In the sweepstakes to build a better Shelby out of an early Mustang fastback, Rod Brown's '65 is one of the latest and greatest. Builders keep topping each other to raise the bar ever higher. As time passes, enthusiasts get more innovative and vendors oblige with more parts and services.
With Rod's fastback, you can't help but notice something stronger about the body lines. Or maybe it's the House of Kolor Blue Blood Red with Ice Pearl in the basecoat. Then builder Tim Chesney explains. His shop, TAJ Motorsports, filed the edges of the fenders and shaped the metal with filler so the sight lines down the tops of the fenders, from front to rear, make a straight line.
"I wanted to go for razor sharp lines," Tim said. The father/son bodywork team of David and D.J. Barfield started by filing the round edges of the fenders so they were sharper. Since a Mustang "swoops in" at the back, they had to widen the rear end of the car about a half-inch on each side to enable those sight lines on the rear quarters to be straight as a string. The body change is subtle, but it gives the car a stronger appearance.
The straight bodylines flow into a fiberglass '68 California Special rear spoiler. Tim also pointed out the trick fiberglass rear panel from Mustang Project, made for a flush fit for '68 Shelby-style taillights with sequential LEDs.
Rod started with a '65 fastback, originally a C-code 289 two-barrel car with C4 automatic. Tim accepted the car partly in pieces at his TAJ Motorsports shop in Union, Mississippi, where he and son A.J. build cars for clients like Rod Brown in their spare time. Tim has a day job as the Lauderdale County Network Administrator in Meridian, Mississippi, yet his enthusiasm for Mustangs motivates him to maintain a shop on the side.
During this build, Rod took time out "every month or so" to drive to Tim's shop to inject his personality into the project. Rod wasn't that particular with the final build. As long as he had about 600 horsepower and the body was red with white stripes to resemble a vintage Shelby, he was happy.
On one occasion, Rod arrived to find a corncob on the breather. Tim had come up with the name "Corn Bred," a reference to one of Rod's cash crops as a farmer in the Mississippi Delta. After some thought, Rod came up with a name he liked better, "Delta Heat." As hot as the Delta gets on the farm in the summer, Rod thought about the kind of Delta Heat he really likes-a Mustang scorching down the Mississippi back roads.
Tim focused on the suspension first. Early Mustangs are prone to flex under the stress of two to three times the horsepower they were designed for. A peek under the hood at the stroked 351 (to 408 cubic inches) reveals lopped off shock towers. Tim went with a Heidts Mustang II Superide front suspension for a jump up the handling ladder. Coilover shocks and tubular control arms are a substantial improvement over the factory front suspension.
In back, Tim stuck with a tried-and-true Ford 9-inch with a Moser centersection and 31-spline axles. The gears are 3.73:1 with a Ford Trac-Lok by Moser. The vintage leaf springs and shocks certainly could not plant 600 horsepower to the ground. Basically, the components are coilover QA1 shocks, a four-link (two links per side replacing the leaf springs), and a Panhard bar to center the rear end under hard cornering and acceleration.
In the old days, tubbing and replacing leaf springs with a four-link and a Panhard bar was pretty much Pro Street and extremely radical. Today, the hot rod arts keep moving into the restomod scene. For Rod's '65 Mustang, TAJ Motorsports utilized the new Rear Mini Tub Suspension from Martz Chassis, which allowed him to retain the rear seats. With the mini tubs, he was able to tuck 18x10-inch wheels under the rear end, with no fender work needed. The tubs for the P295/35/18 BFGoodrich drag radials protrude into the rear seat area unnoticed. Tim chopped an inch from both ends of the rear seat, which still folds down and looks stock. The seating is obviously tight for rear passengers, especially considering the custom four-point rollbar extending from the inside top of the roof into the trunk.
Due to his height, Rod asked Tim to move the front seats back six inches. For even more comfort, Tim and his son A.J. used '00 Dodge Stealth bucket seats. They also modified the structure under the floorpan to drop the seats for more head clearance. The emergency brake handle is also from the Stealth. The Dodge's seatbelts with shoulder harness actually retract into the rollbar in the manner of the '68 Shelby inertia-reel harnesses.
Tim had issues fitting the 408 under the fiberglass hood. Rod wanted to stick with a vintage Shelby appearance, which required the low profile and wide scoop from Maier Racing on top of the fiberglass hood. Lowering the engine in the chassis helped, but that created clearance issues with the oil pan. Tim cut the custom Hamburger oil pan and installed an external oil pump at the front of the 408. Moroso's small-block Chevy pump mounts via a tooth-driven belt to the crankshaft, but Tim had to install the pump on the driver side instead of the passenger side, spinning the pump in the wrong direction. Moroso reversed the flow to get it all to work.
Up top, Tim fabricated a Spectre induction system by selecting various parts from their catalog to install the side-mounted air cleaners. The Edelbrock Super Victor Air Gap intake is a tall one, necessary to achieve the desired horsepower numbers but leaving Tim with less than two inches of hood clearance.
Now the 351 looks trick. One has to wonder how many '65-'66 fastbacks with low-profile Shelby-type fiberglass scoops have a stroked 351 that pumps out nearly 600 horsepower.
To unleash this fury, Rod slips the AOD into drive and hammers the throttle. For the transmission, Rod went with Lentech Performance's Strip Dominator AOD, which converts the 596hp into rotary motion at the rear wheels without shredding clutch packs, gears, or valves.
Rod says the '65 "rides like a new car," but admits that it gets sideways when stomping the gas pedal at 30-35 mph. He's put the car through the eighth-mile with a best time of 7.26 at 98 mph, assisted by the 3,000-rpm stall speed Hurst Roll Control Line-Loc. The quarter-mile should e.t. in the low 11s.
Rod drives his '65 on days when the spirit moves him. He takes the stunning fastback to shows, like the Good Guys event at Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas, where we caught up with him and builder Tim Chesney. The pair put their heads together to build a Shelby-style '65 fastback, and in the process turned up the heat on the Mustang restomod trend.
Delta Heat Specifications
Engine & Drivetrain
351 Windsor V8 with stroker kit
Torque: 576 lb-ft
Block: '89 351 Windsor, stroked 1/2-inch
Displacement: 408 cubic inches
Cylinder Heads: AFR 205 aluminum
Crankshaft: SCAT 4340 steel stroker crank, internally balanced
Rods: Eagle H-beam 4340 steel, 6.250-inches in length
Pistons: BRC forged with reverse dome
Camshaft: Comp Cams Big Muther Thumper
Lifters: Retro Fit hydraulics
Intake Manifold: Edelbrock Super Victor Air Gap
Carburetor: Pro System Holley 950-cfm four-barrel
Air Induction: Spectre with side-mounted air cleaners
Fuel System: Aeromotive 140-gph fuel pump, Safe Brand fuel cell
Electrical: Two Optima batteries mounted in trunk
Ignition: MSD 6AL ignition control box and spark plug wires
Exhaust: Bassani ceramic-coated headers, Magnaflow mufflers, Quick Time Performance electronic exhaust cutouts, custom 21/2-inch exhaust pipes with rolled edges
Transmission: Lentech AOD Strip Dominator
Shifter: B&M Hammer
Rearend: Ford 9-inch, 3.73 Trac-Lok by Moser with 31-spline axles, Precision Shaft Technologies driveshaft
Chassis & Suspension
Heidts Superide Mustang II style with coilover shocks
Martz Mini-Tub four-link with coilover shocks
Boze 18x8 front with 3.75-inch backspacing; 18x10 rear with 5-inch backspacing. TAJ Motorsports custom caps.
BF Goodrich KDW P225/35/18 front, P295/35/18 rear
Four-wheel Wilwood Hydroboost Power Disc
Body: '65 Mustang fastback slightly modified, de-badged and holes welded up, cowl vents shaved and welded shut, fender bolts removed and welded, one-piece firewall smoothed and shaved, Maier Racing fiberglass hood and scoop, rear end of body widened 1/2-inch on each side, Shelby Plexiglas side windows, California Special rear spoiler, Mustang Project rear panel with Shelby-style LED taillights
Paint: House of Kolor Blue Blood Red with Ice Pearl in basecoat
Seats: '00 Dodge Stealth bucket seats, emergency brake, and seat/shoulder belts
Gauges: AutoMeter ES Series with LED backlighting
Steering wheel: Grant
Stereo: Alpine head unit, Cerwin Vega amplifier and speakers, JL Audio subwoofers
Console: Custom, designed and built by Tim Chesney
Door panels: Custom following Deluxe seat design, JEG's door handles, custom door pulls, '69 Mach 1 running horse medallions
Rear seat: One-half inch taken off each end of the seat to accommodate the Mini Tub rear suspension.
Rollbar: Custom four-point rollbar made from chrome moly tubing.