Rendering by Tavis Highlander

Life is full of compromises, and unfortunately project cars often are as well. Rather than pick a goal and just go for it with abandon, many rodders opt to try and build a performance-oriented muscle car that also has excellent street manners, creature comforts, and overall civility. That's not a bad plan if the intention is simply to build a nice street car that's competent on the track, but there are always trade-offs to be made to walk that line. The suspension can't be too punishing, the interior should be comfortable, it needs to idle smoothly, get decent mileage, have air conditioning of course-the list of unnecessary necessities goes on. That won't be the case with this project car.

For this car, we're switching around our typical ethos of building street cars imbued with a serious performance predilection, to maximum-effort road course runner and autocross conqueror that happens to also be street legal. No excuses and no apologies; we're going all the way with this one. Priority one will be fast lap times and corner carving-fast enough to raise the eyebrows of the best modified Vettes and tuned European-born sports cars, and in most cases leave them struggling to keep up. Actually, there may be some American iron extreme cars in the rearview as well. This thing will be on the bleeding edge of what can be accomplished with a street-legal muscle car.

We fully realize that's a tall order, so to accomplish our stipulated aspirations there's another prevailing philosophy behind project Max Effort: Every part put into the car will have a rationale behind it-no bling, no frills, just function way before form. It certainly won't be a good commuter, but who cares? It'll still be fun for blasts through the canyons when traffic is light and the corners are tight.

What put such a wild hair up our butts? Actually the concept is partially based on ideas we gleaned while talking to some of the country's top builders for the "What's Next?" feature that took a glance into hot rodding's future in the September '10 issue. Every builder we spoke with said the ante was constantly being raised by technology, and the demands of their customers who may be vacillating between purchasing a new Porsche 911 or building a performance muscle car. The cost may be close, so they want the performance to be as well.

One car in particular struck a chord with us: the Trans-Cammer. Built by Philip Koenen at Grand Touring Garage in North Bend, Oregon, the Trans-Cammer is a hard car to describe. It's somewhere between Trans-Am, Pro Touring, and custom show car. At the same time, it was built to function before everything else. We'll actually lay a bit of the blame on the two head gearheads at the shop helping Max Effort come to fruition: Filip Trojanek and Colin Sebern of CorteX Precision Racing Technology. A few laps in one of their in-house development cars around Infineon Raceway confirmed exactly what we wanted.

So why a Cougar? Initially we had a goal in mind, but the platform had still yet to be decided. Both Mustangs and Camaros were scratched off the list since we wanted this car to stand out amongst the horde. But we still wanted it to be relatable and easy to find parts for. The consistently overlooked Cougar fit the bill to a tee. It is mostly a Mustang, after all.

Usually we'd give you a rundown of the particular parts to look for on this build, but we'll have to leave you in suspense this time as the Max Effort Cougar will be using a great deal of never-before-seen and never-before-tested components and parts, many of which are being developed just for this project and are still in the works. That doesn't mean exclusive one-off exotica; through exclusive collaboration among PHR, CorteX, and the various suppliers, nearly everything will have a part number and be available for you to craft your own road-course warrior.