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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.
When it came to the powertrain, the Seaders kept it simple, with a dressed-up original A-code 289 and Toploader four-speed manual transmission. With a factory rating of 225 horses, it's not horsepower that will win the Kentucky Derby, but it's plenty enough for a car designed for easy, trouble-free driving.
Even the brakes are stock-spec drums at all four corners, but they're hidden with disc-like covers that Tony Seader built himself. Crisscrossing the Rocky Mountains with four-wheel drums seems like more of a hair-raising driving experience than we'd prefer, but hey, some of us think ketchup is too spicy and some take showers while wearing a bike helmet out of the fear of slipping and falling.
The stock powertrain and brakes may not garner any Optima Challenge trophies, but that's just fine, because the Seaders' trophy case is filling up with plenty of awards from shows throughout Colorado and beyond.
"From the moment the car was finished, we wasted no time in getting in it and enjoying it—that's exactly why we built it," says Seader. "We have had loads of wonderful experiences in it, including many family trips to the Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado."
Indeed, with the success they've had there year after year, it would be hard to stay away. The two-tone fastback has nabbed three people's choice awards, a vendor award from Yokohama tires, and a number of excellence awards. Not surprisingly, the car's trophy haul has been just as plentiful at other shows.
"The show awards are great, but we honestly get the biggest thrill from the reaction the car generates from people on the street," says Seader. "We get thumbs-up all the time while driving down the street and strangers ask to take pictures of it. That's a lot of fun for us and very rewarding."
Such adulation is a far cry from the faded filly the Seaders started with about a decade ago, and we're sure a high degree of the attention comes from the great-looking fastback body style, which is an increasingly rare sight in either original and modified forms these days. Theirs takes the design into the 21st century without losing the characteristic form that makes it a true classic. Talk about a Rocky Mountain high.
Tony and Tammy Seader's '66 Mustang Fastback
'66 Ford A-code 289 cubic-inch V-8
Stock nodular-iron crankshaft
Stock iron connecting rods
Stock aluminum flat-top pistons
Stock iron cylinder heads—stock ports and stock 1.77-inch intake/1.42-inch exhaust valves
Stock camshaft and hydraulic lifters
Edelbrock RPM Air Gap aluminum intake manifold
Edelbrock 650-cfm four-barrel carburetor
Ford Racing valve covers, chrome valve covers, chrome alternator and brackets
Billet single-groove pulley set
Stock single-point distributor with vacuum advance
9.8:1 compression ratio
225 hp at 4,800 rpm
305 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm
Ford Top Loader four-speed manual (2.32 First gear)
Stock-type 10-inch clutch
Stock open differential
JBA "shorty" headers with stainless steel primary tubes
2.5-inch exhaust system by Exhaust Pros, Northglenn, Colorado
Front: Stock-type with Grab-A-Trak 620 coil springs (1-inch lowering), shocks, 1-inch stabilizer bar and polyurethane bushings; chrome export brace and Monte Carlo bar
Rear: Stock with Grab-A-Trak five-leaf/mid-eye leaf springs, shocks, ¾-inch stabilizer bar and polyurethane bushings
Stock Ford recirculating-ball (no power assist)
Stock steering column
Front: Stock drum
Rear: Stock drum
Front: American Racing Torq Thrust II, 17x8-inch
Rear: American Racing Torq Thrust II, 17x8-inch
Front: Yokohama A520, P235/45/ZR17
Rear: Yokohama A520, P235/45/ZR17
Modified by Dirk Trevarton (Loveland, CO), oyster-color leather upholstery with dark orange carpeting, Procar Elite Series 1100 front seats and stock rear seats, two-tone orange horse motif embroidered on seatbacks, Colorado Custom steering wheel, stock dashpad deleted and dashboard rounded/smoothed, and stock gauges with white faces
Modifications by Ambrosio Concepts (Westminster, CO); Sunset Orange Metallic and white exterior colors, separated by purple pin stripe; upper cowl vents, radio antenna, side mirrors and rear quarter vents deleted; Ford Racing fiberglass front apron with spoiler; molded-in rear corner extensions and rear spoiler; Mustang Deluxe billet grille insert with matching lower billet grille insert; functional Shaker-style air scoop crafted from a G.T.3 50-style scoop and bolted onto the engine; windshield and rear window "glued" in place—window seals and moldings deleted; and owner-made polished drum brake covers