Tech: 2016 Shelby GT350 Tuning

00 VMP Shelby GT350 Tuning Featured

Sharpening the Shelby

VMP Performance kicks off its GT350 project car with a custom tune

By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of VMP Performance

Walk into the VMP Performance shop and you will see several modern Mustangs. From fully functional race cars too a brand new Mustang GT being dissembled for a rebirth as a Coyote Modified racer. Open the door to the dyno room and there’s something special strapped to the Dynojet rollers. That Avalanche Gray machine is a brand-new Shelby GT350 and Justin Starkey has already peered into its PCM and started tweaking some parameters.

What your first Voodoo 5.2 mod be? These days you can’t mod anything without recalibrating the PCM. Since tuning is an area of expertise for VMP Performance’s Justin Starkey, that just where he started.
What your first Voodoo 5.2 mod be? These days you can’t mod anything without recalibrating the PCM. Since tuning is an area of expertise for VMP Performance’s Justin Starkey, that just where he started.

If you are going to stay on the cutting edge of Mustang performance, it helps to have in-house project cars. There is no substitute for hands-on experience with these cars, and that’s just what the VMP main man has in mind for the company’s latest project car. Of course, the factory is delivering vehicles that are even more highly tuned right off the dealer lot, so it’s not quite as easy to find gains as it once was.

“Ford engineers keep getting better at what they do, so we can never stop. What was once low-hanging fruit for the aftermarket is now being done at the OE level. You have to look in all the nooks and crannies,” Justin explained. “That being said, there still are ways you can increase power output from the engine and delivery at the tire. The most exciting thing for me right now is extracting the horsepower and still keeping it emissions legal. This will allow our customers in strict states to legally enjoy a higher level of performance. VMP will begin offering packages with CARB EO numbers later in 2016.”

Justin spent time on the chassis dyno and the drag strip refining the calibration for the company’s Shelby GT350. Learning on its own projects allows VMP to pass on the benefits to its tuning customers.
Justin spent time on the chassis dyno and the drag strip refining the calibration for the company’s Shelby GT350. Learning on its own projects allows VMP to pass on the benefits to its tuning customers.

While he is working to extract as much streetable power as possible, Justin’s plans for this car aren’t quite as aggressive as they are for some of the other 2015+ Mustang around VMP headquarters. At first he wants to tweak the calibration for better driveability and more performance before moving onto more hardware upgrades.

Here are some of the test runs on the VMP Dynojet…

“In short, a little bit of everything. The Voodoo is much like a Coyote in some ways, but in others, nothing at all like a Coyote,” Justin says about the changes he made to the calibration. “What I’ve learned over the past six weeks on this car both blows my minds and excites me as to what will be possible in the future.”

Lately Justin has employed HP Tuners VCM Suite software to develop calibrations. Once they are finalized he deploys the performance calibrations with the slick nGauge OBD-II tuner gauge, which is also handy for datalogging at the track.
Lately Justin has employed HP Tuners VCM Suite software to develop calibrations. Once they are finalized he deploys the performance calibrations with the slick nGauge OBD-II tuner gauge, which is also handy for datalogging at the track.

In addition to the dyno tuning, Justin spent some time dialing in the calibration at Orlando Speed World. After adding the hotter calibration, VMP’s Sales and Events Coordinator Rick Kaknes ran an 11.99 at 118 mph in the VMP GT350, which is quite a contrast to Rick’s own, TVS-blown Terminator convertible.

“Once at the track we aired down the Michelin Pilot Sports to 28 psi. We selected the Drag Mode from the Track Apps menu. Based up upon Justin’s prior experience with the GT350 we set the launch control to the maximum of 6,000. The range is from 4,000-6,000. First pass of the day netted the best 60 of 1.7; Most likely because the track was just prepped,” Rick explained. “On the next several passes we had a bit of an issue of the rear hopping. I would back out then get back into to throttle which gave us several mid- to high-12-second passes. On the last pass of the day we did a long smoky burnout with no water. The car dead hooked, bogged a bit but recovered quickly and gave us the best pass of the day with an 11.9 at 118.”

With VMP Performance’s new Sales and Events Coordinator Rick Kaknes behind the wheel, the company’s tuned-up Shelby GT350 ripped off an 11.99 at 118 mph during a private test session at Orlando Speed World. He even managed to yank a front tire running on the stock Michelins.
With VMP Performance’s new Sales and Events Coordinator Rick Kaknes behind the wheel, the company’s tuned-up Shelby GT350 ripped off an 11.99 at 118 mph during a private test session at Orlando Speed World. He even managed to yank a front tire running on the stock Michelins.

“It’s not how much power you make but how you put it down,” Justin added. “Working with the engine, fuel, spark, TI-VCT, knock strategy, and transmission strategy is now more important than ever.”

You can watch the run right here…

“Driving the GT350 is like riding in a plush, civil cruiser that get 18-plus mpg and would be a pleasure to take on a road trip. With taps on the app screen the car goes from civility to a formidable drag car,” Rick added. “I am looking forward to hitting the track again with some sticky tires to see what the car can really do. Mid to low 11s should be no problem. Once we bolt on the VMP 2.3-liter TVS, 10s will be easily obtainable.”

After Justin worked his magic behind the keyboard on the HP Tuners software the VMP Shelby GT350 picked up power and torque across the entire powerband, including peak-to-peak gains of 24.68 horsepower and 20.52 lb-ft of torque.
After Justin worked his magic behind the keyboard on the HP Tuners software the VMP Shelby GT350 picked up power and torque across the entire powerband, including peak-to-peak gains of 24.68 horsepower and 20.52 lb-ft of torque.

As you would expect, this is just the beginning for the VMP GT350. Justin and company has some interesting plans for the car, and you can expect to read all about the transformation right here on the SVTP Front Page.

“Since this is a naturally aspirated car, we plan to play around NA for a little while longer then get blown by a VMP Gen2 TVS,” Justin said. “The Voodoo is lacking in the torque department down low, so I can’t wait to put some boost to it.”

To join the discussion and see video of the wheelie, you can visit the thread on our forum here.

When we can get our hands on the raw data, we like to look a sampling of the results to highlight some of those under the curve gains. Justin really wanted to improve the low-end performance of the GT350 to improve its street driveability and you can see he really made strides with just a tune, picking up over 25 lb-ft from the jump.
When we can get our hands on the raw data, we like to look a sampling of the results to highlight some of those under the curve gains. Justin really wanted to upgrade the low-end performance of the GT350 to improve its street driveability and you can see he really made strides with just a tune, picking up over 25 lb-ft from the jump.

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