Huw Evans
November 1, 2006
Photos By: Tracy Stocker

Richard Spradling's 1988 ASC McLaren Mustang Exactly how many variations can you get on a single theme? When it comes to Mustangs the limit is almost endless it would seem. Look at all the special editions being spun off the current S197 platform. From California Specials to Roush cars, Saleens and GT-Hs - there clearly is a steed for every need. Back when the Fox Mustang ruled supreme, the situation wasn't really that different. If you dug deep enough you could end up with a rather exclusive and unique Mustang-based automobile, like say a SVO or ASC McLaren.Say what? You mean you've never heard of the ASC McLaren Mustang? For whatever reason, these cars have largely slipped below the radar today, but were held with quite high regard during the late 1980s.

One person who hasn't forgotten about them is Richard Spradling. The North Carolina resident fell in love with them from the day they came out and of course, when the time came, began his search for one. "Back in 1989, when these cars were still hot, I was actively looking. I knew they were rare and exclusive.

"Ideally I wanted a five-speed ASC McLaren, most of the limited number of cars built have automatics, so a stick one was rarer than hen's teeth, but one day, while out driving near Smithfield NC, I saw this car sitting on a lot - it was a 1988 ASC McLaren so I decided to take a closer look." And when he did, sure enough, Richard found a manual gearbox lever nestled between the custom stitched leather seats.

Justifiably proud of his latest acquisition, Spradling took good care of the rare ragtop. "Although '88 was the highest production year for these cars, they still only built 1,015 of them that season." Understandably, with those kind of production numbers, Richard was perhaps a little reluctant to start playing around with the exclusive ragtop, choosing instead to enjoy it in original, as-built configuration.

But little by little Richard got the urge to modify this ride and you can probably guess what happened - Spradling decided to modify his ASC McLaren. "Some people may think I was crazy, considering how rare the car is, but I had owned it for such a long time that I felt I needed to do something. I was careful, from the very beginning I knew I didn't want to mess with the body or interior, but I felt that the chassis and driveline could use improvement." The unibody got its front and rear rails tied together by a set of Custom Performance subframe connectors and on went a brace between the front shock towers.

"It handled okay, but I wanted to take it to the next level." To that end, the '88 two-seater got a pair of Steeda adjustable upper control arms, Tokico five-way adjustable gas shocks, both front and back, along with a set of four Eibach Pro kit springs. Besides the suspension, the Mustang's braking system was also upgraded. "It may have worked in '88 but I knew that with the other upgrades I was planning I just had to do something about the stock brakes," says Spradling. So off came the 10.84-inch front discs and the 9.5 inch rear drums - in their place went a set of Baer 13-inch rotors and calipers on the front spindles and 12 inchers on the rear axles. A wheel change was essential, as were tires, to take advantage of the chassis and suspension upgrades. "I settled on some five-spoke ROHs - 17x8-inch on the front and 17x9s on the rear." To those rims were added Firestone Snyper tires - 235/45R17s on the front rims and 275/40R17s on the back ones - quite a substantial gain on the original Goodyear Eagle GT Gatorbacks that came on the car when it was new.

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When it came to the engine, Richard decided, that since the original 302 appeared to be in reasonable health, it would receive a few 'enhancements' culminating in a Powerdyne centrifugal supercharger, set up for 7 lbs of boost. Some of the other motor performance bits included a pair of Edelbrock Performer aluminum cylinder heads with 1.90/1.60-inch intake/exhaust valves, but with Ford Racing rockers and hydraulic lifters, plus Crower valve springs. The heads were given some additional lovin' by Custom Performance in Concord, NC who ported and flowed 'em. An Edelbrock Performer upper and lower intake help feed the boosted air from the blower directly into the engine, while Ford Racing 36-lb injectors squirt in the fuel, fed from the stock gas tank and along the lines via a BBK 255 lph in-tank electric pump. Spark chores are handled by the stock Motorcraft distributor and coil, though instruction is provided by a good ol' MSD control box and Ford Racing wires replace the gray stockers. There's a pair of MAC 1 5/8-inch shorties bolted up to those Edelbrock heads, while mated to those stubby exhaust pieces is a Bassani X-pipe and 2 1/2-inch catback.

"After a while" Spradling said, "I noticed I was getting a bit of blow-by. I've driven the car a lot over the last 17 years - it's been on a lot of road trips up into the mountains, with my mother and also with my grandkids, so the miles were getting up there. I searched around for an aftermarket block and settled on one from DSS, in St Charles, IL - it was a 306 shortblock and what I did, was get Custom Performance to install a custom Crower camshaft and then remove all the speed parts from my old engine, install them on the new one, then drop it into the car and tune it." Considering the upgrades to its heart, it might be surprising to learn that Spradling still runs with the original Borg-Warner World Class T-5. "Yes I still use the same trans - I've put in a Ford Racing 10.5-in clutch, but it still works just fine - proof if any that it maybe perhaps always isn't a high power engine that will grenade a T-5 - and yes, Spradling still drives his rare ragtop as often as he gets the chance. Although it hasn't been modified on the outside it has been repainted.

"Unfortunately, one day my lovely wife had an incident while backing out of the garage, knocking off the driver's side mirror and denting the door." Richard got Speedway Paint in Concord, NC to handle the chores and a cracking job they did. As you might imagine, now that Spradling has come this far with his ASC McLaren, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. "It's a great car - my family all love it too. To me it shows what a Mustang can be. It's kind of interesting because I also used to own a late 1980s Mustang GT ragtop and there's a sizeable difference between this car and that one. The steeper, 60-degree windshield angle on the McLaren really reduces wind noise and buffeting when you're out on the highway, plus it just feels more exclusive - the profile just looks a lot cleaner - they really did their homework. So, it looks like this rare, modified ASC McLaren will continue to prowl the North Carolina countryside for many years to come and though Spradling is almost content with the car the way it is; there are of course a few things still to do. "It's the seats you know. I love the custom upholsterty and stitching, but if I'm being honest, they need re-doing, so I'm currently looking for somebody to assist." Any takers?

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What Is An ASC Mclaren?
In a nutshell, this: An engineer by the name of Peter Muscat had a wife who worked at Ford Motor Company in the early 1980s. She drove a Mercedes-Benz SL at the time so it was a touchy issue. Muscat figured that his wife could still drive a quality convertible, but with Ford emblems on the nose and tail, so he purchased a Mustang notchback and modified into a two-seat convertible - a la M-B SL. An enterprising soul, he decided to show it to top brass at Ford. They loved the idea and the execution, but this was about 1982 and the time was a bit off, because FoMoCo had already contracted Cars and Concepts to build four-seater Mustang ragtops beginning for '83. However, all was not lost. Kissin' cousin to the Mustang, the Mercury Capri, didn't have a drop top offering, so Muscat was able to contract with Ford and the American Sunroof Corporation to build a small number of Capri Convertibles. To make them even more exclusive these cars were gussied up with suspension hardware, wheels, tires and ground effects courtesy of McLaren (part of the same gand that were winning a lot in Formula One at the time). When Capri production ended in 1986, the ASC McLarens switched to the Mustang itself, being modifed from regular LX notchbacks and turned into two-seater convertibles.

Specifications
Richard Spradling's 1988 ASC McLaren Mustang

Engine
DSS 306 V8

Engine Modifications
DSS shortblock assembly, with forged internals and flat top pistons; Crower custom ground camshaft; Edelbrock Performer aluminum cylinder heads, ported and flowed by Custom Performance, Concord, NC; Edelbrock upper and lower intake assembly; Accufab 75mm throttle body; Ford Racing 36 lb/hr injectors; BBK 255 lph electric fuel pump; Powerdyne Supercharger, set at 7 lbs of boost; MSD 6AL ignition control box; Ford Racing 8.5mm ignition wires; Canton 7-quart oil pan; ARP bolts; Fel-Pro gaskets; MAC 1 5/8" shortie headers; Bassani 2 1/2" X-pipe, Bassani 2 1/2" catback exhaust system

Driveline
Borg-Warner 'World Class' T-5, 5-speed transmission; Ford Racing King Cobra 10.5" clutch

Interior/Exterior
Richard Spradling's 1988 ASC McLaren Mustang

Chassis
Custom Performance subframe connectors

Interior
Autometer 2 1/16" boost and air/fuel gauges

Exterior
Resprayed silver metallic by Speedway Paint, Concord, NC

Suspension
Steeda adjustable rear control arms; Tokico 5-way adjustable shocks; Eibach Pro lowering springs; Baer 13" front disc brakes; Baer 12" rear disc brakes

Wheels And Tires
ROH 17x8" wheels (front) ROH 17x9" wheels rear with 235/40R17 Firestone Snypers (front); 275/40R17 Firestone Snypers (rear)

Numbers
425 RWHP, 416 RWTQ (with original 302 engine and supercharger)