Stillen Sportparts’ 2005 Mustang GT
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."