Ben Hosking
January 13, 2017

Almost all thorough automotive rebuild stories contain tales of intense frustration, dodgy tradespeople and sometimes even a total loss of will to finish. None of that applies to Michael Sande, though. The 42-year-old builder from Sydney Australia's northwest claims the build of his awe-inspiring 1965 Fastback was a great way to unwind.

“Some people look at building a car as hard work,” he says. “But for me it’s terrific free time; you get out there in the shed and put some music on and get into the groove.”

Despite the depth and complexity of the build and its resulting level of finish, Michael doesn’t have anything bad to say about any of the shops that played a part in the car’s completion. Nor does he recall any particular roadblocks along the way. However, over the decade that he’s owned the car, he admits the build really only took about five of those 10 years.

The billet-style grille works together with the modified bumpers, deleted turn signals, and shaved headlight surrounds to create a super-clean look.

“There were times when family stuff saw the car put on the backburner for a few years,” he admits. “I’ve had the car 10 years, but realistically it was a five year build.”

Michael is no stranger to modified Mustangs. Many moons ago he owned a sweet purple ’65 coupe that was mini-tubbed and obviously a quality build—taking a trophy for 2nd Top Coupe at the Australian Summernats and a slew of awards at other shows. He may have still been driving the car now had he not given in to one particular buyer's insistence.

“There was bloke who wanted to buy it; he kept hounding me!” Michael says. “He was, ‘'I want your car! I want your car!’ I told him it wasn't for sale as I didn’t want to sell it. But in the end I thought, ‘The money would be nice for my house. I can get another car later,’ because I was building a house for myself at the time.”

A mere two years after letting go of that first Mustang, Michael found himself hankering after another. He found one in the USA, had it shipped to Sydney, picked it up from the shipping yard, and took it home. He said, “It was a standard survivor car, turquoise with a 289. It was in fair condition—I could have got it registered—and originally I thought I might restore it. Then I thought: Nah! I’ll build it the way I want.”

The exterior of the ’65 boasts a ton of subtle mods that smooth and modernize its appearance. Michael milled and shaped the mounts for the illuminated side mirrors himself out of solid metal.

As Michael intimated, the process from this point was far from linear, with the project progressing in fits and spurts as time, family, and a clear sense of direction dictated. However, things got off to a solid start when the car was delivered to Mick at Old School Smash who was commissioned to perform a host of metal mods including the swap to a Heidts front crossmember, right-hand-drive conversion (remember, this is in Australia), and a pair of larger wheel tubs under the bum.

“Then I got busy again with work and family stuff,” he says. “So I ended up leaving it for about three years. Then I got stuck into it again for about a year doing a lot of the bodywork to the point of getting it hi-filled. Then it sat around again until I worked out where I wanted to go with the interior.”

The bodywork Michael speaks of includes plenty of subtle details that are often lost on the casual observer. For a start, he smoothed the cowl and molded in the headlight and taillight surrounds. Both bumpers were brought in closer to the body and the side scoops were modified and shaved. The front indicators were also ditched in favor of aftermarket headlights that contained flashers, and the side glass was changed to one-piece items.

The deep Intro billets wear 305 Pirelli rubber and nicely fill out the mini tubs.

“You can buy one-piece glass for other models but not for my model,” Michael says. “A few people reckoned it wouldn’t work but with a bit of mucking around with the winder mechanisms—we used ’67 parts in the doors and relocated some holes—we made it happen.”

It wasn’t until the start of 2015 that the build started to get more serious, when Michael decided he wanted to get the car finished in time for MotorEx, Australia’s premier indoor car show. That’s not to say it was just a matter of paint, trim, and assembly, though. No, instead, Michael put the shell on a rotisserie and got to work smoothing the undercarriage!

“It’s painted on the underside, just like on top. The panel beater turned down the task of doing the underside; he told me ‘If you want it looking like that, you do it!’ So he made me do all the smoothing work at home. I’d finish work and hang out with the kids and after they went to bed, I’d go out to the shed until the early hours of the morning.”

With the factory strut towers gone thanks to a Heidts front crossmember conversion, the engine bay looks roomy and smooth despite the big Windsor stroker motor in the middle. The block and heads have been smoothed and painted, with a sexy eight-throttle intake keeping your eye focused.

Now some 12 months after the completion of the car, Michael is itching to drive the wheels off of it and he says he’s regretting his decision to go so far on the underside. “I'm trying to find someone who will put a coating underneath the whole car,” he says.

Inside, the story is much the same as for the rest of the car: full custom, beautifully designed, and totally classy. Like the unique and subtle PPG Grigio Mistral paint on the outside, the color scheme in the cabin take a more subtle turn as well. Instead of more traditional bright red leather, Michael opted for a dusty tone that works perfectly with the painted panels.

Running right through the center is a custom console and sweeping down from either side of this is more leather that extends right out and over the custom false floor panels with tricky embossed and shaped metal highlights in the centers. Look up and you’ll see the same treatment on the headliner.

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The interior of Michael's Mustang is truly a sight to behold. Drenched in a classy dusty red leather and matching Grigio Mistral paint, there isn't a square-inch that hasn’t been fettled to perfection.

Horsepower wasn’t something that was forgotten amongst all this fine detail. Michael chose a Windsor transplant for his Pony, a 383 cubic-inch stroker that features all the good names. But it’s safe to say that it’s outside that really shines–despite the satin green paint finish!

Both the block and heads were smoothed with the die grinder before being painted, and Michael sourced a pair of equally smooth rocker covers to complete the look. In the middle is a sexy eight-throttle EFI setup that provides all the breathing you could hope to need. That was smoothed before fitment, too.

From certain angles you’d be forgiven for thinking the engine isn’t a runner, so clean and sparse is its appearance. However, thanks to a recent sunny afternoon cruise to Bondi Beach totaling more an 100 KMs, Michael can confirm both the car’s operational fortitude and his growing desire to do more cruising. “Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to driving it more,” he says.

Out back, you’ll find the trunk trimmed to match the cabin along with the custom surge tank, pump, and filter. On the other side is the relocated battery in a custom fabricated box.
Flip the panel down and there's some extra storage space and a battery isolation switch.