Dan Kahn
May 7, 2010

As the muscle car scene grows at an explosive rate, more projects are being built with modern components and cutting-edge style than ever before. A bumpy ride and crude handling were once dismissed as part of the "charm" of owning an old car, but huge leaps forward in technology have made it possible to build a classic Mustang that can run circles around most modern European sports cars while retaining the unique style and classic lines that have made Ford's ponycar a winner for the past four decades. Green Bay, Wisconsin, resident Michael Kiley seems to agree, and the current climate that makes it OK to modify virgin steel for improved performance and practicality has lit a fire inside him to own the ultimate fastback-a car capable of blistering speed and awe-inspiring power while cradling the driver in climate-controlled luxury and comfort.

His first attempt at assembling the ultimate Blue Oval brawler came in the form of a '67 fastback that was painted Highland Green and stuffed with a killer drivetrain engineered by the racing experts at Maeco Motorsport in Northridge, California. The street-driven Bullitt replica turned out well, but it still didn't satisfy Kiley's urge to own a car capable of tackling the Silver State Classic and local cruise nights with equal aplomb. After consulting with Maeco owner Mike Eisenberg, Kiley decided that a ground-up build utilizing new fully-independent suspension and a bevy of custom one-off parts would be necessary to achieve his mile-high goals. A six-figure budget was set, and the Maeco crew began its search for a clean old fastback to serve as the foundation for the project.

After a little research the crew found a rust-free '65 fastback shell that was disassembled during the Reagan administration for restoration, then never touched again. This served the purpose perfectly, since the entire platform was going to be re-engineered from the ground-up anyway. Maeco-spec 14-gauge main framerails and torque boxes were integrated into the body for added strength, as was a rollcage that ties the firewall, floorpan, and trunk area together into a single unitized structure. The crossbars were fabricated to be as unobtrusive as possible while entering and exiting the car. Total Control provided one of its fully independent suspension setups along with power rack-and-pinion steering, and Maeco modified the system with its own adjustable front sway bar and heavy-duty Trans Am-spec front spindles that allow for adjustable bumpsteer. The fully-independent rear suspension was designed by CTM Engineering, utilizing a bulletproof Ford 9-inch rear housing stuffed with 3.50 gears and a 31-spline Detroit Locker, hung on custom halfshafts and control arms that bolt to the stock Mustang pickup points. Hypercoil springs and Koni adjustable aluminum shocks reside at all four corners, while custom PS Engineering 17x8 inch Trans Am Racing series five-spoke wheels wrapped in Hoosier tires keep the car planted.

Once the high-zoot suspension was figured out, the Maeco crew realized that a hopped-up 289 or 302 just wouldn't do, but it didn't want to use a 351 Windsor because of the added weight. The solution was to obtain a (then) new Ford SVO R302 four-bolt race block and stuff it with goodies like a King 3.300-inch stroker crank, Carrillo 5.300-inch rods, and Bill Miller Engineering 10:1 pistons. The proper mixture of air and fuel is provided by Air Flow Research aluminum heads, a Crower roller valvetrain, and an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake topped with a Holley 750 carb. An MSD 7-series ignition lights the fire. Spent gasses are dumped into custom-fabricated stainless steel headers with 1 5/8-inch primary tubes and 3-inch collectors, all flowing through custom 3-inch stainless pipes with an X-crossover and MagnaFlow mufflers. The result is a 330-cube high-winding small-block that shrieks like a flat-out race car at speed and manages to pump out 430 hp and 386 lb-ft of torque on the dyno, with redline coming in at a heady 7,500 rpm.

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A powerful engine isn't worth much without hard-core running gear to back it up, which is why Eisenberg and Kiley decided to forgo the usual T5 route in favor of a stout T56 six-speed stuffed with heavy-duty internals and actuated by a McLeod Mag IV double disc clutch and aluminum flywheel. The shifter is from Hurst, and the aluminum rearend case comes from Ford Racing.

After the mechanicals were taken care of, the car was delivered to Guildner Kustoms in Van Nuys, California, where old school custom car painter Scott Guildner shaved and smoothed the body, added mild flares to cover the oversized wheel and tire package, and hand fabricated an all-steel version of a Shelby R-model front apron that allows additional air to cool the radiator while retaining the stock front bumper mounts. Other modifications include swapping the battery into the trunk and removing the stock tray, shaving the dash for an extra clean appearance and expanding the transmission tunnel to accommodate the six-speed's extra large case. While we probably would have gone with an in-your-face color such as red or yellow, Michael prefers a more subtle look, so he had Guildner cover the car in a thick layer of PPG Pepper Grey Metallic acrylic urethane.

Once the paint had cured, final details included a nicely finished interior complete with leather Sparco bucket seats, a hand-made center console filled with switches and controls, Vintage Air climate control, a custom billet dash insert stuffed with aircraft-style gauges, and even a crankin' 1,000-watt stereo designed by DG Car Stereo Designs in Canoga Park, California.

Road testing was performed at Willow Springs International Raceway, where the full-tilt fastback lapped the famous track for more than 200 miles, ensuring that it performed to the highest standard possible. Future plans for the steed include street cruising duty, occasional track time at Mid-America Raceway, and even a possible entry in the harrowing Silver State Classic high-speed time trial. Considering this is one of the most elaborate and expensive Mustangs ever turned out by Maeco Motorsport, Eisenberg is uncharacteristically giddy about the end result. "The finished product truly exceeded my expectations. The modern suspension, wheel size, tires, and brakes adapted to our already renowned vintage race car chassis, turned this old Mustang into a machine capable of competing with the best sports cars in the world, and the ergonomics make it as comfortable as a brand-new car." We couldn't agree more, and after a crazy white-knuckle ride over a twisty mountain road, we can safely say that Michael Kiley has accomplished his goal in spades.

The Details
Michael Kiley's '65 Mustang Fastback
Engine

  • Ford SVO R302 four-bolt block
  • King 3.300-inch stroker crank
  • Carrillo 5.300-inch rods
  • Bill Miller Engineering 10:1 pistons
  • Air Flow Research aluminum heads
  • Crower roller valvetrain
  • Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake
  • Holley 750 carburetor
  • MSD 7-series ignition

Transmission

  • Tremec T56 six-speed manual
  • McLeod Mag IV double disc clutch
  • McLeod aluminum flywheel
  • Hurst shifter

Rearend

  • CTM Engineering 9-inch IRS
  • 3.50 gears
  • 31-spline Detroit Locker differential

Exhaust

  • Fabricated stainless steel headers with 1 5/8-inch primary tubes and 3-inch collectors
  • 3-inch stainless dual exhaust with X-crossover MagnaFlow mufflers

Suspension

  • Front: Total Control Products adjustable coilover, rack-and-pinion steering, Maeco custom sway bar, Hypercoil springs, and Koni adjustable aluminum shocks
  • Rear: CTM Engineering IRS system, Hypercoil springs, and Koni adjustable aluminum shocks

Brakes

  • Front: Baer Pro-Series disc, 13-inch rotor, four-piston caliper
  • Rear: Baer Pro-Series disc, 12-inch rotor, four-piston caliper

Wheels

  • Front: PS Engineering, Trans Am Racing, 17x8
  • Rear: PS Engineering, Trans Am Racing, 17x8

Tires

  • Front: Hoosier, P245/40ZR17
  • Rear: Hoosier, P245/40ZR17

Interior

  • Sparco Milano Prestige leather racing-style bolstered seats, JME billet dash stuffed with Westberg Manufacturing aircraft-style gauges, Vintage Air heat and A/C, a custom Maeco Motorsport center console, custom Maeco rollcage, DG Car Stereo Designs sound system with a Sony CDX-series head unit, 10-disc changer, 1,000-watt four-channel amp, four 8-inch High Excursion subs, dual mid-range drivers and tweeters, and Phoenix Gold wiring

Exterior

  • Pepper Gray Metallic acrylic urethane, mild fender flares, hand-fabricated fender aprons, a modified trans tunnel to accommodate the T56, an all-metal racing-style front valance