Joe Greeves
December 2, 2010

In the world of car collecting, the first and last years of production seem to be the favorites. When talking about the Mustang, however, there is no end in sight to the production run for America's favorite Pony car, so collectors look to the early years. The downside is these introductory models didn't benefit from the inevitable refinements and improvements that came with each new model year. Mike Palmer, from St. Johns, Florida, is a consummate car guy and thinks he's found an answer to the problem.

Growing up in the car business with his father, Mike had already owned three cars by the time he was in his senior year in high school. Working hard to make the payments, he learned as much about fiscal responsibility as he did about the car business. He currently owns Ernie Palmer Toyota in Jacksonville, and has had a succession of amazing cars over the years. Although his '641/2 Mustang was the first model year, Mike's restomod doesn't suffer from any technological shortcomings. As a matter of fact, it is the best of both worlds, combining classic lines on the outside with the latest modern technology under the skin. Originally built by Mike's good friend, Matt Akins, the car embodied an idea that both men shared. Both were intrigued with the idea of creating a car that Carroll Shelby might have built back in 1964.

Akins began the process by salvaging a two-owner '641/2 that looked good at first glance, but had lots of hidden rust. Instead of a relatively quick restoration, the project turned into a major rebuild with virtually every panel on the car being replaced. Once the body was sound, Akins added a Shelby-style hood from US Body Source, auxiliary headlights in the grille, and a unique tail section, created from a combination of Mustang race car spoiler parts. He smoothed the Shelby-style rear lip and endcaps into the Mustang's sheetmetal, then added the distinctive '68 Cougar sequential taillights to the modified Mustang rear panel. Twin pipes coming through the rear pan, a GT350 gas cap, and Shelby bullet side mirrors were the perfect accent pieces.

Suspension refinements to almost half a century-old technology included new upper and lower control arms, rear sway bars, upgraded 11-inch discs in the front, new drums in the back, and stainless steel lines. Torsional rigidity and roll resistance was increased with a Monte Carlo bar joining the front fenders, and an export brace that con-nected the shock towers to the firewall. Both were chromed for show. A reworked 260 V-8, a Pony interior, and a silver and charcoal gray paintjob suitable for Eleanor's younger sister, completed the changes. After a few years of enjoyable ownership, Matt was ready to move onto other projects. That's when Mike came in, intent on taking the car to the next level.

Mike's idea of what Shelby might have done began with replacing the original Windsor 260 V-8 that came with the car, and shoehorning in something just a little stronger. Mike's parts manager, Bob Nelson, created the new powerplant by stroking a 302 to 347 cubic inches. Using a forged Eagle crank, H-beam rods, and pistons, the engine creates 9.8:1 compression and runs on premium fuel. A Comp hydraulic roller cam activates 2.02-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves using Comp rockers with a 1.60:1 ratio. An Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor creates the optimum air/fuel mix for the engine, routing it through the Edelbrock Performer Air Gap intake that delivers a cool charge to the free-breathing AFR 185 aluminum heads. MSD ignition triggers the fire while JBA long-tube, ceramic-coated headers dump into a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. A Ford AOD automatic trans multiplies the power sent via the aluminum driveshaft to the Ford 9-inch rear, equipped with 3.50 gears and 28-spline Strange axles. A Griffin aluminum radiator and front-mounted oil cooler keep fluid temps in the green.

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Mike also wanted to make a few suspension changes, and upgraded the current Grab-A-Trak's Chassis and Handling kit, to include new 1.5 inch lowering springs, sway bars, and polyurethane bushings. KYB gas shocks keep the wheels in close contact with the asphalt, and factory power steering adds a degree of new millennium sophistication to the vintage Pony. Oversize 12.19-inch Wilwood disc brakes on all four wheels are visible through the larger 18-inch, American Torque Thrust wheels, wrapped in Nitto rubber. The new brakes haul the car down from speed while the combination of new rims and lowered springs fill the wheelwells. Mike personalized the Pony interior by adding a new center console, a GT350-style steering wheel, and Classic Auto Air A/C. A custom stereo upgrade is scheduled for the future.

Thanks to this pair of dedicated owners, the "Shelby" that Shelby never built is still rolling down the highway and creating smiles were ever it goes. Mike and his wife, Sandy, enjoy cruising in their "new" '64, but one of the biggest smiles comes from Mike's 7-year-old grandson, Seth, who loves to ride in Grandaddy's Pony, galloping off together to shows on the Southeast circuit.

The Details
Mike Palmer's '64 1/2 Mustang

Engine

  • 347 Stroker
  • Late-model 5.0L factory block
  • 4.030-inch bore
  • 3.400-inch stroke
  • Forged steel crankshaft, H-Beam connecting rods, and forged aluminum pistons
  • Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor
  • Edelbrock Performer Air Gap intake
  • MSD Ignition

Exhaust

  • JBA long-tube headers
  • 2 1/2-inch dual exhaust
  • Flowmaster Mufflers

Transmission

  • TCI AOD four-speed automatic overdrive
  • TCI 2,200-rpm stall converter

Rearend

  • 9-inch housing
  • 3.50 gears
  • Strange 28-spline axles

Suspension

  • Front: New upper and lower control arms, KYB gas shocks, Monte Carlo bar, strut tower brace, Grab-A-Trak springs, antisway bar, polyurethane bushings
  • Rear: New leaf springs and KYB gas shocks

Brakes

  • Front: Wilwood 12.19-inch disc, four-piston aluminum calipers
  • Rear: Wilwood 12.19-inch disc, four-piston aluminum calipers

Wheels

  • Front: American Torque Thrust II, 18x8-inch
  • Rear: American Torque Thrust II, 18x8-inch

Tires

  • Front: Nitto NT555, P235/45R18
  • Rear: Nitto NT555, P235/45R18

Interior

  • Pony interior with new center console, GT350 steering wheel, Classic Auto Air air-conditioning, and Auto Meter gauges

Exterior

  • Shelby-style hood and rear spoiler, Cougar sequential taillights, bullet mirrors, and custom, Eleanor-themed silver and gray paintjob