Roush Performance makes faster Fords

Phil Berg
Car Culture

The last car of a limited-edition Roush P-51 Mustang model, number 51, will get final tuning at Roush Performance in Plymouth Township this week, and then it will be ready to drive by its new owner — Jack Roush, head of the privately owned engineering, design and manufacturing firm Roush that’s been involved in almost every performance model from Ford since the 1990s.

“He hasn’t driven it yet,” says Gary Jurick, the president of Roush Performance, the division that created the P-51 as well as a long list of faster Fords. “We’ll give him a special invoice price.”

The car’s supercharged engine makes 727 horsepower, so far the most powerful model for sale in the U.S. that hasn’t received hot-rodding in the aftermarket, although only 50 folks other than Jack Roush will get this specially tuned upgrade this year.

That means at this point in the factory-blessed horsepower race, the 2017 ZL1 Camaro ranks at 650 horsepower using a 1.7-liter Eaton supercharger, and the Dodge Challenger Hellcat introduced for 2015 boasts 707 horsepower using a 2.4-liter IHI supercharger. The Dodge Demon makes 840 horsepower.

Jack Roush, now 75 and an avid pilot who owns two World War II P-51 Mustang fighter planes, used the name P-51A for a limited run of 151 hot-rodded Mustangs that produced 510 horsepower in 2008, which have been selling among car collectors for six-figure prices. The latest P-51 costs a bit less, $42,500 on top of the roughly $35,000 price of a normal Mustang GT.

The P-51 is powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 boosted by a 2.3-liter Eaton TVS supercharger, and comes with a six-speed Getrag manual transmission, or a six-speed automatic — which is the transmission Jack selected for his car. Forged lightweight Weld wheels with Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires, uprated brakes, and an interior with custom Amaretto Tuscany leather seats and door panels — chosen to recall the feel of a World War II bomber pilot’s jacket — are also part of the P-51.

The P-51 also features an “Active Exhaust System” that has three sound profiles, plus an owner-programmable setting that can be set through an iPhone. As Jurick explains, you can set a muffler bypass valve in its wide-open and loudest setting and then set the valve to send exhaust through the muffler to quietly loaf along at 70 mph on the freeway.

“Without the back pressure of the muffler, there’s sure to be more efficiency, but it’s difficult to measure,” adds Jurick, although when he fired up Jack’s car in the Plymouth Township assembly building last week, the exhaust noise made my ears vibrate in the way that gets car nuts’ attention.

Technically, the three-year, 36,000-mile factory warranty of the P-51 does not apply during racing, although Jurick says the company has a good relationship with customers, and doesn’t immediately disqualify a broken car for spirited driving. If a car is brought in with damage that might have come from abuse on the track, “We have a conversation with the owner,” says Jurick, although Roush Performance usually will help the owner get the car back in shape, he adds.

The P-51 gets a rear spoiler and front scoops, as well as hand-painted badges with a silhouette of the original WWII fighter plane, commemorating the 357th Fighter Group. Included in the price is a hardbound history of the group. The 357th Fighter Group produced more Ace pilots than any other in WWII.

The only Ford faster than the P-51 is the 647-hp GT, which is a lot lighter than the Mustang, explains Jurick. “We build the engine in that car. If you want to go fast, there isn’t anything out there that will beat it.” The race version of the 216-mph GT won its class at the LeMans 24-hour race in 2016, exactly 50 years following the first win of a Ford over the dominant Ferrari sports racing cars.

There are 150 Roush Ford dealers who sell cars modified by Roush Performance, which cranks out about 2,000 Mustangs and F-150 pickups for customers hungry for more power. Roush Performance does its own design, engineering, manufacturing and assembly for its cars, and its parent company has 5,000 employees.

“Ford is a large customer,” explains Jurick, but it’s not the only customer for Roush. “Jack started the company with Ford, and we have a unique relationship.”

Just 30 percent of Roush’s work developing higher performance vehicles is for Ford, the rest for military, industry, other automakers and aftermarket.