Modified Mustangs & Fords
1966 Ford Mustang Fastback - More Than Meets The Eye
A formerly forlorn fastback gets back on the fast track with subtle mods and fantastic attention to detail
They don't make them like they used to. True enough—but they also don't make as many of them as they used to.
There were more than 607,000 Mustangs built in 1966. No matter how you slice it, that was a lot of cars—especially compared with industry sales today. In 2012, for example, the best-selling vehicle in America was the Ford F-150 and "only" 434,585 of them were sold. The number-two seller was the ubiquitous Toyota Camry, which rang in with a mere 359,241 sales. For the record, Ford moved 82,995 Mustangs in 2012.
So, nearly 50 years ago, the Mustang was a market champ with volumes that would make today's dealership sales departments drop to their collective knees in thanksgiving. They were flying off the lines in Dearborn, San Jose, and Metuchen with the thrust of a Pan Am 727 blasting out of LaGuardia, but for all its marketplace muscle, the iconic fastback body style was pretty much left in the dust of the Mustang's gallop. Of the 607,566 '66 Mustangs produced, only 35,698 were fastbacks, representing less than 6 percent of the total production. Heck, there were twice as many fastbacks sold that year.
Rust claimed more than its share of vintage Mustangs, making the remaining fastback examples understandably rare and desirable. So, when construction yard manager Tony Seader and his wife, Tammy, spotted one on a used-car lot about a decade ago, they quickly inquired about it. They had been on the lookout for a daily driver companion to their '66 coupe, which—like so many projects—started with the intention of daily driving duty, but quickly spiraled into a show-winning weekend warrior. Another coupe—this time a '65 six-cylinder—filled the bill as a daily driver for about four months, which is when they spotted the fastback in their hometown of LaSalle, Colorado. By then, the '65 coupe had been restored by Keith Thomas.
"If we were going to buy the fastback, we had to sell off the second coupe," says Tony Seader. "We decided to take it to a small, local car show and stick a for-sale sign in the window. We ended up with a first-place trophy for it—and we sold the car with enough profit to purchase the fastback."
They found out that while it looked good enough from across the street, it was a pony that could barely canter.
"The car had been for sale for some time and seemed to have made its way through five owners in about one year," says Seader. "Apparently the car had issues with the charging system, but we decided to buy it and work through the problems. In fact, despite the car running well enough during the testdrive, it wouldn't start when we returned to pick it up."
After a jump-start, the electrically challenged fastback made it home. Turns out the car had the incorrect wiring harness from a '65 Mustang, so once we replaced it with the correct harness and a new voltage regulator, the charging issue was solved. The fix got the Mustang on the road, but didn't solve its cosmetic issues and the Seaders pretty much stuck to their daily driver plan. They did what was necessary to make it safe for the highway, but left the sun-baked, oxidized red paintjob and pretty good black interior intact.
"We drove it for about three years, replacing only the wheels and tires, shocks, leaf springs and coil springs—items the car sorely needed," says Seader. "The suspension was basically in all-original condition and that condition was shabby, so we couldn't leave them."
The engine compartment wasn't looking so hot, either.
"It looked like a battery had exploded in there, or something like that," he says. "Again, it ran well enough, but it sure wasn't pretty under there."
While at a Mustang show, the Seaders met Dan Ambrosio, of Ambrosio Concepts in Westminster, Colorado, who would ultimately take the reigns on the car's transformation from forlorn to formidable. They discussed their vision for the fastback and a desire to build a car that would transcend typical restoration and resto-mod aesthetics.
"We wanted to go out of the box with the car and Dan was excited to participate," says Seader. "It was a great match and we're glad we found him at that Mustang show."
Before leaving the car with Ambrosio, Tony and Tammy completely disassembled the car and sent out the body shell for media blasting. After that, the car was quickly sprayed with a protective layer of primer to prevent rust from taking hold of the vintage, bare steel. It was then trailered to Ambrosio Concepts for custom bodywork and paint.
"Before we dropped the car off to Dan, we knew wanted something unique. We didn't really have a firm idea of what we wanted the paint scheme to look like, other than it needed to include a two-tone layout with orange incorporated in it," says Tony Seader. "We sat down with Dan in front of a computer and designed the paint scheme just as it appears on the car."
In the months that followed, Ambrosio funneled concept into reality by performing a host of subtle, yet effective body modifications. You have to look twice or more at the car to spot them all; they include the elimination of the rear quarter vents, cowl vents, driprails and more. A rear spoiler inspired by the later California Special coupes was also molded into the body, along with a front apron sporting a deep spoiler. The bodywork continued inside and under the hood, as well, as the factory dashpad was eliminated and the Ambrosio filled, smoothed and rounded the underlying steel of the dashboard for a cleaner overall appearance. And in the engine compartment, a G.T. 350-style hoodscoop formed the basis for an air scoop that bolts directly to the carburetor and pokes through the hood. It's a great, unexpected detail that speaks volumes about the car's overall attention to detail.
That attention extends to the paint scheme the Seaders and Ambrosio finally came up with, which lays Sunset Orange Metallic over a PPG white foundation, with tribal-inspired sweeps of the white into the orange—all separated by a perfect purple pinstripe accent. The formerly fouled engine compartment was freshened by moving the battery to the trunk, removing the battery tray, smoothing the battery apron corner, dipping the whole compartment in the Sunset Orange paint, and accenting it with restrained used of chrome and bright work, including the export brace and Monte Carlo bar. The engine block was also sprayed body color, complementing the compartment with devastatingly effective simplicity.
Keep looking at the photos, because the more you do, the more you'll see in the body of this stylized stallion. The same goes for the interior, which was transformed from stock black to Oyster-colored leather with white and Sunset Orange accents that mirror the exterior scheme. Like the exterior and engine compartment, the fastback's cabin is awash in subtle details, from the owner-designed horse head motifs on the seats to white-face gauges and even the color-coordinated shift knob that Tammy designed. The graphic cues of the exterior are also picked up on the door panels. Upholsterer Dirk Trevarton, of Loveland, Colorado, handled the majority of the interior's makeover.