Mike Trenkle’s Wide-Body Mustang: A Fox-Body Pushed To Extremes

After a competitive career in motocross, Mike Trenkle understands what dedication means. His diet, exercise regimen, and daily rides were what he lived for, and unfortunately, he sustained so many of the injuries typical to these extreme athletes. When his aches kept him from riding at a level he was happy with, he started focusing that youthful energy towards a cobwebbed Fox-body collecting dust in the corner of his garage. It’d been sitting for nearly thirteen years, and after a period of intense dedication, it’s become a front-running SCCA autocrosser and major contender in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge.

After a thorough dusting, Mike bumped power with a new top end, added a set of disc brakes, fitted lowering springs, then tried the Mustang at a local autocross. He wasn’t impressed. Deeply frustrated with the Fox-body’s Peterbilt-like handling, he catapulted himself into a rigorous development program; taking hours every day to see his dream come to fruition. Within seven years, he’d have himself a scalpel which raises the bar for every Fox-body Mustang in existence.

Photo credit: ShortShift Media

It started with a motor that, by OUSCI standards, might seem mild. Mike stuffed a Ford Boss block with lightweight SCAT H-beam rods, a custom cam, and Probe pistons; topped it with Ford Z heads; and tidied it all up with ARP hardware. With FAST fuel injection’s help, the 363 Windsor makes 550 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. That shove is then sent through a Centerforce DYAD clutch, a revised TKO 600 transmission, and a Ford 8.8-inch rear with a Wavetrac differential. Best of all, it spins to 7,000 revs, and a minor drone is all he has to endure when it’s not revving to the moon.

The relatively mild engine isn’t the centerpiece of this extensive build. It’s a Fox-body made to corner, and the emphasis on trick suspension, weight reduction, and balance support that. In fact, Mike designed the rest of this street car to suit his aggressive driving style. “The harder you push, the more this car rewards you,” he reports.

Photo credit: ShortShift Media

Getting the response and traction he sought took choice parts and a level of homebrewed ingenuity. Not only did Mike design the SLA suspension up front, he took a Cobra IRS and revised the geometry to make the most of the broad tires he had planned for the Fox-body. As if that wasn’t enough, Mike had to design his own cantilever rear suspension and a carbon body kit to accommodate the 325-section rubber.

Photo credit: ShortShift Media

Free time became dedicated almost exclusively to designing a carbon body kit that is functional, lightweight, and still pleasing to the eye. A bold man, he jumped directly into entire body panels rather than shaping tiny composite squares and moving up in size gradually. After months of research followed by trial and error, he produced this fifteen-pound kit, which helps bring the Fox-body’s total weight down to 3,206 pounds.

Predictably, he spared no expense with the off-the-shelf additions to the footwork. Penske shocks provide unparalleled body control and soak up imperfections on the street. “Honestly, it rides just as well as my 2017 Mustang Performance Pack. It’s a testament to the quality of those incredible Penskes,” he gushes.

That’s quite the complement, especially considering how all the bushings were replaced with delrin and rod ends. Interestingly, the rear swaybar is still the stock item—one of the few factory pieces remaining on the car—and yet the car rotates better than most would wager.

A square tire setup, 335/30/18 BF Goodrich Rival S rubber, and a 51:49 weight distribution gives this Fox-body a gymnast’s agility when corners tighten. “The handling balance is more like a mid-engine car’s; lifting off the throttle mid-corner causes it to oversteer,” Mike reports proudly. “It turns best with some throttle, and it definitely rewards aggression. Basically, this one just will not understeer unless you really manhandle it,” he adds.

And yet, it’s still easy to live with. Aside from the the Sparco fixed carbon seats and a four-point cage, the interior is cushy. Some of that comfort can be attributed to a thick layer of Dynapad sound insulation that mitigates the mild exhaust drone. Full carpet, a nine-speaker sound system, RestoMod Air Conditioning, Dakota Digital gauges, and a Retro Sound two-post deck make life enjoyable when he takes his occasional trips to Pikes Peak International Raceway, his home road course.

Photo credit: ShortShift Media

The clever integration of the right performance parts and creature comforts make for a package worthy of multiple SCCA national tour trophies, two SCCA SOLO national podium finishes, SEMA appearances, as well as several regional autocross championships. Once racing season resumes, Mike will be competing at Colorado, Atlanta, NOLA, NCM, the Holley Ford Fest at Beech Bend Raceway, and hopefully showing this carbon-clad beauty at SEMA this season. 

A car of this caliber should never be absent from the racing scene long—the fans need their fix. 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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