Roush Mustangs have a reputation for being ultimate road-going versions of Ford’s iconic pony car. But besides a bevy of cosmetic upgrades, performance parts, and performance tuning, what is it that makes these machines so remarkable to enthusiasts? The answer begins with the man behind this tuning brand.
The Man Behind the Curtain
Jack Roush is best known today as the founder and co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, which has been a successful NASCAR racing team since 1988. But before he gained fame as a prominent stock car team owner, Roush worked for Ford as an engineer in the late 1960s. After a few years there, he started his own engineering company. He also began a separate drag racing team with a driver named Wayne Gapp in 1970. Gapp went on to win the 1973 NHRA Pro Stock championship in a Gapp & Roush Boss 351-powered Ford Pinto. Roush later formed Jack Roush Performance Engineering in 1976 and began selling some of the components he developed through racing.
By the late 1980s, Roush sought to collaborate directly with Ford on an ultra-high-performance twin-turbocharged 400 hp Mustang aimed at hard-core enthusiasts. This specific interest in developing a Roush Mustang stemmed from his passion for Ford’s pony car and his success as a team owner with it in the Trans-Am racing series. Roush Racing Mustangs won Trans-Am titles in 1989 with Dorsey Schroeder at the wheel, and again in 1995, 1996, and 1997 with Tommy Kendall driving. Ford, however, passed on the project. They felt that an expensive and low-volume project such as this one would lose money. Undeterred, Roush began working on making the ultimate Mustangs he envisioned through a different channel.
If at first you don’t succeed…
In 1995, Roush created his performance products line, which offered parts for a number of Fords. Two years later, the first complete Roush Mustang vehicle component packages for 1994 and third-generation (SN95) Mustang GTs were offered for sale. These parts combinations were offered in tiers. Stage 1 offered some simple styling upgrades. Items like 17-inch wheels, a lowered suspension, a side-mounted exhaust system, a front air dam, side skirts and a rear spoiler. Stage 2 was much the same as Stage 1, but with larger wheels and a more heavily modified suspension. Both 1 and 2 were available on V6- or V8-powered cars. The Stage 3 Mustang included everything from 1 and 2 but with a supercharger mounted to the 4.6-liter V8, which resulted in 360 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque.
These packages continued when the SN95 Mustang was updated for 1999, but also brought a new entry-level Roush Sports Mustang version as well as high-end Stage 3 Sport, Stage 3 Rally, and Stage 3 Premium packages. In 2004, at the end of this generation of cars, Roush built 40 Roush 440A Mustangs that produced 400 hp.
Pinnacle of Success
When the fifth-generation Mustang launched in 2005, Roush continued to offer the same packages, which entailed the same essential modifications as the previous cars. This time, however, the Stage 3’s supercharged 4.6 was good for 415 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. “I just checked out the 2013 Roush Mustang and I think I’m in love,” said a member on the allfordmustangs.com forum. “I had no intentions on selling my 2011 but I don’t know now.”
As more customers requested unique variations of the Stage 3 car, Roush began to offer more variants. This included the 430-hp Speedster; the 435-hp 427R, 427R Trak Pak, 428R, 429R, RTC (Roush Touring Coupe) and all-black BlackJack (which was limited to 100 models); the 510-hp P-51A and P-51Bs (which were a tribute to the P-51 WWII fighter planes); and the 540-hp Premier. When the facelifted mid-cycle Mustang factory model refresh was introduced in 2010, Roush scaled back the package offerings to five models: the Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, 427R, and 540RH. Three years later, a Roush RS package was offered for V6 Mustangs.
It’s all about balance…
The sixth generation Mustang of 2015 was only offered in Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 form for V8 models and RS form in V6 models. The RS has a stock 300-hp 3.0-liter V6, the Stage 1 is based on the turbo inline-four EcoBoost Mustang and makes the manufacturer-claimed 310 hp. The Stage 2 model gets a factory-rated 435-hp 5.0-liter V8. And the Stage 3 car has a supercharged 5.0 V8 making a stupendous 670 hp. Clearly these machines are powerful and gear toward performance driving. But that doesn’t mean they’re only meant to be driven on a race track. When asked to sum up what his unique pony cars are meant to be, Jack Roush replies: “Between a road car and a race car is a Roush car.”