The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: October 2014


Thursday, 30 October 2014

How-to install Axle Back on 2011-2014 Mustang V6, GT, Boss 302 & GT500

There are plenty of videos and write-ups online about how to install axle backs but I couldn't find any covering installation while the car is on ramps with little room. I don't know for sure if all the models are identical since I only have experience with the Boss 302 but I don't see why Ford would over complicate it and mount mufflers differently so I included all models in the title to make it easier to find when searching.

The first thing to keep in mind is safety. Disconnect negative battery terminal, ensure that the mufflers aren't too hot before you tackle this and wear safety glasses. I also feel more comfortable using ramps over jack and jack stands but if you use jack, make sure you secure the car on jack stands and not rely on the jack. I use Rhino ramps and so far, they haven't shown any sign of stress. I highly recommend them. If you use ramps, make sure that the tires are centered on the ramps.


Drive extension bar
Drive extension bar with a swivel/hinged joint
Ratchet & socket set
Super grease
You might also need a flashlight to see exactly where some of the bolts are.

1 - Unbolt the rear muffler hanger mount. There are two bolts and they are tough to get to so you'll need the two extension bars to get to it and have the leverage.

2 - Unbolt the exhaust piping clamps. I had to give the pipe a couple of bangs with a hammer to get it loose due to rust. There is a small welded clip holding the clamp in place too. You may need to pry it up to allow the clamp to move loosely.

3 - Pull the stock muffler off the midpipe. This will take some moving of the mufflers back and forth to loosen. Spray some super grease on the front hangers to make them easier to slide.

4 - Once the the muffler is loose, there will be a lot more room to slide the muffler all the way back and out of the front mounts. If you have a Watt's link, you may need to unbolt the front hanger mounts like you did earlier with the rear. The driver's side has three bolts while the passenger side has two for some reason.

5 - Pull the rear hanger mount uninstalled in step 1 off the muffler. Grease helps a lot. If you uninstalled the front hanger mount in step 4, pull it off as well since it will be reused.

6 - Slide the front and rear hanger mounts on the new axle back mounts and the manufacturer supplied clamps on the exhaust pipe. If you didn't uninstall the front hanger mount in step 4, slide the rear hanger mount on the new axle back and then slide the front hangers in the hanger mounts while they are on the car.

7 - Install the rear hanger mount on the car first. I found this to be an easier way since you have a lot of flexibility to move the front facing side around to get it to fit on the midpipe. If you uninstalled the front hanger mount in step 4, leave it uninstalled for now. If you didn't, you may need to untighten the bolts a bit to give yourself more room to move the exhaust around to get it to fit.

8 - Once the axle backs and the midpipes are fit properly, get out from under the car and take a step back to look at the exhaust tips. You may need to fiddle around with the axle backs a bit to get them centered in the diffuser cut outs.

9 - Bolt the front hanger mount back in if they were uninstalled. Don't tighten until you recheck that the tips are still centered.

10 - Tighten the exhaust clamps to manufacturer's spec and reconnect the battery terminal.

11 - Start the car up and enjoy!

Monday, 27 October 2014

2012 Mustang Boss 302 - Heartthrob Flowpack Axle Back Exhaust

A few weeks ago, I started the car up and realized that I forgot something so I ran back in to grab it and when I walked out, I noticed that there's a lot more vapour pouring out of the side pipes than the rears (as the car was warming up). I read many articles that said Ford designed the side pipes for noise and they flow very little compared to the rears. It certainly seemed like there's more flow through the sides than the rear (although I do have the side baffles completely removed). After that, I decided that I wanted an axle back exhaust. I'm obviously not expecting any power gains (nothing more than a couple hp anyway) but I was ready to turn up the decibels!

I decided on the Heartthrob Flowpack kit (the picture above is of a Mustang GT from Heartthrob's website, not mine) and bought it from American Muscle. I was very pleased with shipping. It shipped on the same day despite ordering in the afternoon and it only took one week to deliver despite being in Canada. I wasn't too pleased with the packaging though and its condition. I have ordered my fair share of aftermarket parts and most parts are packaged to not allow movement inside the box and provide support for the shipping box to keep it rigid. The box was damaged; sort of bulging where the ends of the exhaust pipes where and one of the tips was very, very slightly bent. The deflection was less than 2 mm (around 1/16") and can't be seen unless you are under the car. The quality of the packaging is probably Heartthrob's fault but for $279.99, it was just about the cheapest available with "mufflers." The condition of packaging though is either American Muscle's fault or UPS. There is a chance it could have come that way from Heartthrob but American Muscle would still be partially to blame because they shouldn't have let it ship that way if that were the case. Anyway, it didn't bother me that much so I'll move to the important bit: what they're like.

  • The noise is phenomenal. It adds a nice subtle rumble at idle that is very nearly as quiet as stock at idle and slightly louder under light load. It makes the exhaust note immensely deep and much louder under load just off idle, though, and all the way to redline. It is intoxicating. After installing it, I tried to find excuses to go out for a drive.
  • The noise out of the side exhausts is barely changed. I was worried the car would sound better overall but the noise would sound a bit distant while driving since more flow would come out the back and less out the sides compared to stock. That wasn't the case.
  • It is lighter than stock. Much lighter. According to my bathroom scale, it weighs 22 lb. less. While that isn't much on its own, it adds up quickly if you have plans to put the car on a diet.

  • It isn't the nicest looking. If looks are a priority over noise and budget, you're better off buying a different one. It won't surprise you, though. It looks like it does on the website, not better or worse. You can go to any online store that carries it and compare it to nicer looking ones and see if you are satisfied with the looks. I will post pictures in another post as well.
  • It is made of aluminized steel as opposed to stainless.
  • Drone. There is a range of about 200 rpms between the 1,750 and 2,250 rpm markers on the tachometer where there is drone. The bad news is: it is bad. The good news is: it is a very narrow range that is very easy to avoid. It is really nice and quiet above and below that range in any condition. It is even very quiet in that range on the highway on flat, straight roads but if you are in 6th gear and you want to accelerate in that range or the road changes and you start going uphill, it gets bad. I simply downshift to 5th if I find myself in that position.

As for power, Heartthrob has a dyno sheet on their website that shows a gain of 8.5 hp on a Mustang GT - 363.9 hp stock vs 372.4 hp with the axle backs - which would work out to almost exactly 10 hp at the crank. Although it isn't a huge gain, I took that with a grain of salt and didn't base my decision on it. Now that I have installed it, the car feels like it pulls very slightly stronger. I don't believe that, if it does add any power, it would be noticeable from the driver's seat. If I tell myself that enough, I'm sure I will be convinced that the car pulls just as strong as stock but for now, it's tough when it sounds that much better! If it does add about 10 hp as the dyno runs claim, great. If not, that's to be expected from just an axle back.

If you would like to look at the dyno graph, go to this link: Heartthrob 2011+ 5.0 Flowpack Axle Back Dyno. The graph looks a bit odd with a large torque spike early on in the graph. However, the graph torque range is narrow (only between 300 lb-ft and 350 lb-ft) where most dyno graphs show 0 lb-ft as a minimum. The minimum rpm shown is also high at 3,573 rpm where most graphs start close to idle, at 1,500 - 2,000 rpm. These factors make make the normal torque curve appear as if it has odd spikes.

Overall, I am very happy with it. I don't think it's for everyone because of the drone and less-than-polished looks but I would buy it again. I will have to wait and see how the aluminized steel construction fares. Check back for pictures and videos comparing this exhaust to the stock one and an installation guide!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

2015 Ford Mustang GT vs 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS - A Closer Look

Well, this comparison was bound to happen. A 2015 Mustang GT equipped with the Performance Package vs a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS equipped with the 1LE package. Before we get to the numbers, let's look at how these performance oriented packages improve on the regular spec models.

The Mustang Performance Package ($2,495 USD/$3,700 CAD) adds the following:

  • Chassis stiffening through a Strut-tower Brace and a K-Brace
  • A Larger Radiator
  • Unique Chassis Tuning
  • Upsized Rear Sway Bar
  • Heavy-Duty Front Springs
  • K-Brace
  • Brembo 6-Piston Front Brake Callipers with Larger Rotors (15")
  • 19" x 9" front and 19" x 9.5" rear wheels (Gloss Black Aluminum)
  • Unique Stability Control, EPAS (Electronic Power Assisted Steering) & ABS Tuning
  • 3.73 TORSEN Rear Axle (differential)
The rear wheel size is 0.5" wider than those on the outgoing Mustang with the Track Pack which used 19" x 9" wheels front and rear. It also gets 255/40/19 front and 275/40/19 rear Pirelli P Zero tires as opposed to the outgoing Track Pack which brought 255/40/19 P Zero tires front and rear. The pack also adds non-performance-enhancing features like a Gauge Pack showing oil pressure and vacuum.

The Camaro, on the other hand, gets the following improvements through the 1LE package which, interestingly, is called the Performance Package on Chevrolet Canada website ($3,500 USD/$3,675 CAD):

  • 20" x 10" front & 20" x 11" rear forged aluminum wheels (Black Aluminum)
  • Tires: P285/35ZR20 BW Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar
  • 3.91 Axle Ratio with a limited slip diff (LSD) which is a TORSEN unit, according to the video.
  • Performance Ride & Handling Suspension (unique shocks, springs, and anti-roll bars plus a strut tower brace)
  • Transmission: 6 Speed Manual w/unique gear ratios
  • Sueded Microfibre-Wrapped Shift Knob
  • Sueded Microfibre-Wrapped Flat-bottom Steering Wheel
  • Sport End Rear Spoiler

According to Motor Trend, the package also brings upgraded wheel bearings, toe links, shock mounts and fuel pump from the ZL1.

The results? well, both cars are tied in the runs to 60 mph taking just 4.4 seconds while the Mustang pulls ahead slightly by the 1/4 mile finishing in 12.8 s to the Camaro's 12.9 s run. The Mustang should continue to pull away, though, going past the traps at 112.2 mph while the Camaro manages "only" 110.5 mph. This should mean that, in stock form, the Mustang still has a slight edge in a straight line but this is almost irrelevant because both cars are rarely left stock by those who race them and they respond well to modifications so who is going to win is probably going to come down to modifications, a good tune and a good driver.

Things are reversed on a road course though. At Streets of Willow, the Camaro laid down a lap time of 1:22.7 while the Mustang did a 1:24.32 which represents a 1.62 second advantage to the Camaro. That is significant in a 1-minute-20-second lap.

Many Mustang fans are now probably either angry at Ford or blaming the driver or a host of other factors but there are a couple of things to consider. Ford probably knows the wide demographic of Mustang buyers and it didn't want to scare anyone away with an overly stiff ride. Some people are blaming the fact that the chassis is still new and cars improve with age and while that is very true, I think that Ford wanted the launch model year to be soft and comfortable for the average driver. Let's face it, car enthusiasts are not your average driver and there are more average buyers looking for something fast and sporty than enthusiasts looking for certain balance at the limit and lap times. It would also be easier to convince someone who is disappointed by the numbers to come back to a Mustang by putting a much more aggressive package rather than someone who found the launch model overly stiff to come back by softening the ride.

I'll be the first to admit that my car, a 2012 Boss 302, is underdamped from the factory. You can tell from the body motions. You won't get in the car and mistake it for an old Cadillac. It is stiffly sprung but the body motions aren't as well controlled as they can be, especially given what the chassis is capable of with a good set of dampers. Don't get me wrong, it's an extremely capable package but a food set of dampers go a long way. I have no doubt that with a really good set of dampers, the Performance Pack could really transform the 2015 Mustang GT into something else.

Finally, the wheel and tire package. One thing that is easy to notice is how much wider the wheels on the Camaro are compared to the Mustang. A wider wheels reduces tire squirm and increases stability, something that probably hurt the Mustang and was mentioned in the video. Combine the better footprint of the Camaro with better controlled body motions and you've got a winning combination.

The Mustang still made a great showing, it was simply a little overshadowed by the now aging Camaro. It was still 1.5 seconds faster than the outgoing 2014 Mustang GT with the Track Pack, but it wasn't enough to beat the 1LE. Now while that may seem like a failure considering the age of the current Camaro, I think there is some positive in the outcome. Ford benchmarked the E92 BMW M3 with the Boss 302 and it handily beat it. It took a huge leap in the power wars with the last Shelby GT500, producing 662 hp. The 1LE package is a few years now and it has already beaten the 2014 Mustang GT Track Pack. I think if Ford wanted the new Mustang to beat the Camaro, it would have. Nevertheless, a win is a win and if you want the best pony car to take to the track without modifications and want to worry only about tires, brake pads and fluids, the SS 1LE is the better car. Since it appears that Ford left the job of beating lap times to the upcoming GT350, this one is bound to be a beast. Here's hoping we won't have to wait much longer for the reveal and testing!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Dodge pulls factory-backed Viper from Road Racing

Very depressing news came from Dodge today when it announced that it will pull its factory-backed SRT Motorsports Viper from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship after the 2014 season. This is just within days of multiple wins. SRT Motorsports won the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GTLM-class driver and team championships in the season-ending Petit Le Mans 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta just two days ago, Saturday, October 4. It also finished second in the GTLM manufacturer championship, all in just its second full year of the program.

This and a strong heritage for Viper in road racing means that success can't be the problem. Why is Dodge pulling the plug? It is unclear but, according to Ralph Gilles, Senior Vice President of Product Design at Chrysler, it is a business decision. He said: “Our company has made a business decision to discontinue the SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R racing program. We are very proud of the amazing achievements our fantastic teams, drivers and partners have achieved on track the last few seasons. We thank them for their hard work, effort and commitment to SRT Motorsports. It’s been an honor to be a part of the inaugural IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season and we wish them every success in the future.”

I can only think of funding as being the challenge. I hope that funding is the only problem and that it will be available to put back into the sport soon. For now, we will have to miss the Viper unless an independent team decides to go at it.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

2015 Mustang GT breaks into the 11's in the 1/4 mile!

It went 11.77 seconds to be exact and past the traps at 116 mph and that's with minor modifications. The modifications were courtesy of the folks at Ford Racing. They recently got a hold of three 2015 Mustangs, one with the 2.3L EcoBoost engine making 310 hp and two GT's with the 5.0L V8 making 435 hp.

The power modifications are minor for two of the three Mustangs. The 2.3 EcoBoost gets a "Prototype Off-Road Exhaust" which most likely means there are no catalytic converters or "cats", a more free flowing exhaust and a tune. One of the GT's gets the same off-road exhaust treatment and a tune plus "ARH Cobra Jet Long Tube Headers". In the video, they say they did "a few changes to the air intake system but basically these are close to what any consumer can buy" so they may have included a K&N drop-in filter which FRPP Performance Packs for the 2014 Mustang GT included or an aftermarket CAI with a cone style filter.

The final GT gets the full treatment which includes all the above plus a Ford Racing Roush supercharger and obviously a new intake to accommodate the supercharger. It is unclear what the boost psi level is for the supercharged GT and what the tune raises the EcoBoost psi to but the 1/4 mile numbers are great. Additional suspension parts and drag slicks help the drop the time.

The passenger and rear seats are removed and the driver seat is replaced with a race seat but that seems to be the extent of it for weight savings, probably to substitute for the roll cage and testing equipment if any are fixed to the car. If you pause at 2:18, you'll see one of the the mounting points for the front passenger seat surrounded by black (the carpet). I know the front seats on the S197 Mustangs weigh about 60 lb. each (mine weighed 57 lb. with the frame). According to American Muscle, a rear seat delete kit on the S197 Mustang saves "up to 30 lb."  Between the race seat and removed passenger and rear seats, total savings should be under 120 lb. The roll cage probably offsets most of that if not all so overall difference, positive or negative, compared to a stock interior is probably negligible.

If these parts are available through Ford Racing like power packs for the S197 and maintain warranty if installed by the dealer, it will make a lot of people happy. Watch the video above to see the new Mustangs going at it or scroll below to see a list of modifications and 1/4 mile numbers although no dyno numbers are listed.

2.3L EcoBoost - 1/4 mile: 12.56 s at 109.17 mph

Ford Racing parts:
- Performance Rear Subframe Kit
- Heavy Duty Half-Shaft Kit
- Draft Shaft Safety Loops
- Prototype Off-Road Exhaust
- Ford Racing Development Engine Calibration

Other parts:
- Hoosier Drag Racing Slicks (Rear)
- Weld-Racing AlumaStar Drag Wheels (Rear)
- Four-Point Roll Cage
- Recaro Race Seat

Naturally Aspirated 5.0L GT - 1/4 mile: 11.77 s at 116.21 mph

Ford Racing parts:
- Performance Rear Subframe Kit
- Heavy Duty Half-Shaft Kit
- Prototype Off-Road Exhaust
- Draft Shaft Safety Loops
- Ford Racing Development Engine Calibration

Other parts:
- Hoosier Drag Racing Slicks (Rear)
- Weld-Racing AlumaStar Drag Wheels (Rear)
- ARH Cobra Jet Long Tube Headers
- Four-Point Roll Cage
- Recaro Race Seat

Supercharged 5.0L GT - 1/4 mile: 10.97 s at 128.91 mph

Ford Racing parts:
- Ford Racing/ROUSH Performance Supercharger Kit
- Performance Rear Subframe Kit
- Heavy Duty Half-Shaft Kit
- Drive Shaft Safety Loops
- Ford Racing Development Engine Calibration

Other parts:
- Hoosier Drag Racing Slicks (Rear)
- Weld-Racing AlumaStar Drag Wheels (Rear)
- Four-Point Roll Cage
- Recaro Race Seat

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Motor Trend Best Driver's Car 2014 - A Closer Look

This year's Best Driver's Car probably surprised many people because the winner was a lowly Camaro. A car that some people would argue is a muscle car, not even a sports car. With that said, let's start with the highs. As always, it's important to note that picking a car as an impressive or disappointing one doesn't mean it is quick or slow. It just means that, in my opinion, the car did much better or much worse than I excepted it to.

The Highs:

2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 - 1:37.82: This is obvious. It's a Camaro and it won. It's a blue collar's hero, a car with humble beginnings. Many will argue that it isn't a blue collar anymore with a price tag just north of $70,000 but the last time a car with the same task and equally humble beginnings tried to take on purpose built cars, the Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca, it finished in 5th place (Motor Trend Best Driver's Car 2011). The last time a Camaro tried to do the same feat, it finished in 6th (Motor Trend Best Driver's Car 2012). The Boss 302 LS cost just under $50,000 and the Camaro ZL1 is just over $55,000 so maybe an extra $15,000-$20,000 is what it takes?

2014 Ford Fiesta ST - 1:51.25: This was surprising for two reasons. It beat out cars like the 2015 Subaru WRX STI, 2015 BMW i8 and 2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe R and it put down an impressive lap time that was just over 1 second behind the GTI. With a starting price under $21,000 in the US ($22,638 in Canada), hatchback functionality and great performance, this may be just tick all the right boxes for someone with room for only one car in the driveway.

The Lows:

2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe R - 1:42.01: Last year, the F-Type was represented at Motor Trend's Best Driver's Car. An F-Type Convertible S took on the challenge. It finished in 4th place out of 12 cars while this Coupe R finished in 9th place out of 10, just 1 place from last. It was also 1.2 seconds slower than the Convertible S. An R version should be higher than S in the Jaguar hierarchy of nomenclature. Add in the fact that it was a coupe which should have the handling advantage and had a solid 55 hp advantage over last year's Convertible S and it becomes clear I found it disappointing. I don't consider Best Driver's Car rankings to be unarguable or set in stone. I would be surprised if the fact that it is a Coupe and it is an R version made them take it more seriously as a track car and rate it differently compared to a convertible which adds a different perspective but there's no arguing with the numbers.

2014 Nissan GT-R Nismo - 1:35.51: The base GT-R starts at $101,770. The as-tested price of this Nismo version was $151,880 so it demands over $50,000 premium. For that, you get Nismo-tuned dampers and springs, upped the front caster-trail, thicker 17.3 mm hollow rear stabilizer bar and half-inch wider front wheels, Nismo-spec Dunlops, larger diameter hub bolts, and Super GT-inspired body boosted stability and grip. Nismo used GT3-derived turbos to give the car a stronger mid-range and boosted power to 600 hp and 481 lb-ft. All of this resulted in.. a lap that's just over 1 second at Laguna Seca.. and slower 1/4 mile time. The Nismo version had a 1/4 mile time of 11.1 seconds and a trap speed of 125.3 mph vs the 2013 Track Edition performance of 11.0 seconds flat at 125.1 mph. How do you add grip and 55 hp and lose a tenth and only gain 0.2 mph? Something doesn't add up. Sometimes stiffening up the suspension can hurt launch because of reduce weight transfer to the rear but I would imagine that would be less of a factor in a car with AWD, especially one with an advanced AWD system like the GT-R and an extra 55 hp should remedy any disadvantage. Motor Trend is putting some blame on the mediocre performance (compared to the Track Edition) on 91 octane gas but last year's BDC testing was also done with 91 octane gas so it should be the same. The video of the hot lap also shows the car slightly missing the apex in corner 9, emphasizing the corner entry understeer they were talking about.

It's important to note that I haven't driven any of the car's above so I'm simply forming an opinion based on objective and subjective information posted. With that said, I liked this year BDC better than last year's, although there are many cars that I was hoping to see compete. Apparently, many people agree because Motor Trend posted an article just to address certain cars that weren't there (Motor Trend: Where's My Favorite Car?!). On the plus side, this should mean that next year's BDC should be packed so I'll be looking forward to that. For some reason, Car and Driver skipped the Lightning Lap feature this year so hopefully we can expect one next year.