less than pleasant.
Raising The Bar At BTS
Following a frustrating first track day, Batista brought the car back to BTS and began planning the next round of modifications. The first step was a custom widebody kit modeled after the legendary 2000 Cobra R. Underneath the wider haunches, they squeezed a set of 13-inch wide wheels on all corners. Next, they sourced a complete k-member and front suspension from Maximum Motorsports. While the new k-member offers a few options to improve suspension geometry, the BTS team found that the widened track would need additional fabrication to move the suspension mounting points to provide the geometry they were after.
In addition to the front suspension geometry, BTS reviewed and adjusted the rear suspension setup. The car ended up with a custom tri-link and Panhard bar. This allowed the live-axle chassis to handle surprisingly well. With the geometry satisfactory, BTS sourced a set of custom-valved Bilstein shocks, and converted the suspension to use readily available 2.5-inch motorsports springs. This opened up a world of spring rate possibilities to properly dial in the chassis. Combined with height adjusters, the car could now be properly corner balanced. BTS opted for linear-rate springs for a little more predictability.
A growing footprint underneath a heavy car necessitated bigger brakes. BTS picked a set of Wilwood six-piston calipers clamping 13.5-inch rotors on the front. The rear received a set of four-piston calipers with 11-inch rotors. To make the most of the added braking performance and give that extra few degrees of control over middle pedal modulation, they ditched the stock power brake system for a Tilton pedal box. With separate master cylinders for both axles, the distribution could now be quickly adjusted.
Next on the list was the cooling system. They upgraded to a high-flow water pump and machined a custom pulley that would allow the water pump to avoid over-spinning or cavitation. Combining these modifications with an enormous Griffin aluminum radiator and hood vents resolved the cooling issues.
This was also the point at which they swapped the carburetors for a Fueltech FT500 system. Of all the benefits EFI brought, perhaps the best was the ability to use different fuels. Osborne worked his magic getting the motor accustomed to Brazilian E98, which is ubiquitous and affordable.
The FT500 was also used to control the nitrous spray, run failsafes, and improve fuel delivery. The last objective entailed sourcing a different reluctor wheel for the crank trigger for cam synchronization, as well as switching to sequential injection. That switch alone found nearly 40 horsepower.
With the suspension and powerplant near optimal configuration, it was time to address the aerodynamics. Batista knew he was going to need to prevent lift, so the BTS team went for the true racer’s favorite material when creating sturdy, functional aero parts: plywood.
They shaped this basic material into a durable and functional front splitter that is adjustable by way of turnbuckle supports, which tie into the front bumper. The splitter extends under the front half of the chassis, and the car has a belly pan extending all the way back to the rear axle. This configuration complicates oil changes, but it’s great for preventing lift and increasing downforce.
After the belly pan, Batista designed and had his fabricators build a complete rear diffuser out of aluminum sheetmetal. An APR Performance wing with BTS’ brackets compliments the rear. This wing is designed to locate the center of aero pressure in the best position possible.
Determining the ideal mounting position is no simple task. The mounting point on the chassis must be strong enough to handle the added force generated by the wing. Additionally, the fore/aft position and height of the wing play a role in how the aerodynamic download is applied to the chassis. In real terms, raising the wing has a tendency to move the majority of aerodynamic pressure forward, and moving the spoiler forward or aft will help balance the added drag.
A Sharper Stab
Confident in their revitalized Mustang, the team strutted back to Interlagos in search of a few seconds. After a few shakedown laps on tired tires, Batista threw on a set of Pirelli slicks and made the chassis adjustments to get the car to his liking. He also uncorked the nitrous for a little assistance down the straights.
Within a few laps, Batista looked at his lap timer and rejoiced; a 1:44.7 at Interlagos put his car ahead of most European sports cars and even several supercars. In comparison, Brazilian Stock Car Pro Series vehicles are stiffer, more efficient, and more powerful, but only lap a few seconds faster than this street car-turned track toy.
But just as soon as the thrill faded, Batista lost interest in the vehicle. He had done what he set out to do, and rather than continue to whittle away at lap times, he put the Mustang up for sale. Osborne, however, had not moved on…he decided to buy the car for himself.
This sale was contingent on “Hero” remaining with Batista and Batista Sr., which didn’t concern Osborne at all. He already had plans for something a little newer to modernize the car. Osborne purchased a Gen 2 Coyote engine with a Boss manifold, long tube headers, L&M cams, and a Ford Racing Control Pack: all that was needed to usher in a new era for this ever-evolving collection of parts.
When the engine is sitting snugly in its new home, Osborne will use an AIM dash to easily keep an eye on things, log all the relevant CAN bus data, and lap times via GPS. He also decided to ditch the Jerico transmission in favor of a Tremec T56 Magnum modified with dog-ring gears and an S1 sequential shifter. If the car could nudge 150 mph with the previous powertrain, what will it be capable of with the modernized setup?
Adding power and shortening shift times aren’t the only ways he hopes to improve the cars’ acceleration. Osborne also plans to lighten the chassis by scrapping what remains of the interior trim and exchanging the stock glass with Lexan. Civility be damned; he’s got a perfectly stock ‘18 GT for street driving.
Eventually, Osborne and this SN95 Mustang might find their way into wheel-to-wheel racing. But with the money already invested, it’s not surprising he’s decided to put safety first and avoid any wheel-banging for the time being. Once he’s sharpened his skills and fine-tuned the car through time attack and track days, he’ll consider trading paint with Brazilian Pro Stock Cars and the like.
One step at a time, boys. One step at a time.