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R-Spec Mustang Review

We recently wrote about the fabulous bio-pic “Ford v Ferrari”. It’s largely about the working relationship between Ken Miles, an engineer, and Carroll Shelby, Ford’s ambassador and favourite son.

Shelby was handpicked, singled out if you will, to develop Ford vehicles with power and handling, and was able to market the cars under his own name.

Rob Herrod, of Herrod Performance in Melbourne, Victoria, is the Australian version of Shelby. Herrod’s been handed the keys to the former Ford factory at Broadmeadows and is building a run of 500 Mustangs under the Herrod banner and it’s a definitive collaboration with Ford here in Australia. This wouldn’t be happening without the support of Ford in the U.S., and Ford Australia, hence the resemblance to the Shelby operations.

The official name for the vehicle is Herrod Performance Mustang R-Spec. The cost is $98,980 plus on road costs. It comes complete with full ADR sign-off and Ford’s five year warranty & servicing.

When it comes to registration time, they’re registered as a Herrod Mustang, not a Ford Mustang.  It’s something that Rob himself readily agrees is “surreal”.

The idea for the R-Spec has come from the many requests from Mustang owners to up the performance quotient of the already potent 5.0L V8 found in the vast majority of Mustangs sold. A supercharged Mustang was very quickly on the wish list of owners and prospective buyers, with some unwilling to stump up the cash until a “blown” Mustang was available.

The standard 5.0L V8 engine is rated as 339kW for peak power, torque is 556Nm, and that’s at a decent 4,600rpm.

 The source of the increases for push and twist for the Mustang R-Spec is a supercharger developed by Ford Performance in the U.S. There’s an air capacity of 2.65 litres, and pushed into the engine at 12psi. With little other than that, the standard V8 jumps to 522kW and 827Nm for the American Mustangs. The engine in the R-Spec is said to produce something around the same, if perhaps a bit more.

 Rob says the engines in the R-Spec aren’t dynoed as the cost to do so properly would add several zeroes to the costs of production. But when the cars are bolted down, via the rear wheel hubs, figures for 430kW to 450kW are recorded.

The process to produce a vehicle such as this hasn’t simply been a case of taking a Herrod fettled engine and replacing the standard one. The cars are first put, after clearing Customs from their delivery from the U.S.  into a brightly lit room. This allows visual inspections to check for dents, scrapes, scratches, and panel fitment.

A clean room starts the strip down process, with areas such as the fuel system attended to. The cars come with fuel in the tanks supplied by American outlets, and these are drained and replaced by Shell V-Power fuel. This ensures consistency when the hub dyno tests are run. Engine oils are changed too, with Shell Helix Ultra the Herrod specified lubricant.

Each supercharger is hand-assembled to fit the V8 engine.  A team is assigned to each car and Herrod said, in late April, that they’re building six cars a day, with the start to finish process taking around two weeks, with the run expected to be completed by June.

As part of the upgrade process, Herrod Performance adds deeper breathing via an active sports exhaust. Inside the cabin are four steering wheel mounted buttons that change the noise from a mild rorty growl to a full on angry big cat fight.

The Australian spec Mustang is already a good pedal. Herrod ensures the performance update translates to a handling package capable of dealing with the bigger numbers, with stabiliser bars that have been upgraded. They’re now 37mm and 25.2mm in thickness, 5mm and 3mm bigger than before. A drop in ride height adds to the already assertive look, with a 20mm ride height reduction.

Michelin was chosen to supply the rubber, and the tyres are the same name as found on something as exotic as the Koenigsegg Gemara. The Pilot Sport 4 S wraps the Gemara’s big wheels, and here the spinners are 255/40/19 front and 275/40/19 rear.

There has to be visual sizzle to help sell the steak, and the exterior changes  include a bespoke front valance panel and huge rear wing for true downforce, R-Spec black striping, a larger air intake to feed the blower and engine, plus a black Pony badge sitting between  blacked out headlight surrounds.

When it comes to getting that grunt to the tarmac, a six speed manual is the default gearbox. It’s a move that has delighted those that subscribe to the manual as a “proper” gearbox, but there’s also engineering reasons why. As good as the ten speed auto is that’s available in the Mustang, there’s work required to bring it up to strength with 800+ Nm being channelled through it. It’s not out of the picture but also not in the script at the moment.

With a world increasingly looking at how green a car company can be, local emissions testing, not U.S. based testing, has given the Herrod Performance Mustang R-Spec the green tick. Once again that collaboration for Ford Australia pays dividends. It’s also been fuel economy tested and isn’t markedly different from the standard version, with a combined consumption figure of 14.4L/100 kilometres. Utilise the potential of the engine, however, and expect to see numbers over 20.0L/100km.

Speaking with Rob, there’s a real sense of the intensity that has driven his love of automobiles for close to 45 years. At the age of 15 he left school to follow his passion, with pumping fuel and wheel work part of his initial automotive experience. Having a family background in the area hasn’t hurt, with both his grandfather and father being A-Grade automotive engineers.

Rob says with a measure of pride that his grandfather was certified as Automotive Engineer 101, according to the paperwork Rob has and holds dear.

His own involvement with The Blue Oval goes back to 2000, with an invite from the late Howard Marsden to join and work in the Ford Racing “skunkworks” team. His experience and determination has seen his operation grow to be the world’s biggest Ford Performance Parts distributor outside of the U.S.

His determination to be Rob Herrod, automotive engineer, is why this current project has come into being. In a run of around two hundred cars that were also supercharged, covering a manufacturing period of 2015 to 2017, this led to being asked to head the team to develop and build what is now the Herrod Performance Mustang R-Spec.

Ford U.S. were the first to press the button to start the process, with Ford Australia realising that the car would be indeed a good thing and also lending their official support. Herrod himself is a hands-on bloke, manning the spanners and working on the production line side by side with his team.

In a moment of introspection, Rob says that the factory premises that have Herrod Performance on the doors, and the cars being built that feature the Herrod Performance badge are a little at odds as how he sees himself.

“I’m still just me” says Herrod, and then says of the environment he’s now working in, with justifiable pride and that typical laidback Australian way, “I have achieved a bloody hell of a lot.”

500 Herrod Performance Mustang R-Spec owners don’t disagree at all.

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