Modified Mustangs & Fords
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.