As a child of the 1960s and early ’70s, Dean Michaels was raised around Detroit steel. For him, cars were as much a part of life as breathing.
“Back then, everyone was into cars,” Dean said. “Every year, my dad would take me to the dealerships and we’d look at the latest cars. They were always coming out with new, fast cars.”
Dean started working at age 14 to save up enough money to buy a car as soon as he turned 16. That first car was a doozy, too—a 1965 Dodge Coronet with a 426 Max Wedge.
“I learned how to drive in the Coronet; my mom taught me how to power-shift it,” Dean said.
Dean put those powershifting lessons to good use, earning street hero status at his local high school.
“There were six parking spots in front of the high school, and the only way to get one was to earn it at the dragstrip,” Dean said. “The six fastest cars in school were always parked right up front. I spent a lot of time at Milan Dragway (earning a spot).”
Fast-forward a few decades. Dean Michaels is the same car guy he always was, and is the proud owner of a 2004 Mustang Cobra. Strangely enough, it was a hopped-up 2003 Mercury Marauder that got Dean into Mustangs.
“The Marauder was a blast because no one would see it coming, but I couldn’t get it to go as fast as a (Mustang) Cobra,” Dean said. “So that’s why I bought this car.”
The first thing that stands out on Dean’s Cobra is the paint. Virtually everything that could be painted was color-matched to the car’s Red Fire Metallic finish. Dean found a company in Texas that could custom mix the paint, then he created what is probably the world’s first bathroom-based paint booth.
“I didn’t have a garage to work in, and winter in Ohio is too cold to consider painting anywhere that’s not heated,” Dean said. “So I converted a spare bathroom into a paint booth. I put plastic up, brought in lights, and used the exhaust fan.”
That’s a sign of a dedicated enthusiast if we’ve ever seen one.
As far as performance mods go, Dean had planned to add just a smaller blower pulley and a cold air intake; both upgrades were made virtually the same day he bought the Cobra. Then he met a group of Mustang enthusiasts at a get-together—and all heck broke loose.
“It hadn’t even occurred to me to modify the Cobra that much, but these guys really know how to get the most power out of Mustangs,” Dean said. “That’s one of the great things about the Mustang culture and especially this group—they’re tight-knit, they’ll do anything for each other, and they’re not afraid to share performance tips and tricks.”
The Cobra’s Eaton M112 supercharger was sent to Stiegemeier Porting, where it was ported and polished to perfection. The factory exhaust was replaced with a hand-fitted, 2 1/2-inch cat-back exhaust and a pair of DynoMax Ultra Flo mufflers that give the Cobra a distinct, deep sound. Other performance goodies include a custom cold air intake, Accufab polished throttle body, and an SCT chip. The 4-Valver was then custom-tuned by the guys at Akron Horsepower.
Suspension bits include an Eibach spring kit that lowers the Cobra 1 1/2 inches. A Kenny Brown Extreme Matrix subframe system and MotoBlue Hard Launch kit were added so Dean can enjoy every bit of the 516 horsepower and 531 foot-pounds of torque the Cobra can deliver.
Dean has seen quite a few changes in the automotive industry over the years, but he’s not stuck in the past.
“You never forget your first car. I can still remember the feel and smell of the Coronet, but I really like modern technology. And now the Big Three are producing the cars that people want again,” Dean said. “When I get behind the wheel of the Cobra, I’m 25 again. This is a great time to be a car guy.”
Frame: Stock with Kenny Brown Extreme Matrix System (subframe connectors, jacking rails, and Extreme Matrix Brace)
Rear Suspension: Factory IRS with MotoBlue Hard Launch Kit, aluminum bushings, Eibach Pro Kit springs, and Bilstein shocks
Front Suspension: BBK caster/camber plates; Eibach Pro Kit springs; Bilstein struts
Brakes: 4-wheel disc with slotted/cross-drilled rotors and Hawk ceramic pads
Wheels and Tires: Cobra wheels (18 x 9 front/18 x 10 1/2 rear) and Bridgestone Potenza S-02 tires
Engine and Transmission
Type: DOHC V8, 281 C.I.D.
Induction: Eaton M112 supercharger, ported and polished; Reichard Racing 2.8-inch supercharger pulley and 90mm idler pulley; Accufab polished throttle body; custom cold air intake; two Ford Racing 190 lph fuel pumps
Exhaust: Custom 2 1/2-inch aluminized cat-back with BBK X-pipe and DynoMax Ultra Flo mufflers
Transmission: Stock six-speed with Centerforce DFX clutch
Other Items: SCT tuner, Ford Racing valve covers, aluminum overflow tanks, ARP fasteners
Performance: 516 horsepower, 531 ft.-lbs. of torque
Engine Tuning: Akron Horsepower
Supercharger Porting and Polishing: Stiegemeier Porting
Body and Paint
Modifications: Stainless Cobra rear bumper inlay; Redline Tuning hood shock kit
Paint: Red Fire Metallic—engine, wheels, and interior accent-painted to match by owner
Dash: Stock with Raptor parallel shift lights
Shifter: Hurst Billet/Plus
Special Thanks To: Akron Horsepower for the awesome tune, Ohio Street Stangs for all of the help detailing and getting the car ready to show.