Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
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.

With the brakes and wheels ironed out, Mike got the urge to drive the car more often. Luckily he met Pro Speed Performance's Jeff Harris. Jeff, who now runs Mo Speed in the Atlanta area, was able to get the car running like a dream, turning it around in less than a week so Mike and Ashley could take the car to the NMRA Bowling Green World Finals-in 2006. As time passed, we kept in touch with Mike and Ashley, and were able to shoot the car in the spring of 2007.

During Mike's time with the car, he found a girlfriend, who became his wife; achieved a college degree, uprooted his life for greener pastures in a different state, and now Mike and Ashley are adding a child to their mix.

However, Mike has parted ways with the McLaren. Mike once said he would probably take the car to his grave, but priorities change, and now Mike wants a coupe. He wanted to race the McLaren, but as you can see, the car was just too nice.

'88 ASC McLaren
5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block Stock 5.0
Crankshaft Stock
Rods Stock
Pistons Stock
Camshaft Custom ground
Cylinder Heads Trick Flow Track Heat, Ramsey's Performance-ported, and Ford Racing Performance Parts roller rockers
Intake Manifold '93 Cobra, Ramsey's Performance-ported
Throttle Body FRPP 75mm
Mass Air UPR Products
Power Adder Vortech S-Trim, 12 pounds of boost
Fuel System Vortech T-Rex fuel pump, Aeromotive fuel rails, FRPP 42-lb/hr injectors, Vortech fuel pressure regulator and FMU
Exhaust MAC long-tube headers, Bassani Xhaust X-shape crossover and after-cat exhaust
Transmission Performance Automatic Super Comp C4 w/a 2,800-rpm stall converter and an FRPP aluminum driveshaft
Rearend Stock 8.8 w/FRPP 3.55 gears, Moser axles, and an Auburn Pro differential

Electronics
Engine Management Stock computer, SCT tune
Ignition MSD 6AL w/boost retard, FRPP spark plug wires, and NGK spark plugs
Gauges Auto Meter Ultra-Lite

Suspension And Chassis
Front Suspension
K-member D&D Motorsports tubular
Control Arms D&D Motorsports tubular w/Steeda Autosports X2 ball joints
Caster/Camber D&D Motorsports
Struts Tokico Illumina five-way adjustable
Springs Coil-over
Brakes SSBC Force 10 four-piston calipers with 13-in rotors
Wheels FRPP '98 Cobra, 17x8-in
Tires BFGoodrich Comp T/A, 245/40-17
Rear Suspension
Shocks Tokico Illumina five-way adjustable
Springs Stock
Control Arms UPR Products tubular
Brakes FRPP Cobra, 11.65-in rotors
Wheels FRPP '98 Cobra, 17x8-in
Tires Nitto 555R Extreme Drag radials, 275/40-17
Chassis Stiffening Kenny Brown Performance subframe connectors and strut-tower brace