Project Car Updates: 2015 Mustang EcoBoost, Project 5-Liter Eater

The EcoBoost engine represents an all new technology for the Mustang. While the idea of a turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang goes back to 1979 and the special edition Indianapolis Pace Car, the Mustang has been without such an engine for nearly 30 years. Not since the Euro-inspired SVO model bowed in 1986 has a turbo four graced the Mustang’s engine bay.

Project 5-Liter Eater is our 2015 Mustang EcoBoost Roush RS1. This car will serve as a daily driver, while also making many trips to the auto cross, drag strip, and even a few open track or high performance driving events. We intend to build up this car with every bolt-on performance enhancing part on the market so far, and then go further with it.
With better weight distribution than the Mustang GT, and a nearly 300 pound weight advantage, the EcoBoost doesn’t have to make as much power, it just has to get in the ballpark and let its other advantages take over from there. Can we match the performance of a 5.0 with less than half the displacement, and only a turbocharger to make up the difference? Time, and our ability to build and tune this car will be the judge. We’re already impressed by just how good the car is stock, breaking a few hearts at the track, doesn’t look like it’ll be problem.

7/31/15 – Bringing Home Some Hardware

We’ve been working on upgrades and improvements for Project 5-Lieter-Eater for quite some time. Most of those you’ve read about here and a few are yet to be printed. Recent improvements that you’ll soon read about include replacing the wastegate actuator with one from Turbosmart, as well as throwing just about everything from the BMR Suspension catalog at the rear suspension. We also managed to get our hands on some Ford Racing parts for the rearend, including a new set of gears, differential, and a pair of half-shafts.

Of course, all these upgrades are no good if we don’t test them in the real world, after all we’re StangTV, and we’re all about enthusiasts. This car is a daily driver and a weekend autocross racer. It’s also going to see some drag strip testing in the near future just to mix things up a bit.

After our most recent round of upgrades was completed by our pals at London Chassis Dyno we headed back out to the Kentucky SCCA club’s recent meet, Points Event 5 (PE5). PE5 was held at National Corvette Museum Motorsports park (NCM). Now, while some of you may groan – what is a Mustang doing on a Corvette track? Let us explain. NCM is an ideal place to race, no matter what you drive. The road course aside, there is a 22 acre autocross skid pad here. The skid pad is paved with the same track-grade asphalt as the road course. This makes for a high friction surface that offers the kind of grip you can only dream of when racing on the typical parking lot surface of most autocross meets. The huge skid pad also makes for some exciting and fast autocross course layouts, and you don’t have to negotiate around any light poles, or parking lot landscape islands.

At PE5 we found that the changes recently made to our project car were all for the better. Despite blistering late July temperatures, 5-Liter-Eater was running better than ever on the course. The KYSCCA did a great job setting up this course design, and without giving too much away from the upcoming article on the new BMR suspension parts, the car was performing impressively through the cones.

At the end of the day, we walked away with a third place finish in the CAM-C class (Classic American Muscle Contemporary), and Editor Creason’s first ever Autocross trophy. Not too shabby for a car with competition that has double the cylinders and double the displacement, and a driver who is in only his first year of Autocross.

What’s next for 5-Liter-Eater? Stories on deck include a MGW shifter upgrade, Turbosmart Wastegate actuator, BMR Suspension upgrades, AEM AQ-1 data acquisition install, a rebuild of the IRS 8.8 rearend, and host of many more upgrades that we can’t even tell you about yet. For now, enjoy the bumper cam video we’ve included and strap in for more as we continue exploring the potential of the S550 chassis and the 2.3 liter EcoBoost engine.

6/5/15 Back on Track

Photo credit: William Reddifer

We’ve been pushing our 2015 Mustang EcoBoost pretty hard. Recently you read about the upgrades from Roush, and UPR. We’ve been working with Turbosmart, BMR, and a few others as well. However, as the car sits right now -excluding the Roush package, we have added less than $1,000 retail value worth of parts upgrades.

After our autocross exploits, our stock tires are no longer road or track worthy.

With the S550 chassis being such a great handling package out of the box, editor Creason has been pushing the car hard in autocross lately. We’ve been running in the SCCA’s CAM-C class, which is for contemporary American Muscle cars from 1979 and newer. The class allows for virtually any modification outside of running slicks in competition, and cars must retain a full interior. Needless to say competition is stiff in this class, with plenty of modified cars, from Mustangs running full Maximum Motorsports suspension systems, to built Grand Nationals, newer Camaro 1LEs, WS6 Trans Ams, and more.

This is Creason’s first year doing any autocross, and he’s hit a couple of driving schools to sharpen his skills. Project 5-Liter-Eater has had only BMR sway bars added to the suspension for handling improvements. Autocross events have also been run on the stock Performance Pack 220 treadwear Pirelli tires. These tires are not an autocross design, they’re made for summer performance on a street car, not turning maximum lap times.

At the Kentucky Region SCCA club’s recent points event number two (PE2), Creason co-drove the car with friend and autocross aficionado “Fast” Phil Heacock. Heacock spent quite a bit of time behind the wheel of his ’93 Cobra years ago winning some club championships. Heacock’s also a former driving instructor, and has been helping us with advice on car setup and coaching on and off the course.

PE2 was held at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition center parking lot. There was plenty of loose gravel, and asphalt to contend with, but the car held its own. In fact, the car didn’t just hold its own, it dominated. In a field of 13 cars, Creason drove the car to a 7th place finish. Heacock proved however, that driving skill has just as much to do with winning as the equipment being used. Although the stock Pirellis were hot, and deteriorating quickly, Heacock won the class, beating out the competition by more than a few tenths after everyone had used their 5 runs.

Photo credit: William Reddifer

After over 60 trips around the autocross, and far too much heat cycling, the stock Pirellis are now a casualty of competition. Although they have a 220 treadwear, making their tread fairly shallow, the compound didn’t fare well under the stress. The tires have cupped severely, and the centers of the tires now have chunks missing.

The performance of Project 5-Lieter-Eater continues to impress us. We now need to get a set of tires, and this gives us an opportunity to use a set of autocross specific 200 treadwear tires for competition, something we’re trying to round up. We’re also working on several more modifications to improve handling and horsepower with our sponsors.

On deck are more turbo system upgrades from Turbosmart, as well as an intercooler upgrade from Vortech, and more suspension work with BMR. We’re installing a MGW shifter, and an AEM AQ1 datalogger. It’s going to be an exciting summer for Project 5-Liter-Eater.

3/20/15 -5-Liter Eater Goes To School

Images: Kamdon Shaw, Dream Photography LLC

When we purchased Project 5-litter Eater, we knew this wasn’t going to be the typical Mustang project car. While we plan to do many projects to improve our Mustang in power, performance, and appearance, we wanted to take advantage of the new S550 chassis as well. One of our main goals for this car is to make it better at Autocross.

Autocross is an effective, and accessible way for us to test changes we make to our 2015 Mustang EcoBoost as the project progresses. We can test cornering g-force, braking, acceleration, turn-in, and more. It allows us to do all these tests in a safe, and controlled environment. It also gives editor Creason, who uses Project 5-Liter Eater, a chance to improve his driving skills.

Last weekend, we sent editor Creason to the SCCA Starting Line school. These schools are held around the country, and are designed to teach the basics of autocross driving. It’s an effective way to learn the right way of doing all the techniques you’ll use during an autocross event, and a great way to get one on one guidance from a qualified driver.

For this session of Starting Line, class was held at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park (NCM). While the school wouldn’t be utilizing the road course at NCM, they were utilizing the huge 22 acre autocross skid pad. The autocross skid pad is constructed using the same track grade asphalt as the NCM track, giving the skidpad massive grip, which was especially important given that on this particular Saturday, it was steadily raining.

Rain or shine, autocross happens.

Project 5-Liter-Eater corners so hard, it lifts the inside rear tire. We managed to pull .98 lateral-g through the slalom, according to the car’s accelerometer.

Autocross is a rain or shine event, and in-spite of the rain, instructors David and Jenny O’Maley assured us there was plenty of grip out there. We showed up with one of two Mustangs on hand for this school. The other, owned by fellow autocross noob Tim Hrastinski was a 2015 GT Performance Pack.

Driving while looking out the window takes some getting used to. Head turned, looking at the corner exit in this photo.

Having only participated in track driving and autocross at press events, editor Creason quickly learned that autocross requires you to dump your memory of any assumptions you have about the sport, and prepare to rewire your driving habits. For editor Creason that meant ignoring 20-plus years of muscle memory, and a lifetime of learned perceptions about driving. It also required humbling yourself to a point where you realize that you know somewhere between nothing to only a minuscule amount of what it takes to do performance driving, and opening yourself up to the demands of your instructors. Doing all this ensured a good day, instead of a frustrating one.

Our day started out on a small oval course, jokingly dubbed “NASCAR”. We were turning left, put there was a lot more to it than that. Here the instructors were teaching us several important points of autocross. The first was to look ahead. We needed to lock on to a target with where our head was pointed and our eyes. That target was where we were headed, and it required looking out the side window while driving, rather than the windshield. We had to learn to glance back and forth with our eyes from our target, to where we were on the track so we could hit our braking point, and also guide the car. The final truth of this part, your car will go where your eyes are pointed, so look where you want to go, not at where you currently are.

The oval also taught where to brake, and we don’t mean brake like your rolling up to your neighborhood stop sign. This is late braking, getting on the brakes rapidly, but smoothly at the last possible minute -you want to feel your seat belt lock up, and be thrown into it. These were just a few of the lessons from the oval.

The second part of the morning session was spent on the slalom. This is something that everyone should try at least once in their driving life. Weaving back and forth through a set of cones, slalom training taught several points of autocross. The first of which was to attack the entry, try to clip the corner of the entry cone with your car without throwing it from its box. The second was to be smooth. You need to be quick, but smooth in the slalom, focusing on the center line, the slalom is like a dance. With that smoothness there’s a rhythm, every time the car crosses the center line, it’s already time to bring the wheel back in the next direction. This rhythm allows the car to use weight transfer to grip and push its way through each cone. The last part is to maintain a steady speed. You don’t want to slow down, and you can try to get faster as you learn, but ideally the car should hit the slalom and maintain speed until the exit.

Launching after lunch, headed out on the autocross course.

The afternoon was where the real fun began. A full autocross course was set up, and we were treated to multiple laps with not only you behind the wheel of your own car, but also riding shotgun with your instructor. This was putting together every element we’d learned through the day, and driving for a faster lap time, and improvement. The O’Maley’s experience on the autocross really came shining through here. They were able to drive anything to its best possible lap time of the day. They were also able to offer exactly the right coaching and guidance.

At the end of the day, editor Creason had dropped 5 seconds off his lap time, and with the instructor driving, Project 5-Liter Eater may have bested the best time of a 1LE Camaro with an instructor behind the wheel, although no official scores were kept. Not too shabby for only 2.3 liters of Ford power.

Needless to say, SCCA Starting Line, offered a wealth of information and a day that was packed with fun. Editor Creason is officially hooked on autocross, and can’t wait to get back to it.

Thanks to David and Jenny O’Maley for an awesome school, and the Kentucky Region SCCA for putting it on and doing all the grunt work.

2/9/15 -Scaling and Baseline Dyno

On a very cold morning, we headed to London Chassis Dyno to do a little baseline testing as well as work for some other stories we’ll be publishing here later. The crisp Kentucky winter has at least been mostly snow free, enabling us to make the over two hour drive to the shop. London Chassis Dyno owner Chad Epperson, is a chassis and performance guru. You may recognize his name as the performance architect behind Dr Mark Duber’s (aka BirdDoc) 2013 GT500, and several other high end builds we’ll certainly bring you as they’re completed. Epperson’s experience with all things performance is going to be key to getting our project car where we want it.

Left: London Chassis Dyno owner Chad Epperson, and shop talent extraordinaire Red, put our project car on the scales. Right: Sitting on the scales and getting the numbers.

Our first order of business for the day was to get the car scaled. With our gasoline gauge pointing right at the 1/4 mark upon arrival at the shop, we jacked up each wheel and placed it on a scale. The final result was a weight of 3,544 pounds. The weight is split 1,888.7 pounds front and 1,655.3 pounds rear. That’s a balance of 53/47 -not the 51/49 we’d hoped to be much closer to, but definitely a starting point we can work with.

Waiting to be strapped down for dyno testing.

With our project car cooled down, we strapped it to London Chassis’ in house dyno, and began our baseline testing. We knew we’d have to switch off the ESC (electronic stability control), however we should also mention that the our ’15 came with Hill Start Assist. That function is designed to hold the brakes for a few seconds when the car is on an incline, and release them as the clutch is let out. While it can make life easier, it needs to be switched off on the dyno, or else you’ll begin smelling and seeing results as your rear brakes get hot.

Like all EcoBoost Fords, our 2015 Mustang needs plenty of cold air to avoid heat soak. Mother nature obliged us with a cold day, and the London Chassis crew made sure the fans were moving air in all the right places.

Our dyno pulls rewarded us with a set of solid baseline numbers. Our stock EcoBoost put down 273.2 hp, and 303.8 ft-lbs of torque to the rear tires, stock. Talking with a few other shops and tuners, this seems to be right on course with what other shops are seeing. Peak horsepower occurred at 5,000 RPM, and peak torque at 4,667 RPM.

The dyno graph appears to dip and rise once we’re into the power on the car. We have a few possible explanations based on driving the car, and what we’ve heard about Ford’s factory strategy. The first is that with the drive by wire system, although the accelerator pedal is on the floor, the computer may be varying throttle angle as part of its strategy. We’ve also heard rumors that Ford bleeds off boost to manage power, emissions, and economy. Another factor may be the variable cam timing system. Any of these things on their own or working in concert could impact and explain our dyno results.

From here we have plenty more stories, and plenty more testing to perform with Project 5-Liter Eater. Stay tuned, because we’re just getting started.

About the author

Don Creason

Don Creason is an automotive journalist with passions that lie from everything classic, all the way to modern muscle. Experienced tech writer, and all around car aficionado, Don's love for both cars and writing makes him the perfect addition to the Power Automedia team of experts.
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