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Look! A Front Wheel-Drive 1966 Ford Mustang
Some of the most interesting projects start with a crazy idea and a “Why not?” attitude, which is exactly how Courtland Leaming came to build this unassuming but fully custom 1966 Mustang.
We saw this car at the National Parts Depot Silver Springs Ford and Mustang Roundup in January 2015. Initially, we just saw a nice early convertible, took a picture, and kept walking the show. It was only later when Courtland walked up and asked us if we had seen his front wheel-drive ’66 convertible. He could tell by our blank, deer-in-the-headlights stare that we had no idea what he was talking about, so we walked back over to the car. It looked like just another home-built Mustang (which is why it didn’t register earlier) until he opened the hood and revealed a 4-cylinder mounted laterally. More dumb-founded stares were followed by his explanation of what we were looking at.
“My son Courtland Jr. wanted a car that was different but still got good mileage, around 30 mpg,” Courtland Sr. explained. “We had a beat up old rusty Mustang and a wrecked ’99 Escort with about 100,000 miles on it and thought, ‘why not?’” Courtland Sr. first had to restore the rusty hulk of a Mustang, installing all new floorpans, some body parts, and getting the body straight. A friend helped him paint it—Courtland says, “It’s okay. It’s not as good as we wanted but it’s good enough from 20 feet away.”
He essentially cut the nose off the Mustang and built a frame and cradle to mount the Escort’s 110hp 2.0L 4-banger and 5-speed transaxle in the engine compartment. Since the differential in the rear of the car was now nothing but parasitic drag, and to use as much of the Escort as possible, Courtland adapted the Escort’s independent rear suspension (IRS) to the Mustang, which necessitated building shock towers and a removable assembly to locate the IRS. The Escort also supplied the dash insert, steering column, pedals, center console, and HVAC system to the otherwise restored Mustang interior.
Courtland estimates that the whole project took about 2,000 hours of his spare time, and he did everything himself except for the help with the paintjob. He drives it all the time and says that while it’s no fire-breathing street machine, it runs great. “It needs the usual things that a 100,000-mile car does, like maybe new struts and bushings, but other than that it runs good.” The car has never been on a trailer, but in the near future it will probably see a tow dolly, as Courtland Sr. plans to deliver it from his home in Deltona, Florida to Jr’s place in Jackson, New Jersey.
The Mustang will never win an MCA show for originality, but you can’t say that the idea and the execution are not original, and we applaud the Leamings for thinking outside the box. Now, we’re waiting for someone to adapt the up-coming Focus RS drivetrain to an early Mustang. Any takers?
Check out the photo gallery for our overall shots from the Silver Springs show and Courtland’s own build photos to see the details of how it all came together.