Like most Mustang enthusiasts, Mike Matarazzo's relationship with Mustangs has grown over the years, and it has developed into a close personal friendship. From 13-second Fox-bodies to 1,000-rwhp GT500s, Mike has owned them all. More than his relationship with his cars, though, this story has more to do with the relationships he's made with people over the yearsùand their constant support. To build such a relationship takes time. "My first Mustang was an '86 GT," Mike says. "It had heads, headers, and a few other things done to it. It ran 13s, and I thought it was fast," he recalls. His then-girlfriend, Jen, used to drive the car; she is now his wife.
Later came a white '88 5.0 LX convertible. Mike modded it to run 13s, 12s, 11s, 10s, and finally 9s. And when not operating his business, Michael Matarazzo Architectural Landscaping, Mike could be found at Raceway Park in Englishtown virtually every Friday night, pounding the gears in the name of quick e.t.'s.
"Hanging out at RP was a ritual," says Editor Smith. "Matarazzo, along with Lee Rutter, Big Daddy Dwayne Gutridge, Jimmy LaRocca, Nitrous Pete Misinsky, Craig Radovich, and many others, would be there every Friday when the gates opened. All we cared about was running as hard as we could. Then we'd go out to eat and bench race until late into the night," he added.
So he could run in the low 13s, Mike originally made a faux rollbar out of PVC pipe and covered it in padding. "People used to tell me what a nice 'cage I had," jokes Mike. But not long after installing his phony setup, he was busted by none other than now-MM&FF editor Evan J. Smith, who was an E-town track official at the time. The two have been friends ever since. Though the LX ultimately ran 9s, it was most well-known for running in the old Fun Ford Weekend series in the Street 5.0 class, where Mike could really pound the gears. Back then, running 11s on motor was a big deal.
Meanwhile, Mike was developing other relationships in the Mustang world. He raced against and befriended the likes of Don Walsh Sr. and his son, Don Walsh Jr. The junior Walsh operates Walsh Motorsports in Wixom, Michigan. Knowledgeable, yet humble, the Walsh crew is exactly what Mike needed to take his Mustang companionship to the next level.
After having a 9-second '95 SVT Cobra, a Saleen, then two Terminators (one of which ran 9.80s), Mike eventually ventured into GT500s. His first was an '07 in Performance White with the stripe delete option. "I didn't want to butcher it," says Mike. So he had Walsh put a bigger blower on it and left it alone. By the following year, though, Mike wanted more.
In late 2008, he purchased the '08 GT500 seen on these pages. Like his '07, Mike ordered it Performance White with the stripe delete. "I bought the car and loaded it right on the trailer to take to Michigan," Mike says. Mind you, Mike lives in New Jersey. "I've dealt with a lot of shops," Mike tells us. "But those guys gave me peace of mind," says Mike of the Walsh team.
The purpose of the build was to have an 8-second drag car that could also be driven on the street. "I wanted it to cruise Woodward Avenue," says Mike. "That's where all the big boys hang out." So Mike turned the fresh-off-the-showroom-floor GT500 over to Don Walsh Jr. to "put the blessing on it," as Mike puts it.
And bless it he did. A 76mm Precision turbo combined with the stock supercharger creates 20 pounds of boost. Controlled by a Big Stuff 3 and backed by a Powerglide trans with a Neil Chance converter, the Walsh Motorsports 5.4L powerplant made 1,031 rwhp on a chassis dyno. Racecraft, Koni, Hypercoil, and Strange components make up the suspension; Skinny Kid Race Cars supplied the 'cage. Dave "Whitey" Brown provided his fabrication expertise, and a Strange 9-inch with 3.70 gears puts the power to the ground.
With Walsh Jr. behind the wheel, the subdued coupe has run a best of 8.70 at 158.57 mph. "I'm not a big-time drag racer," says Mike. "That's why I turn to Don, Donny, and Justin Haddon. Just to be affiliated with such a great group of guys is an honor."
With a Coyote-powered Mustang on his mind, I doubt this is the last we'll see of Mike Matarazzo. "I never just leave anything alone," he says. "I'm 45 years old, married with children, and it's still in my blood." With friends like the Walsh duo, there's no telling what will come out of the Matarazzo camp in the years to come.
Hanging out at RP was a ritual.