Building a car for SEMA is by no measure an easy task.
I can’t say this from experience, but it doesn’t take thrashing to a very fixed deadline to recognize that standing out among standouts is a tall order. Twin-turbo this, motor swapped that, SEMA is a show where the impossible is made possible.
But it’s not an event without faults: many builds showcased at SEMA are critiqued for lacking any real lasting substance. Hiding behind the guise of a functional vehicle, these cars are seen for the product showcases they ultimately are. This isn’t entirely unexpected, SEMA is a trade show, and in the moment these cars serve their purpose to captivate and inspire. However by show end on Friday, the vehicles that made the most noise during the event are the quickest to fall silent thereafter.
The true standouts of the SEMA Show are the cars that continue to captivate outside the vast walls of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Sitting in the H&R Springs booth, the StanceWorks Ford Model A was a vehicle that every Speedhunter took the opportunity to examine. Yet, despite that, it wasn’t the subject of any spotlights.
This was no mistake – we all agreed that presenting the project in anything less than a full feature wouldn’t do it adequate justice. It made an impact at SEMA, but the show was only the beginning.
Like every vehicle built at the hand of Mike Burroughs, this Ford is an eclectic mix of the mechanical and aesthetic influences present inside the head of the StanceWorks creator.
Mike is no stranger to the gravitas that comes with building a center hall SEMA vehicle. He’s built several, one of which many feel receded into the shadows before it had the opportunity to live up the potential of the last iteration.
That car is Rusty Slammington, a vehicle that rivals a cat in the number of lives it has lived. In 2015 the last known version of Rusty was also unveiled on the H&R carpet. A fusion of Mike’s love for vintage motorsport, BMWs and hot rods, Rusty was one of the most talked about vehicles at SEMA that year. Sir Slammington maintained a healthy buzz right up until a brief driving video was posted, but soon after the car went back into hiding.
When asked about that car, Mike was fairly candid. “I built Rusty, the last version of Rusty, to build it. I could never realistically register it, it’s modified outside of any current race class and the motor is on the knife’s edge. It was a personal challenge but I didn’t want to build another car I wasn’t able to use.”A New Chapter
To further explain, Rusty had to exist for the truck you see today to exist. Everything that made Rusty, Rusty – the heart, the soul the passion and the lessons learned – had a direct impact on the creation of Mike’s Ford.
There’s a bit of a misconception around Mike in that he builds simply for shock value. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Though hot rodding was passed to Mike through blood (his father is an accomplished builder), Mike came into cars somewhat late. He laughs in admission that when he first took notice of cars himself his tastes were much different than they are today, but much like all of us he had to find his way. Once the passion for cars was properly lit it became all consuming.
Originally interested in Hondas, an M50-powered E30 ushered in his appreciation for the BMW marque. Following that came an interest in vintage motorsport, and soon after a deep-seated passion for off-roading. Eventually, hot rods also managed to creep their way into the picture, as they often do.
Intermixed among all the mechanical passion, Mike developed an interest in photography that helped open up a variety of new experiences. Mike takes pride in his evolution as a photographer, enthusiast and vehicle builder, and much of this progression stems from his unshakable mindset that if someone else can do it, so can he.
It’s easy to take a statement like that as braggadocios but as Mike explains it’s not a humble brag. “I might not be able to do it as well as someone who’s been doing it their whole life, but with enough effort, and the right guidance I believe anyone is capable of learning anything. Overcoming the challenge of creating something is on equal footing to enjoying the finished product.”
To that end, this Ford is Mike’s magnum opus. It’s his second kick at the Model A can, but this time he didn’t settle at coyly nudging the aluminum cylinder down the road.
Atop the list of boxes this second Model A needed to tick were three items: It had to push Mike’s limits as a fabricator; it had to be Ford powered; and it had to scare the shit out of anyone willing to be inside it.
“With my last Model A, I had already gone the traditional hot rod route. The motor and wheel choice were atypical, but replace the BMW M60 with a Flathead V8 and RS with period-correct wire wheels and you’d be there. I didn’t want to become known as a one trick pony in the world of hot rods, so for this car I approached it as differently as I could.”
To look at it, this truck contains just the right elements of nearly every automotive genre. It’s a vehicle that has all the right elements of a hot rod, but at the same time could never be mistaken for just another cool Model A. That aesthetic is deliberate and was established long before Mike bought the base vehicle.
The all-original, fully operable, blank slate was purchased from the famous Pomona swap meet. Its grey paint caught Mike’s eye, and the fact it was a ’31 closed cab sealed the deal. In Mike’s eyes, the ’31 has the best lines of all the Model As.
“It might seem like a waste to some, to buy a running vehicle for what I wanted to do. But with my last truck I had to hunt down the smallest bits, and it really slowed down the process. I wasn’t against buying just a body but I couldn’t find the right one complete. I told the owner of this truck I wasn’t going to cut it up, but it was stripped later that day.”Self Elevation
In the spirit of self challenge, Mike designed the chassis himself on paper. Once the basics were sketched out they were stuck to the work bench while the California-based StanceWorks shop was filled with sparks. “Just about anything can be built with a 4.5-inch grinder, a MIG welder, and determination” Mike adds.
The main chassis is constructed of 2×3 .120 wall steel. The remainder is constructed of 1.75 DOM tube to form the roll bar, rear suspension mounts, and radiator mounts.
During the design and construction of the suspension, Mike put the pencil down and picked up a mouse. Starting with the creation of motor mounts, gussets, and various frame embellishments, he learned Autodesk’s Fusion 360 mid project.
Creating a personal challenge, within a personal challenge, he designed the suspension entirely within the CAD program. “The suspension design offered up its fair share of hurdles, but I was never going to properly learn about camber curve, roll center, and anti-dive without diving in. It’s one thing to read about these concepts but entirely different to implement it yourself from scratch.”
From hub to chassis pick-up points, there isn’t a part of the suspension that lacks Mike’s fingerprint.
H&R adjustable coil-overs are found at all four corners. In the rear, the coil-overs are connected to a triangulated four-link. Up front Mike crafted his own independent front suspension system based on what he rendered digitally.
The one-off upper and lower control arms are connected to Mustang SS550 front spindles and Ford Motorsport hubs. Mounted to the the hubs are one of the vehicles most distinctive features – 2018 Mazda IMSA Le Mans Prototype Motegi Wheels.
There are no shenanigans here, these are legitimate center-lock race wheels, 18×12.5-inch up front and 18×13-inch in the rear. “Wheels are an important part of all my builds. These were a great find, the effort to make them work was significant but the visual impact is well worth it. The previous owners sold them to me at a good price figuring I could never put them to use on a vehicle, but here they are.”
Because someone is certain to ask, Mike is sure – as are we – that with no DOT approval these wheels and tires are, technically not street legal. Thankfully, the authorities have always been fairly sympathetic to hot rods. Besides, if anything is going to provoke an unplanned roadside stop, it’s the car’s volume.Cranked To 11
This car is, in a word, loud, and its audible aggression is thanks to a Coyote V8 lifted from a 2011 Mustang. Equipped with a VMP Gen-3 2.65-liter supercharger, at 15psi of boost the motor delivers on the second item from Mike’s list.
Weighing 2276lbs (1032kgs) and with an estimated horsepower well north of 600, it scares the shit out of anyone willing to bury the pedal into the custom aluminum floor board.
“The car spins tires without hesitation, in any gear. It’s terrifying but gratifying at the same time to know that it is something I built.”
Flanking the motor are equal-length headers that exit just ahead of the door. The only sound louder than the un-muffled engine might be the Michelin Motorsports PL2 rain slicks fighting in vain to put the power down.
In the search for traction, Mike rows through a straight-cut Jerico WC4 4-speed gearbox, chased by an LSD-equipped Ford 9-inch rear end.
At the beginning of this article I mentioned the less than celebratory fate of many a SEMA vehicle once the curtains are drawn on the Vegas stage. But you can rest assured that this car’s story is still to be completed.
At the time of writing, Mike is working out the final kinks necessary to make this car capable of surviving anything he might put it through. Canyon drives, road courses and everything in between, this truck will know few – if any – limits.
Over the phone, Mike’s passion for automobiles was nearly overwhelming. His enthusiasm is genuine, and it quickly became apparent that it would be a challenge to capture all of it in a single post.
There’s so much Mike has done, and is still yet to do, that we’d like to open up the floor to you to ask Mike any automotive question you may have. The answer to these questions will be the subject of a follow-up post to come in a few weeks.
Yes, that post will include video. As superb a job as Mark did capturing the truck outside the StanceWorks HQ, some vehicles can only be served proper justice through sound and picture.
To help guide the conversation, and avoid repetition of questions, the modification list is below..
Mike Burroughs’ 1931 Ford Model A
H&R Motorsport adjustable coilovers, Custom independent front suspension, S550 front spindles modified for SLA setup, Ford Motorsport front hubs, Custom upper and lower control arms, heim jointed, Brembo 355mm big brake package, Woodward quick ratio manual steering rack
H&R Motorsport adjustable coilovers, Ford 9″ rear axle, 3.50 gears, posi differential, Disk brakes, Triangulated 4-link geometry, heim jointed, Pushrod and bell crank actuated
Custom all-aluminum riveted interior, Wilwood pedal box, Tilton master cylinders, Flying Dutchman handmade aluminum seats, Rennstall RSKT1 shift knob, Ringbrothers Shift arm, Momo motorsport steering wheel, JR quick release steering wheel hub, ARC control panel
Wheels & Tires:
2018 Mazda IMSA Le Mans Prototype Motegi Wheels, 18×12.5″ Front, 18×13″ Rear, Michelin Motorsports PL2 rain slicks, Custom center-lock adapters
2011 5.0 Mustang GT Coyote engine, Ford Motorsport Controls Pack, VMP Gen 3 2.65-liter supercharger system, 15psi boost, Equal length headers, MMR billet hurricane oil pump, MMR electric water pump system, MMR oil filter relocation kit, K&N Inline oil filter, 85mm supercharger pulley, E85 ethanol fuel
Jerico WC4-4 straight-cut 4-speed dogbox, McLeod Racing twin-disc RXT clutch, McLeod Racing aluminum lightweight flywheel, Quicktime bell housing, Drivelines Inc. one piece driveshaft
ATL SP115 15-gallon aluminum fuel cell, 2x Holley lift pumps, 2x Holley inline filters, G-Surge surge tank, 2x Hyperfuel high pressure inline fuel pumps, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, Zeitronix Ethanol content analyzer
Griffin all-aluminum shrouded radiator. CSF shrouded heat exchanger. CSF transmission & oil cooler. Tilton transmission cooler pump