SCOTT MCLAUGHLIN HAS HIS name written on two Ford Mustangs. One of them he drove to his third straight Supercars title this year. And then there’s this one – the really powerful one. The Scott McLaughlin Limited Edition by Herrod Performance, or SM17 for short, might have number plates and leather seats instead of sponsor decals and a roll cage, but it’s the best part of 100kW up on its circuit-dwelling sibling. The gulf in torque is even wider.
All in all, 578kW and 810Nm are sent to the rear wheels courtesy of a monster 3.0-litre supercharger nestled in the vee of the otherwise standard 5.0-litre Coyote V8. But what is an SM17 and how did it come about? The car’s creator, tuning legend Rob Herrod, has the answers. “When we did the Dick Johnson Limited Edition car we were going to offer a Dick Johnson and a Scott McLaughlin pack. And then with the R-Spec [program] going on, I said ‘It’s a bit hard to do a McLaughlin car, I’ve only got time to do 30 [Dick Johnson] cars.
“Wayne McLaughlin, who’s Scott’s father, and I hang out at Supercars rounds and he’s been on my back to do a car, so with the lad looking like winning his third championship we decided ‘let’s do a car’.” Left unsaid is that with McLaughlin moving Stateside to join Roger Penske’s IndyCar team next year, the SM17 was somewhat of a ‘now or never’ proposition. The final number of cars is still to be determined, but it looks like 30 will head across the ditch to McLaughlin’s New Zealand homeland and no more than 100 will remain in Australia. Each SM17 starts life as a standard Mustang GT with the transformation costing around $50,000 depending on the specific options fitted.
McLaughlin explained what he wanted visually to Herrod and left Rob to make it happen: Red car (though other colours are available), gloss black exterior highlights with satin black stripes. The 27-year-old Kiwi wasn’t even a glint in his parents’ eyes when power dressing was popular but he clearly understands the concept as the SM17 exudes authority. The bold colour scheme does its part, yet credit must also go to the lowered springs as well as the massive rolling stock. The wheels increase to 20 inches in diameter and are 9.5 inches wide at the front and 11 inches wide at the rear. These wear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres measuring 275/35 and 305/30 respectively, making the SM17s front boots as big as a standard Mustang GT’s rears with Herrod creating new wheel spats to ensure ADR compliance. Adjustable antiroll bars and recalibrated MagneRide dampers – the Ford Performance calibration with a couple of Herrod tweaks – round out the suspension changes.
Those massive rear boots, that sit snugly in the Mustang’s arches thanks to the bespoke wheel design, do a heroic job of turning nearly 800bhp into forward motion. In the dry the SM17 has to be actively encouraged to break traction; its typical full-throttle behaviour is to just surge towards the horizon, the engine gulping through successive gears like Pac-Man munching electronic cookies. Chomp, chomp, chomp. Unsurprisingly, much greater circumspection is needed in the wet as the rear wheels can and will spin through to fifth gear, but it requires respect not fear. The intimidation factor is relatively low as the trust factor is reasonably high. There’s better communication than in a standard Mustang, too, with the steering telegraphing when the front tyres have had enough with none of the tramlining or corruption that is often a result of larger rolling stock. And when the rear lets go it does so progressively rather than suddenly, so the SM17 is a car you can lean on with confidence.
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