2014 is a year that changed everything. After working for the family business his entire life, Mike found himself no longer fitting in. Making the decision to move on proved to be a leap of faith that Mike and Brianne could only do with the support and strength of family and friends around them.
The one piece of advice that stands out from the beginning came from Frank Stagnaro – “Now is the time you arch your back, dig in your heels and push like hell.”
The first priority was to find someone who knew how to run a business. We called our powder coaters who have grown exponentially over the past few years and asked who they used. “Jim is the man!” exclaimed Maas. Jim got us started on the right path by creating a business plan and goals. This was exactly the direction we needed and the next step was finding good ol’ labor. But not just any labor – we needed people who could develop systems, parts, and processes. Front women Sara Woods was the first to throw her name in the hat. Then Vince Donatini showed up to a meeting at Starbucks to discuss structure and goals and never left. Next came Craig Johnson, AKA engineering extraordinaire, who was instrumental in re-designing our products. Justin Knowlton, who previously worked with Mike, signed on with his welding skills once the shop got rolling. And Russell Dutra gave his last semester of college time to the cause before he graduated.
Finding a shop was next on the list. It had to be in the right location and clean, with room to grow. We found exactly what we needed in our hometown. During this time, Mike was moonlighting with Curt Hill at Hill’s Rod and Custom. Curt introduced Mike to Joe, who would ultimately line up the shop with the bulk of its tools. Joe was in charge of liquidating a newspaper company and sold us tools out of their machine shop. Then a customer saw that Mike and Brianne would need big moving equipment and came through to help get all the tools into place. While all of this was happening, we got the keys to the shop and sent out the bat signal. We needed a little help cleaning things up. People came from everywhere and with some floor paint donated by Maas Brothers Powder Coating, the work began. The walls got painted by so many different people we couldn’t keep track of who was where and when the last coat was put on. This was an awesome problem to have and nobody was too good for anything. Everyone was elbows deep. Before we knew it, a month had passed and we had the office set up, electrical and air running, the shop was outfitted with tools, and the phone lines were hooked up.
The very first phone call we received was from Bill Faull at Mustangs Plus. We explained the transition and our plans for a brand new product line. The goal was to design a complete line of 1st generation Mustang suspension. It had to be the best in quality and performance. We had no marketing at the time so the product had to market itself through performance.
In the first year we designed and created:
- MOD1 front coil over system
- MOD1 lower control arms
- Complete MOD chassis stiffening kits for both hardtop and convertible Mustangs
- MOD1 panhard rod kit
- MOD rear sway bar kit
- MOD2 rear suspension system
- Finalizing the composite rear leaf spring design
All of this was completed in conjunction with multiple other things. The crew was and is creating on an impressive level. Shop jobs started coming in – roll bars, custom fab jobs, and installs filled the time in between designing and production runs. The ball had started to roll.
There is no better way to prove your product than by using it. We had humble plans for the 2014/2015 season: we wanted to make an appearance at a handful of GoodGuys events. That turned into six shows and a big win at Del Mar. Then the blue car and a couple of shop cars made an appearance in the Ford Mustang 50th Anniversary promo video shot at the Arizona Proving Grounds. We originally thought about going to one or two Optima Ultimate Street Car events. That turned into five between here and Road America with another big win in Vegas. None of this would have been possible without the boys at Falken Tire and K&N Air Filters.
The week before we got the keys to the shop, Mike got his 7th SCCA Solo National title in CP. Fast forward a year and they did it again, picking up Mike’s 8th and Brianne’s 4th SCCA championships. Tons of support from the forums and friends spreading the word has been the biggest thing. At the same time, we created the first Mike Maier Inc. website to let everyone know we were here and now we’re on the cusp of launching our website with e-commerce.
As the past year has progressed, we have been humbled by the outpouring of support. There have been lots of tough discussions and long hours for sure. And we all know this will continue throughout the years. However we are all excited for the next phase in our product line, which is the S550 chassis. From there we will move platform to platform. Enjoying the shop’s growth with our friends and family will be the most important part. The years to come show great promise with all of us working together. We will see you for sure at the next event.
Special thanks is due to the people listed below. Without them, this whole venture would not have happened.
First and foremost – “The Boss” Brianne. Without her, Mike would be at some little dirt track somewhere, racing something, and living out of his Ranchero. Brianne has taken on so much from keeping the family going to working any available moments at the shop while keeping a full-time day job. She is amazing and we bow down to her.
- Phil and Cary Curtis
- Jim and Dinah Thompson
- Frank Stagnaro and Barbara Ogg
- American Autocross family
- The Villareal’s, Hobaugh’s, Gerow’s, Greg Emory, Bryan Stewart, McKee’s, the Ansel family and anyone else we’re forgetting to mention – you know who you are!
- Everyone who helped set the shop up from electrical to paint to equipment moving
- Don Bailey, Curt Hill, Joe B., Terry Nelson, Mike Streets, Wayne Kargilinan, Nick Becker, Dan, Erik Lind, the list goes on and on…
- The customers that stuck it through and kept the faith: Dennis Brinson, Robert Lewis, Dan Basher, Kenny Edwards, TJ Welch, Steve McEathron and son, Wayne Johnson, Karl Rodgers and family, John McKissack
- The shops that followed: Wilwood Brakes (Hambone and the whole gang), Falken Tire, Speedway Engineering, JRI Shocks, Ultimate Performance, Lucas Oil, Mike and Tony at K&N Air filters, Mike Musto, Mustangs Plus, Mustang Depot, Classic Recreations, Delta Bay Mustang, ABC Mustang, Bang Shift, A&D Machine, Tiger Rearends, Maas Brothers
- The Crew: Sara and Mike Woods, Vince Donatini, Justin Knowlton, Russell Dutra, Craig Johnson, Johnathon Stewart, Beefcake, Victor Ponce, Christopher