Jim Smart
May 1, 2000
Photos By: Scott Killeen

When we ran across Ray Flugger's '63 Comet at the '99 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, it was like hitting triple sevens at the slots. Ray, founder and president of Flowmaster, engineered the concept, and then commissioned a Flowmaster in-house team to build the extraordinary Comet, a car that's in perfect tune with today's car hobby.

Externally, the Comet is factory-original except for the DuPont Chromalusion Indigo Blasberry paint and the 17-inch Budnik Mercury five-spoke wheels wrapped in 225/45R17 BFGoodrich rubber. Ray didn't delete the anodized aluminum and die-cast trim appointments, which keep the car as striking as it was in 1963.

Raise the hood and it's immediately apparent that the Comet's carbureted '63 powerplant is missing in action. But the original Windsor boogie remains within a bored-and-stroked 302, displacing 357 ci--the maximum for a 302-incher--achieved with a Lunati stroker kit employing an offset-ground 302 crank, along with special rods and pistons. The block was machined to make way for the increased stroke, and the decks were milled to ensure a perfect surface and a 10.0:1 compression ratio.

In the valley, a Crane Compucam hydraulic roller camshaft features 0.533-inch lift and 270 degrees of duration. Ray also looked to Crane for the 1.6:1 ratio rocker arms, screw-in studs, and 5/16-inch hardened pushrods. On top are Ford Racing Performance Parts Y303 {GT-40) aluminum heads with 1.94-inch intake/ 1.54-inch exhaust valves inside 63.5cc chambers. Approximately 0.028-inch was milled from the head deck surfaces to obtain the desired chamber size and compression. As you can see, the induction system is an FRPP GT-40 setup with 70mm mass air meter. Custom-built headers route the exhaust into--you guessed it--Flowmaster Delta Flow Force III mufflers.

Any way you slice or dice this engine combination, it’s perfect for street and strip. At the crank, it makes 372 hp at 5,250 rpm and 426 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Behind the pumped-up 5.0 resides an Art Carr AOD transmission designed to handle the high-cube small-block. Because AODs mandate finite calibration for improved driveability, the Art Carr people spent a lot of time getting the AOD right. The AOD’s 0.81:1 overdrive ratio keeps the revs down at highway speeds. For example, at 70 mph in Overdrive with 3.50 gears, the 357ci stroker maintains a sedate 2,000 rpm. When necessary, Ray can kick it down for blistering performance.

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Because safety is always a para-mount issue, Ray engineered better brakes and suspension into his master plan. He went to the Shelby School of Handling for down-under ideas, lowering the upper control arms for improved geometry, and installing Eaton springs, Koni shocks all around, and a 1-inch PST sway bar to keep the body stable. The 9-inch Ford rear axle was slightly altered to make room for the 17-inch wheels and tires. Ford Granada front disc brakes were rebuilt and installed in front, while FRPP 11-inch rear disc brakes were fitted to the 9-inch axle. Ray went to the Chrysler parts shelf for steering, employing a Dodge Omnipower rack-and-pinion setup. Fat Man Fabricators front spindles offer added strength and improved ride height.

Nearly as important as performance in a retro-restomod is comfort and beauty. Brian Daniels of Rohnert Park, California, prepped the body and laid down the DuPont finish. Forget about high-buck buckets inside. Ray opted for the '63 experience with bench seating. That's right. There's room for six passengers in top-down comfort in the California cruiser. Ray took the street-rod approach with rough-and-tough upholstery that looks sharp and will hold up well over time. An Alpine AM/ FM/CD unit provides the stereo basics with the help of a 100-watt amplifier and JL Audio speakers. Vintage Air in-dash air conditioning cools comfortably, but doesn't steal legroom from that middle, front-seat passenger.

Ray is planning slick upgrades for the already penthouse Comet drop-top, such as Baer disc brakes all around to haul down those 372 horses. Ray and his hot Comet prove that restomod isn’t for Mustangs only. There is a huge world of Ford out there ready for a date with the future.