VMP Tuning improves its 2015 Mustang project with bolt-on mods
By Steve Turner
You know how it is when you finally get that new project car. There’s already a pile of parts waiting in the garage for you to install. Whether you are looking to give it a signature look or step up its performance, it’s hard to resist opening up your toolbox and tearing right into it. Fortunately for us, VMP Tuning’s BJ McCarty was patient enough to wait until we arrived with our camera to document a full complement of bolt-ons as they were installed on his new EcoBoost Mustang.
“I considered both the Focus and Fiesta STs but the money was so close to the base Eco that I opted for another Mustang,” BJ said of his new project. “We already had a 2.0-liter Eco in a ’13 Fusion so I had a good idea of what to expect. The best deal was a base car with performance pack and auto. Light(ish) weight, great looks, and it really is a 180 from the GT500. Perfect fit.”
It will never provide the pure excitement of his VMP Gen2 TVS-boosted, 700-plus-horsepower Shelby GT500, but BJ just could get by with a stock EcoBoost Mustang. As such, he put together a carefully selected group of bolt-on enhancements to improve the cars underhood looks and rear-wheel performance. The list of gear included a set of MRT hood struts, a JLT Performance coolant tank, a JLT cold-air intake, a Gibson Performance cat-back exhaust, and a Levels Performance intercooler.
“It was clear that just the minimum was done to combat heat. In our performance simulations we’d see downstream temps in the 170-180 range after a warm up and one WOT pull on the dyno. The complaints of the car ‘hitting a wall’ up top seem to have stemmed greatly from those and flange-temp protection,” BJ explained. “Solve the problem by keeping it from happening. Nik Levels of Levels Performance had already entered the ST aftermarket and he paid us a visit with a unit he designed for the S550 Eco. We mounted it up and saw a dramatic 60-plus-degree drop on the dyno! Heat soak from the high downstreams were virtually eliminated.”
Naturally, the hardware is only one part of the equation, but calibrating the PCM to work with the new hardware is crucial. That said, the factory calibration is dialed in well, so it takes adding some freer-flowing hardware into the mix to allow the car to make more power. It just takes some tuning to make it work.
“When you look up ‘pig rich’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of my factory air/fuel gauge. It literally read high 9:1s at WOT, which was the result of flange and cat protection at work,” BJ said. “Justin went to work on dialing in the air/fuel and added a little fire.”
“I opened up a lot of the limits, including the boost limits… I re-mapped all the timing curves and re-mapped the boost curves,” VMP main man Justin Starkey explained. “This car has a torque-request-type system and it also has a lot of torque limits built in, so opening those up is crucial to making power… You command more VE, you get more VE, which is more boost.”
Watch the car run on the dyno right here…
With the new mods in place and a generous dose of Justin’s tuning acumen with the SCT software and hardware, BJ’s car responded nicely, putting down over 300 horsepower and 350 lb-ft to the rear wheels However, it’s what the car feels like on the street that has BJ really loving his new daily driver.
“At the end of the day, I have a car that picked up about 70 rwhp and 80 lb-ft of torque, all through an auto! Oh, and it gets 31 mpg on the highway…,” BJ enthused. “I love the look of the JLT goodies, and the cleaner look with the MRT struts. It’s a shame that the full Gibson exhaust and the Levels Performance intercooler are 99-percent hidden because they, too make a huge difference in the performance and enjoyment of my 2015 EcoBoost Mustang.”
If that kind of performance sounds good to you, keep reading and see how the VMP crew transformed the performance of his EcoBoost ’Stang.