We were hanging out at Milt Robson's musclecar collection recently near Gainesville, GA, drooling over (but not on!) some seriously expensive and powerful American iron and having a grand old time. Don't worry if Milt's name doesn't immediately ring a bell; like most people who collect cars for purely personal reasons, Milt doesn't advertise his treasures. Word-of-mouth has kept the buff books full of Milt's musclecars since the news first leaked out more than 20 years ago, but there is no neon sign to attract the general public to the rural horse farm/private automotive museum near Road Atlanta.
Milt is one of those guys who worked hard since childhood, got some lucky breaks in business and sold his company for a gazillion dollars. All along, he fed his love of rare American iron with exotica from the '50s and '60s, cars such as the three '69 Trans Am four-speed convertibles (Pontiac only made eight). Milt's taste is eclectic - not strictly limited to one brand or country of origin - but his natural attraction is to the GM family and it often has to be something unusual to win a slot in the big barn.
On our latest trip therefore, we were surprised to see the only '69 Mustang convertible Ford built with a 428 Super Cobra Jet V-8 and four-speed sitting next to a beautiful '70 Shelby GT-500 convertible. Ford Motor Company was also represented by a '34 woody wagon, which caused us to remark to our tour guide Joe Steinmetz that Milt was finally starting to come around our way of thinking. Joe happens to be the primary restorer and wrench-turner for the collection.
"Oh, if you like Fords, I've got a Mustang out in the shop you should see," he said. Needing no further encouragement, we left the three dozen or so museum-quality musclecars and followed Joe to the main garage.
Sitting next to a stripped shell of a '71 Pontiac GTO Judge convertible (one of only 17 built, of course) was Joe's personal car, a Teal '85 Mustang GT hatchback that had "street monster" written all over it. Forgetting about the million-dollar trailer queens just a hundred feet away, we started grilling Joe about his ride. We know a good feature car when we see it, and this one was perfect.
"I've had a few hot Mustangs in my time," the 36-year-old told us. "I was between cars when my wife Renee and I had our son Dallas, so the Steinmetz family budget had very little money for doing a Mustang project.
"Keeping that in mind, I started looking for a good, solid Fox Mustang that wouldn't need a ground-up restoration. I found this '85 in the local want ads and liked that the body work and paint were fresh and flawless. Terry Anderson, the guy who owned it before me, does paint and body at Akins Ford in Winder, so the GT had received some new/old stock parts - including new windows - and many hours of labor."
It had also been fitted with a new roof, according to Joe. The hatchback originally came with T-tops, a desirable option for restorers and collectors, but not so much for aspiring drag and road racers. Terry knew the T-tops leaked and caused the body to flex, so he re-skinned the roof. The solid top may not look as cool when cruising the Sonic parking lot, but it helps stiffen the chassis when flying around corners.
That explains the color and roof, but what's up with the flying rodent we see on the hatch lid, seat headrests and cargo hold?
"I used to own an '87 LX coupe - a former Florida state trooper car," Joe explained. "It had a few mods and a lot of nitrous oxide. That small-block Ford outran a Chevy big-block that belonged to a local racer, so since it was faster than a 'Rat' motor people started calling it 'Mighty Mouse.' Since then, all of my Mustangs have been called 'Mighty Mouse.'"
Special thanks to Kevin King (Year One) and Larry Woodcock (Red Line Performance)
Even though Joe considers his '85 to be a "budget" racer, our discerning eyes (and digital camera) could find no hint of cut corners. Sure, at first glance the body looks stock except for the raised cowl hood, but there are a few mods made in the name of individuality. For instance, openings for the wiper arms and radio antenna have been covered and forgotten.
The engine bay perfectly matches the exterior and is home to a 347-cid stroker V-8 from Year One in Braselton. Mighty Mouse's heart started life as a 302 block fitted with goodies such as a SCAT forged steel crankshaft, forged aluminum pistons, Lunati Voodoo camshaft, Motorsport 1.7:1 roller rocker arms, Canfield aluminum heads, ported and polished Edelbrock Torker II intake manifold, electric fuel pumps and pressure regulator by Holley, long-tube headers and a 2 and 3/4-inch exhaust system with H-pipe and Flowmaster mufflers. The most obvious addition to the powerplant is a chromed pair of Inglese dual 400cfm carburetors, which take up every bit of height granted by the six-inch Harwood cowl hood.
A few quarts of 20W50 synthetic oil rest inside the chromed Motorsport pan; a K&N oil filter keeps the lubricant free of debris. An MSD distributor, coil and ignition box and Ford Motorsport 8.8mm plug wires enhance spark and a 150-shot N.O.S. system helps pump more oxygen into the V-8's cylinders than Nature intended. Even without the spray, Joe's 347 sends a more-than-respectable 425 horsepower to the rear wheels.
Joe installed a Tremec five-speed manual transmission, RAM clutch, aluminum Ford Motorsport driveshaft, 4.10:1 gears, Motorsport axles and an 8.8-inch rear housing to handle Mighty Mouse's torque.
Restoration of the Mustang's performance image continued in 1985 with both a facelift and higher output. The 5-liter engine received a revised camshaft, hydraulic lifters, true dual exhaust and stainless tubular headers. These improvements bumped the V8's power level to 210 flywheel HP. This was the last year for carburetted engines. The "L" model was no longer available and the LX became the baseline Pony.
As part of their performance image, Ford wanted victories in the IMSA road racing series. A Roush-prepared Mustang had taken GTO class in the series season finale at Daytona in 1984. In February, 1985, the Roush Mustang won the GTO class at the 24 Hours of Daytona - a tradition they would continue for another two years.
Motorcraft-sponsored Mustangs took the International Hot Rod Association Pro Stock championship, with Rickie Smith hitting the semis or better in all events on the IHRA schedule.
Suspension work is light-years ahead of the '85's original components, including Steeda's adjustable 5-Link 2 system, Koni springs, '95 Cobra R shocks all-around, and adjustable upper rear control arms. Custom-built subframe connectors and a chromed strut-tower-to-firewall brace improve on the job Terry Anderson began with the installation of that solid roof.
In 1985, the Mustang GT did not benefit from the kind of tire technology we enjoy today, and Joe wanted to improve on that.
"This car came stock with 225/60-15 Goodyear Eagle GTs when it was new," he said. "And that was with four-lug rotors and drums out back.
"I wanted modern rubber and rims for Mighty Mouse, so I converted it to a five-lug setup with '95 Mustang spindles and brakes in front and the Motorsport axles in back. Then I went with some classic-looking American Racing TorqThrust II wheels - 17x8s on the front and 17x9.5s on the rear. The new tires have a much lower profile than the stock ones and are much wider - 245/45R17 on front and 275/40R17 in the rear."
Tires are Firestone Wide Ovals - not the old, skinny kind Ford offered on its early Mustang high-performance models, but a new-and-improved rubber wide enough to keep a Pony firmly planted.
The interior received an updated look, but without getting too far from the period in which it was built. The cloth seats are from a '94 Mustang, yet they look right at home in this Teal hatchback from the previous decade. Simpson five-point seatbelts attach to a custom-made six-point rollcage. Mighty Mouse makes his presence known through some clever and high-quality stitching, as well as an appearance in the form of a stuffed backseat passenger. A trio of gauges (volt, oil pressure, water temp) stands atop the new/old stock dashboard. An enormous AutoMeter Phantom tach hangs below, ready to spring into action when needed. The A-pillar is home to an air/fuel mixture readout, and a GTech analyzer is just off the Grant steering wheel's 10 o'clock position. Joe refurbished the GT's stock gauges with white faces to match the AutoMeter units. Other signs that this can be a very busy office: the short-throw Hurst shifter with Tremec knob and aluminum foot pedals.
An Alpine stereo features a CD player, 400-watt amplifier and 12-inch subwoofer. Joe used plywood and gray carpet to turn everything behind the front seats into a flat cargo area; even the spare tire compartment was treated to its own specially designed lid to keep everything tidy.
There's one more point we probably should make in favor of Joe's GT over those GTOs, Yenko Camaros and big-block Corvettes: during its last trip to the quarter-mile in Commerce it smoked any restored musclecar times, turning 11.50 seconds at 125 miles per hour.
Joe Steinmetz’ 1985 Mustang GT “Mighty Mouse”
Joe Steinmetz' 1985 Mustang GT
SCAT forged steel crankshaft; forged aluminum pistons; Lunati Voodoo camshaft; Motorsport 1.7:1 roller rocker arms; Canfield aluminum heads; ported and polished Edelbrock Torker II intake manifold; Holley electric fuel pumps; Holley pressure regulator; long-tube headers; 2-3/4-inch exhaust system; H-pipe; Flowmaster mufflers; twin Inglese dual 400cfm carburetors; 20W50 synthetic oil; chrome Motorsport oil pan; K&N oil filter; Ford Motorsports 8.8mm plug wires
MSD distributor, coil and ignition box
Short-throw Hurst shifter; RAM clutch; Tremec five-speed transmission; aluminum Motorsport driveshaft; 8.8-inch rear axle housing; 4.10:1 gears; Ford Motorsport five-lug axles; '95 Mustang spindles and rotors in front
Custom-built subframe connectors; strut-tower-to-firewall brace; six-point rollcage
Steeda adjustable 5-Link 2 system; Koni adjustable shocks; Koni springs; adjustable upper rear control arms
Wheels And Tires
American Racing TorqThrust II wheels (17x8 front, 17x9.5 rear); Firestone Wide Oval tires (245/45R17 front, 275/40R17 rear)
Simpson five-point seatbelts; six-point rollcage; '94 Mustang cloth seats; custom stitching; AutoMeter Phantom tachometer; AutoMeter voltage, oil pressure and water temperature gauges; air/fuel mixture gauge; GTech analyzer; white-faced stock gaugesGrant steering wheel; short-throw Hurst shifter; Tremec knob; aluminum pedals; Alpine CD player, 400-watt amplifier; 12-inch subwoofer
Harwood six-inch cowl hood; filled antenna and wiper openings
Horsepower: 435 rwhp; Quarter-mile times: 121 mph, 11.50 seconds