Jim Smart
June 1, 2007

Medford, Oregon, hides in plain sight along Interstate 5, just north of the California border. This largely agricultural community is on the beaten path, yet far enough off of it that the masses have never really discovered the place. Retirees love it. Natives treasure its natural wealth, where rich evergreens meet Oregon's desert. The area's economy, as you might imagine, is driven by agriculture-peaches, pears, even grapes thanks to liberal doses of rain all winter and abundant sunshine in the summer months. It sounds like a good environment for car building, too.

The Rogue River Valley's winter months yield rain, cold, and occasionally snow, which makes this a perfect haven for car building all winter long and ideal for a cool rollout when spring arrives.

Chuck Martinez understands. He was thumbing through a discarded newspaper years ago when he happened upon a '65 Shelby GT350 replica in the classifieds. The ad rekindled memories of his first car-a K-code '65 Mustang fastback with a 289 high-performance V-8. Nostalgia got the best of him. When Chuck looked at the car, he learned it had been campaigned in road rallies. It didn't take long to close the deal.

While driving the 170 miles home, Chuck grew disappointed with the car. It was noisy. The steering was sloppy. It rattled. Wind noise was awful. It was worn out. His dream quickly unraveled. He was in that unfortunate dilemma of whether to sell or restore. That's when he thought of Ken Mann, a seasoned restoration guy in Medford. Ken knew Mustangs-and he knew what to do with Chuck's well-worn steed. When Chuck shared his dream, Ken had an appreciation for what the project meant. He poured a lot of passion into its effort.

For three years, Ken worked intermittently on the car as Chuck could afford it. He looked to the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog for fast answers. Underhood is FRPP's 351W 385-horse powerhouse crate engine sporting out-of-the-box FRPP GT-40 heads, a single-plane Victor Jr. induction; FRPP cast-aluminum valve covers, and more. Chuck opted for a 750-cfm Barry Grant Road Demon-a step up from FRPP's 650-cfm Holley.

What makes this engine a terrific value is that it's ready to install and run. There's no time lost on a machine shop, it comes with a warranty, and all it needs is dress-up time after it arrives. Ken uncrated the M-6007-D351FT small-block and fitted it with all the accessories necessary to get it going. An MSD billet distributor with fat 8mm wires keep the powerful spark focused. We like the K&N air cleaner, which is designed to allow maximum airflow for 360 degrees, as well as on top. It breathes. It performs.

Chuck's 351W crate special includes a new two-bolt main Sportsman block custom-built by FRPP. Inside is a nodular-iron crankshaft, forged I-beam rods, flat-top forged pistons, and a roller-hydraulic camshaft with a GT-40 valvetrain. When you top this block with GT-40 heads, you get 9.0:1 compression, which is ideal for today's fuels; then mill the heads a pinch to achieve a higher compression ratio and more power. Chuck was able to get into this engine for less than $8,000.

JBA ceramic-coated shorty headers with 1-5/8-inch primary tubes provide high exhaust volume and less velocity via 3-inch collectors. This helps the engine make more horsepower with less emphasis on torque. Walker 3-inch mufflers offer reduced restriction with a throaty crack at high revs.

Because the driving experience was so important to Chuck, he outfitted the car for a surreal experience. Behind the 351 is Tremec's World Class T5 transmission built by Modern Driveline. The T5 is a wonderful gearbox for both performance and cruising efficiency. In gears one through four, there's the thrill of hot acceleration, and when it's time to cruise at highway speeds, there's Fifth gear and more civilized rpm. Ken ordered a Currie 3.73-geared 9-inch Traction-Lok with 28-spline axles, which enables Chuck to accelerate quickly with an attitude before it's time to slip the T5 into Overdrive. Call it having your cake and eating it, too-without the high price of an old-fashioned four-speed and high revs.