Looking back at some of the biggest Ford performance stories of the year
By Steve Turner
Believe it or not, 2015 is about to come to a close. It seemed like this year blasted by as quickly a boosted Mustang covers the quarter mile, but as swiftly as the year flew by it managed to pack in an enormous number of important Ford performance milestones in just 12 short months. So before you go out and celebrate the impending New Year, let’s take the time to reflect on some of the most significant stories of the past year.
Our list isn’t based on any statistics or scientific analysis. Instead, it is purely based on your author’s opinion. (And, if you think we missed a significant story, feel free list it in the comments below.) There were numerous other stories that could have made the cut, and the order is pretty interchangeable. That said, it’s hard to argue with the significant happenings that we witnessed in 2015. So take a moment to appreciate just how much great Ford performance hardware is available now and on the way in the coming year…
Focus RS First Ride
Many of you reading this are all about rear-wheel-drive V-8s. We get it. The modern Mustangs are great, but we are pretty excited about the impending arrival of the next-gen Focus RS. It will be the first Focus RS sold in North America and it will pack 350 horsepower, all-wheel drive, Drift Mode and more. We can’t wait to drive this car, but just the chance to ride in one was worth it for us to take a trip to the Los Angeles Auto Show so we could offer our first impressions of this Hot Hatch.
First 8-Second 2015 Mustang
Fittingly, the 2015 Mustang came into its own in 2015. While the cars starting hitting the road last year, modders really pushed the S550 platform to a new level this year. It didn’t take long for racers to break into the 10- and 9-second zones, but the 8-second range is rare air. It wasn’t much of surprise that successful Cobra Jet racers swapped in a three-link rear suspension and a Cobra Jet engine from a 2014 Cobra Jet into the latest Mustang to make it happen. We shared the news back in September when the Calvert Racing machine clicked off the first 8-second S550 quarter-mile e.t. on record.
First 10-second EcoBoost Mustang
Just before the NMRA season opener in Bradenton, Florida, BG Racing’s Brad Gusler piloted his EcoBoost 2015 Mustang to an 11-second e.t., making it the quickest of its kind up to that point. It held that record throughout the season, and shortly after the NMRA campaign ended, Brad was able to push the combination even further. His car again broke new ground by becoming the first 10-second EcoBoost Mustang. Those that initially doubted the inclusion of the turbo-four in the latest Mustang learned that EcoBoost is a legitimate performance platform. We delivered the full details on the car and its subsequent 10-second record as this story developed.
Return of the Cobra Jet
After taking a year off for development, Ford Performance announced at this year’s SEMA Show that the Cobra Jet would return in 2016 on the S550 platform. Featuring a supercharged 5.0-liter engine and a new four-link rear suspension, this turnkey drag car is said to offer 8-second capability right out of the box. We covered the announcement of this quarter-mile machine and followed up with the inside details on its development.
First 8-Second IRS 2015 Mustang
While people were certainly excited about the S550 platform breaking into the 8-second zone, the milestone had yet to be broken using an Independent Rear Suspension. Watson Racing developed a tubular 9-inch IRS cradle that bolted right into its 2015 Mustang. Using a Whipple supercharger, an automatic trans, and FAST fuel injection, Chuck Watson Sr. piloted this SEMA project vehicle to the first 8-second pass in an IRS S550 and we broke the news here complete with an exclusive video.
Return of the Ford GT
SVTP kicked off the year by attending the North American International Auto Show. Ford Performance was expected to make some big announcements—like the addition of the Shelby GT350R and F-150 Raptor—but the company caught the automotive world off-guard by revealing an all-new Ford GT powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine. As the headlining vehicle in Ford Performance’s promised lineup of 12 new performance Fords by 2020, the GT is poised to take on Le Mans and once again become the pace car for the company.
First 8-Second Street 2015 Mustang
Hellion Power Systems started making headlines back in 2014 with the first bolt-on turbo system for the 2015 Mustang, which immediately took the stock 5.0-liter’s output over 900 horsepower. Well the Hellion team kept pushing and things really took off when Melissa Urist took over the driving duties. First the car became the most powerful S550 we know of by rocking the rollers to the tune of 1,135 rear-wheel horsepower. Shortly thereafter, Melissa piloted the car into the 8-second zone, making it the first 2015 Mustang to do so with the factory PCM and IRS, which are key factors for S550 purists.
The Voodoo Engine
One of the most hyped Ford performance stories of the year was the revelation of the Flat-Plane Crank-equipped 5.2-liter engine that powers the new Shelby GT350. When we learned about the inner workings of the Voodoo engine and its 526-horsepower credentials, we couldn’t wait to experience its high-revving performance. Likewise, we were excited about just how far this platform can be pushed with modifications.
Shelby GT350 First Drive
From the moment we learned about the new GT350 we waited for this moment. Sure riding shotgun in the car at Grattan Raceway gave us an idea of just how great the cars were, but the opportunity to drive the GT350 and the GT350R was one of those days we won’t soon forget. Wheeling the GT350 and the R-model on the streets and around Laguna Seca gave us the chance to reflect on how these cars compared to the Boss 302 we drove on this same track. As good as the Boss and the Boss LS were, the new Shelby is on another level.
First 10-second Shelby GT350
It doesn’t take long when a new performance car hits the streets for enthusiasts to start setting records. Lethal Performance leapt on the new platform right away with bolt-ons, tuning, and E85 fuel. These mods quickly pushed the Voodoo engine above 500 rear-wheel horsepower. From there, the company decided to bolt on a nitrous kit and sticky Mickeys and put the new platform into the 10-second zone despite a slipping clutch. With a supercharger coming next to this car, the sky is the limit in 2016, but for now this accomplishment tops our list for 2015.
So there’s a flashback at 2015 in the world of Ford performance. We can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. Happy New Year from your friends at SVTP!