Huw Evans
January 1, 2007
Photos By: Tracy Stocker

If I were to tell you that I had a story on a Fox Mustang that had been on this planet for approximately 24-and-a-half years in the rust belt, that had been converted into a drag car and then converted into a road racer, you'd probably think that this poor machine would resemble something fit for the next Mad Max sequel right? Well, in this case, your assumption wouldn't be close. This '82 GT - the first of what we now consider 'late-model' 5.0 Mustangs, was ordered and 'purchased' new by a Ford employee on the 'A' purchase plan. He drove it around for a while and then sold it to another Ford employee. That Ford employee figured now that the car had been around the block a little bit, it would make a great project for him and his son, so they built it up as a drag car. Eventually as sons do, Jr. grew up and it was time for college to beckon, so he figured, to give him a head start the car had to go - so the engine and gearbox were removed and the GT became a rolling chassis with a for sale sign attached, a low mileage, non winter, salt-free kind of chassis, which as we who live in the rust belt know, is one step short of the holy grail. At the time, Mike Schneider, another Ford employee, was looking for something to do in his spare time. A car nut for eons, Schneider had started out working as a mechanic in high school. After getting in and completing courses in engineering school he went to work at the 'Blue Oval' and naturally, being an engineer and car guy he built a few nice rides along the way. After doing stuff with sports cars and pickups, he figured the timing was right to have a go at this Mustang thing.

"I wanted to build a road race car. When I got into Vehicle Dynamics at Ford, they provided a lot of driver training - I went to Bondurant down in Arizona and did their course down there - needless to say I got bitten by the racing bug, so I knew that was the direction I wanted to take," says Schneider.

With a project goal already set, Mike began combing for a suitable project vehicle in order to achieve said goal. "Originally I wanted a 1987-93 Mustang, as they're fairly easy to work on and have plenty of aftermarket support, so I started looking for one of those. When I came across this '82 however I was curious. Although it was being sold as a shell - it had all the paperwork, right back to the original bill of sale from the first owner - it was also super clean and had low miles. It was in amazing shape for being an original Michigan car - it had original paint in decent shape and all the trim, full interior, even the Marchal foglights!" Another bonus, well, for what Schneider intended to do with it anyway, was the fact that it was a 'stripper' GT to boot. "It was ordered with no air, cruise, power windows, door locks, sunroof or t-tops - it was a bare bones solid roof car - all it had was rear defrost and the TRX suspension. Because it was so clean I thought about restoring it back to original, but I decided in the end, nah I'd rather have some fun with it." Although Mike now had his plan set in stone, he was careful about the modifications he performed to his '82. "Even though I was going to turn it into a road race car I was diligent - I had to install a cage to take it on the track, but I thought about it and performed the install methodically, as not to damage the car or make anything irreversible, should I chose to return the car back to factory stock." The same applied to all the stock parts that came off the '82 once the project got underway in earnest - each was carefully removed and put aside.

All in all it took about a year for Schneider to transform the '82 from rolling shell to fully functional track car. "I guess for me it was relatively straight forward to build this car - there's nothing really fancy about it - but quite a few things on it I engineered myself as I wanted to see if some of my ideas actually worked in practice. Probably the hardest task of all was making it a 'clean build' project - not messing with the car too much and keeping it looking more or less stock without hacking things up."

One of the most important parts to any Mustang often concerns the way it gets motivation and to that end, we'll begin our focus on the engine under the scooped hood. "It's nothing too fancy," exclaims Schneider, "it's a 408 cubic inch Windsor V8 - stroked from 351 inches. It's got an Eagle 4340 crank, Eagle H-beam rods and SRP forged aluminum pistons. It runs a 10.25:1 compression ratio and there's a pair of Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads on it. I'm really happy with those heads. I had Flow Technologies do the porting work on them - and they work great. The camshaft is a Trick Flow Specialities Stage 3 roller hydraulic piece and I had the Carb Shop build a specific carburetor for it - a 750 cfm Holley double pumper. It has a Canton race oil pan and an oil cooler to help keep the temperature down - it's a nice reliable engine.In the car it made 438 rear wheel horsepower and 447 lb/ft of torque. The thing I like aboutthis engine, other than the reliability is the very usable spread of power - it's got a very flat torque curve - it starts coming on strong around 3000 rpm and it's already making 400 lb/ft at that point. It just works really, really well." Coming from an engineer, you know he truly means it. Where a single-rail four-speed overdrive once sat, a T-5 five-speeder now calls home, but it isn't your garden variety gearbox. "It's a G-force unit with dog-ring gears - no syncronizers," adds Mike. "It's got a .79 fifth gear and I'vealso installed a Fidanza aluminum flywheel,Ford Racing, King Cobra pressure plate and McCleod dual friction clutch." The gearbox gets power to the ground via a Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft and a trusty 8.8-inch rear with a 4.10:1 ring and pinion and Traction-lok diff - well actually, that power gets to the ground via Ford Racing heavy-duty 31-spline axles and 275/40-17 Kuhmo R-compound rubber (mounted on Cobra R rims of course).

However, when you start looking into the suspension on Schneider's car, that's where things really get interesting. "Having a background in vehicle dynamics and being a road racing nut, I spent a lot of time figuring out the handling and setup on my '82." Case in point, the stock K-member. "A lot of people are keen to ditch the stock K-member when building a project Mustang," says Schneider, "but I wanted to see if I could make it work - it was kind of a personal thing. " And make it work he did. "It turned out to be quite an enjoyable project. I ended up moving it back one inch to improve weight distribution. I moved the control arm attachment points inboard, that way I could utilize SN95 front lower control arms (they're longer than Fox ones) and move them up .80 of an inch. What this did was eliminate a lot of the common problems lowering one of these cars, namely bumpsteer, by improving roll center height. Now the car maintains constant negative camber on the front, which is very important, especially on a road race car." The '82 currently sports Maximum Motorsports lower A-rms (yes, SN95 length), Steeda SN95 ball joints, regular SN95 front spindles, 2000 Cobra R Bilstein front struts, with MM 400 lb coilover springs and camber/caster plates, plus Mike turns the front wheels via a 2000 Cobra R steering rack. The stock '82 GT front sway bar remains.

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Out back a bit of reengineering has also taken place - no more 7.5 four-link and traction bars. Instead the 8.8 is tied to the car via stock upper arms, Mustang SVO lower control arms - Schneider's own rear coilover kit that includes 250 lb springs and Bilstein 'take apart' shocks. "I can pull them apart which allows me to adjust the valving inside the shocks", plus a rear sway bar pirated off a 1993 Mustang GT. When it came to the brakes, Mike decided that since he'd done quite a bit of home brewing with the suspension, why not try the brakes too? "During my original build, I went with SN95 spindles and Cobra 13-inch front rotors and two-piston calipers with racing pads. Because open tracking causes the brakes to heat up pretty good, I needed some ducting to help keep them as cool as possible. However, my intention from the beginning was to retain the stock front fascia, and because I didn't want to modify it, I ended up making my own fiberglass brake ducting. At the back, I also went with a disc package but I decided to have a little fun and save pennies wherever I could. What I ended up doing was utilizing aluminum calipers and rear discs from a C4 Corvette. I made my own mounting brackets for the calipers and redrilled the rotors to fit the Mustang's bolt pattern. It's similar to the Baer kit in some respects and I've had a lot of success with it."

Other tricks employed on this '82 include Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors, extra friction plates in the diff to prevent heat build up and a Recaro front racing bucket for the driver, a stock '94 Cobra one for the passenger (the rear is long gone), plus a battery mounted behind the Cobra chair on the floor. Along with a stock looking instrument panel housing an original 1982 vintage Ford Motorsport 140 mph speedo and a tach taken out of an old Turbo four-cylinder car. "The tach on the four-banger turbo cars actually went up to 8,000 rpm so I found one, installed it and changed the resisters to calibrate it for the V8 powertrain - it's an interesting touch and different than these monster tachs that you see all the time."

When time permits, Schneider gets the car out on the road course for open tracking as often as he can. "I really enjoy driving this car - I don't have a lot of money tied up in it and it really works well - it has proven to be reliable and it runs with a lot more sophisticated and newer machinery." He even drives it to work a few times a year. "Although I primarily built it for track use, the car is still streetable," though even he admits that with a dog-leg gearbox, driving it on the street can be "a bit of a challenge." Still he's grown quite attached to the venerable warhorse. "It still wears the original paint. I have painted the front fascia and did some other stuff like the engine bay and K-member. It's not perfect but from 10-feet away it still looks good." Like any car that's driven hard it does have a few nicks and dings and Schneider does say that he'll get around to painting it sometime soon, but for now is intent to enjoy the car largely as it is. "I've recently upgraded the brakes on it," he mentions enthusiastically. "I got my hands on some 14-inch Shelby GT500 front rotors and some Baer four-piston calipers - brand new off eBay. I found that by modifying the caliper bracket to center it over the rotor - it all fit. People say you can't use 14-inch front brakes with 17-inch wheels but my Cobra Rs fit right over the brakes and there weren't any clearance issues." So there you go. Even though Schneider does enjoy hot lapping and the attention the car gets wherever it goes ("people just swarm around it - they seem to love '82 GTs,") he does enjoy helping others to learn driving techniques and car control out on the track. "I instruct for the SVTOA and go out to several tracks. Sometimes I take them for a spin in my car, but a lot of the time I love going around as a passenger, with them driving - I get a real kick out of seeing the progress the students can make, especially when they start out at the very beginning and are eager to learn. It's good to help them get where they want to be."

And before we go, we should probably mention that Mike is in the process of building a house. "Yup, it's going to be a big project." And with a lot of big projects that means he'll be selling a lot of his toys, but the '82? " No I'm keeping that one - I'm too fond of it - some people say I should go racing in American Iron with it, but the car is really too nice for that. If I did chose that route I'd buy another Mustang and transfer all the road race parts to that one and probably return this car to stock." Whatever he decides, it is clearly obvious that Mike Schneider's '82 GT is destined to stay in the family.

Interior / Exterior
Mike Schneider’s 1982 MUSTANG GT

Chassis
Modified K-member allowing 1” engine set back, moving control arm pivots inboard by 1” and up by 0.8”; Ford 2000 Cobra R steering rack, 14” Shelby GT500 front rotors; Baer 4-piston calipers with cooling ducts; Maximum Motorspoprts subframe connectors; Owner-designed Corvette aluminum rear calipers and disks

Interior
Owner-designed 4-point roll cage; Rear seat delete; battery moved into passenger compartment; Recaro driver’s seat; Simpson 5-point harnesses; Auto Meter gauges and shift light; Fire extinguisher

Suspension
Maximum Motorsports tubular front control arms, coilover conversion with 400 lb. springs, camber/caster plates, torque arm, panhard bar; Steeda X2 ball joints; Ford SN95 spindles, 2000 Cobra R Bilstein struts, SVO lower control arms, 1993 GT rear sway bar; Bilstein racing take-apart shocks, with own coilover conversion using 250 lb. springs

Wheels And Tires
R58 Cobra R 17” x 8” wheels with 275/40R17 Kumho R-compound tires all around

Specifications
Mike Schneider's 1982 MUSTANG GT Engine Ford 5.8-liter V-8

Engine Modifications
Eagle forged internals; Edelbrock Victor Jr. cylinder heads (ported) and intake manifold; 750 cfm Holley carburetor; TFS stage 3 hydraulic roller cam; aluminum flywheel; Ford King Cobra clutch pressure plate; McCleod dual friction clutch disc; factory A/C delete

Driveline
G-Force T-5 manual transmission; Hurst shifter; Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft; HD Motorsport 31-spline axle with 4:10 ratio gears

Numbers
438 RWHP, 447 RWTQ