Long-time readers may remember this 1966 hardtop from our February 2009 issue. At the time, the car was owned by then-19 year-old Nick Branson, who used the Mustang as his daily transportation to and from work at Gateway Classic Mustang in Bourbon, Missouri. When we needed a subject for a before-and-after test of the RRS (now Gateway Performance Suspension) McPherson strut and brake system, Branson's hardtop was recruited into service. If you recall, the Gateway crew replaced the factory Mustang suspension with Gateway's modern system at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit during the Mid America Performance Ford and Team Shelby Nationals. With the Gateway suspension, test driver J Bittle clipped 12 seconds off the car's Hallett lap time.
Later, Gateway used the Mustang as a test-bed for installing a supercharged Ford Racing 4.6L four-valve modular engine and Tremec TKO five-speed into a vintage Mustang. Subsequently, Branson sold the hardtop to Ross McCombs, president of bellhousing manufacturer Quick Time Inc., with the understanding that Gateway could "borrow" the Mustang for displays and on-track demonstrations.
That arrangement proved beneficial when well-known producer Bud Brutsman (Hot Rod TV, Celebrity Rides, etc.) approached Gateway's Jason and Lonny Childress with an idea for an R U Faster Than a Redneck reality/comedy show based on pitting American muscle cars against foreign tuner cars, with Jason and Lonny driving Mustangs as part of host Jon Reep's "Mullet Mafia." There's also a 2012 Boss 302 Laguna Seca to represent the modern muscle cars.
"We built our yellow 1967 hardtop for the show when Brutsman first approached us over four years ago," Jason told us. "But when the recession hit, he decided to delay everything until the economy improved. For last year's filming, he wanted a second car from us, so we enlisted McCombs' 1966 hardtop, which we had a lot of experience with."
The maroon hardtop is well-equipped for taking on the foreign invaders, which included everything from an Audi S4 and much-modified Honda to a Lotus during the first eight episodes. Other than updated shocks and the addition of an antisway bar at the rear, the suspension is the same Gateway system installed for our 2009 comparison story, with coilover struts, rack-and-pinion steering, disc brakes all around, and three-link rear suspension. With mini-tubs, the Gateway gang is able to run 18-inch Vintage Wheel Works five-spoke wheels with wide P335/18 BFG tires on the rear. As mentioned previously, the engine is a 4.6L four-valve based on the 2003 Cobra powerplant but with a Kenne-Bell 2.1L twin-screw supercharger, a modification that required the addition of a Shelby-style scoop for hood clearance. It makes a lot more power than the car's original six-cylinder or the two-barrel 289 that was underhood for the Hallett test.
To film the first eight episodes of R U Faster Than a Redneck, Jason and Lonny spent two and half weeks at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina, where the Gateway guys got to rub elbows with celebrity drivers like NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace and former Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider. We've seen the first couple of episodes and, well, Jason didn't always come out on top against the tuners. "We didn't have a lot of time to prepare the car for the show," he says. "Turns out, the clutch was messed up so we left a lot on the table."
Still, Jason and Lonny enjoyed participating in a show that rose to the top of SPEED's ratings. Jason drives the maroon 1966 while Lonny pilots Gateway's yellow 1967.
"The show was fun to do," added Jason, a proud Missourian who doesn't mind being among what the show calls "flannel-wearing, mullet-sporting, and tobacco-chewing All-American rednecks."
"It opened our eyes to what those tuner cars can do. And it also opened their eyes to what these old muscle cars can do too."