Michael Johnson Associate Editor
August 1, 2004
Photos By: Steve Turner

Have you noticed how reality shows have taken over TV programming lately? You can see just about anything on them-from someone eating animal guts to someone finding their perfect match to someone winning their dream house. While for years the stale, predictable, 30-minute sitcoms lulled viewers to sleep, reality TV's habit of showing real people make idiots of themselves is rather refreshing. For us, the shows based on automotive buildups or even home-related fix-'em-ups are the ones we most identify with because-let's face it-even an NFL quarterback should be able to find a date without having to appear on TV.

NMRA Pure Street racer Mike Houser's been hopping-up late-model Mustangs for quite a few years now, and hopefully the show will go on. "It all started one day when I saw a used '89 GT at the local Ford dealership," Mike says. "I struck a deal and swapped my S10 truck, and the rest is history." When Mike's GT couldn't handle the truth against a Grand National, the modifications began. "After getting my butt kicked," he says, "I started with headers, gears, and exhaust." But he never did get a rematch with the Buick, and the GT was eventually replaced with other cars.

Of course, owning fast Mustangs usually means taking them to the track. This led to Mike getting the bug to go heads-up racing. Not wanting to have a payment on a race car, he bought back one of the several Mustangs he had owned-a straight and complete '86 LX coupe. "I then installed a fresh 302 with Trick Flow heads and a GT-40 intake," he says. "These were my first engine modifications."

Now that Mike had a car, he needed to find a sanctioning body in which to race. Fortunately, his good friend Clair Stewart was enjoying some success (and still does) in the NMRA's EFI Renegade class. "Clair convinced me to try this NMRA thing," Mike says. "I raced the coupe at a couple races during the '00 season, with a dismal display." But the heads-up hook was firmly set, and in 2001 Mike was reeled in even deeper.

For the '01 NMRA Pure Street campaign, Mike summoned SS Performance and Machining's Shawn Schmal to screw together a purpose-built Pure Street bullet. Using such a combination, Mike won the Reynolds and Maple Grove races, set records, and finished Second in points. Watching him race that coupe was a thing of beauty. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear he had an automatic in the car. He can bang gears with the best of them.

With the desired power on board, Mike decided he wanted a car with a little more show and shine. "I saw a flood-damaged, V-6, five-speed car for sale on the Internet," he says. He bought it sight unseen. Once he had his paws on the car, the transformation was swift. "After receiving the car, the tan interior and V-6 drivetrain was stripped," he says. Shane Reffert helped install the S&W eight-point cage, while Rod Crispen treated the car to a color change of Ford Bright Atlantic Blue.

With the show and shine handled, the go was removed from the '86 and transplanted into the '94. The car was ready in time for the '03 NMRA Bradenton opener, where Mike had a reasonable showing. But he needed more power to keep up with the current crop of Pure Street racers. More upgrades were pushed to the front burner, but it took a few months to get the recipe on the table. By the '03 Joliet race, the car was ready to rock. We'd talked to Mike about photo-graphing the car at that race, but the 5.0&SF curse jumped up and claimed the car as another victim as the engine ate itself on the third pass. Needless to say, the adult beverages flowed a little early that weekend.

By the '03 NMRA World Finals at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Humpty-Dumpty had been put back together again and Mike realized his personal best with an 11.03 at 121 mph. "Looks like things might be turning around," he said at the time.