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Heavy Metal Affliction - 1965 Mustang Fastback

John Schommer
Thursday, October 12, 2017

 

Before they left the car show, the ten-year-old asked if they could go look at the red Mustang fastback one more time. Dad had previously said, “I don’t see how we can make any money on it, it’s a lowly inline-6, automatic, with no options outside of the visibility group.” Flipping this car was never the son’s intent, though.

 

Upon that second look, it turned out the guy who did some paint work on the car some twenty years ago was a family friend. Further inspection proved the car to be all-original – save for one replaced fender--extremely straight and rust free. They struck a deal and the father and son drove the classic home. The son, Forza community member Scott Warner –Gamertag capt nasties -- was already envisioning what it would look and sound like when he was done.

 

 

Over the next four years Warner spent much of his time picking walnuts and working at a hot dog stand to earn the money to buy the car from his father. When he turned 14 he had the pink slip with his name on it. Over the next 23 years, the car was driven very little, but the years were not wasted, as Warner often attended vintage races, slowly collecting the data for what would be his vision for the car.

 

It was not to be a show car. “I had no ambition to have a shiny new paintjob, a big sound system, and chrome bits,” Warner said, “I wanted one of these honest, authentic, cars with a soul and a story.” He wanted a car reminiscent of the cars built by privateer racers in the 1960s that took on the big boys and their manufacturer-supported teams. According to Warner, “It would be a car that would tell the kind of stories that show cars wished they could tell.”

 

After a very tough year in 2013, Warner realized that life was too short and now was the time to see his vision through. He had the 1967 SCCA B production rule book and pages of notes and pictures from his track research as a blue print. At the core of the concept was bringing the fastback to a spec that would have competed against the Shelby GT350 and GT350R models of the 1960s, rather than a clone of a GT350.

 

 

To do so would be no small undertaking, and this car would be going racing, so getting the look right would be a product of building it right. After all, show cars are lowered to emulate track ability, race cars are lowered to increase aerodynamics and grip. A loud rumbling exhaust comes from the right internals not just baffles and noise making trickery.

 

The 1960s SCCA rules require much of the vehicle to remain stock but the suspension is open to modification. While Warner was searching for a 1965 date-stamped 289, he installed coil overs and stiffer springs in the front and heavy duty reverse-eye leaf springs in the rear. The result was a 3.5” lowering of the ride height. A nine-inch Currie rear end with 3.73 gears gives it optimal gearing for road racing, plus it delivers loads of acceleration and good top speed. A True-Trac LSD and front and rear sway bars make sure power is getting to the pavement.

 

 

The only modification done during those 23 years of waiting was getting feeling back in the steering and brakes by installing a Flaming River manual steering box and non-power 11” brakes in the rear from a Ford Granada. Up front are 12.5” slotted rotors and four-piston calipers. Inside you will find an adjustable proportioning valve to adjust brake bias on the fly. Per Shelby specs, the pitman arm was shortened to reduce the steering ratio.

 

In the cabin it is mostly stock with the addition of a roll bar, SCAT period correct racing seats, and Simpson 5-point harnesses. The stock gauges were upgraded to a period correct Stewart Warner set. Hidden away is a digital 02 gauge. The stock AM radio and its one speaker remain intact and the back seat was removed for weight reduction.

 

 

If you have been following along, this is not a retro upgrade build that maintains a period look while being modernized for drivability. Warner is building a real 1960’s race car to spec. When he got to work on the engine, the level of authenticity was governed by the rulebook and what privateer racers would have done. Back then racers had the Ford Factory Cobra parts catalogue. Warner had Cobra Automotive from Connecticut the authority on this type of build.

 

Take a look at the HMA spec sheet for the full list of parts, but everything has been thought through. The rotating assembly (crank, rods, pistons) is the lightest Warner could source and brings displacement from 289 cubic inches to 331. It also helps it maintain a 7,500 RPM redline. The oiling includes an eight-quart road racing pan from Canton and a Cobra performance blue-printed high volume oil pump.

 

 

In line with Carroll Shelby’s thinking that “horsepower sells cars, torque wins races”, the cam Warner went with isn’t too aggressive and is a custom grind that was broken in before it went in the motor. The heads it drives are CNC ported with oversize stainless valves, dual valve springs, and Crower 1:6:1 rocker arms. Isky solid lifters and push rods finish the top end off. For the record it made 315 horsepower at the wheel in this dyno pull on a very soft tune at just 7,000 RPM.

 

 

This engine breathes through a factory Hi-Po 289 air-cleaner and a Cobra Automotive blueprinted Holley 650 double-pumper four-barrel with mechanical secondary’s. The intake is an exact replica of a vintage Cobra dual plane model that has been ported and port matched.

 

 

After turning the gas and air mixture into power, the exhaust exits through ceramic coated Burns Stainless Headers, a mandrel bent 2.5” dual exhaust and Borla mufflers; unless Warner hits the switch and dumps it out the side pipes.

 

The automatic transmission was swapped out for a matching, date-correct ,Toploader 4-speed manual. That is driven by an ultra-light Fidanza flywheel to a Centerforce single disk race clutch. The transmission pushes a one-piece steel driveshaft.

 

 

No, he didn’t repaint it as a finishing touch. The body remains the original Rangoon Red that was touched up when the passenger fender was replaced due to a minor fender bender so many years ago. Maybe that one accident is the car’s only fault but, without it, Warner would have never gotten this fastback for his first car. It certainly never would have been modified so meticulously to represent for a generation of racers who helped make road racing and the Mustang itself historic and legendary.

 

The car was just finished, two months ahead of schedule, this past January. The initial 500-mile road rally with a local Shelby club proved he did things right as the car performed flawlessly. Look for it in coming years at west coast vintage road races and the occasional track day.