Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1966 Ford Mustang Fastback - The Vision Thing
This Indy-powered, fantasy fastback supposes a world where a factory Ford race car from the States challenged Europe for rallying supremacy
One of the joys of watching the early Sean Connery “James Bond” films, or even James Coburn’s tongue-in-cheek “Flint” movies, is reveling in the splendor of their “mid-century” aesthetics—the white chinos, dark glasses and asymmetrical lairs with soaring stone walls and fully stocked martini bars. It was a stylized vision of the real world, before the microchip came along a decade later and fundamentally changed just about every aspect of life, including industrial design. You see that analog aesthetic in old racing photos and films of the day, too, where everything was mechanical, not electronic. Race teams monitored each lap at Le Mans manually with enormous Heuer chronographs attached to clipboards. There was no onboard telemetry. Hell, there weren’t even digital watches—simply gears, levers, counterweights, and other components designed with a slide rule and constructed with precisely machined metal.
It was within that world of 1960s-era mechanical splendor that Steve Strope, owner of the design and build shop Pure Vision, envisioned a racing-tuned Mustang for the Continent—a car that could have been ordered as a factory-authorized racer designed for rallying and road racing.
The idea makes sense in so many ways. Ford has always been the most cosmopolitan of Detroit’s automakers, establishing a presence in Great Britain in 1909 and in Germany in 1925 (the two subsidiaries merged in 1967 to form Ford of Europe). The company’s European influence was reflected in products that translated well on both side of the pond, while its motorsports program of the era knew no borders. The world-conquering GT40 was developed expressly to kick Ferrari’s tail in Europe, using American Windsor- and FE-based engines, while in the States, a Ford-powered Lotus won the 1965 Indy 500, with Scottish-born Jim Clark behind the wheel.
Strope supposed a Martini Racing-liveried ’66 Mustang “T-5R,” wearing the team’s distinctive light blue/dark blue/red stripes on white bodywork on a theoretical Euro version of a Shelby-esque fastback. The Italian team was associated mostly with Porsches in the 1970s, but also used production-based Lancias and Alfa Romeos. For Strope’s part, the T-5 part of the name is derived from Ford’s replacement of the Mustang name in Germany to avoid the complication of buying the rights to it, because it was used there on another manufacturer’s truck. The “R” part of Strope’s name is obvious and fitting.
“Pure Vision took the Lotus approach to building a car by adding speed and lightness into the Mustang,” says Strope. “It features weight savings everywhere and was constructed with period parts. Carbon fiber is the lightweight material of choice these days, but it was fiberglass back then and that’s the material used here.”
Well, it’s not all period parts. A modern coilover front suspension with rack-and-pinion steering from Detroit Speed and Engineering gives the car ride and handling characteristics that even ole’ Carroll Shelby himself couldn’t have dialed into the original suspension design. The other big advantage of the contemporary suspension is the elimination of the underhood shock towers, which enabled the installation of a vintage Ford “quad-cam” Indy engine.
It’s an engine as rare and exotic as anything to come from Europe, and at a comparatively featherweight 300 pounds, it complements the T-5R’s lightweight ethos and is a primary contributor of its cosmopolitan flair. In short, it’s the pinnacle of analog perfection.
The Ford quad-cam’s roots date back to 1962, when the company devoted serious resources to an Indy program. The program started with Ford’s 260-cubic-inch Windsor production-car engine, evolving it into a 255-inch aluminum-block racing engine—while retaining the original pushrod valvetrain. Jim Clark’s strong performance with the engine at the 1963 Indy 500 prompted the push to a dual-overhead camshaft design. Further evolution produced a DOHC head design featuring four valves per cylinder and pent-roof combustion chambers, each featuring a center-located spark plug. The intake ports were routed vertically between each cylinder bank’s camshafts, while the exhaust ports flowed inward and exited on the inside of the cylinder banks. The vertical intake ports offered greater volumetric efficiency, while routing the exhaust ports inward enabled greater exhaust-tuning flexibility. Induction was handled with a Hilborn mechanical fuel injection system. The engine could rev to 9,000 rpm and make more than 400 horsepower.
Stroker Indy engine
Interestingly, the engine wasn’t Strope’s first power plant of choice. He wanted a high-revving Cosworth four-cylinder, but the car’s owner, Karl Williams, couldn’t quite reconcile himself with saddling his filly with a four-banger. Strope’s search for an equally exotic alternative landed him at Ed Pink Racing Engines, a little north of Los Angeles, which had a drool-inducing stash of the four-cam V-8 racing engines.
Adapting an old Indy racing engine for street use isn’t like de-camming a production-based drag engine. Nothing about its design, configuration or performance parameters aligned with running it on the highway in a ’66 Mustang—Hell, there wasn’t even a provision for a starter, because at the track, the engine would have been turned over by someone with a handheld starter. Besides that, it was designed for high-rpm power, which made low-rpm torque essentially non-existent. Fortunately, Ed Pink Racing was more than a little familiar with the engine and worked some mechanical magic to make it streetable.
First and foremost, they needed to change the operating range and build in some pound-feet at the lower end. That was achieved by increasing the displacement to 292 cubic inches, mostly through a longer stroke—a 3.250-inch stroke vs. the original 2.870 inches (and 3.780-inch bores vs. the original 3.760 inches). Because the engine was based on the 260-cid production engine, a Windsor crankshaft dropped nicely into the block, although the snout had to be modified. That, along with a quartet of custom-ground camshafts, helped boost low-rpm torque and cap the horsepower production below the 7,000-rpm threshold. There are no belts or chains inside the engine to turn the cams or anything else—everything is gear-driven, which creates a marvelously mechanical melody as the revs climb.
The cylinder heads had to be flopped over, too, because those inward-facing exhaust ports would have meant running headers up and out of the hood or straight back through the firewall. Neither was a viable or pleasurable option, so reversing the position of the heads gave them a conventional exhaust position, but the custom headers are still a tight fit—and that’s even with the firewall pushed back 3 inches.
The old-school Hilborn mechanical injection system wouldn’t do for the street, either, but Ed Pink Racing kept the vintage look by adapting electronic fuel injection to the original intake manifold. Holley EFI components and the company’s Dominator controller manage the air/fuel supply. Longer and narrower ram tubes were crafted for the system, too, to maximize low-rpm torque. And the starter? A QuickTime bellhousing was adapted to the rear of the engine, allowing a conventional starter to ride piggyback.
In the end, the engine developed 426 hp and 362 lb-ft of torque. That may not rival a ’13 GT500 for output, but the T-5R weighs only about 2,900 pounds—and consider this: The four-cam Coyote 5.0 crate engine of nearly the same displacement is rated at 412 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. The compression ratios are close, too—10.5 for the Indy motor and 11.0:1 for the Coyote. That’s amazingly comparable performance from similarly configured engines developed nearly half a century apart.
Backing the Indy engine in the Mustang is an equally exotic, lightweight transmission: A C&R Racing four-speed that was originally developed for NASCAR, but banned because it weighs only 63 pounds! Despite being lighter than most peoples’ carry-on luggage these days, the transmission is robust enough to handle the performance of a Sprint Cup car and Strope says the shift action is silky smooth.
Custom mounts allow easy removal of the engine or transmission, while leaving the other in place. Strope purposely left open the top of the transmission tunnel, too, as much for appreciation as access.
“The C&R transmission is mechanical art and it seemed a shame to hide it,” he says.
Like the engine, there’s basically nothing production-oriented in the chassis and suspension. The front suspension is composed of Detroit Speed and Engineering’s Mustang Aluma-Frame front clip. Mounted on a lightweight aluminum cradle, it’s a coilover setup designed as a direct replacement and even includes the spindles. With up to 6 inches of suspension travel and incorporating a rack-and-pinion steering system, it radically alters the driving dynamics of any Mustang. And with the T-5R’s 300-pound engine, it contributes to an optimal weight balance that must surely give Porsche drivers fits on tracks like Laguna Seca.
The racing-inspired interior is filled with a rollbar and other competition-oriented accoutrements, which added weight. To keep the T-5R’s curb weight below the 3,000-pound threshold, Strope embarked on an ambitious weight-loss program focused on every ferrous fragment from stem to stern. He started naturally with lightweight Maier Shelby-style fiberglass reproduction parts, including the hood, front fenders, bumpers and more. To further the weight trimmings, Shelby Plexiglas rear quarter-windows and an R-model-style Plexiglas rear window were fitted, along with “shaved” hood hinges and other targeted lightening tricks.
Don’t forget: The T-5R’s engine makes comparable power to a Coyote 5.0, but with its 2,900-pound curb weight, this four-cam ’66 enjoys a nearly 800-pound advantage over a ’13 Mustang GT. That means the new Mustang requires about 8.6 horsepower to lug every pound of portly pony car down the track, while the T-5R’s power-to-weight ratio is a more enviable 6.8—an approximately 25-percent edge.
Strope is nothing if not observant and a man who sweats the details, realizing the spirit and aesthetic of the car are more important than the production date of some of the components. The front chin spoiler, for example, is a modified piece for a ’69 Mustang, while the amber rally lights hanging are from a ’70 Plymouth AAR ’Cuda and the turn signals are the side-markers from a ’68 Dodge Charger. There’s also a period-correct Talbot rearview mirror.
When it came to the wheels, a set of vintage Torq Thrusts or even classic, European “Minilite” wheels would have been too derivative for a car with a vintage Indy racing engine under the hood, so Strope had EVOD Industries produce a one-off set of four-spoke wheels that emulate the design of those used on the ’66 Lotus Ford Indy racing car. They’re stunning and truly fitting for this uniquely powered pony car. The rear rims are 12 inches wide, which necessitated carving out the rear of the inner body for mini-tubs.
There are equally impressive details inside, too, with the highlight a set of dash-mounted rally counters that tick away in glorious analog awesomeness. Tony Branda-sourced Shelby-style knobs, handles, and even an R-model radio-delete plate add to the authentic aura of the cabin, while Strope had the gauges redone by Redline Gauge Works—using Auto Meter guts—with German words because, of course, the T-5 was a German car.
Like we said, the guy is detail-oriented and we find it refreshing that while he used period components wherever possible, he wasn’t obsessed with date-coded artifacts to fulfill what is admittedly a contrived conception for the car. Right off the bat, Martini Racing didn’t sponsor its first car until 1968, so the T-5R’s supposed back story doesn’t quite fit the historical timeline anyway. And you know what? It doesn’t matter.
“This car is more about the spirit and the feel of that era than it is about historical accuracy,” says Strope. “The T-5R never existed, so taking some liberty with the timeline and the parts of the period simply helps make a more dramatic design statement.”
Absolutely. After all, Martini Racing never raced Fords, but then again, laser-equipped wristwatches and machine gun-firing Aston Martins were things of fantasy, too, from an idealized era that signaled the apogee of analog achievement.
Long live the slide rule!
Karl Williams’s 1966 Mustang Fastback “T-5R”
Ford “quad-cam” DOHC Indy racing engine, circa 1966
Aluminum cylinder block and heads
292 cubic inches (originally 255 cid)
Forged steel, 302 Windsor crankshaft (modified)
Lunati forged steel connecting rods
CP forged aluminum pistons
10.5:1 compression ratio
Aluminum cylinder heads with dual overhead camshafts mounted “upside down” for conventional exhaust outlet orientation
Custom hydraulic camshafts by Ed Pink Racing Engines
Custom electronic fuel injection by Ed Pink Racing Engines
Holley Dominator ECM
Original-type distributor modified internally to work with the Holley EFI
Horsepower: 426 at 7,000 rpm
Torque: 362 lb-ft at 5,600 rpm
C&R Racing NASCAR-type four-speed manual
QuickTime bellhousing, flywheel and clutch
C&R Racing nodular third-member
Xtrac 3.88 gears
Custom 2.5-inch stainless steel headers and exhaust by Aaron Cranford (Ace’D Fabrication)
Spin Tech mufflers
Front: Detroit Speed and Engineering Mustang Aluma-Frame cast aluminum front clip with tubular control arms, adjustable coilovers and stabilizer bar
Rear: Detroit Speed and Engineering four-link, including Panhard bar, coilover shocks, stabilizer bar and subframe connectors
Detroit Speed and Engineering rack-and-pinion
Front: Wilwood discs with 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers
Rear: Wilwood discs with 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers
Front: EVOD Industries custom ’66 Lotus Ford Indy-style, 17x8-inch
Rear: EVOD Industries custom ’66 Lotus Ford Indy-style, 17x12-inch
Front: Kuhmo Escta V710, P245/40R17
Rear: Kuhmo Escta V710, P295/40R17
Dashpad removed, fabricated aluminum gauge panel with custom instruments by Redline Gauge Works featuring Auto Meter movements, dashboard modified to accept Lucas switches and warning lights, Shelby R-model radio-delete plate is used to mount the rally clock and chronograph, navigator map light mounted on the A-pillar post, navigator foot support, modified Shelby R-style rollbar, period-correct Prototipo steering wheel from MOMO, custom steering column with quick-release steering wheel hub from Flaming River, Shelby Cobra-style pedal pad and throttle pedal assembly, brake proportioning valve and rear brake line lock mounted on the transmission tunnel for easy driver access, two-piece transmission cover plate
’13 Porsche Carrera White exterior color with Martini Racing stripes (painted by Mick Jenkins); Shelby-style Plexiglas rear quarter-windows and R-model rear window; rear roll pan with airflow screens for the diff cooler; Maier fiberglass hood, fenders, bumpers, lower valance, and ’69 Mustang chin spoiler; Pure Vision-modified front fascia with tucked bumper, enlarged lower valance opening, Chrysler foglights/turn signals; Talbot rearview mirror; front and rear fenders flared approximately 2 inches; Shelby-style sidescoops; European-spec taillight lenses; custom firewall pushed back 3 inches; shock towers removed; air inlets molded into the radiator core support; fabricated recess in the inner fender for the oil reservoir; fabricated mounts for the oil cooler and oil reservoir