Jerry Heasley
February 1, 2005

Perhaps the most humorous remark came from Bill Dillard, former president of the Mustang Club of America, "Looks like a street rod ran into a Mustang!" The Ring brothers from Wisconsin were showing their latest creation at the MCA Nationals in Springfield, Illinois. Bill and a host of other Mustang Club of America members, many of whom are strict restorers, had never seen anything like it.

Jim Ring told us, "Modified cannot be bolted on. Modified is what comes out of your mind." The closer you look at Jim's work, the more you see what he means. This car came right out of his mind. Modified it is, but a combination of aftermarket bolt-on parts it is not. A bolt-on project car is called restomod. When you are dealing with a modified, so much is created and fabricated from imagination. So much is both unique and trick, such as the custom aluminum molding wedged in the open space between the Shelby R-model rear window and the trailing edge of the roof.

Mike and Jim Ring's base of operations is Classic Auto Body in Spring Green, Wisconsin, where their business is repairing late-model collision damage. That's the norm at Classic Auto Body. What isn't the norm is extraordinary modified Mustangs like this one. They don't come along often, but when they do, they alter the course of the classic Mustang's evolution.

Last year, the Ring brothers came out of nowhere with a modified '66 GT-R Mustang convertible, voted one of the top five street machines of the year at Good Guys. That car was on our October 2003 cover. This time, they did a fastback. Finally, after thousands of hours, their masterpiece was finished, and magazines were coming out of the woodwork to snap pictures. We were there first.

Mike told us, "Jim gets bored. He gets tired of the everyday routine of collision repair." It's only natural for car enthusiasts who work with grocery-getter late-models to want to work with sportier cars they really like. Jim told us he had owned two dozen '65-'66 fastbacks and convertibles, and a couple of '69 and '70 Drag Pack cars and Boss 302s.

Prior to the GT-R, the Ring brothers' Mustangs were fine restorations. They entered them in Mustang shows, but Jim became frustrated and bored. "No matter how nice you did them, there was always somebody doubting or telling you what wasn't exactly right on them. I guess that's what drove me crazy." Both Mike and Jim still wanted to build Mustangs. They just wanted to build Mustangs that stood apart. "We built them to have fun and be different," Jim said.

Being different is not the bailiwick of the restorer. To Jim Ring, your basic modified is not what he would consider a modified. "I've seen thousands of Mustangs, and you can't call a Mustang with wheels, tires, and a chromed-out motor modified. That's not modified to me."

The Ring Brothers decided to choose the path least traveled. Modifying Mustangs with custom fabricated parts was "like walking a tight rope. You take one step in the wrong direction, you don't come back." Jim continued, "I do the fabrication, and Mike makes everything look pretty." Mike said essentially the same thing, "Jim is the inventor and fabricator. I actually do all the finish work."

Jim doesn't use drawings. He visualizes and then fabricates. He told us, "It's in my head. I had one of the judges at the MCA show tell me you can't do this without drawing a car first. I said, 'yes, we can.' And we've done it a couple times.

"when the winter weather is frigid in Wisconsin, and the snow flies, the Ring brothers Mustang fabrication work is in full bloom. Jim said, "Maybe a few nights in there, you wake up at three in the morning and think about ideas. You lay in bed, dead quiet, listening to the snow fall. And the next day is a great day . . . right after you're done shoveling."

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With this fastback, Jim chose a road-racing theme, which dictated the Recaro seats and $700 worth of stainless steel bolts. Inside and out, this R-fastback (there are no GT badges this time, just a big R in the grille) is full of unique custom features, including the grille, front valance and spoiler, hood, one-third of the front fenders, taillight panels, sidescoops on the sail panels, rear taillight board, console, dash, door panels, and virtually every interior part.

Almost nothing is stock, yet the look is still vintage Mustang. After Jim builds the parts from scratch, he stands back, looks, and gives either a thumbs up or thumbs down. Thumbs down means he tosses it back with the rest of the parts that didn't work out. "When you're out back shoveling snow in the wintertime, you see them laying there in the rusty steel pile. A lot of those parts we spent 50-100 hours on. Only when the part has the right look does it stay on the car." He adds, "Over the years, it seemed everybody was real anxious to put a scoop hanging on the sides of the cars-all of the '60s cars. It seemed like everything seemed to hang out of them. You either bolted the part on, or hung it on the sides. Our theme was the opposite. Nothing hangs off the car. Instead, everything goes into the car. That's where our hood came from. It was not a trashcan sticking out of the hood. The lines flow into the engine compartment. The same is true of the sides of the car, both behind the doors and up high by the back of the glass."

Side exhausts on the '65 GT350 exited ahead of the rear wheels. The Ring brothers custom-built exhaust openings in the rear quarters. Mustangs with the Exterior Decor Group used turn-signal indicators in the hood for the '67-'70. The Rings put them in custom scoops on the sides of the front fenders. Perhaps one departure from this dive-in theme are the scoops on the rear sail panels. They grab air on the outside. The originals used slotted vents on the inside. The tailpanel is likewise very trick. Metal openings to either side of the pop-open 427 Cobra gas cap actually exhaust air from the dual batteries, one per side. Backup lights and reflectors came from a GM Envoy.

Inside, Jim didn't want to use a key for the ignition. He wanted something real mechanical. He found just such a switch in the catalog of a company in Spring Green that manufactures windows. The switch mounts on the console, just to the left of the shifter that was sourced from an Audi TT sports car. The roll bars are designed to mount the seat belt harnesses and are not real protection in a rollover.

when they start building a car, the Ring brothers are never sure exactly what the end result will be. So far, they've treaded a fine line between taste and gaudiness. How ironic they got such positive feedback at the MCA, where concours restorations are mainstream. Apparently, stock Mustang aficionados really liked this custom '65 fastback. The Ring Brothers have found their niche. We can't wait to see what they do next.

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'65 Ford Mustang Fastback
Built By Jim and Mike Ring

  • Ford Racing 347 stroker 450 hp, crate motor
  • Ford Racing pulleys
  • Ford Racing clutch & flywheel
  • MSD Pro-Billlet distributor
  • K&N air filter
  • Holley 750 carburetor
  • N.O.S. nitrous
  • Mallory fuel pump
  • Griffin radiator with built-in oil cooler
  • Earl's fitting & braided hose
  • Hooker Super Comp headers
  • Inline Tube stainless steel brake & fuel hose
  • Borla mufflers & pipe
  • Baer disc brakes
  • Strange Engineering axles
  • Specialty Auto center section, 4.11:1 gears
  • Flaming River steering column & battery disconnects
  • Tremec Road-Race transmission, five-speed
  • Stewart Warner Maximum gauges
  • Total Control front & rear suspension
  • SSR wheels (exclusive through Tire Rack), 18x9 front & 18x9.5 rear
  • Goodyear F1 tires, 245-50-18 front & 255-45-18 rear, (from Tire Rack)
  • Fuel Safe fuel cell
  • Speed Glass windshield
  • Recaro seats
  • MOMO steering wheel
  • Alpine stereo/DVD/CD/amp
  • Kenwood navigation system
  • C5 Corvette emergency brake handle & cables
  • Jeep Liberty headlamps
  • PT Cruiser door handles
  • GMC Envoy rear backup lamps
  • Carpet '55 Chevy
  • Paint BASF Diamont, 2001 Ford Windstar Gunmetal Grey & 5300 Clear

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