Michael Johnson Associate Editor
September 10, 2010

In March 2005, we were setting up a photo shoot with Robin Lawrence's then-new '05 Mustang NMRA Real Street racer. We planned to shoot the car just prior to the NMRA Bradenton opener and needed a couple different Mustangs to contrast with Robin's red rocket. One was a '69 Mach 1; the other car we picked was Mike Serge's '88 ASC McLaren. We found it by searching Ramsey's Performance website gallery of customer cars.

From there, we arranged to meet Mike and his lovely wife, Ashley, at Quaker Steak and Lube in Clearwater, Florida. Though his McLaren would only enjoy a single photo placement in the Sept. '05 issue (p. 40-41), we promised Mike he would get his feature car glory. However, we didn't think it would take five years. Sorry, Mike.

"Time flies when you're having fun," is what they say, and they are right. We've been busy putting out a magazine every month and Mike has been busy living life, so it took us a while to get around to shooting Mike's car. Before we get into all that, let's start back at the beginning.

Like us, Mike yearned for a Fox Mustang while in high school, but instead found himself at the wheel of a champagne-colored, Cadillac Fleetwood bought by his parents. Yes, having a set of wheels was nice, but Mike wasn't exactly stoked. "I guess my dissatisfaction was apparent and I was surprised on my 17th birthday with this '88 McLaren," Mike says. It wasn't the Cobra Mike dreamt of, but it was a 5.0 Mustang-way better than a Cadillac. "It worked out well for me," Mike says. Ashley even agreed to date Mike because he had a cool car. "She could stay out late, so it was a match made in heaven," he adds.

By the time Mike was 20, he needed a boost in performance. "I dumped my life savings into the car," Mike says. Living in the Tampa Bay area at that time, Mike contacted Dennis Ramsey at Ramsey's Performance to start out with the typical short-tube headers, K&N filter, AOD shift-improvement kit, 3.73 gears, and a cowl hood. Those additions weren't enough, so the car went under the knife for more serious mods, like Trick Flow Track Heat heads, a port-matched Cobra intake, a custom-ground cam, and a Vortech S-Trim supercharger. Of course, the factory AOD didn't take too kindly to all that power, so in went a Performance Automatic Super Comp C4 transmission.

At this point, Mike graduated from the University of South Florida, married Ashley, and stopped working on the car for a while. Mike was now a husband, and a home became priority over his toy McLaren. "The car remained relatively untouched until we moved to the Atlanta area," Mike says. Once in the ATL, Mike got the itch to start enjoying the car again. He scored a set of Stainless Steel Brake Corporation's Force 10 calipers and rotors, and five-lug spindles. He didn't want to roll around with a five-lug fronts with four-lug rears, so he sourced a Ford Racing Cobra rear disc-brake conversion. Of course, this change also necessitated new wheels. The car had featured OZ Monte Carlo wheels for years, but they were four-lug.

"I swore I would never put '98 Cobra wheels on my car since everyone on earth has them," Mike says, "but I guess they do look relatively nice on the car." The wheel choices to fit the SSBC brakes on Mike's car were limited. Many go for 18s, but from a budget standpoint, that route doesn't work for everyone. Adding to the conundrum was the car's coilover strut setup, which meant there was even less space to play with up front. The '98 Cobra wheels were the only moderately priced hoops that would fit the SSBC binders, so the addition was more out of budgetary concerns than anything else. However, we would agree-the car looks great with them.

Horse Sense: Mike and Ashley Serge became friends with the Bassani Xhaust crew while hanging out with Robin Lawrence during and after Robin’s cover shoot. Ashley knew Mustangs since she had her own New Edge GT, and she’s well spoken, and friendly. It’s easy to see why she became a Bassani Babe. “I would like to thank Darryl Bassani and the crew for welcoming Ashley and I into the Bassani family and letting me hang out at the booth and learn from them,” Mike says.