Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
October 8, 2010
Photos By: Pete Epple, Marc Christ

Ford and the many other companies that manufacture automobiles can often be underappreciated in that not many people understand what it takes to design, develop, and produce an actual automobile that can be used by a variety of consumers in countless ways. The buying public's love affair with automobiles, however, has given many a car-crafting enthusiast a firsthand look at what it takes to build a car more-or-less from scratch. That's exactly what Milan, Illinois' Tim Grillot got to see when he started building this '65 Mustang fastback from just a rolling shell.

To Tim's credit, he carries with him a rather valuable set of skills to have when embarking on such an adventure.

"I grew up in rural Iowa on my parents' 10 acres of land," recalls Tim. "We didn't have any cool cars, but my dad, who was a maintenance welder at a local aluminum plant, would help me build whatever I wanted if I could pay for the parts." After much hay bailing and miscellaneous farm work, Tim earned the necessary funding for the many go-karts and off-road trucks that he and his dad, Ed, would build.

"I raced an off-road truck for about two and a half years, and this is where my fabrication talents really started to take shape," says Tim. Without being able to buy parts to fix the rig, Tim had to fabricate everything himself, and build it to withstand the rigors of racing without failing.

"My dad always stressed that if I couldn't do it right, then I shouldn't do it, at least until I figured it out or could afford to buy the right parts. He had zero tolerance for cobbling stuff up!" These home-schooled fabrication talents led to a four-year apprenticeship, and Tim eventually worked his way to project manager at a fabrication shop. Said management role, however, didn't provide Tim with the opportunity to make sparks, burn metal, and create something with his bare hands, so he eventually started building his own personal fab shop at home.

"I had a Factory Five Cobra that I loved, but as a fabricator, it drove me nuts when people would ask if I built it and I had to tell them no," recalls Tim. It was shortly after Tim and his wife, Adrianne, found out they were expecting their first child that she suggested Tim sell the Cobra and buy a Mustang so the kids could ride with them.

"Game on," quipped Tim. "Here was my opportunity to build the car I always wanted, so the Cobra was sold, and shortly thereafter, I bought the car you see here as a shell/basket case." The fastback came with a truckload of parts, in addition to a well-used 289ci V-8 engine and an automatic transmission. The original plan called for a supercharged 302 bullet to go between the framerails, but after talking with Tim Matherly of MV Performance, Grillot opted to drop in a modular powerplant.

Wanting to go for the "different factor," Tim enlisted Matherly to assemble a fortified 4.6L DOHC Cobra engine using forged CP pistons and Manley connecting rods, along with a forged steel Cobra crankshaft. With the stock cylinder heads, compression ratio was set at a boost-friendly 9:1. Tim hadn't originally planned to add a power adder immediately, but knowing that he could fabricate everything himself directed him toward constructing his own turbocharger system.

While the engine was being built, Tim had put the fastback up on jackstands and cut all of the stock suspension components out of the car. Two years had passed by then, and the project's funds had become depleted, so Tim once again turned to side jobs to provide the necessary greenbacks to complete his own project.

Just as the bank account was looking good, Tim and Adrianne found out that child number two was on the way. "At this point, I was about ready to throw in the towel, sell it off, and focus on the family," notes Tim. "After much encouragement from my supporting wife, and her telling me not to worry about how long it took and to just get it done, I finally pushed through." Sounds like Adrianne took a page out of Tim's project manager book.

Over the next three years, the shock towers gave way to a Heidts Mustang II-style frontend with coilovers, and the rear of the car was fitted with the company's four-link suspension with Panhard bar.

The 4.6L engine was dressed with a Sullivan intake manifold which was ceramic-coated by Jim Gegn of J&C Premier Concepts (Port Byron, Illinois). The intake was then topped off with a CSU 750-cfm blow-through carburetor that utilizes a boost-referenced power valve. An Extreme Velocity carb hat was employed to funnel the pressurized atmosphere that comes from the Precision Turbo & Engine PT70 turbocharger. After being compressed, the intake charge is cooled by an air-to-air intercooler, and a Tial blow-off valve and wastegate manage the airflow. Tim, of course, fabricated the entire turbo system from stainless steel.

Tim also modified the fuel system by welding a fuel sump to the factory fuel tank. He then plumbed in a -12 fuel supply line to the Magnaflow pump, and a -10 line from there to the Aeromotive regulator, which then feeds a pair of -8 lines that supply the CSU carburetor.

Fire comes from an MSD Mod 6 box that directs current to the stock coil-on-plug coils, and Tim uses a TurboSmart eBoost electronic boost controller and Western Motorsports wide-band air/fuel meter to tune the modular mill.

Behind the cammer engine is a stock iron flywheel, a Spec Stage 2+ clutch package, and a Tremec TKO five-speed transmission. Tim cut out the stock Mustang trans tunnel so he could adjust his driveline angles, and then fabricated a new tunnel section to close it back off. Connecting the gearbox to the Detroit True Trac-equipped Ford 9-inch rearend is an aluminum driveshaft. A set of 3.50 cogs spin the 17x10 1/2 custom American Racing Shelby Cobra wheels that are wrapped in Sumitomo HTR Z III high-performance tires.

The sticky Sumitomo summer rubber allows the late-model Cobra calipers to clamp down on the 13-inch front, and 11.65-inch rear rotors tightly. A Hurst Line Lock was plumbed in for times that require a proper burning of the rear tires.

The interior, though largely stock, has benefitted from Tim's fabrication talents as well. The stock seats were recovered, but Tim felt that they sat too high for his taste, so he lowered the driver seat 1 inch by cutting and refabricating the factory seat bracket. "It feels more like a modern car since I did that," says Tim. He created a new gauge cluster and fit it with a host of Auto Meter instruments, and he also installed a Flaming River tilt steering column with a Lecarra wheel. Tim also whipped up the new transmission shifter handle, and proceeded to rewire the entire car using a Painless Performance wiring harness.

If all of the aforementioned fabrication wasn't enough to satisfy your need for custom appointments, Tim tells us that he also built his own English wheel so he could hand bend the teardrop hood dome that he later welded to the factory hood. After that, Mike Kight of MK Autocraft (Moline, Illinois) massaged the rest of the bodywork and sprayed the PPG Performance Red hue that was pulled from the '93 Mustang Cobra.

Tim finally finished the Mustang, with the help of his 5-year-old son, in December 2009, and since then has put more than 4,000 miles on it.

"The car has truly exceeded my expectations for ride quality and power," says Tim. "We put a bunch of miles on it on the Hot Rod Power Tour and it performed flawlessly. My 5-year-old can already recognize the sound of the turbo spooling and says, 'Here we go' every time I start to get into it."

Tim also started autocrossing the Mustang this past summer, and quickly realized the need for antisway bars. Of course, he solved that problem by fabricating a NASCAR-inspired pair of bars that have made the Mustang a much more stable Pony. He's also considering swapping out the carb for a throttle body-style fuel injection system.

As much fun as Tim and Adrianne have had in the Mustang, with boys Andrew and Louis in the backseat, the Grillot family recently purchased a '59 Ford wagon as its summer trip vehicle since it offers a bit more space for a family of four. Tim tells us that they intend to take that on the Power Tour next year. We can only imagine what would happen if the metalsmith got his hands on that. Tim is probably imagining, too.

The Details
Tim Grillot's '65 Mustang Fastback

Engine

  • 281ci (4.6L) DOHC V-8 Built By MV Performance (Statham, GA)
  • 3.55-inch bore
  • 3.54 stroke
  • Factory Cobra forged steel crankshaft
  • Forged steel Manley connecting rods
  • Forged aluminum CP pistons
  • Factory Four-Valve cylinder heads
  • Factory '01 Cobra camshafts
  • Sullivan Performance Products intake manifold
  • CSU 750-cfm blow-through carburetor
  • Precision Turbo & Engine PT70 turbocharger (15 psi of boost)
  • Custom air-to-air intercooler
  • MSD Mod 6, factory coil-on-plug
  • Turbosmart eBoost electronic boost controller

Transmission

  • Tremec TKO five-speed manual
  • Spec Stage 2+ clutch
  • Aluminum driveshaft

Rearend

  • Ford 9-inch, Detroit Truetrac
  • 31-spline Strange Engineering axles
  • 3.50 gears

Exhaust

  • Owner-fabricated turbo headers, 3-inch custom downpipe with DynoMax muffler

Suspension

  • Front: Heidts modified Mustang II, KYB shocks, rack-and-pinion power steering
  • Rear: Heidts four-link with Panhard bar, adjustable coilover shocks
  • Owner-fabricated NASCAR-style antisway bars front and rear

Brakes

  • Front: Late-model Cobra 13-inch rotor, two-piston aluminum caliper
  • Rear: Late-model Cobra 11.65-inch rotor, single-piston calipers
  • Wilwood master cylinder
  • Hurst Line Lock

Wheels

  • Front: American Racing Shelby Cobra, 17x7
  • Rear: American Racing Shelby Cobra, 17x10 1/2

Tires

  • Front: Sumitomo HTR Z III, P225/45R17
  • Rear: Sumitomo HTR Z III, P275/40R17

Interior

  • Recovered factory seats, driver seat lowered 1 inch. Fabricated dash bezel with Auto Meter instruments, Flaming River tilt column, Lecarra steering wheel

Exterior

  • Factory sheetmetal, hand-fabricated steel teardrop hood dome, PPG Performance Red ('93 Cobra), painted by Mike Kight of MK Autocraft (Moline, IL)