Huw Evans
March 1, 2007
Contributers: Don Roy Photos By: Jason Siu

Stillen Sportparts’ 2005 Mustang GT Nissans.
If you were around during the 1980s, chances are you remember the slogan Built for the Human Race tagged along in the company's product advertising. At that time hair was big and so were mini-trucks. And Nissan was perhaps the most recognized purveyor of said type of vehicles in North America in those days. So, when prolific New Zealand auto racer Steve Millen decided to try his hand at a parts operation in our neck of the woods, he went straight to the source and what today is known as Stillen Sportparts Inc. got its start supplying 720 and Hardbody owners with performance and styling gear for their little trucks, beginning in 1986. Now Stillen wasn't like many operations. Steve, having started out his motor racing career careening around Kiwi tracks in a Hillman and then a Mk II Jaguar in 1969, went on to race all manner of vehicles, from touring sedans to single seaters across the Pacific Rim. In the early 1980s he migrated across the Pacific, initially racing in Formula Atlantic single seaters. Participation in the 1982 Arizona Pro Rally saw Millen finish second overall, behind the wheel of a Datsun 200SX, then the highest placing for a production rally car in the United States. It was the start of an illustrious career racing Nissan vehicles, both on and off the tarmac. Active participation on the competition front translated to the business side of things as Stillen Sportparts gained a quality reputation for parts that worked and service that impressed. Many enthusiasts probably remember Steve's time behind the wheel of the Nissan GTS where he won the 1992 and 1994 series championships. Although he retired from racing full time in 1996, the 27 year racing legacy that Steve built and the lessons learned along the way continued to drive the everyday business at Stillen Sportparts in Costa Mesa, CA. So what do Steve Millen and Nissans have to do with Mustangs? More than you might think actually.

Now, is there really any such thing as a retired, dyed-in-the-wool racer? Not really. Steve Millen retains a full grip on the competition scene, still returning yearly to New Zealand to run in the Targa Rally down there. For his most recent (as we write anyway), 2006 trip back to Kiwi-land, Steve wanted to bring along an American production car and, since he's run Ford products in this event since 2001, why fix it if it ain't broke. With only minor modifications that were completed at the Costa Mesa facility, Steve headed 'down under' accompanied by a Ford GT supercar. Now, certain cars do best in certain kinds of weather and New Zealand rains unfortunately favored the all-wheel drive kind during the 2006 event. But never mind. This was a new year.

And while a good portion of Millen's business success has come through modifying and racing Nissan product, Stillen Sportparts is no stranger to the Ford product line. Recognizing some years back that the Ford market would continue growing, Steve began investing more and more in Blue Oval products. The surging F-150 and SUV markets are, and continue to be, a significant part of the company's business. And that's where the Mustang comes in. The introduction of the S197 Mustang as a 2005 model was a happy coincidence, since Stillen was already planning to release a bunch of kit for our favorite pony. However, according to John Zinn, director of Marketing for Stillen Sportparts, the timing was not as good as it might have been. "The fact that the new Mustang came out the same time as our parts did, made us look like we were jumping on the Mustang bandwagon, but nothing could be further from the truth."

Bring Out The Worst
For example, the Mustang you see here was developed in concert with the Ford GT as their 'American Performance' flagship car and customer demonstrator. The 3-valve SOHC motor is topped off by a jointly-branded Stillen/Magnuson supercharger and driven by Stillen-specific tuning. Often, one of the qualities of a successful race driver is being able to bring out the worst in a car - those specific circumstances where the vehicle is performing less than ideally. Identifying those situations allows them to be corrected or improved upon, so that they're not an issue any longer.

Steve Millen's ability to do exactly this was one of his many contributions to refining the tuning used with this particular supercharger. As we were told, once everyone else in the company was ready to sign off on a revised tune, Steve would take the car out and identify where further improvements could be found. As a result, once completed, the company applied for and received CARB (California Air Resources Board) approval for the supercharger kit. That puts them in an elite club as only a small handful of blower suppliers have a CARB number.

With only six pounds of boost, the Pony you see on these pages turns out some respectable numbers. Stillen's in-house DynoJet reports 429 rear wheel horsepower, along with 402 ft-lbs worth of back tire torque. It's impressive enough, yet allows the car to remain friendly, both in terms of street driving manners and keeping bottom end motor parts together. This approach brings up the fun factor quickly, without draining the wallet too much. The positive displacement, roots-type supercharger is known for generous torque increases across the entire operating range without compromising drivability, one reason why its often the preferred choice when it comes to OEM installations. In developing this car, the Stillen crew worked continuously to ensure that few custom parts were needed. Those that were, like the 5-way adjustable rear sway bar, for example - would be readily available through Stillen itself. By the time you read this here copy, the sway bar should have arrived and be in stock for normal use. H&R Racing springs are fitted to the demo and lend a fairly aggressive stance to this Mustang, but despite the street fighter look, this Mustang doesn't ride like an Autocar garbage truck and will corner carve with the best of 'em - it's a Stillen product after all.

One aspect that also jumps out on this car concerns the rolling stock. The Axis Hero anthracite wheels, 19 x 8.5-inch fronts and 19 x 9.5-inch rears, ride on BF Goodrich T/A G-Force KDW tires, similarly staggered with 245/35ZR19 up front and 285/35ZR19 versions out back. Those bad boys are needed to clear the AP Racing hardware that is called to duty when it's time to drop the anchor. The 6-piston front brake calipers, riding over 14.25-inch drilled and slotted rotors, handle a good portion of the deceleration chores and the 4-piston rear calipers with 13-inch rotors look after the rest. That's hard core.

Bring Out The Best
At this stage of the game, with so many players on the field, it can be very difficult to make your S197 Mustang stand out from the rest, but Stillen gave it a shot. Responsibility to establish a distinctive look for this Mustang fell to the urethane wunderkind at Street Scene Equipment who, handily enough, also reside in Costa Mesa, close to Stillen SportParts' center of operations. Street Scene provided the urethane body components, including front and rear bumper fascia, side skirts, quarter window louvers and side scoops for this car. The unique speed grille and chrome tail light bezels are also Street Scene components and make this thing stand out. The distinctive House of Kolor 'Tangelo' pearl paint, offset by gray stripes also means this is one late-model Mustang that is exceedingly hard to miss. If you don't think so, prop the magazine cover on the wall and start walking away from it.

These days, a lot of folks in the market for new Mustang performance upgrades are looking inside as well as out, so the interior needs to be up to snuff. In this case, 'the office' of the Stillen demonstrator has been significantly enhanced. A carbon fiber interior trim kit offsets the leather reworked seating done by Phoenix Imaging based in Rowland, Texas, along with other enhancements from Westminster Auto Upholstery, down the road from Stillen in Anaheim. When making a long drive to visit a Mustang event or potential new customer, it's always considerate to have some tunes available (trust us we've done it without them and after the second hour things start to get a little boring). In that area, the Stillen demo has solved the problem by being equipped with a Sony XAV-C1 head unit with an integrated 7-inch monitor. Pioneer amps, adding up to 1500 watts total, bring the signals in style to the Pioneer speakers. Other support pieces include Monster caps, Tsunami wiring and a custom sub enclosure in the trunk by Audio Innovations of Glendora, CA.

A driving factor in the original conception of this car was that every possible enhancement used would be a standard, off the shelf, component so that minimum expense and maximum reliability would be evident from the get go. With the car now released for all to see, its job remains far from over. New opportunities continue to break out in our Mustang marketplace and this Pony gets used to test and apply new products, as well as remaining a rolling science laboratory for Stillen's internal research and development. What's coming down the line next? Well, at this point we can't really talk too much about specifics, but let's just say that some common sense exterior enhancements are looking likely during calendar year 2007.

Roll Your Own
These days, it has to be said, that the customization potential of the contemporary Mustang is unparalleled by any of its predecessors - or competitors for that matter. This did not happen by accident. Active planning by Ford Motor Company and the ongoing involvement of aftermarket companies during the S197's development phase are largely responsible for making sure this car would be the most accessory-friendly Pony ever released. The car is a blank canvas if you will, a foundation for just about any tapestry or painting you so desire. As regarding the Stillen Mustang demonstrator, any or all of the additions to this particular Mustang are available for that one parked in your garage or the one you're about to drive home off the lot.

We've already talked a little about the history of Stillen Sportparts, but let's talk about the present. Today the company is one of the largest automotive aftermarket manufacturers, distributors and retail-direct merchandisers in the industry, thanks in part to the commitment to hard work and perseverance of the original founders, Steve Millen and David Schollum. And the neat thing is, each part of the manufacturing process is performed within the Stillen facilities and that includes prototype development, tooling, CAD-CAM engineering and final production, not to mention extensive testing. Steve Millen himself remains very much hands-on and you can only imagine the kind of rigorous standards and testing performed - after all, it takes a lot to satisfy a racer, especially one with as prolific a history as Millen. The ability to research, develop and manufacture Stillen brand products allows the company to maintain strict quality control on all stuff it produces. That's what made it a household name with Nissan enthusiasts and it looks like the very same is likely to happen for us Mustang nuts too. And that's a very good thing.


Stillen Sportparts' 2005 Mustang GT

Ford 4.6-liter, 3-valve SOHC V8

Engine Modifications
Stillen/Magnuson roots-type supercharger, 6 psi pulley, air to water intercooler; Ford Racing blue powdercoated cam covers; Street Scene axle back, center exit exhaust

Tremec TR-3650 5-speed manual transmission

429 RWHP, 402 RWTQ

AP Racing 6-piston front brake calipers, with 14.25" drilled and slotted rotors, 4-piston rear calipers with 13" rotors; Stillen metal matrix composite brake pads; Optima yellow top battery

Street Scene Equipment urethane body kit (front & rear fascia, side skirts), quarter window louvers, side scoops, speed grille, tail light bezels; House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl paint

Custom leather upholstry by Phoenix Imaging, Rowland, TX and Westminster Auto Upholstry, Anaheim, CA; Carbon fiber interior trim; Sony XAV-C1 head unit with 7" monitor; Pioneer amps (1500 W) and speakers; Monster caps; Tsunami wiring; Custom sub enclosure by Audio Innovations, Glendora, CA

H&R Racing Springs; Stillen front sway bar, 5-way adjustable rear sway bar

Wheels And Tires
Axis Hero anthracite wheels, 19 x 8.5" front and 19 x 9.5" rear; BF Goodrich T/A g-Force KDW tires, 245/35-19 front, 285/35-19 rear

For more info and to get a free catalog, visit or call 866-250-5542.