Jim Smart
January 1, 2001
Photos By: Jeff Ford

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P64870_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Convertible Rear_TaillightP64871_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Convertible Front_Passenger_SideP64872_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Convertible Rear_Passenger_SideP64873_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Convertible EngineP64874_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Convertible Interior_viewP64875_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_Convertible Wheel

The classic Mustang hobby has come a long way since Mustang Monthly was launched more than two decades ago. During the nostalgic ’80s, political correctness included restoring a classic Mustang to stock condition. Our magazine, along with guidance from Mustang Club of America certified judges and restorers, set the benchmark on how to correctly restore a vintage Mustang. As a result of that effort, untold thousands of early Mustangs were restored to original condition. These restorations have been rolling museum pieces for others to emulate and admire.

As the hobby has evolved through the years, less attention has been paid to correctness, while having fun with an American classic has been the focus. Some of you have tossed the wire-style wheel covers on the shelf and opted for American Torq-Thrust “D” wheels. Underhood, you may have shelved the cast-iron 2V intake manifold and the 2100 carburetor for an Edelbrock Performer 289 manifold and carb, for a noticeable improvement in driveability. Does what we’re saying make sense? It should. We’re in a new age of personal expression with a classic Mustang. It’s OK to play with new ideas that make an old Mustang fun to drive.

Jim Menke is a solid case for well-executed personal expression. Some 35 years ago, his ’66 Mustang convertible rolled off the Metuchen, New Jersey, assembly line as a Candyapple Red, six-cylinder drop-top. This isn’t exactly how you could describe it today. Now it’s Nightmist Blue. Specialized Automotive of Merritt Island, Florida, applied the paint and performed the bodywork. The four-lug, six-popper pizza cutters are history. These are big, 17-inch alloy spools wrapped in Perrelli P235/45R17 skins.

The big news here isn’t just a six-cylinder to V-8 conversion, but a quantum leap past Autolite carburetion into late-model fuel injection. Instead of opting for Ford’s venerable 289ci small-block with 2V or 4V atomization, Jim went with a ’97 5.0, fuel-injected small-block—sporting Ford Racing Performance Parts GT-40 aluminum heads and induction. A Tremec five-speed manual transmission dovetailed into 3.70 gears inside a limited-slip 9-inch case considerably helps the cruising picture.

So what does this tell us about classic Mustangs? It tells us we’re growing as enthusiasts, because we’re open-minded today. We’re ready for a new world of creativity. And we understand that there’s room for improvement inside our vintage rides without adversely affecting their outside appearance. Those alloy wheels and wide skins do a lot for both appearance and handling—a lot of improvement there.

Inside, that’s leather Pony interior in Custard for a rich appearance, yet we haven’t abandoned the look that made Mustang famous to begin with. A LeCarra steering wheel with rich woodgrain rounds out the look with a guidance tool that feels good to hold in your hands. Five-dial instrumentation, which was actually standard equipment for 1966, makes the ride inside. Underdash air conditioning keeps things cool inside when the air gets hot and the top goes up. California Pony Cars provided the stock shifter handle for a retro look we can live with, atop a Tremec tranny.

So what’s the big message here? It’s 2001—time for a special Mustang trip of your own. Jim Menke shows us what you can do with a classic Mustang with a little imagination. Wanna try one on for size today?