July 1, 2003

Horse Sense: Roush Racing Stage III Mustangs are 360hp supercharged GTs that can cost around $50,000 with all the bells and whistles.

There's nothing like cruising the local hangouts as soon as summer hits-just getting out in your favorite Mustang, whether it's an old classic or a cutting-edge modular, and associating with fellow enthusiasts. Some prefer to bait others into tests of vehicular ability simply to see where they stand in the pecking order. But, regardless of where you fall, nothing can compete with the fun of a drop-top Mustang when it comes to soaking up the summer sun. At least that's what Mike Smith, a 45-year-old truck driver from West Chester, Ohio, thought when he went shopping for a new car in 1997.

"I was actually shopping for a Corvette," Mike says. "For years I thought I'd like one. But I wanted something different. I was actually at the Ford dealership looking at trucks when I saw [the Roush] sitting in the front of the store. I drove it, and I had to have it. I picked it up the next day."

It's not a drag car, but it runs mid-12s if asked to do so. Right from the factory the car is a handling machine. Roush only adds to the car's abilities. Most of Mike's wins with this '97 Roush Cobra have come on the show-car circuit.

The basic Roush package provides some appearance upgrades with body panels and 18-inch rims, as well as a better-handling platform with Bilstein shocks and lowering/handling springs. Mike then added Roush rear control arms, sway bar, and subframe connectors to round out the package. The ride is right, and the stance is killer. The car also has the Roush side exhaust for a bit more power. When the top is down, you can see the lightbar that crosses the midpoint of the car. It has a rear brake light, and it also serves nicely as a perch for super models to hang onto when Mike parades them through the McDonald's parking lot. (Mike's dad, Paul, really enjoys that part of his son's convertible.)

The beautiful interior has been left largely stock. And why not? The functional factory goodies are just about all Mike needs. When the blower was added, he installed a boost and fuel-pressure gauge just to check on his latest investment as the Roush racer rips up the Cincinnati-area streets.

Admittedly, Mike didn't get this car for racing. But he soon couldn't resist stepping up the pace of the 4.6 Cobra engine under the hood. He looked to Paxton for a little boost to the stock horsepower levels. When asked why Paxton, Mike says, "[It] has a tradition of supplying superchargers to Ford. The helical cut gears are quieter. And once we got the tune-up right, the car simply screams!"

Mike has always wanted a car that handles well and is fun to drive. For cruising, summer fun, and picking up awards at car shows, it doesn't get much nicer than his '97 Roush convertible. However, with only 13,000 miles on the odometer, you might be wondering if Mike drives the car at all. Guess we forgot to mention he also has a 427 side-oiler-powered Shelby Cobra kit car that shares garage space with his awesome little drop-top. Now you understand, don't you?