Over the years the standards for horsepower street cred have swelled alongside the elevation of factory performance cars. Where 300 or 400 horsepower was once race-car stuff, it has become the mundane output of stock vehicles. Clearly the forced induction expectations are hurtling toward four digits, but who could have imagined that naturally aspirated bolt-ons could easily create 500 horsepower at the rear wheels? Well, in the case of the 2018 Mustang GT it was Evolution Performance.
“Once we made 474 rear-wheel horsepower with initial tuning on e85, 500 rear-wheel horsepower became the goal,” Fred Cook, of Evolution Performance, said. “I knew once we added long-tube headers and Lund Racing got deeper into the PCM we would hit the goal.”
The car is awesome from the power and torque to the 10-speed auto… — Fred Cook, Evolution Performance
“The car is awesome from the power and torque to the 10-speed auto to the MagneRide to the active exhaust. The car is the complete package and a huge improvement over my 2015 Mustang GT with the six-speed automatic,” Fred enthused. “The 2018 is my daily driver so I needed all the creature comforts. It even rocks a car seat in the back for my son, Chase, who is already a Mustang enthusiast at the young age of 18 months.”
Back To Basics
Though Fred plans to drive the car on the street, he is not leaving this optioned-up ’Stang stock. Like any enthusiast, he can’t leave well enough alone when it comes to performance. As such, he opted to start off his build the way most of Evolution’s customers would — with the basic bolt-ons.
“A cold air intake, tune, and exhaust are one of the first modifications Mustang enthusiasts do after purchasing a new car, so we wanted to target that audience and show them what could be done with basic bolt-ons and tuning,” Fred explained.
He selected a list of familiar parts for the build, including a JLT cold-air intake, a Roush exhaust resonator delete, a set of Kooks long-tube headers, and a Kooks catalytic converter-equipped mid-pipe. However, you can’t so much as think about modifying a modern car without a proper performance calibration.
“We have been an SCT dealer for 14 years,” Fred said. “Combine that with SCT being first to the market with a performance programmer that supported the 2018 Mustang, and Jon Jr. was able to use SCT software and the BDX to remotely tune the 2018 Mustang.”
The Jon in question is Jon Lund II of Lund Racing, which is well known for creating custom calibrations for high-performing Mustangs with a wide variety of combinations. The Lund team has long dialed in Evolution-built pony cars and that trend continued with this 2018 Mustang GT.
Hardware & Software
There’s not much gain on 93 octane but there’s a decent gain with E85! — Jon Lund II, Lund Racing
Of course, that’s getting a bit ahead of the curve on this first phase of Fred’s build. Before stepping up to corn, he baselined the car with nothing more than rev limiter raised to allow for running the car on the dyno in the auto transmission’s 1:1 Seventh gear. With that 427-horsepower/402 lb-ft baseline established, it was time to start adding tuning and those bolt-ons. The tuning pumped the power up to over 443, while the JLT Performance cold air intake system pushed the car beyond 456 horsepower at the wheels on Evolution Performance’s in-house Mustang Dynamometer.
“The molded heat shield fit perfectly in the engine bay along with the massive 120mm cold air intake tube with a velocity stack and blue filter,” Fred said of the JLT system. “It looks as good as it performs.”
From there it was time to ramp things up by switching from 93-octane gasoline to E85 and really let Jon dial in an aggressive calibration, which included a mastery of the new 10R80 10-speed automatic.
Evolution 2018 Mustang GT Mods
• JLT Performance 120mm cold-air intake (PN CAI-FMG-18)
• JLT Performance 3.0 passenger-side oil separator (PN 3024P-C)
• Kooks 1 7/8-inch stainless steel long-tube headers with 3-inch collectors and Kooks Green-cat factory connection pipes (PN 1151H430)
• Roush Resonator-delete X-Pipe (PN 422046)
• SCT Performance BDX programmer (PN 40490)
Switching to corn ramped up the power to 473 at the wheels, which caused Fred to recalibrate his goals to the aforementioned 500 rear-wheel mark. To get there, Fred chose to open up the exhaust with an eye toward keeping it streetable.
“Kook’s jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this project. The headers are high-quality 304 stainless steel and fit like a glove,” Fred said. “The long-tubes have the Green-catted connection pipes that connect directly to the factory exhaust or in our case the Roush resonator-delete X-pipe. They feature Green cats, which are an EPA-certified catalytic converters, and are available exclusively through Kooks Custom Exhaust.”
The Long Tale
Installing the first set of 2018 Mustang headers from Kooks was a breeze, except for one little hurdle Evolution had to overcome because of a change in the latest car’s wiring harness. Fortunately the driver side of the factory harness was along enough and could be used on both sides to facilitate the exhaust upgrade.
“Honestly, on our end, everything was smooth sailing until we noticed the wideband sensor connections were different for 2018,” Fred said. “It delayed us but our good friends at Springfield Ford in Springfield, Pennsylvania, made sure we had another driver side wideband (PN JR3Z-9F472-A) the very next day so we could complete the installation.”
By ordering a second of the longer factory harness, Evolution was able to seamlessly integrate the new exhaust into the 2018 Mustang. This opened the door to more performance with a full bolt-on package and E85 in the tank. With all those key assets in place, the Lund Racing team could work its magic to break through the 500-rear-wheel horsepower barrier without a power adder.
“To optimize the power output on Fred’s car it was really a matter of reviewing the data and making sure it met our specification,” Jon said. “We had already done a lot of the legwork on our personal test vehicles in-house with tweaking cam timing and finding optimal air/fuel and spark. So we applied those changes to Fred’s car and it really testified as to the repeatability of the car by seeing the same gains we saw. On e85 it becomes less knock limited and we can roll in more ignition timing and lean it out a hair to pick up more power. It is crazy to think about 500 rear-wheel horsepower out of these very simple modifications for a naturally aspirated engine and we can’t wait to see how they respond to boost!”
We know how much corn-burning Coyotes love boost, but even in its current, bolt-on form this second-gen S550 sounds like a blast to drive.
“The car is amazing. The powerband on this car is so smooth and has incredible torque, something the 2015-2017 Mustang GT’s lacked,” Fred said. “The transmission shifts like a sequential transmission that you would find in $200,000 cars. Jon Jr. really dialed in the 10R80, so I can’t even imagine once we boost it. This is where the active exhaust really shines. The car still starts quiet in quiet mode, then gets more aggressive as you go to Normal, Sport, and Track.”
As you would totally expect from a cutting-edge outfit like Evolution, this is just the first step in building streetable power for this 2018 Mustang. The car is already slated for a ProCharger P-1X supercharger upgrade to push it to the next level as well as a full BMR Suspension upgrade and a variety of driveline upgrades — from Ford Performance Parts and GForce Performance Engineering — designed to withstand a much higher level of output.
So, if that upgrade path intrigues you, stay tuned right here to see this second-gen S550 project evolve.