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Mustang “Base to Beast” Update 1: So it Begins


It took me around a month for me to buy my first modification for my 2016 Fiesta ST. Not so with my 2018 Mustang EcoBoost; I was already browsing parts list immediately after test driving the car that would become my Mustang. Driving the Fiesta ST for the first time, it was clear that Ford had made a fun little car, whereas driving the Mustang for the first time showed me that I had to make it into a fun car.

Challenge accepted.

Before I had even finished signing the paperwork, I had already purchased the first part on my way towards that goal: a new Steeda clutch spring. During the test drive, I—embarrassingly—stalled the car almost immediately. Luckily, my salesman owned a S550 Mustang GT himself, and keyed me in to Steeda’s own clutch spring, which “fixes” the feel of the clutch by making the action much more ‘normal’. To go with the clutch spring, I also purchased a set of accelerator pedal spacers from a company called SpaceCity Spy, that doesn’t sell them—or anything else—anymore. Just like with my Fiesta ST, Ford’s designers just can’t seem to get the pedal spaced properly for heel-toe downshifts.

Steeda Spring
This spring makes the car so much better to drive.

These minor pedal box modifications simply heralded the opening of the modification flood gates. My Mustang has just recently neared 3500 miles, and already the car has a number of parts added to it, and even more waiting in the wings to be installed. The parts already on the car are, in no particular order:

  • Factory “Performance Pack” front brakes—14in rotor and 4 piston caliper brakes.
  • 18×7 Factory Mustang wheels, with the OEM tires, to fit the bigger brakes.
  • Brake pads front/rear.
  • A locally fabricated axle-back exhaust.
  • AEM panel air filter.
  • Brisk Racing Spark Plugs—1 step colder and pre-gapped.

As Bob Ross might say, the wheels and brakes were a “happy accident”, as I was not planning on purchasing them so soon, but the prices simply could not be ignored. The wheels and tires, with about 60% left on the tires, were had for $400, from a Mustang GT owner who did an upgrade of his own. Since the wheels alone, even used, normally ran between $600-$800 on eBay, I decided to jump on this (local) deal.

Wheels and Brakes
This potato-photo shows my new wheels and the brakes they were meant to fit.

The wheels will eventually be shod in 265/40ZR/18s, and while that isn’t a lot of tire for this platform, I think that a good tire of the smaller width will allow the car to not be ‘over-tire’d’ for its power level, allowing some fun driving. The extra tire height gained by using 18in wheels instead of 19in wheels will also hopefully preserve the ride quality when the suspension is fiddled with (foreshadowing).

The most important thing the wheels allow me, however, is to fit larger brakes, as the 17in wheels from factory were extremely limiting. Again, I was planning on buying the front Performance Pack brakes used, because $300 was easier to swallow than $600ish dollars, for the calipers alone. I assumed I would acquire rotors new, bringing the total cost for a “big brake” kit for the front to about $600.

Then, one day on eBay, I found the calipers I wanted and the rotors for $259. It seemed to good to be true, but I contacted the seller and they assured me they were the proper part, taken off a rear-end wreck at around 9,000 miles. I immediately jumped on them, bought some brake pads for them not trusting the brakes would really work, all the way until they were securely on my car under the new-to-me 18in wheels. Shout-out to The Parts Farm for helping me out!

I was a happy boy that week.

Beyond that, most of the other modifications were fairly modest. I had a local muffler shop fab up a quick axle-back, because anyone who has driven a stock EcoBoost Mustang will know that the engine is virtually silent from the factory. I decided to simply go with an axle-back, because Cat-Backs are way more expensive, and tuning-wise, I am not there, and it would be a waste of money for no real gains. We went with 2, 2.25-inch straight-through mufflers while retaining the stock resonator. Despite the small muffler size, the dual 2.25” race mufflers flow much more air than the restrictive factory set-up, and sound awesome to boot. Keeping the stock resonator, coupled with the smaller size, means the car is loud down low, in a non-fart can sort of way, while quieting down at cruising speeds.

While I mentioned in my previous article on the Mustang that I was going to keep the engine stock for the warranty, and to preserve the mileage, I should have said I am going to keep the engine ‘stock-ish’. I am a firm believer that a light tune from a reputable tuner is a relatively safe way to wake up an engine. Keeping a car “Stage 1”—whatever that means for your car—generally wakes up the engine while preserving mileage and reliability. That is my plan.

So much from something so simple.

While Cobb is busy re-programming my Fiesta ST’s AccessPort for use with my Mustang EcoBoost—a modest and fair $150 charge—I prepared the engine by changing the oil, putting an AEM panel filter in the stock air box, and installing one-step colder Brisk Racing plugs pre-gapped by Tune + to their well-know EcoBoost tuner Adam’s specifications. Even without the tune, the engine felt a little bit livelier.

And with that the modifications currently applied to the Mustang are done. The pedals feel better, the brakes are nicer, the wheels fit the brakes and look nice to boot, and the engine is nice and refreshed. Now, for the future modifications. These are parts that are either already in my garage waiting to be put on, or bough and in transit. They are all going on at the same time:

  • Maximum Motorsports Starter Box (Shocks/Struts, Sway bars, Springs, Camber plates).
  • Steeda Adjustable Rear Toe Links with Delrin Bushings
  • BMR Rear Upper Control Arm Camber Links w/ Delrin Bearings
  • Steeda Front Roll Center & Bump steer Correction Kit
  • Steeda Adjustable Bump Stop Kit
  • 265/40ZR/18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S Tires

I am hoping that all that work going into the suspension will tighten up the car’s handling, making it much more fun and controllable, all while preserving the safety and comfort of the car. Stay tuned for the update when all of that, plus Cobb’s Stage 1 off-the-shelf tune gets put on the car*.

Until then, I turned my initial ‘meh’ feelings towards the car into a budding love for the car. It feels livelier, it looks better, sounds better, and stops better. Pretty soon, it will look even better, be even faster, and handle like a totally different car. At that point, I will just have to wait out the winter, or pray for good weather, and then I can take it out of the canyons and off the highways, and onto the track.

It is going to be a good time with this car.

Like the article? Want to read more like it? Check out my website, for weekly history articles and more besides. If I missed something or if you have a question, feel free to leave a comment below, and don’t forget to hit the like button.

Stephen Hyden View All

I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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