Eric English
December 1, 2004

The car show biz is a funny deal. At large events where participants number in the hundreds, many of us are guilty of walking past some pretty fine rides without a second look-cars that would stimulate admiring comments and conversation if we were to spot them on any normal day. Alas, on big show days it's easy to become jaded as a sort of coping mechanism; how else could one wade through acres of fine Fords in just a few hours? at just such an overpowering event, we encountered Washington state resident Jason Johnson's '65 2+2; it was a car that grabbed our attention among the multitudes.

The 28-year-old Johnson has long been a car buff, but hadn't made the leap to Mustangs until this recently finished looker. Nice leap, huh? The obvious standout feature is the massive tire/wheel package, and, no, this is not a bolt-on procedure. What you see are classic American Racing wheels-in this instance, the fully polished Torq-Thrust IIs in an impressive 18-inch diameter. No matter whether you'd choose the same route for your steed, there's no denying the eye candy appeal that goes with this kind of rolling stock.

So what's involved with getting such big-inch rubber under a first-gen Mustang? We should qualify what we just said about fitment issues by saying the 18x7-inch front setup is a straight-forward bolt-on provided you run a rubber-band-size skin such as Johnson's 215/35-18 Michelin Pilots. However, out back, it took some real work to tuck 18x11s underneath the bodywork where they belong. The procedure Johnson used goes well beyond a narrowed rearend and wheeltubs, and much credit for the effort goes to Rich VanPelt and Mike Lewellan at Mount Vernon, Washington's Hotwheels Custom Autobody. While VanPelt's flawless paint work can clearly be seen in the PPG basecoat/clearcoat paint, Lewellan's work is subtler and tricky in the form of stretched rear wheelwells that make the pie plate Americans and 335/30-18s look right at home. Underneath, there's a narrowed 9 inch from Granny's Speed Shop, featuring an Auburn posi and Dutchman 31-spline axles. In the trunk, there's the obligatory mini-tubs, again performed by Lewellan. such wheelhousings necessitated the narrowing of the rear seat some 5 inches; a feat performed by Chapman's Upholstery that also tackled the rest of the stock-style interior.

While the Hotwheels gang was consumed with the exacting body prep, Johnson was busy assembling other important pieces of the puzzle. First on the list was how to power such a restomod. with considerable time and resources devoted to the outward appearance, Johnson stuck with a cost effective and time honored path to forward motorvation. Long gone is the original 289 two-barrel/T10 combination, and in its place is a rebuilt '85 5.0 roller shortblock by Jay Barnes equipped with a Competition Cams bumpstick, Edelbrock Performer heads, Victor Jr. intake, and Holley 750. The grunt gets stirred by a T5 five-speed and Steeda shifter, before being sent to a 3.89:1 ring-and-pinion out back.

While the engine, amplified by a Flowmaster-equipped exhaust system by Carl Reid, makes plenty of groovy tunes on its own, Johnson has turned the interior into a veritable boom box. When we mentioned the trunk modifications earlier, we neglected to mention it's chock full of Alpine stereo gear, thanks to the efforts of Jeff at Sound Advice. Said install includes 1,200-watts worth of Type R amplification, 10 speakers, and a hidden CD head unit in the glove box. Rockin' out is clearly the name of the game.

Johnson reports his Mustang venture has sown seeds of deep appreciation for the breed, and for a guy raised on various hi-po Chevrolets, that's a real statement for the power of a done-right fastback. Even the bowtie buddies who gave Johnson some ribbing for building the car are now duly impressed. And why not? The Mustang 2+2 stood out from the ho-hum crowd way back when it was introduced in 1965, and Johnson's modernized interpretation continues the tradition some forty years later.

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