Tom Wilson
November 1, 2003

Horse Sense: Race cars this clean are rare. Dave says that besides it just being the way he does things, he wanted to present an exceptionally-well-turned-out American Iron Extreme car to showcase the wonderful job NASA has done with the class.

It's that custom-blended "Kawasaki Green" you first notice about Dave Martis' American Iron Extreme Mustang. But upon closer inspection at its Fontana, California, track debut this spring, the Kermit color turned out to be just the beginning of a beautifully engineered, new race car.

Inland Empire Driveline Service built Dave a custom aluminum driveshaft, which runs to a "hybrid" 8.8-inch live axle. This is standard practice in road racing, where the well developed live-axle systems have proven more predictable than any Cobra IRS system to date. The hybrid in Dave's axle refers to the larger "Torino" bearings in the outer ends. The axles are Currie Enterprises 31-spline road-racing parts. As is the engine, the rearend is lubed with Red Line products, which, not incidentally, are cooled via Dave-fabbed transmission and rearend coolers.

For Dave, however, it was hardly his first time on track. A longtime SCCA and IMSA racer, he has been following the time-honored tradition of racing when young, followed by business and raising a family, and capped by a behind-the-wheel renaissance when time and finances allow. The manager of Emissions Research and Engine and Vehicle Testing with the University of California in Riverside, Dave has clearly kept his hand in the automotive arts his entire career.

Open-tracking also played an important role in keeping Dave on the fun side of the pit wall. Buying a new '97 Mustang Cobra, he took it on-track immediately but soon yearned for more unrestrained action. As has happened with many others, NASA's American Iron class brought Dave back to wheel-to-wheel road racing. Looking at these photos of a '97 Cobra with plenty of Griggs Racing gear, you might assume that Cobra is the one pictured here-but not so.

"I decided my 'street car' was too nice to get beat up running door-handle-to-door-handle," Dave says, "so I picked up a salvaged '97 Mustang platform and began the transformation. After a year and a half of whittling, bending, grinding, and welding, the AIX 32 car became a reality. In my younger-and maybe more foolish-days, I didn't think twice about taking on such a project. [This time] I asked my now-wiser self if I really wanted to do this [transformation]. I figured I could still do it-no sweat. I'd long forgotten how much time and effort it requires to build a car from the ground up. I did save a ton of money-this car would have cost two, maybe three, times the amount I have in it if I would have paid for someone to do it all. I would not recommend anyone try this unless they have the time, skills, fortitude, tools, and space to put it all together."

But what a beautiful result from all that effort. Dave began with a custom rollcage by Precision Welding in Rialto, California, which also handled the rear bulkhead, the transmission tunnel modifications, and all the tin-work. He then added a complete Griggs GR40R World Challenge suspension as he'd found it to be exactly what he was looking for in his street Cobra. And since Griggs is hugely successful in American Iron and AI Extreme, the GR40R system was a natural choice.

This gives Dave's AIX machine a tubular K-member, a torque arm, through-the-floor subframe connectors, and all new suspension arms from the Griggs catalog. The rear lower control arms are aluminum, working with Koni oval-track coilovers and 350-lb/in springs. The front Konis are double-adjustables with 475-lb/in coilover springs. The bushings are Heim joints, and adjustability has been built in, such as with the 29mm front sway bar with its tunable end links.

The all-important braking was also sourced from Griggs Racing. Given the company's oval-track background, Griggs uses Sierra calipers in its GR40R WC system. The calipers measure 13.5 inches in front and 12.0 inches in the rear and are fitted with Performance Friction pads. At Fontana, Dave had PF 93 pads in the front and 80-compound pads in back. The master-cylinder assembly is a dual unit from Tilton with balance bar.

American Iron Extreme sticks with the reasonable American Iron spec wheel size, which makes the tire and wheel choice fairly straightforward. Thus, Dave's car wears the ubiquitous Ford Racing Performance Parts 17x9-inch '95 Cobra R-style wheels ("What else?" he asks) with 275/40R-17 Hoosier Road Race DOT R3503 tires front and rear.