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The Game Changer 1966 Ford Mustang
How a father/son Mustang project became a physical and mental therapy outlet
Sometimes in life we just need a change, something different. That could mean a small change to shake things up a bit or maybe a complete change is necessary, which was exactly the case for Vietnam Veteran Tom Soupene. In Tom’s case, his “game changer” came in the form of a 1966 Mustang. Here is a snippet of Tom’s story in his own words:
“On June 27, 2010, I suffered a traumatic brain stem stroke. I was living in Manhattan, Kansas at the time and was very fortunate to receive the best medical care anyone could ask for. I was hospitalized for three weeks and continued therapy for months and months after. After three years of trying to recover, I felt there was something missing in my life, and right then I decided my wife and I needed to move back to California and be with my family. At the time I settled into Apple Valley, California, I owned a rare 1984 SVO Mustang but it just wasn’t doing it for me. I needed something to help me both mentally and physically with my recovery process. Then one day I found my life saver, a 1966 Mustang basking in the sun deep inside a home owner’s association in Southern California. Knowing I had to have the car, I located the owner and worked a deal to trade my SVO for it. I took the car home and start disassembling it and replaced virtually every part on the car with the help of my son Daniel.”
Tom and Daniel made the ’66 a father/son project, stripping down the original Flare Red Mustang to near bare bones and starting fresh. The project took two years to complete, but when it was finished it was a dream come true and she was dressed in Wimbledon White. Tom and Daniel did a little research on the VIN and found out it had the date code-correct 289 engine and was an original C-code car. (C-code cars were equipped with a factory 4-speed transmissions, power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning.)
Tom then had the original 289 freshened and bored 0.60 over. The rotating assembly was machined, polished, and fitted with ARP hardware throughout the assembly. with screw in studs on the cylinder heads. Larger springs and valves from Summit racing were installed with a set of 1.6:1 ratio roller rockers in the factory iron heads, and the compression came in right at 9.0:1. A hopped-up flat tappet camshaft was added to give it a distinctive lope. The top half of the motor includes a Parker single-plane intake and Edlebrock carb setup. Feeding the 289 is an 80 gallon-per-hour fuel pump from Summit Racing and the engine is managed by a complete MSD ignition system, tuned by Tom. He chose a familiar exhaust setup known to the Mustang world—Hooker long-tube headers with 2 ½-inch dual Flowmaster mufflers. The stock 8-inch rear end was strengthened up with a Daytona pinion support, posi traction locker with a 3.89:1 gear ratio, and 28-spline axles. Up front, Koni shocks and Cobra drop spindles stick the stance.
The main goal for building this body style was for its lightweight sleek design that was easily modified, and its main purpose is to cruise the streets of Southern California with Tom’s family and friends. Tom has built the car strong enough in case he wants to try his hand in a little road or drag racing, with all safety aspects in mind.
Tom has a long-standing history with Ford vehicles: he has owned a 1968 fastback Mustang, 1961 Falcon, 1961 Starliner, and the fairly rare 1984 SVO Mustang that he traded for his ’66. Friends and family can attest that this vehicle completely changed Tom both physically and mentally. During the build, he was able to focus on the restoration with his son and not dwell on his past hardships. He now has a whole new outlook on life and is able to share his joys with everyone surrounding him. Tom especially thanks his son Daniel for all his time spent during the restoration process and his wife Carol for her complete support for so many years.