In the United States, we come up with a lot of great ideas such as football, barbecued ribs, and the V-8 Mustang. Occasionally, those guys across the pond come up with a winner too, such as the printing press, Led Zeppelin, and very powerful six-cylinder engines.
Mustang Racing Technologies (MRT), a Detroit-based performance shop founded by Ford's former Team Mustang Customization Engineer Scott Hoag, builds its share of fiery V-8s, but this gorgeous roadster, dubbed the Cherry 6T6 is a six-cylinder, twin-turbo, six-speed and takes Mustang performance in an exciting new direction.
The original concept was to develop a Mustang that brings some sizzle to the V-6. What they've created is a killer package with more than enough styling, fireworks, and horsepower to transform it into a serious six-cylinder superpower and charm prospective GT customers right out of their red, white, and blue V-8s.
As we tool along Detroit's legendary boulevards in MRT's Cherry 6T6, We try to get a handle on what this car is all about and assign it a category. It's fast and quick but not a traditional V-8 powerhouse. The exhaust note has a distinct six-cylinder snarl, but doesn't resort to obnoxious extremes to get noticed. The closest comparison I can come up with to this twin-turbo V-6 is, well, a Porsche. They both have exotic personas that cannot be ignored, they both use twin turbos to make extraordinary power, and they both have balance and handling that is a cut above.
Like every molecule of the Mustang, the Cherry comes across with American flair. The engine isn't stuffed into the trunk, it's up front where it should be. The body isn't a cramped little coupe with a weird smell, it's a by-gum open-top Mustang with a leading-man profile, spectacular paint job, and rock-star presence. Don't take offense-it's European in the positive sense only.
Built as a concept car for the 2005 SEMA Show, the Cherry 6T6 was featured prominently in Ford's corporate display, where the car was honored with a Ford Design Award. Unlike so many of SEMA's "gee-whiz" concept cars, the Cherry is intended as much more than a one-off "wow" machine. It's a blueprint for MRT's next customer-ready package. You can do more than admire the Cherry-you can have one built for you.
The package starts with the standard Mustang V-6. Mounted down low and mostly hidden underneath the cylinder banks is a pair of Garrett T25 turbos with internal waste gates. They're plumbed into the engine's oiling and cooling systems for maximum reliability and controlled operation temperature.
Throwing an oversized turbo on an engine to grab big peak-horsepower numbers can make for impressive headlines but a disappointing driving experience. As turbos go, the T25s are on the small side, running at a modest 7 pounds of boost. For street power, the big upside is their smaller size means they spool up quicker. Put your foot in the throttle and you move immediately, without the turbo lag common to some systems. The smaller turbos also put the sweet spot of the boost curve lower in the rpm range so you don't have to wind it out to get good, usable boost. In traffic, there's a fair amount of busyness coming from under the hood as different valves open and close to manage the airflow under changing boost conditions, but there's plenty of turbo fun awaiting the twitch of your toes.
"We've dyno'd 350 rwhp and just under 400 lb-ft of torque," says Scott. "We since have reconfigured the turbos, bringing in the turbo boost lower in the rpm range. Our objective isn't to make this the fastest V-6 Mustang on the planet. Instead, out plan is to make it the most well-balanced, most fun, most intriguing, inviting package on the planet."
There may be faster V-6s, but this one has plenty of power, even for hardened V-8 torque junkies. Power builds with the revs. The six's sound doesn't match the acceleration g-forces. It feels more powerful than your typical souped-up GT. Scott predicts that with the suspension setup for traction and weight transfer, e.t.'s would be in the high 12s. We wouldn't be surprised.
The ride is firm but not brutal. It's lowered 2 inches and rides on H&R coilsprings and 20x8.5 and 20x9-inch Foose Design five-spoke wheels with 245/35 ZR20 front, and 275/35 ZR20 rear Pirelli P Zero tires. These are extreme tires with precious little sidewall, contributing to the stiffer ride and quicker steering response. Front brakes are Stainless Steel Brakes' eight-piston calipers.
The big, ultralow-profile Pirellis and tweaked suspension make steering response immediate. Cornering power is also amped up, so adding the quick response, better bite, and higher power make for a driving experience with lots of grin factor.
The Cherry delivers those grins in high style, too. Body mods include flush tube grilles, a twin-scoop hood, a color-keyed lightbar, front and rear spoilers, and a custom PPG Candyapple Red over a gold metalflake-base paint job, stopping you in your tracks. Two subtle tones of red run from the hoodscoop inlets to the windshield. It's quite a looker and wouldn't be out of place on any of the posh boulevards in Miami, New York, or Los Angeles.
Inside, the premium theme continues with quality Sparco seatfoam covered in custom TMI upholstery. Atop the dash is a body-color pod of gauges that keep track of turbo boost, air/fuel ratio, and oil pressure. Carbon-fiber kits dress up the dash. They've also added the MacDaddy of A/V stereos with video screens in the dash, sunvisors, and both headrest backs. Built in the trunk lid is yet another large display and enough stereo gear to give your grandkids hearing loss.
Did the project come together as Scott envisioned?
"Absolutely. Appearance, stance, and presentation are dead on. It's tight, it's responsive, the horsepower-to-weight ratio, front/rear weight distribution-it's got all the advantages going for it. The car is nimble and fun to drive."
Reaction has been overwhelming. After SEMA, Ford had the car in its show circuit for most of last year. It has just finished its show obligations.
Scott figures it will cost around $25,000-$30,000 to recreate the Cherry for a customer, but adds that the price could be shaved depending on how gung-ho the customer wants to get with things such as the paint job and stereo. MRT would be happy to substitute the manual transmission for an automatic and add or delete content as the customer desires.
One thing they're not short on at MRT is creative thinking. The Interceptor and Surf Chaser are both MRT ideas, and the Cherry 6T6 is a fresh take on the Mustang we'd like to see more of. We wouldn't be surprised to see this six-cylinder superpower catch on, even across the pond.