March 18, 2013
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Once in a while a part comes along that makes you want to slow down and take it easy - live a little in the 7 – 10 o’clock side of the tach. For me at least, that part has a name: M-5230-MGTCA1. Most people refer to these as the “GT500” axle backs.
I’ve spent about a month with the 2014 Mustang GT [Track Pack] and have become very familiar with almost every aspect of it. This car has proven to be the result of a heroic effort on Ford’s part, finally striking that ideal balance between performance, fit & finish, and price. Where before, cheap materials and other obvious cost-cutting would abound, the driver is surrounded by a slew of more touch-friendly and appealing textures and materials. Add to that the suspension and power train – what is this world coming to?? Where was this car a few years ago? I could’ve said with certainty that the world was coming to an end – the Saints have won the Super Bowl, I now eat raw fish and love it, and a Mustang can handle! Surely there’s a Hades freezing over somewhere!
You can see the pattern here – Ford has given us a great platform upon which we can tweak and modify until we find that personalized, magical combination of ingredients. We’ve got an über-rigid chassis for suspension tweaking; a relatively powerful brake master cylinder for brake upgrades; a smooth and powerful motor with strong internals to handle power adders, and yadda/blah/etc.
My coffee hasn’t gotten to work yet and I’m getting off track. One of the points I wanted to address was the exhaust tone. Like the rest of the car, it’s really decent as-is; it has a deep and mellow tone, which allows bystanders to connect the dots, so to speak. When you have your cold start moment, or you are running through a parking garage, or simply rowing through the gears down the road, people assume you’re playing with a V8. The [delightfully/sexually tuned] induction system on the Coyote does most of the talking while the mufflers are out back muffling or doing whatever it is they do – who really knows? With all that seductive rumbling happening up front, it’s easy to forget about the action out back in the Mullet Zone; weren’t we told there’s a party out back? Well, get yourself some axle backs, son!
My criterion was simple and only had to meet a few non-negotiables: It had to be at least twice as loud as stock and ten times as mean; it can’t be obnoxious – I wanted it “out of the way” when I was at a stop light or idling somewhere; and it can’t drone – I enjoy the happy space inside of the Mustang. After getting this in line I set about the YouTube for answers. And then 5 minutes later, I realized that all of the clips sucked and I’d end up having to gamble. So, I did.
The smartest thing you can do when installing the driver’s side muffler is to cut off some hanger material – there’s too much there and if you just remove about half of it, you can slide it onto the rubber mounts without having to remove the bracket. The driver’s side took about 15 minutes, while the passenger used up 10 in total.
At startup, I instantly knew I made the right decision. The 5 liter announced its presence with authority and sent chills up (and down) my spine. I’ve seen decibel meters comparing the sound output across several popular axle backs, and among them the GT500s rank in the bottom percentage. Do not let that fool you – the perceived volume is what counts (unless your car is loud enough to have Poncharelli waving the meter near your tail pipes). The reality is that these mufflers are twice as loud as the stock mufflers – for me, this is perfect. Let’s talk about the tone.
When you are driving your GT – when you are driving a V8, you want it to sound…angry. That’s because it is. You’ve got an extra 4 cylinders that were called in to work for nothing. An inline 4 could’ve done the job of propelling the car. With the stock exhaust, question marks hung above the heads of those around you. In fact, no one even bothered to think about your car until they actually saw it and the experiences were limited to, “Oh, look…another Mustang”. Now, when you are anywhere on the tachometer off idle, there is no mistaking what’s happening under the hood. Now you are in the Mullet Zone and everyone knows it – the Business up front KNOWS there’s a party out back.
The exhaust tone is of the gods and it is the sound you hear in your mind when you think of muscle cars. It’s as close to the pushrod sound of the 5 liters of yore that you’re going to hear, where the mid-mounted mufflers and long tail pipes created a distinctive and aggressive throaty roar. You could hear that tone and identify it as a Mustang long before you saw it’s boxy Escort-esque form hauling buns down the street.
If that metaphor doesn’t paint the picture for you, imagine the sound of a roaring lion – deep, thunderous, and chest bass mix in with throaty, guttural midrange coalescing into a breathing and heaving presence.
As the RPMs decrease mid-shift and coming off throttle, it is as though the coffee pot of Zeus himself has fallen from the heavens, fusing its essence with the GT; the exhaust crackles, snaps, pops, and percolates, serving up the most intoxicating brew of the gods.
Like me, you will find yourself wanting to sit around in slow moving traffic with windows down playing in the left side of the tach. Parking lots will give way to turning heads, rock fists, and thumbs up from the guys. Women’s faces will contort either in disgust or eros. Babies will cry and young boys, clinging to their parents as baby apes on the backs of their mothers, will solemnly gaze as the roar of your car burns into their hearts the desire of achieving this sound.
Suddenly the balance of your car becomes less about speed and more about feel. You will think about this sound long after you put your car to sleep for the night, waiting for the chance to climb back in for anther pull of the god’s brew.