Written By Steve Turner
Photography by Kevin DiOssi and courtesy of Steeda
For followers of 2015+ Mustang quarter-mile performance, particularly the naturally aspirated variety, Steeda's Silver Bullet is the pony car shot heard 'round the world. Saddled with the mission of proving the company's aftermarket upgrades on the quarter-mile, this car quickly set itself apart from the crowd. Piloted by the company's Director of Manufacturing, Scott Boda, this 2018 Mustang GT set the standard for all-natural Gen 3 Coyotes on the drag strip. This all started with the mission to combine impressive performance in a package so driver-friendly that it would appeal to the company's street customers.
"We wanted to be the first naturally aspirated 2018 into the 10s on motor, but, to also build a car that the customer can relate to showcasing our great suspension, cold air intakes, and some of the best vendors in the business," Boda said of the Silver Bullet's origins. "We wanted something that doesn't kill the drivability. We didn't want any solid bushings so you can still cruise to dinner with your wife on a Friday night without her asking why you ruined this brand-new car. It still needed to have stereo, A/C, and something you can take anywhere Publix, Tractor Supply, you name it."
Achieving this goal required a three-pronged attack that included increasing horsepower, reducing weight, and improving traction. Increasing the Coyote engine's output were a host of bolt-on upgrades including a Steeda closed-lid cold-air intake, American Racing Header long-tubes, AFS-ported heads, COMP Cams, and Lund Racing tuning. Highlighting the Silver Bullet's diet plan were Billet Specialties wheels, a QA1 carbon-fiber driveshaft, Baer brakes, Optic Armor Windows, a CM Components Rear Seat Delete, plus an Anderson Composites carbon-fiber hood and decklid. A host of Steeda suspension and chassis upgrades worked with a Circle D Torque torque converter and Mickey Thompson Tires to plant the power.
"It was so awesome! Getting into the 10s was shockingly easy. We produced a parts list, sent the car to Steeda Pompano to get tuned and the parts installed, and literally on my fifth pass with the new combo, it went 10s," Boda said. From there, we paved the way for the Gen 3 naturally aspirated game for over three years going as fast as 10.25 with a 100-percent-stock long-block. We would go to the track with a slight change, come back, run the numbers, tweak things, and already know what the next change was going to be to see the results. We then sent the heads off to get ported by Air Flow Solutions and installed a set of COMP Cams Stage III NA camshafts. Three passes later, we went a 9.94 at 139 mph with a stock bottom end and C85/E85 fuel. I remember diving it all week long, getting logs for Lund with the new cams as didn't have our dyno yet, so there was plenty of pump E85 in that tank when we ran nines. From there, a built short-block got us down to a 9.76 at 143 mph still on C85/E85 fuel."
While the car seemed poised to continue the naturally aspirated mission it became synonymous with, an unexpected issue presented a fork in the road. The company could continue its pursuit of all-natural performance or take the path toward even lower elapsed times enabled by the increased output created by a power adder.
"We were put in a unique situation when testing with some more aggressive fuels on our naturally aspirated build. Unfortunately, we had an injector stick wide open, which leaned out an entire bank," Steeda E-Commerce Marketing Director Chris Cervenka explained. "Needless to say, you can connect the dots from there. The timing couldn't have been more perfect for Edelbrock to reach out and inquire about the Silver Bullet program! With a bone-stock, Gen 3 Coyote short-block sitting in the warehouse gathering dust, it was a match made in heaven to make this project happen. The temptation was too great to resist, but taking the Silver Bullet in this direction follows a template that Steeda set with its earliest straight-line performers.
While you might first think of the company for improving the handling of Mustangs since the Fox era, Steeda also has a long history of quarter-mile development. Steeda's history with drag racing began in the late '80s and early '90s with the black Fox coupe that Dario had bought and used to develop the 11-second, all-motor package with the help of the Steeda #18 cam, GT-40 heads and Extrude Honed intake manifold," Steeda's Director of Manufacturing Scott Boda explained. "When I started, Dan Carlson, our engineer was drag racing the '96 505 car, making 505 horsepower with the help of a Vortech supercharger. A couple of years later, I got to take over the quarter-mile driving."
"More than 20 years ago, the company eventually set out to develop more aggressive upgrades under the Hardcore banner. However, it was the arrival of the 2015 Mustang and its new platform that truly accelerated the growth of that product line. The Hardcore line started back in the early 2000s when we developed some in-house hardcore parts as we knew there was a void in our product line. We focused on anti-roll bars, weight-jacker lowers and race uppers for the Fox platform," Boda explained. "It was instantly successful as three of the 2005 Fun Ford Weekend Champions ran Steeda suspensions. We have kept the product line small as our main customer is the everyday enthusiast. When the S550 came out, we released a handful of parts that did increase NVH under the Hardcore nameplate. And, when we ultimately got the Gen 3 Coyote, we wanted to bring that product line back to the forefront and support the drag racing community hence plastering ˜Hardcore' down the side of the Silver Bullet. We wanted something in your face, something to remind the enthusiasts that Steeda does know how to take your car to the next level on the drag strip as well. All we do is race, and Glen (Vitale, Vice President, Operations at Steeda and noted road racer) finally listened and let us play at the 1,320 once again."
And, play they did. The plan changed from those earlier days of slipping the clutch and banging gears. To keep pace with modern times, Boda knew that the project that would become the ever-so-successful Silver Bullet would need to take advantage of the latest technology.
"We knew we wanted to get back into the market. We have always had success on the road course and when the Gen 3 motor was announced, Dario reached out and said they were going to get me a stripped-down, manual-transmission car to go drag racing since the yellow #20 road-race car, started as our drag car in 2015," Boda said. "I suggested that we needed the 10R80 automatic instead so that it would be competitive. I like to kick and pull those gears, but there is no beating today's 10-speed technology."
That plan worked out until the aforementioned injector issue presented the opportunity to add boost into the mix.
"In some ways, the Silver Bullet's new trajectory is a way of starting over. The car benefits from all the bolt-on hardware that paved the way to its record-setting performance, but the car is starting over with a more modest foundation. The Silver Bullet has always been a relatable build. To anyone out there who wants to go fast with a naturally aspirated Gen 3 Coyote motor, the Steeda Silver Bullet drag program has allowed them a path to follow and reach their goals. Whether it's 10s or nines in the quarter-mile, naturally aspirated, it's obtainable thanks to the amazing tech Ford has offered in the Gen 3 Coyote," Cervenka said. "It was time to push the envelope even further. Many of those racers out there are in the same boat wanting to go faster with their 2018 Mustang GT. Forced induction was naturally the next chapter, and Edelbrock's kit is the perfect stepping stone to get there. Now, it's time to push it even further!"
In advance of the annual ModNationals event at South Georgia Motorsports Park, the Steeda team installed the Edelbrock Stage II Supercharger and the fresh factory short-block. Based on EATON's vaunted R2650 TVS rotors, the Edelbrock system includes a 103mm billet aluminum throttle body and a high-flow air intake system with 113mm mass air housing. Driven by an eight-rib belt drive, the supercharger's boost is cooled by a dual-pass, three-core air-to-water intercooler ensuring maximum performance and minimal heat soak.
Beyond the supercharger installation, Steeda is documenting the evolution of this combination in a series of online updates that began in mid-November and wrap up in February of next year. They will document just how far this combination can go via tuning and supporting hardware. However, the basis of the combination developed during its naturally aspirated evolution proved ready for this new mission.
"The only thing that changed was the injector size. We had the fuel system if we ever wanted to run different fuels naturally aspirated," Boda said. "With the motor, it was just using a stock short-block due to our NA motor having hurt pistons. As you might expect, it wasn't just the fuel system that was ready to rumble. The Silver Bullet already wears a full complement of Steeda chassis and suspension upgrades that were more than capable of hooking up the boosted power. That gear includes the company's S550 Mustang Drag Front K-Member, bumpsteer kit, camber plates, Pro-Action dampers, drag springs, Stop the Hop IRS upgrades, drag rear sway bar, and more.
While most of the upgrades are standard Steeda offerings, there are a few custom bits that eventually became production pieces from other manufacturers. There has been a fair amount of custom work to the car, however, it isn't anything that someone couldn't do at home in their garages, Cervenka said. In many cases, the custom work was a result of working with our vendors and their prototype parts to develop new parts to offer for the 2018+ Mustangs.
Setting records with the naturally aspirated combination required a precision calibration, and moving to boost mandated the same level of control. The Steeda team partnered with Lund Racing on the Silver Bullet to set those NA records and continues relying on those tuning skills for the boosted Bullet.
"Jon and his team are amazing and always impress me. Their ability to dial in a combo so quickly is mind-boggling. He asks a couple of questions like, 'What cams are you using, what blower pulley, and injectors.' Literally the first tune after checking a couple of idle logs and free-revving, it was time to strap it to the dyno," Boda explained. "He says, 'Take it to 4,500 and send a log.' 'Take it to 5,500.' Ok, 'Just take it to 7,500.' I mean it's unreal, and then he makes one small tweak, and we are good to go. Simply put, they have earned their reputation because their knowledge of these cars is second to none. In the end, the new combination generated 905 horsepower and 766 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels with the Edelbrock supercharger (fitted with a 3-inch upper pulley making 16 pounds of boost), stock long-block, and the needed fuel and tuning tweaks. Please baby Jesus keep the rods inside the block! I didn't think it would make close to the power it's making and that's with no timing in the motor at all," Boda said of the initial numbers. "The Edelbrock blower, Lund Racing tune, AFS heads, and COMP Cams are a potent combo."
The boosted Silver Bullet isn't just potent on Steeda's chassis dyno, however. Debuting at the aforementioned Mod Nationals event, the Steeda project picked up right where it left off running quicker. It delivered its best elapsed time to date with an 8.69 at 157 mph. Moreover, it ran an average of 8.775 over three passes to earn to both the overall and 8-second categories in the Modular True Street class.
"Lund said it would go 9.0s and first hit, and sure enough, it ran 9.07 on the first lick. He replied with ˜I told you so.' I thought it would go in the .80s or .70s, so the next couple slips I told him the same thing," Boda laughed. "I was very happy and can't wait to ramp in more timing to get it to 60-foot quicker."
The newly Edelbrock-supercharged Silver Bullet, piloted by Scott Boda, was able to click off a new personal best of 8.69 at 157 mph this past weekend at Mod Nationals! With an average of 8.775, the Steeda Silver Bullet won the overall fastest and 8-second average in Modular True Street. https:/youtu.be/pceIVLfDDJs
"If I thought people stared before, I was sadly mistaken. Between the wrap and chest-pounding thumping of the exhaust, I feel like the paparazzi are on my tail. The sound is a bit much for enjoying around town as my wife Chelsea will confirm. It's next-level compared to the NA setup, but that's what happens with over 1,000 horsepower to the crank," Boda said. "It's ready to party on the street at any given moment. Making a pass, that's just different and smooth. The car seems to go from A-B without issue and it happens pretty quickly. My Fox street car has run in the eights for over a decade, so while this is fast, a racer always wants to go faster! Not only is it streetable and demonstrably quick, but this vehicle is something that any 2018+ Mustang GT owner can replicate if they were so inclined."
"This is one of my favorite aspects of the Silver Bullet drag program," Cervenka added. "All these parts are easily accessible to our customers. If they want to replicate this car in their home garage, it's truly possible and many of our customers are!
Owner/Driver Owner/Driver: Steeda/Scott Boda
Hometown: Valdosta, Georgia
Occupation: Director of Manufacturing at Steeda
Class: NMRA QA1 True Street
Crew: Chelsea Boda, Chris Cervenka
Engine: Stock 2019 Mustang GT short-block
Engine builder: Ford
Displacement: 5.0 liters
Block: Gen 3 Coyote
Cylinder heads: 2018 Coyote ported by Bret Barber at Air Flow Solutions
Camshaft Brand: COMP Cams Stage 3 NA grind
Carburetor or EFI system: Stock PCM tuned by Lund Racing via an nGauge tuner
Power-adder: Edelbrock Mustang GT E-Force Stage 2 Street Supercharger with 3-inch pulley
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels C85
Spark plug brand: Ford Performance
Headers and exhaust: American Racing Headers 1 7/8-inch long-tubes
Transmission: 10R80 10-speed automatic with McLeod 10R80 heavy-duty clutches and QA1 carbon fiber driveshaft
Transmission Builder: Midnight Performance Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Circle D Specialties
Rearend: Factory Super 8.8 w/ Ford Performance severe-duty IRS halfshafts and stock 3.31 gears
Differential: Auburn Gear
Body and/or chassis builder: Ford
Suspension (Front): Steeda S550 Mustang Drag Front K-Member, Steeda Front Coilovers, Steeda Camber Plates, and Steeda Bump Steer Kit
Suspension (Rear): Steeda Rear Drag Springs, Steeda IRS Subframe Braces, Steeda Adjustable Rear Toe Links, Steeda Vertical links, Steeda Billet Rear Adjustable Camber Arms, Steeda Billet Shock Mounts, Steeda Drag Rear Sway Bar, Steeda 10-Piece IRS Subframe Insert Kit, Steeda IRS Subframe Alignment Kit, Steeda Adjustable Urethane Differential Mount Bushing Insert System, Steeda Hardcore IRS Differential Bracket, and Steeda S550 Mustang Threaded Differential Through Bolt Upgrade Kit
Brakes (Front) Brand: Baer Lightweight Drag four-piston Brakes (Rear) Brand: Baer Lightweight Drag four-piston
Wheels (front) Brand: Billet Specialties Mustang Win Lite, 17x4.5-inch Wheels (Rear) Brand: Billet Specialties Mustang Win Lite, 17x10-inch
Tires (Front) Brand: Mickey Thompson Tires (Rear) Brand: Mickey Thompson
Body modifications: Custom Metallic Gunmetal Partial Wrap by Tint Haus Customs, Morimoto Mustang XB LED Headlights and Diode Dynamics Mustang Elite Series Combination Turn/Fog Lamps
Fiberglass/Carbon body components: Anderson Composites carbon fiber hood and trunk, Optic Armor Performance lightweight front and fear windows, and CM Components Rear Seat Delete
Safety equipment: Watson Racing six-point roll bar and Safecraft Steeda six-point safety harness, and Corbeau front racing seats
Estimated or verified engine horsepower and torque: 905 horsepower and 766 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels
Vehicle weight: 3,725 pounds
Quickest ET: 9.76 seconds (naturally aspirated) and 8.69 seconds (supercharged)
Best 60-foot: 1.37 seconds (naturally aspirated) and 1.30 seconds (supercharged)
Fastest mph: 143 mph (naturally aspirated) and 158 mph (supercharged)