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The Roush Empire – from NASCAR to pony cars

Think of the name “Roush” and the chances are you’ll probably associate it with NASCAR competition in the US, where Roush Racing has been a dominant force for many years.  Before that, though, team owner, Jack Roush, was a winner in other forms of motorsport, including NHRA and IHRA drag racing.  There’s a common thread, however, that runs through all of Jack Roush’s motorsport success – it has been achieved exclusively with the blue oval brand.  Impressively, the Roush squad is Ford’s most successful racing team, having amassed no fewer than 34 championship titles over the years it has been competing.


Nowadays, though, Roush operates much more than just a hugely successful racing team.  He is Chairman of a massive company, founded in 1975, which now has several key divisions.  Specifically, Roush Performance focuses on the dress-up and modification of road cars, Roush Racing is the NASCAR arm of the business, and Roush Technologies carries out advanced research and development programmes for manufacturers such as Ford and Daimler Chrysler, including work on powertrains and hydrogen engines.

Roush 420RE gets the full works - body styling changes, uprated suspension, brakes, wheels and a hot 420 hp motor


Having enjoyed a very close relationship with Ford for most of his life then, it is not surprising that Roush was one of the first to exhibit a hot-rodded 2004 Mustang after the car was unveiled in the US.   Today, Roush Performance offers five stages of Mustang hop-up, from cosmetic body styling in Sport and Stage 1, to revised suspension and handling in Stage 2, a supercharger package for the 4.6-litre motor in Stage 3, which endows the famous pony car with 415horsepower, and finally to the top 427R option, which sees additional tuning take engine output to a peak of 427 horsepower.

The heart of the 420RE - a 'roots' type supercharger atop the 4.6 litre V8


The good news for Mustang owners in the UK is that all Roush Mustang options are now available through Essex-based Roush Europe, which opened its doors for business in 1995.  The company is perhaps best known in recent times for its engineering work for vehicle manufacturers and its acquisition of Mountune Racing, in 2003.

Revised rear spoiler, under valance and tail pipes evident in this shot.  Window side louvres hark back to the original Fastback 


As with its US parent, Ford of Europe enjoys close ties with Roush in the UK, in terms of both engineering and development activities, as well as the care of some of its prized heritage and specialist vehicles (including the Shelby GT500, tested by DRC Review).  On a recent visit, we got to take a look around the company’s impressive premises and meet James Bassett, Roush Europe’s Marketing Manager, who has been involved with establishing a small and exclusive network of Roush dealerships in the UK.  James was happy to explain all, but the first thing that struck us when entering the pristine workshop, was the sheer number of Ford GTs all parked up and awaiting attention.   

Gulp! - You can't fail to be impressed once you step into the workshop.  six GTs, a GT40 replica, a Shelby GT500 (and a Morgan!) all under one roof


“Ford GT production finished a couple of months ago, and although around 4300 cars were due to be built, I think the final number is nearer 4000, with the last batch having gone to Canada,” explains James.  “Just 101 were taken by Ford of Europe, and these were built during the 2005 model year and imported between April and November 2005.  We converted them to European specification at a Nurburgring facility in conjunction with another company, called Capricorn.  We then brought 28 into the UK and individually SVA’d every one.  The remaining cars were moved on to Switzerland or Germany, for Ford distribution throughout the rest of Europe. 

“Some cars have since changed hands, but all in our workshops are generally here for service, plus we offer some minor enhancements.  The official 101 Ford GTs have a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, so it’s essential they are properly maintained.  We get customers who are so enthusiastic that they regularly drive their GTs to our Brentwood premises from Belgium and Zurich.

“Those who missed out on the official 28 UK GTs, but still had their hearts set on acquiring one, have had them shipped over from the US.  We’ve seen a number of those cars fresh off the boat, and we’ve taken them through the SVA conversion process in a similar, but not identical way, to the official 101 cars.”

New driving lights set into lower front quarters


What’s the main differences between an official 101 GT and one converted later?

“The 101 cars have extra driving lights set in the lower front quarters, plus windscreen washers in front of the headlights and repeater lights along the sides.  At the rear, circular fog and reversing lights are installed on arms that hold the rear bumper, which is CNC cut to accept them.  The existing rear lamp unit is modified so the reverse light becomes the turn signal indicator and the red portion becomes the brake lamp.  The lighting sequence changes are achieved by reprogramming the SJB (Smart Junction Box), using official Ford software rather than cutting wires.  This is both safer and neater.  Inside the cabin, special “One of 101” scuff plates and an additional fog light switch are installed.  Finally, the FM tuner in the Radio Head Unit is modified for UK reception.

Circular fog and reverse lights set into bumper 


“Privately imported Ford GTs converted by Roush, do have most of the Official Ford specified alterations, but do not have the unique scuff plates and instead, have rectangular fog and reversing lights.  Ford GTs sold in mainland Europe also have a unique, slightly quieter exhaust system in order to comply with more stringent drive-by noise requirements.  All European cars also have an illuminated kph scale rather than mph.”

Official GT scuff plates


If I had purchased a GT and wanted it converted, what sort of sums are involved?

 “It would cost just under £5,000 to get a GT fully road legal.  It involves the fitting of a security system, additional electrical work, full SVA inspection and compliance testing.”

The real thing!  Two priceless Ford-owned GT40s cared for by Roush Europe


 Do you offer SVA testing for Mustang customers?

“We can, but there are lots of companies already doing work on Mustangs.  What we can offer through Roush is handling, suspension, powertrain and body styling modifications.  No one in the UK is offering manufacturer-based conversions like Roush, or the same warranty we provide on our parts.”


When did you get hold of your first Roush Mustangs?

“Roush Europe began its retail operations during 2005. The initial plan was to offer the 420RE model (R for Roush, E for Europe) developed with the European customer in mind. Later we decided to offer upgrades to existing Mustang owners and opened up the Roush Performance Range to any and all UK customers through our expanded dealer group, comprising six specialist importers across the country.  With parts orders now increasing, we are working together on a number of special editions with our dealers and will release more information shortly.  In 2007, we will launch our Shelby range of upgrades which are presently in development. We also offer parts and upgrades for the Ford F150 range or vehicles.  Each Roush installation is covered by a Roush parts warranty.”


Will you be importing the Shelby GT500?

“The Shelby is not officially being imported to the UK at the moment.  Hopefully, we would be considered if they were to become available, though, as Mustangs are our core business.  Roush is looking to develop 600 and 700 horsepower versions of the GT500, which will probably employ revised handling and a bigger supercharger.  As the car is so different from the 4.6-litre Mustang GT, you can’t just drop in tuning changes for that model – you have to consider the weight of the engine, the spring rates and general dynamics.  What we intend to do is improve the driving experience while staying within the parameters of the original car.”   

Roush crate motor looks very much like the new 427FE, which reportedly makes 427 hp. Note Edelbrock aluminium heads and water pump


So there you have it.   Not content with offering potent pony cars under the Roush name, the company is also embarking on a whole new, Shelby-inspired driving experience.  There are other aspects to Roush Europe we haven’t even touched on, such as their over-the-counter, V8 crate engines, with horsepower outputs ranging from 410 to 650, plus work the company does for the military, but those are stories for another day.  In the meantime, if you want to take a look at a Roush Mustang in detail, give them a call on 01277 261400 to find out the location of your nearest dealer.


Story & Photos:  Andy Kirk/Roush Europe 


This high quality GT40 replica is now powered by a Roush V8  

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