Eric English
January 1, 2006
Photos By: Chuck James

We won't waste any time telling you about the difficulties Mike Arndt faces on a daily basis. Some six years ago at age 16, Mike lost the use of his legs in a motocross accident. He now gets around under his own power via a wheelchair. If you're able-bodied and inclined to bemoan life's ups and downs, get a grip, and walk a mile next to Mike. You'll find a young man who doesn't know the word "quit" and who deals with life's blows in a matter-of-fact and upbeat manner.

Despite his devastating injury, Mike has hardly curled up in a ball and devoted his life to mastering a library of video games. Instead, he's determined to accomplish the kinds of tasks that folks with all their abilities often struggle with. He is pursuing a degree in graphic design at his local community college, and he spends non-school days working at his dad's automotive upholstery shop. Did we mention Mike and his dad, Karl, are also responsible for the hard-charging Mustang you see here? Yep, the father/son team have taken a bone-stock '94 GT convertible and transformed it into the kind of ride anybody would be proud of-all of it after Mike's accident.

While 342 cubes come from a 4.00-inch bore FRPP Sportsman block and a Scat 3.40-inch forged crank, the super-sanitary engine compartment comes from Mike's untold hours under the hood. Mike's dad welded up all the unnecessary holes, while Mike himself smoothed them all, relocated much of the wiring, and polished all the brightwork. The turbo setup is fully homegrown, but dyno numbers indicate it's doing the trick. By the time you read this, Mike should have lots of pictures at www.geocities.com/turbo
fiveslow/index.html.

Mike tells us he's long been mechanically inclined, beginning with buying, fixing, and selling broken motorcycles with his brother since the age of 12. An interest in two wheels naturally led to four, and among the choices available, Mike took a particular interest in Mustangs. What was once only a dream became reality in the summer of 2000, when a local car dealer brought the GT to the upholstery shop for a new top. Mike was at home that day, and his dad immediately called to encourage him to come down and take a look. It seems the dealer was anxious to unload the Mustang since it didn't fit the high-end BMW/Mercedes profile his lot normally stocked. On the other hand, Mike could barely contain the excitement he felt for the clean Vibrant Red ragtop, and a deal soon found the '94 at home in the Arndt garage.

In short order, Mike's dad fitted the hand controls that are necessary for Mike to pilot a Mustang as effectively as anyone else. This was followed by a few performance bolt-ons, which introduced both generations of Arndts to the expansive world of the Mustang aftermarket. Underdrive pulleys, 3.73 gears, and exhaust mods preceded Mike's first trips down the quarter-mile, which became a self-described "reality check" when the timers showed disappointing low 15s. Jaded by his experience with highly responsive, high-strung dirt bikes, Mike just had to have more.

Most of the Vibrant Red topcoat is wet-sanded original, though the side mirrors, the Kaenen hood, the front bumper cover, and the engine compartment were sprayed to match by Mike in his own garage. Don't say you can't.

It would take awhile to save the funds necessary to support this newest need for speed, and in the meantime Mike became an avid participant in Mustang Internet sites. Through such contacts, he eventually turned up a used Vortech S-Trim that was installed, together with more exhaust work and a Walbro fuel pump. The supercharged combination soon proved its worth, with 316 rear-wheel horsepower and reported 13.5s at 108 mph. Better for sure.

With time, and Mike's own admitted abuse, the stock head gaskets failed, providing a golden opportunity to install a set of Edelbrock Performer RPM heads and intake. Through more Web surfing, Mike also became enamored with the idea of exhaust-driven power adders, particularly at the home of turbomustangs.com. An ambitious plan to rebuild the combination with a do-it-yourself turbocharger was hatched, and when several of the stock hypereutectic pistons were found to be cracked a short time later, the project was launched.

When you work at/own your own automotive upholstery shop, one of the perks can be a nice place to plant your hiney. Mike recovered the factory stockers in a black tweed with red piping, and fabricated a center panel that deletes the original A/C and mounts a pair of Auto Meter gauges. When queried about the lack of evident tunes, Mike told us a sound system is in the works, as is a much-needed rollbar.

A solid foundation begins with a Sportsman 302 block, filled with a forged stroker reciprocating assembly. Up top, Mike continued with many of the aftermarket pieces he'd run on the stock 5.0 short-block, though surely the turbo-stroker combination would benefit from something more than the 1.90/1.60 valve sizing and Ford Racing Performance Parts 65mm throttle body. As with most of us, money doesn't grow on trees at the Arndt household, but the current combination is sure to change over time-most assuredly the still-stock camshaft.

Proving Mike's determination and ambition, his do-it-yourself turbo 342 puts down 472 horses at just 4,000 rpm, with extensive tuning still required. Mike and his dad constructed the entire system, beginning with a set of BBK headers turned forward, with ball flanges chopped off. Left- and right-cylinder banks are connected with a 211/42-inch crossover, while the Garrett T04E-60 routes its boosted charge through a 311/42-inch Pro-M Univer mass air. Other turbo necessities include a Tial 38mm wastegate, an HKS pop-off valve, and a 311/42-inch downpipe that eventually works its way into a 3-inch single exhaust with a pair of inline DynoMax muffs. For a cheap reduction in charge temperature, a Powerstroke-diesel air-to-air intercooler was modified for this much different application, and was tucked up behind the front bumper.

Quarter-mile testing hasn't occurred yet with the new turbo setup, but Mike assures us once his tune-up is dialed in, he'll be tripping down the 1,320. He would like to thank all who've helped him turn his '94 into something special, namely his father, the patient posters at turbomustangs.com, and the '94-'95 forums' participants at stangnet.com. Without the assistance of these willing enthusiasts, Mike says his Mustang dreams would never have gotten off the ground. Without a great deal of personal motivation and a can-do spirit, we say Mike wouldn't be driving a red-hot Mustang convertible. Be inspired!