Check It Out! Roush Yates Engine on the Dyno!
A car needs a great hook to make a good impression. Recently it seems the most sure-fire way to make a Mustang stand out was to build it to resemble a prop from the cinematic crash-’em-up genre. Clones—or sometimes tributes as they’re known—are crowd-pleasers.
Not to Brent Berge. “I’m sick of the Eleanor clones and tributes,” he admits, jabbing at the 1967 and 1968 fastbacks configured to look like the hero from the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds. When the third-generation car dealer set out to make his mark in the Mustang world, he went in a more traditional direction: with exotic power—specifically a Roush Yates Engines RY45.
For those who don’t know the engine, Roush Yates made the RY45 by detuning its FR9, an engine designed for NASCAR’s Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup series. Though branded Ford, the engine only tenuously resembles any Ford product.
Among other things, the company bored cam journals oversized to minimize deflection and put them 6.150 inches over the crank to accommodate a stroke as long as 4.250-inch. Spreading the bore centers to 4.500-inch permits a 4.185-inch bore. Wildly overkill for a street-driven car, dry-sump oiling ensures full pressure in all vehicle positions short of upside-down. Design in the digital realm builds up material where strength and coolant flow are needed and eliminates it where they aren’t, making the engine look a little like a denuded Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Terminator.
The idea resonated within Brent, the son and nephew of Phoenix-area drag racers Brent (Sr.) and Craig Berge. He was already underway building the lightest version of the Mustang. “There are already enough KR cars and replicas and GT500s,” he maintains, adding that he prefers the early cars’ nimbleness. “They’re smaller and cleaner,” justifying his decision to build this ’65 model.
“The engine changed everything,” says Tony Arme, the car’s lead fabricator, who says initial plans called for a 535-horse Windsor. He’d already installed a complete RideTech suspension, welding the bolt-in four-link cradle to better tie it into the body, then linking it to the front subframe with matrix of connectors and crossmembers. But the engine is more than massively different; it’s just plain massive. “The heads, they’re ginormous,” he exclaims. “The exhaust ports were right there at the shock towers. You couldn’t even put stock manifolds in there.”
Ah, Ford’s shock towers, an encumbrance second only to the company’s frustrating combination of accessory-drive components and externally balanced rotating assemblies. But to Brent, the towers are every bit as emblematic as the pony car’s long-hood, short-deck profile. “Most people who build early Mustangs delete the shock towers and go to a different suspension altogether,” he says. “I don’t like that.”
Though the RideTech system still mounts the springs over the upper arms, it does so with a much smaller diameter coilover, so Tony sectioned the towers right above the upper control arm mounts to make the engine bay wider. “It gave us just enough room to run headers, but they weren’t easy to make.”
Each header bank is actually four stepped (1-7/8″ to 2″) pipes that fit together, one by one. “You have to be a contortionist to install them,” Tony observes. “One bolt from the top over here, another from the side over there, and another from the bottom here. Those towers made the project drastically more expensive.” As Brent is quick to point out, though, this wasn’t a cost-cutting project. “Those towers are one of the things that makes a Gen I a Gen I,” he maintains.
Neither would the induction system fit under the Ringbrothers scoop. But Roush Yates wouldn’t let them mill the manifold. “It was all designed to work a certain way,” Tony says. Instead, they found a low-profile throttle body and shoved the engine down as far as they could, a task made easier by a small-diameter flywheel and McLeod RXT twin-disc clutch. “Being dry-sumped really helped too,” he adds.
The dry sump has implications of its own. “It had to hold like five to seven gallons of oil.” Tony says. “They sent this giant thing that looks like a 55-gallon drum. Gregg (Grisham) cut it down and built more of a storage box that fits down in the quarter well behind the wheel so we could get the volume up without taking up so much space. It ended up taking 27 quarts when we were done. Then it was a matter of routing oil lines!” Roush Yates specified three massive -16 AN lines: two to feed the pump and one to return oil to the tank. That doesn’t account for the dozens more feet of line going among the pump, filter, and engine. “There’s fluid pumping all over that car.”
Tony hid the lines not so much for style’s sake as much as packaging. “There’s no spare room under that car,” he says. “Everything runs inside the quarters and under the seat risers. The lines run through these false floors and up in the wheelwell behind the fender so you don’t see anything from the underside. It’s all hidden ,which is cool but also kind of a bummer since it looks so neat.” Finally, the engine’s narrower power band dictated a T56, “…which, of course, doesn’t fit in the stock tunnel,” Tony says. Jonathan Williams built that.
Jonathan did the lion’s share of bodywork, most of which consisted of restoring what was already there and refining gaps and lines. Fuel filler, spoilers, shaved drip rails, and cowl withstanding, “There’s nothing that’s been cut or chopped,” Brent observes. “I feel like Lee Iaccoca did it right in 1963.”
Joe Perkins at American Traditions applied the Concealed Silver, a color blended for the car and now available through Sherwin-Williams. Glenn Kramer at Hot Rods by Glenn wrapped everything in Relicate leather and suede. The false floors wear a layer of unfinished carbon cloth, an otherwise delicate material that Brent says stands up to use. A dealer at heart, he credits the floor mats.
Though detuned, the RY45 makes similar power figures (660 lb-ft torque and 820 hp) thanks to increased displacement (427 versus 358). That’s a lot of both. Where the engine makes those figures tells more: peak torque lands at 5,800 rpm, a speed where most higher-performance street engines make peak power, and peak power comes at a stratospheric 8,800 rpm.
That completely alters the way the car behaves. First, it sounds pissed off doing just about anything. Second, it takes a little fancy footwork to get things rolling. “So, in a Ferrari, you have to keep the Rs up. But once the revs are up, it just sings along,” Brent observes. “Well this one, you hit the gas and it starts singing and doesn’t stop. It just keeps going, going, going. You still have to pay attention to keep it between the lines, but as far as wondering if you should’ve downshifted to Third or even Second, that never enters the equation. It really doesn’t matter. It’s going to go, regardless.”
“Once we committed to that engine, everything was built around it—the firewall, the tunnel, the crossmembers,” Tony concludes. “This was about making the car different, unique. He wanted something special, to do something that hasn’t been done to a Mustang before.” According to Roush Yates, he succeeded. Not only is this the first RY45 in a Mustang, it’s the first in a street-driven car, period.
Some out there will make the case that a hook is nothing more than a gimmick, and they’re probably right, but if your idea of a detuned NASCAR mill is gimmickry, we really want to see what you consider legit.
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