"Man, that thing sounds gnarly. What's under the hood--a blower?"
"Well then, how much sauce are you running?"
"Not a lick. That power-adder stuff is for wimps!"
These days, it's easy to make an inordinate amount of power with the help of nitrous, a supercharger, or a turbo. Even Ford figured it out, as no less than four late-models featured a blower. The boys in blue have offered turbo models, too, but the majority of performance Mustangs still rely on naturally aspirated power.
For many, building a solid N/A combination brings great pride, as selection in cam, head port design, valving, and intake become oh-so critical. To make 400-500 streetable horse-power without those aids or exotic parts, however, is a much more difficult task. The answer to going fast with a naturally aspirated setup comes down to the combination of the parts chosen, the size of the bullet under the hood, and the package in which the engine is laid.
With that, the time has come for another MM&FF shootout, except we'll do it sans sauce or forced induction. While turbos, blowers, and nitrous are all cool, the allure of nothing more than a Mustang running on muscle transcended our love for all things power adder. To prove there are those in the Mustang community willing to go fast without the help of what can be considered the steroids of the Mustang enthusiast market, we set out to find the baddest, most sensible N/A cars out there.
The result was a mix of shootout participants, with entries ranging from a serious Fox, to a Four-Valve '01 Cobra, to a stroker S197. Throw in a couple of Windsor-powered notchbacks, a 302-based Mustang GT, an NMRA-legal Factory Stock car, and an equal breakdown of automatic and manual transmissions, and the variety of different ways to make horsepower minus a turbo, blower, or nitrous oxide was astounding. Three of our participants even drove their cars to the track.
For starters, two out of the seven cars that attended showcased a carburetor; one sported a high-compression, iron-headed 306; while another Fox-body slung a 311ci motor topped with a stock-spec cam and E7 heads. There were two notchbacks that packed Windsor punches--one measuring 410 ci and the other a whopping 418. While dropping in a supersized 351-based engine in a Fox-body with a thumping camshaft and aluminum heads is nothing new, that one of them had a carb on it added even more allure to the deal.
While the pushrod contingent was strong, so were the modular contestants. A pair of Three-Valve S197s were in attendance, both equipped with a set of aftermarket cams and ported heads. The differences lied in the transmissions and the fact that one sported a stroker engine, while the other remained at stock displacement. Throw in a basically stock Four-Valve N/A Cobra, and the disparity between all of the contestants showed just how many different ways one can make loads of power on Mother Nature alone.
While the elapsed times may not have been as quick as some of those seen in our other shootouts, any time an N/A car can break into the 10s, all while being kept street-legal, it's quite a feat. For the record, in the following charts, everyone's best shootout run is in red.