Sanding every groove and body seam on a '67 Mustang fastback was physical therapy for Brook Phillips. He calls his Pit Viper project "a rehab deal."
After a bad car accident about three and a half years ago, Brook found himself in a halo and a full body brace for the better part of a year. "I had to learn to walk and use my hands again," he says. "Picking up Cheerios and putting them in cups got boring really quickly."
To pass the time and build up his strength, Brook turned to his passion for cars. He had always wanted to build a '67 Mustang into an Eleanor replica. As a body shop owner for 16 years, he had the skills. "I liked the Eleanor look," he explains. "I wanted to make it my own, so I changed the hood, grille, front end, and side exhausts. I refined the '67 until the car had the overall look of an Eleanor, yet completely different."
The result is a stunning '67 Mustang fastback that's not a Shelby, not an Eleanor, and certainly not a stock Mustang. Brook decided to name it Pit Viper. "Everybody associates snakes with Mustangs, so I researched the most dangerous family of snakes-the Pit Vipers, which are rattlesnakes."
After building his first car, Brook found himself building others by request. He says, "People saw what I had done and asked, 'Can you build one for me?' or 'Can you redo my car?' I couldn't race anymore and wanted to get into older cars, but never thought about doing it full time."
Through his company, Total Performance Inc., Brook has sold five Pit Vipers to date, including one to Dallas Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman (see the "Cowboy Mustang" sidebar). "Terence opted for a Pit Viper that had already been built," Brook says. "However, TPI customers can also customize their own car. From the paint scheme to the wheels and tires, we invite our customers to the drawing board and let them design the car of their dreams. The Mustang has proven to be the most popular muscle car of all time, and we're taking the legend to a whole new level with this limited build of Pit Vipers."
Obviously, the TPI Pit Viper is filled with vintage Shelby styling cues, such as the '67 Cougar taillights and the sidescoops. The front end is aggressive like an Eleanor but with a totally new look. The custom hood gives the Pit Viper a unique appearance. "We cut and stretched a stock metal hood to match the extended Shelby headlight buckets," Brook says. "I made my own hoodscoop. It's not really carbon fiber and it's not really fiberglass. It's more of a hybrid."
The scoop is functional and mounts the filter on the underside of the hood in a custom box that mates to a four-barrel Holley 750. Brook cut out and inserted vents into the indentations where the factory-mounted turn-signal indicators are on the Exterior Dcor Group hood. These vents serve as a functional air extractor.
The look is fresh and different, but the hood length, scoop, and extractor makes it too heavy for regular hood hinges, even the custom billet-aluminum versions from Ringbrothers. "The strongest shock we could find barely held up the hood," Brook says. This explains the switchblade-looking hood props that give the engine compartment such a novel look. They secure the hood in the up position.
Inside, Brook wanted an update without giving up the vintage looks. While he could've inserted digital gauges, a Momo shifter, shifter paddles, and all kinds of 21st-century stuff to make the interior resemble the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet, he didn't want to detract from the original feel of the '67.
Brook explains, "People like the old cars because they have that vintage flair to them. I wanted to retain that. I handmade the dashpad, which looks close to the old dash. It's a bit thicker and more substantial, but it still retains stock characteristics."
Underhood, a single or a double overhead cam Ford V-8 would've required cutting out the shock towers and installing a Mustang II frontend, something that Brook feels turns a Mustang into a hot rod, not a restomod. "Even the new Mustang still has shock towers," Brook says.
His choice was a small-block 351 Windsor stroked to 427 ci, readily available from the aftermarket. Keith Craft built this carbureted 427, which dyno'd at 575 hp at the flywheel.
For the chassis, Brook deleted the upper A-arms in favor of late-model Mustang struts, which allows the use of readily available hubs and brakes from the Gen 4 Mustang. Brook upgraded the frontend to double-adjustable QA1 struts.
The rearend setup is Martz, featuring the familiar four parallel bars and a Fab 9-inch rearend from Chris Alston packing a set of 3.73:1 gears.
"The TPI shop includes 12 guys who give 110 percent all the time," Brook says. "They could all go to work in either collision or aircraft, make more money with better benefits, and work less hours. With their hard work and commitment, I believe we build some of the best cars in the country." It's an outgrowth of one man's rehab that started with 1,000-grit sandpaper on a '67 Mustang fastback.
Pit Viper Specifications 427-cid Keith Craft aluminum small-block, 575 hp Be Cool aluminum radiator w/dual electric fans Tremec TKO 600 six-speed manual transmission by Standard Transmission 31-spline, 9-inch Posi-Traction differential w/3.73:1 gears
Exterior '05 Mustang GT grille Custom recessed side inlet gas lid '67 Cougar sequential taillights
Interior Scat Enterprises Shelby-embroidered Hi-Back bucket seats Five-point quick-release harness Custom dash cluster by Classic Instruments Shelby Signature gauges 200-mph speedometer Billet Specialties steering wheel w/ididit tilt steering column Vintage Air Products A/C Electric Lite power windows and door locks Stereo w/CD, 10-disc DVD changer, and 10-disc CD changer
Wheels & Tires HRE wheels: 19x9 front, 20x11 rear Michelin Pilot sport tires: 235/35ZR19 front, 325/35ZR20 rear
Brakes ABS power w/Electric Master Front: Baer 13-inch track system, PBR 2 piston aluminum Rear: Baer 13-inch track system, PBR 1 piston aluminum Vented air ducts to brakes
Steering Total Control Power rack-and-pinion Bumpsteer adjustable tie rods
Exhaust Lemons headers Dual 2.5-inch exhaust w/H-pipe 2.5 inch aluminum side pipe exhaust system w/tips
Total Performance's Pit Viper Mustangs are custom built for power, speed, and overall performance that puts the limited edition muscle cars in a league of their own. The same characteristics can be used to describe professional athletes, especially those who suit up in the NFL.
It was that connection that attracted Terence Newman of the Dallas Cowboys to Pit Viper No. 002. The Pro Bowl cornerback admits that he wasn't in the market for a '67 Mustang, but he couldn't keep his eyes off the metallic charcoal gray Pit Viper inside J. Andretti Motors in Dallas, where the car was on display.
"I saw it and instantly fell in love," Terence says. "Within minutes I was on the phone with Brook Phillips to discuss the details of the car."
Brook, a former defensive end at Oklahoma State University and Utah State University, quickly hit it off with Terence and was in Dallas in less than 24 hours to get his new prospect behind the wheel of No. 002.
"Terence was enamored with the beefy build of the Pit Viper and the attention to detail," says Brook. "He liked it even more when we took it for a drive. For once, people were staring and pointing at the car instead of him."
Following a trip back to the TPI shop in Wichita, Kansas, for a few minor modifications per Terence's liking, Brook returned a week later to hand over the keys. It marked the fifth Pit Viper sold and the first to be purchased virtually as-is, not including auction sales. Brook has sold three Pit Vipers at Barrett-Jackson.
While Terence used to have his eye on Aston Martins and Hummers, he now owns his dream car. With a bad case of the vintage Mustang bug, Pit Viper No. 002 could be the first of many. But for now, the defensive back with a knack for making game-changing plays has met his match.
|Heads||TSP 5.3L Stage 2.5|
|Camshaft ||Comp Cams 237/242 hydraulic roller|
|Throttle Body||Ported stock|
|Fuel Injectors ||42 lb/hr|
|Engine Management||Stock PCM, tuned by Jeremy Formato|
|Power Adder||Custom Nitrous Express kit|
|Exhaust System||TSP long-tube headers, custom mid-pipe and after-cat|
|Transmission||Stock T56 six-speed|
|Front Suspension ||C6 Z06 shocks, C5 Z06 endlinks|
|Rear Suspension||C6 Z06 shocks, C5 Z06 endlinks|
|Rear End ||Stock|
|Wheels||Matte-black C5 Z06|
|Front Tires ||Toyo Proxes T1-S, 265/40-17|
|Rear Tires||Nitto NT555R Extreme Drag, 305/35-18|
|Fuel Octane|| 93|
|Best 60-ft. Time ||N/A|
|Current Mileage ||73,000|
|Miles Driven Weekly|| Daily driver|