Something Blue

“You guys are the first ones to want to do a story on this car.”

Really?

While we’re certainly pleased that no other magazines have chosen to feature Mike Maier’s 1966 Mustang—and that we’re the first ones to show it to you—we also have to question the sanity of the rest of our industry. Maybe, in some bizarro opposite world where cats chase dogs and Glenn Beck drives a Prius, this car is not worthy of ink and dead trees. But in the world where we live, where cool things—like Quentin Tarantino movies and handsome guys with indecipherable European accents—are revered simply for their coolness, we just couldn’t resist throwing some love toward this machine.

The Man

The name Maier may already be familiar to some of you out there. The more senior generation may recall the elder Maier, Bill, a fella who had some success in the SCCA’s Trans-Am series with a privateer Mustang effort against some serious factory hardware in the early 1980s. Maier is also a well-known name to legions of Mustang owners, who recognize Maier Racing Enterprises as one of the leading suppliers of replica and custom fiberglass panels for every generation of the Ford pony car.

The younger readers may know the name from the company’s support of Frank Stagnaro’s multi-time Solo championship C Prepared Mustang. That car won titles at the capable hands of both Stagnaro and Mike Maier. So, yes, the name is recognizable to those in the know, and it certainly belongs on the side of any Mustang hinting at some kind of performance. But the blue beast you see on these pages has much more humble origins. In fact, had it not been for a mild domestic challenge, the car may have never reached its true potential.

The Machine

Purchased from a family friend in 2001, the Mustang that sat beside the Maier Racing Enterprises shop was barely a shadow of the monster that graces these pages. Sickly green, with brakes that barely worked and floors that gave the driver an excellent view of the streets of Hayward, California, the car served mostly as storage for the parts Mike hoped to bolt on one day.

The original plan was a mild build—fun, quick, but nothing earth-shattering. Mike had expressed to his then-wife-to-be, Brianne, that he’d like to have the car finished in time for them to drive it away from their rapidly approaching November 2005 wedding reception. She was on board with that plan.

On board with it, that is, until it became clear that they would indeed not be driving away from their wedding in it. In August 2005, Brianne let Mike know that she was making limo arrangements, seeing as how the Mustang had only progressed toward becoming yard art, not the chariot that would whisk them off to their future lives together.

“Put down that phone and hand me a wrench, woman!” Mike replied, in our imaginations. Actually, his response was probably something similar, and we figure there must have been faint strains of Bill Conti music playing as the threat of a limo became all the motivation Mike needed to get busy on the Mustang.

In the three months leading up to the wedding—probably in montage form—Mike stripped the car to bare metal, fixed the rust, applied the blue paint over the formerly green bodywork, and bolted on a little more performance in the suspension department. The final assembly took place not long before Mike’s tux went on, but the car made it through the wedding without a hitch.

Upping the Ante

From there, the car became a bit of a guinea pig for Maier Racing Enterprises projects. A 302 replaced the original 289, a top-loader trans took over for the original gearbox, and a radical rocker-arm suspension took shape in the rear.

The unique rear-suspension arrangement places the JRI coil-over shocks in the trunk and activates them using pushrods. These pushrods are attached to the rear axle at one end and to rocker arms—which connect them to the shocks—at the other. This setup reduces unsprung weight and simplifies tuning by orders of magnitude. Spring changes can be accomplished in minutes and without the use of tools, as each end of the shocks is secured with quick-release pins.

With developments like those, the car was becoming increasingly intense, so the Maier crew started trying to find it a suitable competition outlet. Mike was well versed in the SCCA Solo and road racing scenes, but this car clearly didn’t slot easily into any of the existing classes.

These Guys Are Good

The solution presented itself in the form of the then-budding Goodguys AutoCross series. Goodguys Enterprises, Inc., runs a series of car shows and swap meets focusing on older American iron, street machines and hotrods. With the emerging popularity of pro touring-style machines at its shows, Goodguys added autocross events to the mix. This appealed to the Maier crew as a good showcase for the blue Mustang. A bonus feature of these autocrosses: They’re highly promoted. Fans line the edges of the pavement at every event, something the Maier camp wasn’t used to seeing—even in high-level SCCA autocrossing.

Mike, a national-caliber autocrosser, was piloting the car, so it was no surprise when the car came out of the chute winning.

Next Level

Of course, racers will be racers, and even though the Mustang was a perennial winner in the Goodguys events, Maier wanted to turn things up a notch.

During this time, the Maier gang was also forging a relationship with Roush Yates. You may have heard of that team from a little series called NASCAR, but here’s something you probably don’t know: In addition to building and campaigning topnotch stock cars, they also maintain one of the greatest racing garage sales in the history of ever.

See, if you’re running in an incredibly competitive series with major bucks at stake, you tend to be a little free with the credit card. When thousandths of a second matter, you don’t worry about getting the most life out of your components, and you tend to replace them far before their actual service life has expired. One of the side benefits of this luxurious, hedonistic motorsports lifestyle is that these lightly used parts need to go somewhere. In this case, that somewhere is Roush Yates, and one call to them can net you some supreme racing hardware for pennies on the dollar.

Engines, transmissions, rear ends, gears, safety gear, suspension components, brakes—nearly every part you can think of is available in lightly used condition from Roush Yates. The Maier crew took delivery of a one-race-old road course motor from the Nationwide series. While the builders won’t reveal specific numbers, this motor blats out about 825 horsepower, makes roughly 550 lb.-ft. of torque, and spins easily to 9200 rpm.

The C&R four-speed transmission is really about three gears too generous, as the car is capable of spinning the tires in any gear. Given a deft right foot, however, the amount of power it can put to the ground through the torque arm-aided rear suspension is quite astounding. Leaning into the throttle in second gear is like hitting the fast-forward button on real life. Things that are in front of you are suddenly behind you, and things that are behind you are suddenly irrelevant.

But the car does most of its work on street tires—Goodguys rules require 200 treadwear or above—so that’s a lot of power and torque to finesse through rubber that was probably never designed with such lofty power levels in mind. As a driver of a nationally competitive CP car, Mike is no stranger to horsepower, but he’s also used to putting it to the pavement through wide, gummy racing slicks. Channeling that kind of thrust to the asphalt through street tires definitely commands your attention, Mike reports, grossly understating the obviously terrifying effects.

Full of Win

Success has been a common condition for this Mustang in Mike’s capable hands. Although the car was built to its current specs and arrived at its first few big events in somewhat unsorted condition, it has brought home plenty of trophy hardware.

At the pro touring-centric Run to the Coast, Maier Racing Enterprises won three of the four performance events and placed a narrow second in the road course competition—with brakes that were completely cooked. At the Optima Battery Challenge, the car finished in the top five in all the performance events, bested only by far newer and more sophisticated machinery. And at the Goodguys national championships, the Maier camp scored a convincing win despite some last-minute additions. The still-hot anti-roll bars for the car had been overnighted to Mike’s hotel just moments before he left for the airport to meet the car, which was being towed to the event by his father-in-law.

As for the car’s maiden voyage at the hands of Mike Maier—when it served as a wedding getaway car—that was the first in a long line of successes for “Old Blue.” Mike and his wife, Brianne, will celebrate their seventh anniversary shortly after you read this story.

And perhaps most exciting, you read it here first.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
12/13/17 12:35 p.m.

I can tell you why it hasn't been featured in any other magazine. It looks plain when the hood and trunk are closed - good, tasteful, but plain, as in no stripes or fancy aero or the fashionable wheels or overfenders du jour. Plain looks on a car are kryptonite to most photographers and journalists. I can only think of 1 or 2 other car mags that would've given this car a close enough look to see what everyone else was missing. Still, congrats on getting there first wink

Edit: I should mention that plain looks on a sufficiently fashionable model will still get attention. If it were a Porsche 911 or Datsun 240Z, it wouldn't have gone unnoticed.

Wally
Wally MegaDork
12/13/17 5:09 p.m.

In reply to GameboyRMH :

That does seem to be the problem.  Perhaps he could add a yuge splitter and an awful tribal tattoo looking wrap to class it up a bit. 

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
12/13/17 5:13 p.m.

...Because sublimity is a rare commodity in this day and age.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
12/13/17 5:21 p.m.

1982 Volvo DL blue isn't really an eye catcher...

Nice car, although if it were mine, it would be more blue.

te72
te72 New Reader
12/13/17 8:12 p.m.

In reply to GameboyRMH :

My Supra is pretty much the same way, all the good stuff is underneath. Nobody expects the way this thing performs until they see it driven in anger! I kinda like it like that, but the itch to make it more slippery is a strong one...

 

Mike, I dig the suspension setup in the trunk. Have always had a thing for cantilever suspension, but have yet to have a canvas that would really lend itself to its implementation.

mlwebb
mlwebb New Reader
12/14/17 8:49 p.m.

I'm not a big Mustang fan, but that one looks terrific. 

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