Shelby Cox
July 2, 2004
Contributers: Shelby Cox

Ever since the automobile became mainstream, fathers have been teaching their sons and daughters how to fix and improve their cars. There is nothing more bonding then working underneath the hood of a classic Ford, reminiscing and hearing all the stories, and even making a few while you work. The feeling of accomplishment is something you never forget.

Take, for example, Michael Thomas of Shickshinny, Pennsylvania. He took the knowledge he had received from his father and turned a parts car into this eye-popping '71 Mustang hardtop.

A friend of the family found the Ford and told the Thomas' they could have the car if they picked it up. We asked what kind of shape the Mustang was in when they found it. "Absolutely junk," Michael told us. "It had been wrecked three times throughout its life, once really hard in the back and twice lightly in the front. None of the three times was the car fixed right. Then, years after that, it had rusted very badly. A few years before I got it, it had been patched poorly and a horrible paint job put on the whole car, and the paint was all over everything, everywhere. The car was bought with the intent to use it as a parts car because that was really all it was good for. The engine had a spun bearing and over 100,000 miles on it; same with the transmission and rear end. All the springs and suspension were worn out; same for the brakes." But Michael saw beyond the parts car and began to restore the worn out beast.

Originally, the car came with a 302 2V engine, a C-4 automatic transmission, an 8-inch open rearend with highway gears, four-wheel drum brakes, a base model interior, hubcaps, and no options except for air conditioning and a black top. Michael swapped all that out for a built 351 Cleveland 4V, a healthy toploader four-speed with a Hurst shifter, a rebuilt 9-inch rearend with 3.50:1 gears, and disc brakes to make sure the built-up beast would stop. "I had to scrounge around for parts here and there. that car is put together right, but with many parts from different cars because I had to work with what I had, and what I could afford at the time," Michael said. He did all the bodywork, from sandblasting the firewall to reconstructing the whole rearend of the vehicle after the rust had eaten through most everything from the rear window back.

The 351 Cleveland 4V is every person's dream with four-bolt main block bored .030 over, Boss 351 rods mounting TRW forged pistons that are oiled by a Melling high-volume oil pump. Up top is an Edelbrock Torker 2 4V intake with a Holley 750 double pumper. Hooker Super Competition Headers push out what the Ford Motorsport camshaft and Harland Sharp roller rockers feed them.

The black interior was redone with a console, a Grant Steering wheel, and a factory instrumentation group from a Mach 1. The original seats were reupholstered and installed with new carpet and headliner. The interior would not be complete without the Pioneer CD player, dual Polk audio 5x7s in the doors, and two 6x9 speakers in the rear shelf--all boosted with an Alpine amplifier.

The exterior comes alive with the PPG Viper Blue pearlcoat and the addition of the Boss 351 silver accents across the hood--all laid down by Michael's father. The Magnum 500 wheels wrapped with 225/60R15's set a respected tone with the addition of the NASA hood, a Mach 1 honeycomb taillight panel, sport mirrors, a chrome front bumper, a front chin spoiler, and silver side striping to tie everything together.

We asked Michael if he would ever be willing to part with the Ford. he replied, "Well, I plan on keeping this one, mainly because it's the first project of my own that I did with my father. I won't always be able to do that, but I'll always have the car that we did." Great answer.