Jerry Heasley
June 1, 2007

The Ring brothers [Ringbrothers, E4829 U.S. Hwy. 14, Spring Green, WI 53588; (608)588-7399;] have done it again, building a restomod that's making waves in the hobby. The Mustang's name is Reactor, as in nuclear. You've probably seen pictures floating on the Internet-this new build is so hot. In fact, Scott Killeen has already photographed a build book with step-by-step pictures. In our opinion, Reactor is the best and brightest of the Ring brothers' four Mustang builds to date.

Doug Hoppe, a street-rod and street-machine enthusiast (he owns '35 and '37 Ford three-window coupes, among others) from Sioux Center, Iowa, followed the restomod Mustangs the Ring brothers were building. He goes to Columbus, Ohio, every year for the Goodguys event that crowns the Street Machine of the Year. In 2005, when Jim and Mike Ring came out with Kona, their outrageous '67 fastback, Doug stepped up to the plate with a big bat in the big leagues. "I went up to them and said, 'That's enough. What do we have to do to start building a car?'" That same day, he wrote a check to them to hunt down a '67 fastback and start the build. Doug's goal was to win the Street Machine of the Year at Columbus.

But what would the theme be? They toyed with the idea of a Mustang that "looks like it's been almost through the ringer." They would steer away from bling and move toward a road-raced, used-and-abused look "yet is brand-new."

That's a tall order for any build. Those of us familiar with the Ring brothers know their restomods are a notch or two above what we've ever seen in the hobby. Their style is OEM, as in "original-equipment manufacturer."

Jim Ring explains, "We want people to look at our cars and scratch their heads wondering if they were built by the factory." In the past, Jim (who is the fabricator, with Mike being the finisher) basically built one-off prototype parts without the benefit of drawings. He visualized and cobbled out the part in one step. Bad parts went in the scrap heap behind the shop.

In starting the project, Doug says, "We hired a guy named Sean Smith. He's an artist."

Mike explains, "We met [Sean] at SEMA. He worked as a designer for Honda for a while. He helped us look at what we were going to build before we built it."

Moving further into a factory-development mode meant claying up a design. Of course, with a restomod, the idea is to keep the classic look. Reactor would still follow this style. The project began with a conceptual drawing.

"We tried to be innovative," Sean says, "and keep the same shape of the fastback to make it kind of have that Euro look, what you'd find in a [Porsche] 911 or high-end sports car. Most guys who take a Mustang to build into a custom car shave it. They make it like a street rod. They put big billet wheels on it."

The Ring brothers gave the I-forged wheels more of an OEM look with personalized Reactor center caps. They're a three-piece design, similar to what you might see on a sports car.

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The brothers thank Sean for giving them direction and ideas as to what their latest and greatest Mustang restomod would look like when finished. Eventually, Sean flew to Wisconsin, where he got together with Todd Milanowski, a Ringbrothers partner in Prime Components. Todd is a craftsman who makes high-quality, one-off parts from scratch.

First Sean sketches the part. Then Todd studies and interprets the sketch and generates a three-dimensional model with the help of solid-modeling software. He explains, "From there, I can analyze it, rotate it, look at it three dimensionally, and verify if I'm going to be able to build it."

The louvers in the fastback roofline, for example, are two-piece and made from two chunks of solid billet-aluminum. "Everything was done on a CNC mill," Todd says. "We designed it here with Solid Works, programmed it with a Gibbs cam system, and then machined it."

Todd also built the trick rear diffuser that routes air smoothly out the back of the vehicle from the belly pan. The build process started with Jim, who said to Sean, "We'd like a diffuser in the back of this car. What can you come up with?" Sean drew the part and then handed the sketch to Todd. Todd could see they didn't have a machine big enough to mill out this part, so he generated a 3D model and divided it into three pieces. Then, he TIG-welded the three pieces together to look like one piece.

The interior bears no resemblance to stock. It's fresh and new. Todd did the actual metal work; Classic Instruments did the custom gauges. Jim wanted to build the nuclear theme with the numbering system. For example, when the rpm registers 7,000 on the tach, the numbers start breaking up, like a nuclear reactor melting down. The numbers start falling apart, too, when the oil pressure dips near zero.

That first day in Columbus, when Doug engaged the Ring brothers to build a '67 fastback, they walked over to the Roush booth and ordered a new, fuel-injected 427-IR motor. Todd added his trick cold-air boxes atop the eight-stack fuel-injection system. Orange hoses route air from custom openings in the grille to ram air down the stroked 351W.

In this way, Reactor came together. The result is a far cry from a typical bought-and-bolted-together build. Todd estimates they did 60-70 parts at the Ringbrothers shop alone, including the gas cap, the hood bezel, the taillight bezels, the front spoiler vents, and so on, not counting the numerous carbon-fiber pieces, which were sent out: the front and rear bumpers, the front lower valance, the decklid and end caps, and the rear taillight panel.

Jim says, "One guy can pick up the hood with one hand. It's so rigid and strong, I'd put it up against any steel hood ever made." Of course, the hood isn't a copy of the original. The Ring brothers and their Classic Auto Body team were determined to build a masterpiece, their best-ever street machine, in OEM style. Mike, Sean Hildebrandt, and TorCaraway cut and modded a stock steel hood. Then they sent out the hood to have a plug made. From this plug came the carbon-fiber hood, stylized with a one-off bezel drawn by Sean Smith and crafted by Todd.

Chad Haggerty took time out from his busy collision-work schedule to do the bodywork. Ryan Rippechen sacrificed evenings to prime the body. Sim Caraway, nicknamed "Sim the Great," painted Reactor in the color the team joked was Chernobyl Green.

Doug was enthusiastic about the result. "You look at the car," he says, "and it's still got the old look, but it looks like it could be something from the future. The car has just a little bit of everything. To me, it's one of the most outstanding Mustangs I've ever seen."

Jim and Mike and the whole team at Classic Auto Body are grateful Doug was willing to write the checks, believing the final result would be spectacular.

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The Details
'67 Ford Mustang fastback "Reactor" by Ringbrothers
Owner: Doug Hoppe, Sioux Center, IA

Roush 427-IR
Dart iron four-bolt block (4.125-inch bore)
Forged 4340-steel crank (4.00-inch stroke)
4340 H-beam connecting rods
10.25:1 compression
Roush aluminum cylinder heads, 2.08-inch intake, 1.60-inch exhaust valves
1.6:1 roller rockers
Hydraulic-roller cam
MSD distributor
Roush calibrated stack injection
SPAL cooling fans
Green air filters
Griffin radiator
Fuel Safe fuel cell
Aeroquip hoses and fittings
551 hp, 525 lb-ft of torque

Tremec TKO-600 five-speed manual

Detroit Locker
Dutchman axlehousing
Dutchman axles

Flowmaster mufflers and tubing

Front: Total Control Products tubular
suspension, belly pan, Ringbrothers Xport brace, and subframe connectors
Rear: Air Ride AirBar

Front: Baer six-piston caliper, 15-inch rotor
Rear: Baer six-piston caliper, 14-inch rotor
Classic Tube brake lines throughout
Wilwood pedal assembly and master cylinders

Front: I-forged flux, 19x8
Rear: I-forged flux, 19x11

Front: Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar, P255/40ZR19
Rear: Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar, P285/35ZR19

Redesigned with a sleek Euro look, nothing stock, done by Recovery Room; Vintage Air air conditioning; Flaming River steering column and kill switch; Dynamat sound deadener; Sony stereo; Rockford Fosgate amplifier and speakers; MOMO steering wheel; Classic Instruments custom gauge cluster; Speedglass windshield; Painless wiring

BASF Glasurit Chernobyl Green basecoat/ clearcoat; custom steel rocker panels; cut intakes in rear quarter-panels; built spear through door into quarter-panel; split rear-window glass; added raised crease through middle of entire car; removed driprails; removed door handles; mini-tubbed the rear wheelhousings; rolled all fenders, raised fuel cell 6 inches; handmade carbon-fiber parts designed by Ringbrothers, including decklid, hood, front fascia, front and rear bumpers, quarter extension, and taillight panel; all Mustang stock and reproduction parts purchased through Mustangs Plus

List of parts built by RingBrothers/ Prime Components:

Lower fascia bezels (intakes for front brakes)
Hood bezels
Fender bezels
Rear quarter-panel inserts
Taillight bezels
Gas cap
Exhaust tip/diffusers
Hood pins
Grille intakes

Gauge-cluster bezel
Center-switch bezel
A/C vents
Shifter ring
Shifter and knob

Engine Compartment
Complete airbox above eight-stack and snorkels
Xport bracing and brackets
Power-steering cap
Fender washers

The split window was, according to the Ring brothers, "something we just did," in the sense that there were no sketches. Originally, the Ring vision of the window was the back glass hinged at the center, looking almost gullwing in the open position. But the owner did not want to risk water leaking inside. For now, the split window is a trick in the Ring brothers' bag that may end up on another Mustang.

Naming the Mustang
Part of the fun of building an OEM-style Mustang is you get to play auto company and come up with a trick name-except you don't have to worry about satisfying stockholders or offending anybody. Jim Ring says his brother, Mike; Sean; and "a few people" went to lunch one day and tried to come up with a name.

"We really wanted the car to be a little more industrial sounding because of all the nickel plating and the machining and everything involved in the build of the car," Jim says."We wanted a mechanical name or an industrial name. Reactor got thrown out on the table. We actually had to say it about three times before it caught on. Then we spun off into, 'Hey, we can use some of these nuclear reactor symbols for things,' and it kind of went from there, just trying to have fun."

The radioactive-orange color accents many parts of the car, including the custom instrument faces, the induction tubing underhood, and even the switchgear on the dash (which looks eerily similar to those found in the Ford GT super car).

Choosing the Color
Color is ultra important to any build. On Reactor, the Ring brothers were adamant about choosing a color that wouldn't waste the look of the expensive but subdued plating. "To spend all those hundreds of hours machining and not even have people know what it is-that it's true billet aluminum or plated-would've been a disaster for this car," Jim says. "But we didn't want to polish it because we didn't want all of the bling associated with billet parts. So we chose the nickel color to tone it down and have our cake and eat it, too."

Color became a big issue. "We had some nickel-plated parts, and we started flopping down greens on the nickel until one popped," Jim says. Nobody knew the source of the color, only to find out later it was from Hyundai. The khaki green, however, worked well with the nickel. "That's the only reason we chose it," Jim says.

Additional Facts
• The project was commissioned one year ago, took 2,000-plus hours, and the price is confidential.
• Objective: To become a contender for Goodguys Street Machine of the Year.
• Following SEMA, this car will tour several Goodguys events and other indoor events, including the '07 Detroit Autorama.
• This car was selected by Scott Killeen and the Killeen team to be featured in his next Build Book, which was due out in February 2007. More than 300 pages cover the complete build process of the Reactor from conception to completion.
• Theme: Factory prototype look created by incorporating custom-machined parts built by Prime Components, a subsidiary of the Ring brothers, and plated in nickel. All the sheetmetal was reworked for an original, new look.

The discreet red buttons found in the roof of the lower quarter-panel scoops are the electrical switches for the power-door release mechanism, something the Ring brothers first used on their Kona fastback build.