Article created for My Ford Magazine: By Patrick Dunn
As the engineering supervisor at Ford Racing, Mark Wilson must make sure that a new Ford racer fits its driver like a glove, beginning with the essential element of the engine. From the 2008 Cobra Jet to the upcoming 2014 Cobra Jet, Wilson and his team are always looking at ways to improve the product based on customer feedback. Most recently they’ve worked on the 2013 Mustang Cobra Jet, a full-fledged drag racer in the body of a production Mustang, adding an extra battery to the car to power fans and accessories. Wilson says clients can range from top-dollar pro racing teams to “weekend racers,” and it’s his job to give them the car of their dreams. “We proactively do what the customer would end up doing with the car anyway,” Wilson says. “At the end of the day, hopefully, they have a car that is 99% turn-key.”
The design and testing process for a new engine is relatively nimble compared with production-car standards, taking four to five months and the efforts of five or six engineers and calibrators. The team begins by drawing up a design based on the customer’s specifications for the new engine. Once a test engine is built and tested on a shop dynamometer, it’s off to the racetrack. Wilson says both drag racers and road racers are tested for a period roughly equivalent to one year’s usage in the real world: 50 passes for a drag racer, and 24 hours of track time for a road racer.
The racing design process has also benefited Ford’s production models. Wilson notes that Ford’s first 10 Mustang Boss engines went straight to the track for testing. “They learned a lot from the racetrack that they brought back to the production car to make it even better,” Wilson says. In addition, by selling turnkey racers like the new Cobra Jet, Ford Racing creates hardcore Ford enthusiasts and race fans who in turn influence their friends to buy Ford cars and trucks.
Wilson’s favorite part of his job is two-pronged: helping intended race classes “live out their dreams” in Ford racers, and building those vehicles in Ford plants. “Seeing the pride that the employees take, I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” he says. “We’ve built the widest diversity of factory-built cars of any original equipment manufacturer. In this day and age of high volumes, that’s an amazing thing.”
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