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Chasing 200 MPH

Mike Callahan Is Still At It.

After our story about the Bonneville Talladega, our friend and Team Member Mike Callahan sent me the following note.

“I’m glad to see that you featured Hagerty’s coverage of Larry’s Talladega at Bonneville this year. Up close that car is all race car. A little rough but fast is fast. I drove my Mercury to Speedweek this year but did not race since I didn’t have enough safety equipment to pass tech. I have added a roll cage, containment seat, door net and quick release steering wheel. But my Merc, unlike the Talladega, still retains the rear seats, headliner, carpet, door panels and factory dash, and of course, stock body. My goal is to go 200mph on the Salt with a street legal car that will pass Bonneville safety tech. Next is a 5 speed Tremec, then adding some horsepower to the Cleveland this winter. Thanks for your interest and coverage of my adventures.” 

The stark white salt presents a terrific contrast to the slick black Spoiler II.

I get excited every time Mike sends me an update on his escapades to Bonneville. I have always wanted to make a trip to the Salt Flats and I regret not doing so while living on the West Coast for many years. At this point, it is one of those bucket list items I will likely only accomplish vicariously through Mike! This is not the end of this article, it is just the beginning. Mike also has been good enough to send a lot of photos of the Spoiler II modifications to date.

In 2018, when people found out that Mike had driven his 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II out to Bonneville and ran 165mph they often asked “What’s next?”. At first, he wasn’t sure. When the answer came to him, it was to run 200mph on salt. Not just do 200mph in a race car but in his car, his real, street-legal Spoiler II; not a race car with license plates.

His newest goal was set. The biggest challenge is to get his street car to pass Southern California Timing Association race car tech. The rule book is thick and full of requirements unique to Bonneville. It soon became clear to him that it would be much easier to build a dedicated race car than taking on the challenge in a street driven car, one he plans to again drive to the Salt Flats from Ohio. Mike wants a full interior with a back seat, headliner, carpet, door panels, and the factory dash. These are the common simple things you need when you drive any distance. Things like a sun visor, cup holder, mirrors, and parking brake. He still wants to run 200mph and then drive the Mercury on the Hot Rod Power Tour and Woodward Cruise!

How about some other questions like: What rear gear ratio? What size tires? What transmission ratio? How much horsepower is needed to push a Spoiler II to 200mph?  

There remains one big step, getting his street legal car thru SCTA tech so he can even run on the Salt.

Here’s the plan. 

  • Rollcage- Mike needed to design an SCTA cage that fits inside a full interior car. He used a lot of bars and stitch welded gussets to accomplish this goal. The first challenge was to be able to physically get in and out of the car. Mike insisted on retaining the headliner, rear seats, door panels, and dash in the finished car. The bar across the top of the windshield is positioned so the rearview mirror still functions. The bar under the dash allows for good movement of his legs and access to the vent knobs. The front down bar provides for the use of the factory parking brake. The rear diagonal bar allows the rear seat to be removed. This will be a safe street car and 200mph Salt Car!
  • Windows- As most of you know, the Spoiler II door windows are frameless. 200mph rules state frameless door windows must have poly windows. Mike took his glass side door windows out and had them duplicated in polycarbonate. Then he obtained some used window brackets and bolted them on. The poly windows now roll up and down just like the factory glass originals. However, that is not enough, they must be braced so they won’t blow out at high speed. Mike then designed a custom brace. Simply roll up the window and bolt it on. Also, all nonlaminated glass must have a thick safety film on both sides of the glass. Applying the film to the inside of the back window was a big challenge. How many of you other owners struggle just to clean the rear window? Can you imagine installing a heavy film on the inside?

Net- not a window net but a full door net. After the cage was done he made a tracing of the opening for the net. Sent it out and had the net made to size. But first, he had to figure out how to mount it so the net would fit properly. This is a bolt on net. Along the bottom bar, there are nut inserts that the net bolts to. Across the top bar and down the windshield bar there are spring rods for quick release.

  • Steering Wheel- A quick-release steering wheel is also required. Why? So Mike can get in and out of his car! He had the silver custom handle made so it would be easier to release the wheel. Also, note that the turn signal lever has been shortened. At Bonneville tech, drivers have to be able to exit their cars in about 30 seconds while wearing all their necessary safety gear which includes, a thick SFI 15 fire suit, neck support, helmet, and arm restraints. The 30 seconds also includes shutting off the engine, hitting the fire suppression system, releasing seat belts, and dropping the door net. Mike says he will be practicing exiting the car a lot this winter! He also claims to have lost 15lbs. to help further getting in and out.
  • Seat- A SCTA full containment seat was added. This is a legal Bonneville seat with a halo and SFI approved head padding and nice snap in upholstery. Mike had the seat made so that the top halo part bolts on for the race and off for the street so he can see side to side to drive down the road. On the bottom sides near where his knees are the seat is spread out so it is more comfortable for the street and easier to get in and out. The seat is also adjustable. The seat bolts on to a mount, then onto two crossbars attached to the floor. Mike just drove out to Bonneville in July to watch Speed Week using this seat. He told me, with a lumbar pad, it was quite comfortable for the 4000 mile trip.
  • What else? He has a list of about 20 things to change the Spoiler II from street to race mode. He still has to purchase and install a fire suppression system to pass Bonneville tech. He needs a 5-speed trans with a close-ratio 5th gear. And he believes he will need to add some horsepower and rpm to the Cleveland. This will not likely be just a one shot at 200mph, he will be working his way up to that goal. When he gets closer to 200, a parachute and even more horsepower will be needed.

Will Mike and his street Mercury Spoiler II ever run 200 on salt? What do you think?

Richard

Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood relate to cars. I still remember when things happened based on what car I was driving at the time. I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I was a Corvette fanatic for years but then re-discovered vintage American Muscle. My wife, Katrina, and I decided we wanted to focus on unique and rare muscle cars. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Ford Blue Oval Aero Cars. These were only built in 1969 and and aerodynamics became an important part of winning races. The only purpose of these limited production cars was to win NASCAR races using the Boss 429 and 427 power plants complimented with a special, wind cheating, aerodynamic body. The Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II are terrific and historic cars. This site is devoted to these car and their owners past and present. We provide an Online Registry for recording the long term history and ownership of every remaining Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II.

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One Comment

  1. I was blown away the first time I parked next to this car and got to see it in person. Great car, great guy, and an amazing story.

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