More people need to consider the (2005-2014) “S197” Mustang for track use! Parts are cheap and it really does not take much to turn one into an awesome “Driver’s-car”. There are a lot of misconceptions that Mustangs don’t handle well, are too heavy, and only belong on the drag strip. This project car is focused on dispelling these myths and show how to make arguably the best and least expensive 400whp track car.
The world has enough low-powered ‘momentum-cars’.
Racetracks across the country are filled with Miatas, S2000s and older BMWs for a reason. They are inexpensive, cheap to run, reliable, handle well, and are fun to drive. I’ve owned many over the years for these very reasons. Growing up in the 90’s, there really weren’t any affordable V8 cars that fit this bill. But there are now. The 2005-2014 “S197” Mustang is a perfect example; it will check off all of these boxes while delivering a lot more power and torque – and torque is fun.
S197 Mustangs have dropped to a price that makes them prime contenders as track cars. The car has a strong chassis that does not need welded-in reinforcements like many BMWs. It also has a simple suspension and drivetrain layout with significantly less bushings to upgrade or maintain, unlike BMWs that have bushings in the driveshaft, differential, subframe, and a ton of suspension arms that all need to be replaced and are quite labor-intensive to do so.
On the Mustang, replacement and upgraded parts are insanely cheap and easy to install, which is important for low running costs. Having spent most my early driving years around import cars from Japan and Germany, it was eye-opening how low the prices were for parts when I first started getting into modifying American cars. This project will demonstrate how cheap and easy it is to make power out of a Mustang and get them to handle well.
Typically, power isn’t important or even a good thing for track days. The common advice to those new to tracking cars is: “buy a Miata”. Like this hilarious shirt from BlipShift suggests. While there is merit to this, I’m going to go against the convention of recommending an under-powered “momentum” car and recommend a Mustang because they are a blast to drive. Plus, learning how to modulate the throttle while coming out of a low-speed a corner in a car with torque is an important skill to learn and a lot more fun.
The Mustang really is a great platform to learn driving on. The Skip Barber Racing School currently uses S197s in most of their racing schools.
I’m sure there are people who are rolling their eyes at the idea of taking a solid-axle pony car to anything other than a drag strip. But believe me, having raced this generation of Mustang professionally for 7 years, it does not take much to transform them into extremely competent track machines.
Because the S197 Mustang’s suspension layout is so simple and extremely effective, fine tuning and optimizing the suspension at the track is far easier than on most cars. Changing the cross weight and rake becomes a useful and powerful tool for the average track guy, and is easy to adjust since it really doesn’t affect the alignment like it does on most cars with independent rear suspension.
The solid rear axle does not have adjustable camber or toe, so only the front of the car needs to be aligned. This can be done with simple toe plates, a tape measure, and a cellphone to act as a camber gauge in a pinch. This gives the Mustang a significant competitive advantage over other platforms that require a full alignment at a shop or an experienced race team with a lot of equipment to make setup changes at the track.