Given the fact that the automotive aftermarket industry has matured to the point where you can pretty much build a vintage Mustang from a handful of mail-order catalogs, we've often been puzzled by the notion that so many enthusiasts build cars from a significant investment in reproduction parts, then treat them as museum pieces. Sure, serious time and money goes into a like-new Mustang rebuild, and anyone would loathe to see their work suffer the ravages of use and the elements. Nevertheless, there's little sanctity in stamped Asian sheetmetal or plastic repops. We highly appreciate those Mustangers with the "replace it, use it, and replace it again" mind-set-folks like Robert Taylor of Grand Island, Nebraska, for example.
Robert is a Ford fan who knows the value of highway fun. His '63 1/2 Galaxie 500 had been a favorite summer cruiser for years, so when he picked up this Ivy Green Metallic '65 fastback in 1989, it was no surprise that the car's post-restoration mission would be to enjoy life at speed-especially since just about everything on the Mustang was replaced.
"The car was in presentable condition," says Robert, "but needed completely going through to put it in show condition. It had been in some fender benders-damaging the right front corner at one time-and had rear half-quarters put on. Upon disassembly, I found rust holes in the floor as well as other patches. It was your typical Midwest Mustang."
Yet as Robert delved deeper into his new project, he learned that sheetmetal deterioration was perhaps the least of the Mustang's problems.
"Early on I found that the motor had a cracked block in the rear. I located a block locally with a March 7 casting date, which was close to the original March 4 date."
Since the GT had effectively lost one of its foundations to originality, Robert decided he might as well make the best of it by rebuilding the car as a spirited driver. The replacement engine was completely disassembled and sent to Dan's Engine and Driveline in Grand Island for a rebuild. Here the block was bored 0.030 over and the crank turned 0.010-0.010. After refurbishing the heads, hardened valve seats were added, followed by a Hi-Po solid lifter cam and an original Tri-power carb assembly. During the process, Cobra open-letter valve covers and a reproduction 6.5-quart Cobra roadster oil pan were also added.
"Not wanting to do just a cosmetic restoration," says Robert, "I decided to do it from the ground up. In 1991 the car was torn down to a bare unibody with just the suspension attached. It was then taken to Michelle's Magic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to have the bodywork and paint redone. To name all the panels replaced, you'll have to look in the parts catalog, since most of them were replaced. These included full quarters, inner and outer wheelhouses, trunk floors, the taillight panel, the hood, the right fender, the radiator support, the front crossmember, the right front inner fender panel, the framerail, and both doors. New floorpans were also installed and leaded-in to factory appearance. The painter did not want anyone leaning over her freshly painted fenders to put an engine in, so upon completion of the bodywork, the body was "edged" and awaited the arrival of the engine and the Top Loader four-speed transmission. Once installed, the body was painted and assembled."
In all, it took Michelle's about 10 months to complete its end of the work. Locating a shop that Robert thought could do the job was the hardest part of the process.
"The only problem in restoring the car was finding a shop to do the work like I wanted," says Robert. "Most collision shops don't want to be bothered with the time it takes to do a full ground-up restoration."
With the bodywork behind him, Robert secured an enclosed trailer in which to take the fastback home. "It's only the second and final time it has been on a trailer," says Robert.
"Once home I started the long process of reassembly. Everything on the chassis was replaced with new parts, excluding the rear brake drums, the front calipers, the spindles, and the strut rods. The front springs were increased to 600-pound units with matching heavy rear springs. The front upper A-arms were dropped 1 inch to Shelby specs. Koni adjustable shocks were fit on all four corners. The rearend was discarded in favor of a 9-inch unit with 3.89 gears and a Traction-Lok differential. Styled Steel wheels with reproduction U.S. Royal dual redline tires were also added. Next came the interior. Again, everything was discarded and replaced with new parts. Extras include factory A/C, an 8,000-rpm, low-profile Rally-Pac, a locking glovebox door, and a day/night mirror."
Once the fastback was completed, Robert wasted no time in setting the beast on the road, attending regional shows, and hitting the quarter-mile.
"I run my car in nostalgia drags, with the bias-ply tires to boot. It usually runs very consistent if I don't come off the line too hard and spin. It's not the fastest with those tires. My best time is a 15.9 e.t. But hey, Motor Trend [magazine] tested a '65 K-code in January 1965, and it ran a best 15.9. I guess it's right in line.
"With the Hi-Po-ised engine and the low gears, coupled with the skinny bias-ply tires, it's a blast to drive; you just have to keep your mind on your driving so as not to lose control when getting on the throttle. It has been driven to every show and event-never trailered-and that's the only way I'd have it."