Jim Smart
September 1, 2001
Photos By: Jeff Ford

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Frank Abrahams marches to the beat of a different drummer than most of us who read Mustang Monthly, and we’ll tell you why. If you’ve been reading this magazine for as long as I have (24 years), you understand already. When Mustang Monthly founder Larry Dobbs launched this magazine in his Lakeland, Florida, garage nearly a quarter of a century ago, modifying a Mustang was sacrilege.

Restoring a Mustang to stock condition was politically correct in 1978 and

without exception. Enthusiasts restored Mustangs certainly in the interest of value, but they also wanted to relive the magic of the original Mustang era. Larry Dobbs helped these enthusiasts relive that magic with Mustang Monthly and a host of terrific books that helped them correctly restore their cars. At the time, dozens of Mustang-specific parts stores were born and have since become institutions we often take for granted. Thanks to pioneers like Larry and others too numerous to mention, we’re enjoying a wealth of parts and information sources that didn’t exist in 1978.

Restoring a Mustang to concours condition was a matter of standard during the ’80s. You just didn’t modify—even a little. Even the most humble of six-cylinder or small-block hardtops received the concours restoration treatment, along with a car trailer to haul its keister around. Restoring a Mustang became a science many of us had to master. Some of us simply couldn’t compete, while others became so engrossed in winning, we forgot how to have fun. In time, the pressure to perform became overwhelming for many. Car covers went on and batteries were disconnected. We parked the things simply out of frustration.

This leads us to the early ’90s when values plummeted due to a sagging economy. A lot of these concours restorations were begging for buyers and asphalt. So what do you do when values fall and a beautifully restored Mustang is consuming garage space? Reinstall the battery cables, fill the tank, and hit the road. A good many of us saddled up and drove our Mustangs when we became lost about what to do with 3,000 pounds of idle steel. It took being philosophical; you can always restore a Mustang again when the wheelwells get dirty and the pizza-cutter reproduction tires go bald.

Come to think of it, why restore it at all? This is where Frank comes in. He didn’t restore his ’65 Mustang 2+2 fastback; he built a modified. Building a modified is a restoration with the added spice of personalization sprinkled into the recipe. That’s Rangoon Red lacquer applied by Doug Kesler and Frank. Those are Magnum 500 wheels married to Goodyear Eagle ST radial tires. Those raised-white-letters are the perfect size for a classic Mustang, regardless of the model year.

Mustang bucket seats have never been considered comfortable—never. They’ve always been rough on the posterior, especially on a long trip. And for the daily commute, they’re barely tolerable. Solution? Frank opted for ’69-’70 Mach 1 bucket seats with knitted vinyl. They offer support unequaled in those low backs—good for hundreds of miles without a backache. What’s more, they look sharp in a first-generation fastback.

Underhood is the solid, reliable 289. This is the V-8 engine Ford fans loved long before anyone ever heard of a 302 or a 5.0L H.O. Long before you could bolt on a set of aftermarket heads or blow nitrous into the nostrils, Frank went to the Ford parts shelf for ideas. This one is bored 0.030 inch over, topped with 351W cylinder heads with 1.875-inch intake and 1.625-inch exhaust valves, Manley 10.0:1 pistons, a Wolverine Blue Racer mechanical camshaft, Harland Sharp roller rockers, an MSD ignition, an Ansen steel bellhousing, a Centerforce dual-friction clutch, Black Jack headers, Cobra valve covers and oil pan, and Weber carbs. Flowmaster mufflers deliver a throaty message.

Ford’s powerful 289ci small-block gains new respect when it becomes streetable. Frank did this by fitting the engine with a Borg-Warner T5 five-speed for good cruiseability. A big 9-inch rear axle fitted with 4.10:1 gears enables Frank to kick it hard— when necessary—in straight Drive, then pass the gas station when it’s time to throw it in Overdrive.

All of that power is useless without a good brake and suspension system. Koni adjustable shocks, Global West subframe connectors, Shelby underride traction bars, a 1-inch front sway bar, polyurethane bushings, and four-wheel disc brakes are all underneath.

Classic Mustang ownership in the new millennium is whatever you want it to be. And this is the drum beat we were talking about earlier. It’s marching to the beat of the drummer you like best. And judging by the stride Frank seems to be enjoying, we’re convinced it stands to only get better.