Jim Smart
August 14, 2015

Do you remember the episode of the popular 1960s television series The Andy Griffith Show when gas pump jockey and mechanic Goober Pyle completely disassembled an old Nash outside of the Mayberry courthouse, trying to find a stubborn elusive noise, and then reassembled the car in its entirety inside the sheriff’s office? This hilarious episode came to mind when Paul Gammerino invited us to Mustangs & Fast Fords OC for a shop tour and a close look at one of the more fascinating Mustang projects we’ve seen in a magazine history spanning nearly 40 years.

We have affectionately named this Poppy Red 1965 Mustang restomod the “Showroom Fastback” for its most unique plate glass windowed birthplace at Mustangs & Fast Fords OC, 3001 South Main Street in Santa Ana, California. It took Paul many years to transform this ride from a well-worn six-cylinder four-speed fastback to the pristine slippery Mustang classic you are seeing here. Paul bought the car in 2003 in Long Beach. When he got the car home, he began his restoration efforts in earnest, disassembling the car and cataloging all salvageable parts. In 2006, Paul had the body media blasted, and then turned it over to Quigley’s Auto Body in Lake Forest, California for bodywork and paint. The result is remarkable.

Paul’s fabrication skills shine here with abundant honeycomb in rich blue argent. We like the Xenon photons and Shelby-style fiberglass valance.

“I originally planned for this car to be red with white Shelby stripes,” Paul comments. “Wanting to build something unique and after decoding the Mustang’s warranty plate, I discovered the car was originally Poppy Red. That’s when my wife, Michelle, and I decided to go Poppy Red with white G.T. 350 stripes.” While the Mustang was at Quigley’s Auto Body in 2006, Paul made a difficult career decision; saying goodbye to corporate life ultimately launching Mustangs & Fast Fords OC (MFFOC). This was a sweaty palm experience for Paul because it was venturing into the unknown, yet something in which he and a buddy were very passionate. For years they spoke of opening a Mustang restoration and repair facility deep in the car culture of Southern California. MFFOC was an opportunity to follow that dream.

As Quigley was finishing up body work and paint, Paul was opening MFFOC in Santa Ana. It was an exciting time to be alive, yet overwhelming for Paul because going into business has never been easy for anyone. Paul had a lot of experience managing people and resources, which helped him get this promising new business off the ground. What began as a personal car project wound up a great promotional tool for MFFOC. Paul put a business together along with a new showroom designed to show those passing MFFOC how restoration was performed.

When Paul got the fresh Poppy fastback body positioned on MFFOC’s showroom floor, it was an eye-catcher from Santa Ana’s busy Main Street. People would stop by to witness a completely disassembled classic Mustang even if they weren’t interested in Mustangs. Project Showroom Fastback inspired some to restore classic Mustangs, but it also demonstrated what Paul and his team of seasoned professionals could do. They began with a humble six-cylinder fastback and wound up with a Main Street looker.

The nice thing about crate engines like this 354-horse 302 from Ford Racing is the time they save. On your doorstep lands a ready-to-dress and install engine built to tough Ford specifications and exacting standards. On top is Edelbrock’s Pro Flow 2 injection system and MSD billet ignition.

Paul’s objective was to build a great, fun-to-drive classic without all of the drawbacks of a traditional classic—a fuel-injected Ford Racing small-block with Edelbrock electronic fuel injection, automatic overdrive, a 9-inch Ford rear end with Detroit Truetrac and 3.73:1 gears, four-wheel power disc brakes with Porterfield performance friction pads, functional Shelby-style brake cooling ducts, a Global West coilover front suspension, 4½-leaf mid-eye rear springs with KYB shocks, a 1968-1969 Mustang/Cougar collapsible steering column with Borgeson power steering and Saginaw pump, and subframe connectors underneath. Project Showroom Fastback yields all of the great qualities of a good looking classic with the advantages of late-model technology.

Inside, standard becomes deluxe with cool monochrome appointments against white vinyl. Auto Meter instrumentation and the customized console with power window switches is inviting from any angle. That’s a LeCarra leather steering wheel that feels good to hold in your hands for any kind of driving. Paul had many interior items powder coated in black satin. Check out the headlight and wiper knobs as well as the shifter handle; Paul had the knobs black powder coated then carefully filled in the letters with white.
Paul’s use of monochrome in satin black is excellent because it yields an all-business demeanor and tones down the white when chrome might have been overwhelming. Black appointments are either powder coated or painted. Two-tone door panels make the ride.

When Paul takes the wheel with Michelle, he’s driving a Mustang that keeps him intimate with the road, yet it offers solid comfort thanks to Nissan 350ZX bucket seats clad in rich leather, Auto Meter instrumentation, a Scott Drake Rally-Pac, Custom Autosound Secret Audio, a Rockford-Fosgate amp and subwoofer, JRD International tinted glass, Classic Auto Air electronic climate control, and Electric Life power windows. What’s more, Paul weaved in his own brand of comfort with cool console mods, LED rear view mirrors, remote trunk release, Xenon headlamps, illuminated Scott Drake sill plates, three-point belts, and sequential taillights. On the ground are American Racing 15x7-inch Mini-lite rims and Dunlop skins.

Forget packing luggage, you will have to use the fold-down rear deck floor. The trunk is for the ears only with the Rockford-Fosgate amp and subwoofer along with a Custom Autosound six-CD player. That’s an Optima gel-cell battery. This also means good weight distribution.
Paul is a visionary who understood how to tastefully package a classic Mustang restomod; nothing loud and obnoxious here. Instead, cool nostalgic 15x7-inch Mini Lites wrapped in Dunlop rubber complimented with G.T. 350 stripes and blazing Poppy Red two-stage urethane.

Paul’s original plan included Shelby quarter windows, which wound up being more involved than he wanted to get into. Instead, he opted for R-model style quarter air extractor delete panels in steel he fabricated himself and painted to match the body. Paul tells us building a restomod is what separates the men from the boys because custom modifications take more time and patience. The 1968-1969 Mustang/Cougar collapsible steering column was challenging because it was never designed to fit a 1965-1966 dashboard. With minor modifications he was able to dovetail the factory column into Borgeson’s integral worm and sector power unit, which fit perfectly. In order to get these sexy Nissan 350ZX buckets into a classic Mustang, Paul had to modify the seat pans for headroom clearance.

Everything you see on Project Showroom Fastback works as designed, giving Paul and Michelle great cruising pleasure. It also brings MFFOC a strong customer base because craftsmanship speaks for itself. We like the monochrome treatment Paul has exhibited throughout—notice black satin appointments where you normally see chrome. You’ve got to like what Paul did to the doors, which have early 1965-style clip-on door handles in satin black. Where window cranks would normally be Paul has opted for tiny tweeters that look as though they could have been original equipment. We can’t resist looking at this Mustang’s fascia with its acreage of honeycomb in rich gunmetal blue argent. The Xenon headlights are intoxicating. So is the carefully positioned pony and tribar treatment. Those brake cooler intakes in the fiberglass valance are functional.

We like these cool side exit exhausts from SpinTech mufflers that give the 345-horse 302 crate engine from Ford Racing a snarly bark. Paul had the entire exhaust system ceramic coated. Not cheap, but no rust.
In front is a Global West suspension system with coilover shocks and bulletproof adjustable strut rods. A Borgeson worm and sector power steering system delivers crisp vectoring without the slop of a vintage Mustang Bendix system.

MFFOC’s Showroom Fastback project is one of the more inspiring projects we’ve ever seen because it is doable for just about anyone with a passion for Mustangs. What makes Paul an extraordinary craftsman is time, experience, and patience. He took his time and never got in a hurry. And this is a lesson for all of us who like tackling restorations in our home garage. For Paul it was a matter of know what to do and what not to do on his way to getting this positive Poppy showroom ready.

Paul and his lovely wife, Michelle, have shared in this project together since its inception. They have since moved along to a new showroom project 1965 Mustang convertible unfolding at MFFOC at this time.
Ever think about the sheer number of parts that go into a 1965 Mustang fastback? This was a large part of the fascination about this showroom when people passed by and wanted to stop in. Most had never seen a completely disassembled automobile.

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