A few years ago, K.A.R. Auto Group found itself at a crossroads. Already successful in the vintage Mustang market with restorations, parts, and car sales, the company considered entering the late-model Mustang market in an effort to maintain growth. That's when K.A.R. president George Waydo says he turned to his employees.
"Our phone guys told me that we were starting to get a lot of calls from vintage-Mustang owners looking for modern updates," Waydo explains. "So we started monitoring phone calls and talking to people who walked into our store. As it turns out, a high percentage wanted non-stock parts."
At the Mustang Club of America's 40th Anniversary Celebration in 2004, Waydo walked the Nashville show field and noted that the majority of cars had some type of modification. That was Waydo's light-bulb moment. "Instead of getting into the highly competitive late-model market with its younger customers and slim margins, we decided to go the restomod route."
It made perfect sense. K.A.R.'s phone people and on-site technicians were already well versed in '65-'73 Mustangs. Adding restomod parts to the mix would require some research, but nothing like what would be needed for a corporate-philosophy overhaul if the company made a move into the late-model market.
Part of the restomod research included building a vehicle to test-fit parts, an undertaking that led to K.A.R.'s first STE Classic Mustang: STE for styling, technology, and engineering. "If we're going to be in the restomod parts business," Waydo explains, "we'd better know how to install the parts." Utilizing a red '66 fastback, K.A.R. learned a lot from the project. "We did things such as using a late-model 5.0 timing-chain cover, then realized we didn't have a place for the oil dipstick," says Waydo.
K.A.R. has used the learning experience to build its second STE fastback, resulting in the '65 model shown here that serves as both a showcase for K.A.R.'s expertise and as a continuing test vehicle. With gorgeous red paint and white Le Mans striping, it has the classic look of a vintage Shelby. However, as you can see from the long list of modifications in the Tech Specs sidebar, this Mustang is loaded with modern mods, from the Ford Racing 5.0L engine up front to the Fuel Safe fuel-cell at the rear."We wanted to fit all the components in one car to make sure they all work together," says Waydo. "There's no other way to do it other than to do it. Everybody out there makes good products, but they don't always work in sync with each other. We have to be able to tell our customers which parts will work together and how to install them."