Michael Johnson
Technical Editor
June 1, 2005

There's probably not a person reading this magazine who thinks his Mustang is strictly a point A to point B vehicle. You'll probably never hear the words Mustang and appliance in the same sentence. Yet, many people think of their vehicle as exactly that, just an appliance to get them through life like it was made by Maytag or something. When we buy a Mustang, it's because we want to modify it. We want to add gears, pulleys, exhaust, and then heads, a cam, and an intake. Then, if we're so inclined a blower, turbo, or nitrous wouldn't hurt, either. When it comes to Mustangs, we don't see an appliance, we see goals of what we want to accomplish with the car. Most of the goals we set for our Mustangs are performance-related, and Summerhill, Pennsylvania's, Mike Riva definitely speaks the language.

Mike wasn't always reading the right book, though. He used to own a '77 Corvette. As editors of 5.0&SF, we've never really fallen into the trap of dissin' other makes, but like the Mustang, the Corvette wasn't exactly setting the world on fire during the mid-'70s. However, it definitely deserves a ton of respect for weathering the storm to arrive at the excellent car that it is today. Even so, the Vette was what got Mike into drag racing, if you want to call running 15.8s at 88 mph racing. Mike thought that was pretty good, but many a Mustang were handing him his tail, including that of his son Paul. "I told my wife and son that I was going to get a Mustang," Mike says.

Coming to his senses, Mike first started looking at '93 Cobras because he admired the looks and performance of the car. "Our search was fruitless," Mike says. His son Paul did find a potential candidate in a '91 GT. "Who can resist taking a Mustang for a test drive," Mike says. Mike purchased the car immediately. "That's when all the fun and headaches began," Mike adds. When Mike bought the car he just about drove himself crazy deciding what to do first and how to do it correctly.

First things first, Mike took the car to the track where he ran a 14.6 at 94 mph. "That was faster than my hero-car Corvette," Mike says. At that moment, Mike's love for Mustangs set in. Obviously, the 14.6s were just the beginning. "It felt great, but that just wasn't fast enough, and you all know the need for more speed," Mike says. Closely following the car's track debut, Mike outfitted the car with 3.55 gears, a Bassani X-pipe, Borla mufflers with turndowns, ASP underdrive pulleys, a MAC cold-air induction, Competition Engineering subframe connectors, and Mickey Thompson Sportsman Pro tires out back. Oh yeah, he also bumped the timing, as well.

Those improvements dropped the GT into the 13-second zone with a 13.6 at 99 mph. Sure, Mike thought the car still felt great going down the track, but he wondered what it would feel like to run 11s so from there on out, that was the goal.

Wanting to use a different combination than that of his son Paul and nephew Matt, Mike decided to go with Holley's SysteMAX II heads, cam, and intake package. To go along with the SysteMAX kit, Mike also added a C&L Performance 76mm throttle body, 30-lb/hr injectors, and a Walbro 255-lph in-tank fuel pump. Mike also swapped out the 3.55 gears for 3.73s, and he improved shifting duties by adding a Ford Racing Performance Parts heavy-duty clutch and a Pro-5.0 shifter. Mike also added the second love of his life, Mickey Thompson ET Streets for even more traction than offered by the Sportsman Pros. These additions knocked a full second off Mike's quarter-mile times, along with 8 mph. For those around our Central Florida region and those in Tennessee and Kentucky, that means Mike's GT was running 12.6s at 107 mph.

However, the car was still not in the 11s, so he wasn't happy with the times or the mph. "I told my wife and son the car would go faster with a little more TLC," Mike says. "We called Ed Curtis (From Flowtech Induction) and told him I wanted to go faster, but on pump gas," Mike adds. To which Ed responded, "OK, but you guys are driving me crazy." Ed had already helped Paul go fast with his '95 GT convertible, and now he had to deal with two Rivas calling him on the phone. "I think he likes us," Mike says (Hey, that's between you guys).

Anyway, Ed was eager to help so Mike sent his Holley SysteMAX II heads and intake to Flowtech Induction for improved breathing capabilities. "Ed also made me one of those 'special' cams of his," Mike says. Oh yeah, we've heard of those "special" Ed Curtis cams. However, Mike just didn't want all this stuff back on his stock short-block so he summoned Keith Penatzer to balance and assemble a new short-block using SRP pistons with the stock crankshaft and rods.

Since Mike was serious about getting to the 11s, he changed out the 3.73 gears for 4.30s, added a TTC-Tremec TKO transmission, a Steeda Tri-Ax shifter, and Superior 31-spline axles. At this point, it was time for a custom tune, so Mike took the GT over to Kauffman Motorsports for a custom tune-up using an Autologic performance chip. "Dave Kauffman always has a trick up his sleeve," Mike says, "and if the car has it in it, he'll get it out for you."

At this time, Mike also put the car on a low-carb diet to get some weight off. That sounds like the perfect excuse to add Bogart wheels at every corner, and Mike selected D-10s all the way around with 165R15s up front and kept the E/T Streets out back.

The work paid off, but not as much as Mike had hoped for-the next trip to the track was a 12.0 at 115 mph and a 12.1 at 112 mph. "This was great, but it wasn't 11s," Mike says. Paul recommended more weight loss, so the two removed the fog lights and the front sway bar. Ed Curtis was again summoned for advice, and he thought the car could probably use a hotter-than-stock ignition. "We installed an MSD 6AL ignition, a Screamin' Demon coil, and FRPP spark plug wires. Mike also returned to Kauffman for a tweak on the tune.

The next trip to the Cecil County Raceway left him with consecutive 12.1s at 114 mph. Frustrated, Paul said to let the car cool down, so he iced the intake and took a break. With the car cooled down Mike was ready to go. "I told my wife it was time to stop chasing this 11-second ghost and take her into the 11s," Mike says. He even asked for a little divine intervention, and when the lights came down, Mike and the Mustang were off. At Cecil County, the scoreboard tells you your incrementals as you're going down the track so Mike knew his 0.725 reaction time was really slow. However, he also saw the 1.68 60ft time, and the 90 mph eighth-mile speed. "At this point I knew it felt like a good run, but I didn't know if it was good enough for the 11s," Mike says.

As it turns out, Paul came down the track right after his dad. Mike knew something was up when Paul was flashing his lights, blowing his horn, and giving him the thumbs-up sign. "At first, I thought he was crazy," Mike says. That's been our thought all along (sorry Paul). However, then Mike noticed a lady wearing a green shirt jumping up and down, waving her arms in the air. "It was my wife, and I thought she was crazy, too," Mike says (we're not touching that one). "Then I got my timeslip and couldn't believe my eyes," Mike says. The slip read 11.95 at 115 mph, it finally happened. "The ghost I chased for two years was 'Stang busted," Mike adds.

"I cannot tell you how good it felt," Mike says, "that after two years, I finally accomplished my goal." When Mike got home he told his wife he was going to retire from racing the car because he couldn't take another great weekend of racing. However, as he relayed the story to us,Mike added "I'm ready for more for I am a ghost buster." You know Mike, there's always 10s.

Tech SpecsEngine and drivetrainBlock Stock 5.0Displacement 302ciRotating AssemblyStock crankshaft and connecting rods, SRP pistons, main girdleCylinder Heads Holley SysteMAX II, Flowtech Induction-ported, FRPP 1.6 roller rockers Camshaft Flowtech Induction Intake Manifold Holley SysteMAX II, Edelbrock 70mm throttle bodyMass Air MeterC&L 76mm w/ C&L TrueFlow intake pipeExhaust FRPP short-tube headers, Bassani X-pipe, Borla mufflersFuel System Walbro 255-lph fuel pump, lines, and rails; 30-lb/hr injectors, Kirban fuel pressure regulatorTransmission TTC-Tremec TKO, Promotion clutch, billet flywheel, quick-release clutch quadrant/firewall adjuster, Steeda Tri-Ax shifterRearend8.8, Ford Truck 31-spline Traction-Lok, 4.30 gears, Superior 31-spline axles

ElectronicsEngine Management Stock Computer, Autologic chipIgnition MSD 6AL, Screamin' Demon coil, FRPP spark plug wiresGauges Auto Meter

Suspension and ChassisFront SuspensionK-Member PA Racing tubularA-Arms PA Racing tubularSprings PA Racing coiloverStruts Strange 10-way adjustableWheels Bogart D-10 15x3.5Tires 165R15 Brakes StockRear SuspensionSprings StockShocksStockTraction Devices Factory 5 upper and lower control armsWheelsBogart D-10 15x8Tires Mickey Thompson E/T Streets 26x10.5Brakes StockChassis StiffeningS&W eight-point cage, Competition Engineering subframe connectors