Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
July 8, 2014
Photos By: John Machaqueiro

While perusing a local car show you might stumble upon a ride that just looks right. It has mile-deep paint, a serious bit of power bolted between the framerails, and an interior that wows. You might even mutter something under your breath about wishing it was in your garage with your name on the pink slip. It's possible that you've just been wooed by a local shop's rolling business card. The concept is nothing new, as even the OEMs build customs and concepts to display at shows that have you going to their showrooms to check out this year's new cars. Iron Hill Auto Body's owner, Randy Space, loves to reel them in with similar builds, often starting with a fairly rough Mustang and putting upwards of $30,000 into the build, on average.

Iron Hill Auto Body builds a shop project to display at local events on an annual basis, with the "big" show being the Ocean City, Maryland "Cruisin' OC" event held each year in mid-May. Once the car has made its rounds and (hopefully) brought in some customers, the car is sold off to fund next year's project.

"The Cruisin' OC show is a great place to drum up business and we put out a lot of business cards and have gotten restoration work from it for sure," Randy stated. While we felt bad for Randy that he didn't get to keep his shop project from year to year, we didn't feel too bad when we found out he has a '70 Boss 302 and a '70 Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet in his garage already!

The convertible you see here started off as a rough customer car back in 2005. Said customer was having Randy's shop build a Boss 429 clone for him and when the bill slid across the table, the customer came up a bit short. He offered Randy the convertible for partial payment and after Randy and his crew inspected the car, he agreed to knock $1,500 off of the bill. Randy brought the car back to his own driveway since there was no room at Iron Hill Auto Body to keep the car. Needless to say, Randy's wife, Pam, was none too thrilled, especially since the tired ragtop held their driveway down for next five years. Randy's shop was into its fifth consecutive year of building a shop project for the local show circuit when he got the idea in late 2010 to build the convertible up for 2011. That date gave them a scant seven months to build the car.

Randy and Iron Hill Auto Body employee, Ron Falkner, began the build in Randy's home shop (still no room at Iron Hill to build personal projects like this!). The tag team worked every night and all day Saturday on the car, first setting it up on a frame jig to verify the chassis datum points and to keep the car straight as metal was replaced. Randy wanted to keep the overall classic lines of the early convertible, but design a few of his own signature items to tweak the lines a bit. The fiberglass rear spoiler is his own design (and he still has the mold if anyone is interested in buying one), while the sidescoops and the hoodscoop are straight out of the Branda catalog. If you spied something was up with the taillight panel, you'd be right. Randy had a local shop with the appropriate sized press brake fashion a louvered panel for the taillight area. After cutting openings for the taillights and fuel fill, it was welded in, giving the car an interesting effect. "I probably have a 100 hours or more just in the taillight panel," Randy commented when we asked how it was made.

The body was prepped and sprayed with a selection of Spies Hecker colors, including Vivid Blue Metallic for the main base coat and Raven Black for the accent stripe. An orange pinstripe separates the two hues and is buried under several layers of clear that has been wet sanded and buffed to a depth you have to see to appreciate. Of course, with a slick, attention-getting paintjob like this, there's only one thing to do under the hood and that is to add cubic inches. Randy dropped an aluminum-headed 347 stroker down on the engine mounts and backed it with a Tremec TKO-500 five-speed. Having that Fifth gear overdrive means this car can be driven to events near and far, even with a 3.56 geared 9-inch out back. Randy does tell us, though, that the engine's powerband and the five-speed combination probably would have better liked a 4.11 gear to make overdrive more usable at lower speeds. Live and learn, right?

Keeping that 475-horse stroker in line is a full complement of 12-inch Wilwood discs with four-piston binders at each corner and a Heidts Superide II IFS up front with a matching four-link rear out back. The sticky BFG tires wrapped around 17-inch five-spokes from the ION Alloy Wheels catalog brings the convertible up to date, while maintaining a classic vibe using the charcoal centers.

"I would have liked to have added fuel injection as well, but you have to draw the line somewhere. You get to building too expensive of a car and it won't sell, and I need the money to fund the next project," Randy explained. As it is, the convertible parts receipts alone totaled $35,000!

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

The interior was freshened with TMI's Sport R seat foam and upholstery along with a custom console, gauges, stereo system, and more. The most notable upgrade, though, is when the black power top goes down—a late-model Mustang light/styling bar (often found bolted into Saleen Mustangs and available in the aftermarket to add a simulated rollbar look) gives the topless Mustang a convertible Shelby look, just bring your own surfboards.

The Cruisin' OC show came and went, and while the convertible certainly got its fair bit of attention, no one with deep enough pockets showed up to take it off of Randy's hands. Randy later tried the Mecum auction, but the convertible didn't bring enough money to meet the reserve price and it came home with Randy once again. It was just recently that Randy finally sold this shop project through the popular auction site eBay Motors.

"This convertible has been the most fun car I've ever built. A real joy," Randy says when we asked him to compare it to his previous shop projects. He says, "the 428 Cobra Jet Mach and Boss 302 are just not as fun to drive." Randy's shop used to build all stock restoration type stuff, but it got "boring" and now prefers to build modified cars. Call them restomods, Pro Touring, G-machine, or whatever you like, but suffice it to say, there won't be any boring cars coming out of the doors at Iron Hill Auto Body for the 2014 show season.

The Details
Vehicle: 1965 Ford Mustang convertible
Owner: Randy and Pam Space's
347ci small-block stroker, 475 hp
4.030-inch bore
3.400-inch stroke
Bored and honed with torque plates
Decked and line honed, ground for stroker clearance
Scat cast steel crankshaft
Scat 5.400-inch I-beam connecting rods
Ross forged pistons
Perfect Circle rings, 1.5/1.5/3mm
Trick Flow aluminum cylinder heads, bowls blended
Trick Flow 2.02-inch intake, 1.60-inch exhaust valves
PAC double springs
Trick Flow 1.6:1 roller rockers
Trend 7.450-inch pushrods
Bullet hydraulic roller camshaft
0.595/0.595-inch lift, 237/241-degrees duration at 0.050
Edelbrock aluminum intake
Demon 650-cfm four-barrel carburetor
MSD Ready-to-run distributor
Concept One serpentine system
Hanlon Motorsports prepped Tremec TKO-500 five-speed manual
Custom shifter handle
9-inch housing
Traction-Lok differential
Moser 31-spline axles
Patriot headers, 15⁄8-inch primaries
2½-inch aluminized mandrel-bent dual exhaust
FlowTech 2½-inch mufflers
Front: Heidt's Superide II double A-arm, billet aluminum coilover shocks, power rack-and-pinion
Rear: Heidt's four-link, billet aluminum coilover shocks
Front: Wilwood disc, 12-inch drilled and slotted rotor, four-piston polished caliper
Rear: Wilwood disc, 12-inch drilled and slotted rotor, four-piston polished caliper
Front: ION 625, charcoal gray finish, 17x6
Rear: ION 625, charcoal gray finish, 17x9
Front: BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW, P225/45ZR17
Rear: BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW, P275/40ZR17
Black Pony interior with TMI Sport R bolstered seats and TMI headrests; Auto Custom Carpets black carpet set; LeCarra steering wheel; JME brushed stainless gauge cluster with Auto Meter Phantom gauges; Custom Auto Sound stereo, kick panel speaker pods with 5-inch speakers; custom Shelby–style center console; custom modified styling bar from '99 Mustang convertible; interior by Iron Hill Auto Body and CE Walls Upholstery
Speis Hecker Vivid Blue Metallic base/clear finish with Raven black and orange accents by Iron Hill Auto Body, fiberglass hood- and quarterscoops from Tony Branda Mustang, custom fabricated fiberglass rear spoiler, custom ribbed taillight panel, rear framerails moved inboard 2 inches, mini-tubbed, black power top