Is Ford Killing Ghost Cam Tunes on the S197 Mustang? See What American Muscle Says
by Patrick Rall
While the idea of changing your camshafts is to get more performance out of your Mustang, in most cases the new cam also offers an improved sound. For some, the sound of the "big cam" is more important than performance improvements, but with the higher costs of the dual overhead cam setup in the S197 Mustang, simply changing your cam to get a better sound out of your Mustang may be too expensive - especially with those who really don't need the added power of an aftermarket cam setup.
Luckily, those who are more worried about sound than performance were able to purchase a ghost cam tune, which adjusts the engine control parameters to make your Mustang sound like it has a more aggressive camshaft setup than stock, without the high price of an actual camshaft swap.
These tunes quickly became popular with the S197 crowd, but recently these ghost cam tunes have been disappearing from the digital shelves of performance. Fueling this disappearance are rumors that Ford was requesting companies stop selling these ghost cam tunes because the Motor Company is developing something of their own, which is based on the Boss 302's TracKey. There were also rumors that these ghost cam tunes were causing mechanical issues leading to warranty trouble, which accounted for them vanishing from shelves around the country. But with no real information, we went to a company who has experience with these types of tunes.
I had a chance to speak with Chris Rose from Mustang performance authority American Muscle, who provided plenty of information on the subject of the ghost cam tunes...
Why do you think that everyone in the tuning industry has stopped selling ghost cam tunes?
Chris from AM:
There was only one person ever to successfully replicate the cammed idle, and that was Jon Lund. He has access to parameters that even aftermarket tuning software companies currently do not. He was able to make it work, because of parameters that are missing from everyone else's database access.
While we were able to replicate the idle, it came with drivability problems such as surging or stalling - which these missing parameters could correct. All other versions of the tune from other sources have the same idle quality issues, other than Jon Lund's latest version, before he discontinued it. This is why nobody is able to replicate it until those parameters are available/added to aftermarket tuning software. Even then, Bama will choose not to offer it, out of respect for Ford engineers. Our 60% completed R&D version never made it to market, because we couldn't figure out the drivability issues until Jon Lund, a friend of mine, and I spoke - and he told me about the missing parameters. There was a "value file" that would make the 2011's "cam" floating around for a while. When I got ahold of it and showed it to Jon, he confirmed it was a copy of his work, before the idle issues were solved.
Was this based on intervention by Ford because they are attempting to develop their own ghost cam technology based on the TracKey?
Chris from AM:
Ford never intervened anywhere. Ford Racing engineers were upset that the technology hit the market and were wanting to patent technology related to this (via FoMoCo), even though used in a different way. To keep things from getting complicated, and the aftermarket in good standing, the tune was dropped. No official intervention, but yes - it was done in light of not wanting enemies where it's not necessary.
Were there any issues that you know of caused by these ghost cam tunes? It seems to me that the ghost cam tune is essentially, intentionally causing a rough idle...was there any downfall to the customer including damage to the vehicle/warranty issues that could be caused by this?
Chris from AM:
The idle quality, like I said, was the original downfall for everyone except Jon Lund, admittedly or not. There weren't any vehicle/warranty issues that a customer wouldn't have with any other tune, regardless of cammed idle. Returning the car to stock, and making sure you avoid the dealer for anything that isn't necessary is a good idea. Also, understanding that Ford can't legally void a warranty unless it's directly resulting in your warranty claim is crucial. If you're in there for faulty window weather-stripping, your powertrain warranty shouldn't be affected, for example.
So that's really what happened. It's not a big deal, anyway. We can still replicate the extra bottom-end torque, taking hints from how the Boss was calibrated, which most tuners have been doing for quite some time. The cammed idle tune was nothing but a novelty, and I'm almost glad it never made it. It took a while for the car to actually start "camming" on start up or decel (coming to a stop at lights, etc.) and didn't sound anything like a real cam, in those respects. No horsepower benefits, really.
Based on the points made by Chris from American Muscle, the decision to drop these ghost cam tunes was not something that was forced by Ford, but rather, these items were removed from shelves out of respect to the technology being used by the Ford engineers. Also, while the ghost cam tune may have caused idle issues (which is, after all, what you are going for with this type of tune) there was no damage done by these tunes that replicated the sound of a cammed 5.0L V8.