Pony Wars: Unleashing Our 2017 Stallion At The Strip

Horsepower Wars has begun. The first season commences with our Pony Wars series, where war wages between a 2017 Mustang and 2017 Camaro. Part of our Mustang versus Camaro competition will include upgrading both vehicles with a selection of hand-picked components. Phase 1 of Pony Wars centers around a bolt-on-battle with a generous $5,000 budget – while Phase 2 embarks on a forced-induction-fray with an even healthier budget of $15,000.

Summit Racing is our official parts supplier for Horsepower Wars: Pony Wars, and will both be helping provide products, and be the financial benchmark for both teams. We will utilize Summit’s pricing to keep things fair and square for both the Mustang and Camaro builders. But before we get into the details of fortifying our modern muscle duo, we must first verify their performance in stock form.

If you’ll recall from our introduction, Pony Wars is all about a battle royalé of rivals, which includes a plethora of events designed to find out which ride offers the best in braking, quarter-mile e.t., rear-wheel horsepower and road course lap times. In this segment, we dive into the details of how our 2017 Mustang GT war horse fared at our local quarter-mile drag strip, Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, California.

Fans of Horsepower Wars will already know the details on our Red Race stallion, but for those of you who aren’t up to speed, our first-gen S550 features the bare minimum in amenities when it comes to options. Adorning our Coyote-powered Mustang is a factory six-speed automatic transmission and an optional 300A package.

As part of the rules of the competition, we aren’t allowed to release the details on the weight or the horsepower our Mustang makes at the wheels yet, so you’ll have to let your mind wander for now as you read through the results of our drag strip testing.

Great Day For A Drag Race

Setting the stage for our day of testing was a mid-Saturday afternoon, and the weather delivered those familiar SoCal conditions which hovers around 70 degrees. Not a cloud in the sky and there was a cool breeze that gave us a little push from behind. The density altitude hovered just above 1,200 for the day.

We hit the highway for a 120-mile round trip in our ’Stang equipped with a set of ROUSH Performance QuickSilver cast aluminum wheels and matching Mickey Thompson ET Street S/S drag radials. This is the wheel and tire combination that would also give us that much needed grip in the quarter-mile. We won’t go too far into details here on the wheels and tires, as we’re saving that for another segment, but the wheels are 20×9.5-inch cast aluminum beauties and the sticky Mickeys are 275/40-R20s.

It’s important to note that all of our passes were made on the same tank of gas (91-grade octane pump gas), same wheels and tires, and all on the same day. Our variances in testing consisted of playing with tire pressures on the drag radials, along with varying our launch RPM (from idle all the way to 2,500 RPM). No weight was added or removed during our testing, and that includes leaving the spare tire and scissor jack in the trunk.

Play Time Is Over

Upon arrival, it was time to let it rip. On the first pass, we aired the Mickeys down to 22 psi so we could get a feel for the Mustang’s launch tendencies.

Naturally, since our Mustang is equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission, the choice between a drag radial or a bias-ply slick was obvious. Fine tuning the tire pressure is always a balancing act, however. With drag radials, having the pressure to low creates increased rolling resistance. Too much pressure, and the sidewall may not take the brunt of the power. The middle-ground will reveal itself in your best e.t.

Over the long haul, our patience would pay off, but not on the first hit. As the tree dropped, our stock ’Stang barked out of the hole leaving from idle, but made its way down the drag strip to a satisfactory 13.05 at 109.17 mph e.t. Not bad, but with a 60-foot of 2.05 and an eighth-mile time of 8.51 at 84.37 mph, we knew she had more in her, as shown in our time slips below.

“Calling all true street cars to the lanes!” Our blood was pumping for that second try. We aired our drag radials down to 20 psi this time around, then staged the car and left at 2,000 rpm. The result was a better 60-foot on the following pass (1.98 this pass versus 2.05 from the previous) but a slower e.t. (13.11 this pass versus the 13.05 from the previous). Obviously a lower tire pressure and a higher RPM was helping our 60-foot, but that 3.15 gear was not.

Last Chance, Pal

With 91-octane running through our pony’s veins, we gave the war horse all she had. We aired our Mickeys down to 18 psi, stood on the foot-brake and mashed the gas to a steady 2,500 RPM. Did our torque converter hate us? Sure, but can you blame it? Nevertheless, we let ’er rip at the drop of the third yellow light and never lifted to an impressive 12.95 e.t.at 109.18 MPH. We also planted our best 60-foot of the night with a 1.96 and crossed the eighth-mile at 8.40 at 85.27 MPH.

This puts our Mustang on-par with alternative media groups who have tested bone-stock ’Stangs like ours in the past. As it became later in the day, the temperature dropped into the mid-60s and the track was prepped excellently for the final runs of the night. As we mentioned earlier, DA never went above 1,200, so we can attribute favorable weather conditions, sticky drag radials and a 2,500-RPM launch to our success.

Breaking our bone-stock ’Stang into the 12s was nice, but could we have done better? We believe choosing a smaller diameter tire to compensate for the taller gear from the factory might have rewarded us with a faster e.t.

From left to right: Our first pass resulted in a 13.05 at 109.17 mph with our tire pressure set at 22 psi tire pressure early in the day. Our second run of the day consisted of dropping tire pressure to 20 psi and stalling up the factory converter to 2,000 RPM, resulting in a better 60-foot time (1.98 versus our previous 2.05) but a slower overall e.t. (13.11 versus our previous 13.05). Our third and final run of the day, we aired down to 18 psi and left at 2,500 RPM and managed our fastest 60-foot (1.96) fastest e.t. (12.95) and our quickest MPH (109.18).

Our Mustang has a 3.15 gear from the factory standard. Coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission and our taller M/T drag radials, it really didn’t do us any favors on e.t., and it shows in the 60-foot. The taller tire changed our effective gear ratio, as we explain below.

“In all honesty, I expected the Mustang to run a quicker e.t. than it did,” Horsepower Wars host Brian Petty, who piloted our S550 down the strip, said. “We essentially changed the effective gear ratio in the car, which ultimately affected our 60-foot time.”

What Brian is referring to is the taller M/T drag radials on 20-inch wheels versus our factory 17-inch wheels and much smaller 235/55R17 all-season tires. Those all-season tires from the factory measure in at 27.2-inches in diameter, while the drag radials clock in at 28.7-inches. That larger diameter tire equates to an effective gear ratio change, which puts our ’Stang at a new ratio of 2.99 versus the factory 3.15.

“I think the car felt like it was fighting us because of its 60-foot,” Brian detailed. “It didn’t seem to want to hit the tire like a sledgehammer. You really had to stand on the brake pedal and mash the gas hard because we needed higher RPM for a faster launch, which would have resulted in a better 60-foot time.”

While we weren’t allowed to use modifications at this stage, Brian believes that a looser converter, coupled with an aftermarket two-step module, will help our ’Stang tremendously in the later stages. As he pointed out, most of the Coyote’s powerband is up-top; so the faster we can get our Mustang out of the hole, the faster we can keep it in the powerband.

There’s no doubting that our Mustang is in good working order, and our drag strip testing surely confirms that. It also confirms that our Coyote-powered ’Stang will highly benefit from a handful of bolt-ons we have planned for our first round of upgrades. Keep your eyes on FordNXT and Horsepower Wars for our next installment, where we plan to dive deep into the spectrum of our $5,000 upgrades story.

Stay tuned, folks, we are only getting started. Horsepower Wars is backed some of the biggest names in the automotive aftermarket — including ARPBMR SuspensionCOMPDiabloSportDyna-BattE3 Spark PlugsHolley Performance PartsMahleMickey ThompsonProChargerQA1 Royal PurpleSummit RacingTCI, and others — and it’s going to be a crazy ride over the next few months as we let these Ponies continue the battle. You won’t want to miss it.

About the author

Harrison Noble

Living in San Diego for most of his life, Harrison was exposed to a variety of cars at an early age. His passion for anything that is fast, or has a V8, brought him to Power Automedia.
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