Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
December 16, 2010
Photos By: Steve Baur

It's been said that one could build a '65-'66 Mustang from a catalog. Barring the actual unibody (Dynacorn will soon solve this with its reproduction body shell), this is a fairly accurate observation. This is one statement that we espouse often to aspiring classic Mustang owners that ask us about restoring a Mustang. Like any hobby, if you go in too deep and too fast, you either run out of money, patience, time, or a combination of the three. Starting with a '65-'66 Mustang means parts will be easy to find, any aftermarket updates like modern wiring, suspension, and brakes are already figured out and just a phone call away. Brown drives up your street and drops off a lot of boxes and it's off to the garage you go. The last thing we'd recommend to a first time potential classic Mustang buyer is something like a big-block '69-'70 with Thermactor Air emissions. All of the pieces to do it right are insanely expensive, and while these cars are seeing more parts reproduced, they still do not have the parts resources like the '65-'68 Mustangs do.

But what happens after you've restored a few classic Mustangs? The challenge isn't quite there anymore. Even moving up to the '69-'73 models only does so much to challenge a seasoned veteran. Probably the most difficult project one could undertake is a pre-muscle era Ford (usually anything pre-'65) and something that was one year only in body style. We all know that the Mustang was updated every two years, which was the norm for Ford, and even that was exterior skin with much of the unibody remaining the same. But there were other Fords that had one-year-only body styles; couple that with fewer units sold and you have a recipe for a thoroughly challenging build. That's exactly what Brian Knigga was up for after restoring a few Mustangs-something that would challenge him.

Brian, of Bright, Indiana, has been playing with cars for 26 years, thanks to his brother, Tim, putting a wrench in his hand at an early age. Brian had several Mustang projects under his belt and was looking for a nice driver project when he spotted this one-year-only body style '62 Fairlane. After a little cat and mouse action where he thought the car had sold, only to reappear a month later in the same yard, Brian made the deal and brought the Fairlane home where he and his two sons, Mitchell and Eric, began the tear down process on the project.

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Brian felt the Fairlane had great body lines and would make for a cool driver without putting too much money into it. Little did he know that the Fairlane had a replacement floor welded in right over the original rusty floor, and that there was rust elsewhere in the car. Not usually a problem for a seasoned veteran, until you realize there's little available in the way of replacement parts-and what is has to be purchased NOS. While replacing the floors, Brian used a trans tunnel from a donor car and then hand fabricated the transmission tunnel. NOS front fenders were sourced for the project as well. The rest of the car, including the quarters, doors, hood, and trunk lid were all reconditioned with appropriate patching and hammer and dolly work. Rear wheelhouses were widened to allow the new rear wheels to fit and tuck into the quarters for the low stance Brian was looking for. Brian's friend Ron Schoch (you might remember his blue '65 Mustang from our March '10 cover) helped with the body and paint process too.

With the main bodywork checked off the lengthy project list, it was time to move on to the suspension and brakes. Brian knew he wanted an adjustable ride height to get the car in the weeds, yet still ride comfortably. The proven Rod & Custom Motorsports Mustang II frontend conversion got the nod up front, including coilover shocks. Brian liked the R&C setup because it was specifically designed for the Fairlane. In the rear, he designed his own four-link rear suspension, again using coilover shocks, around a narrowed 9-inch rear. The challenge out back was to tie the mounting points into the chassis properly, yet have the correct suspension movement without binding. Brian also fabbed up his own subframe connectors, adding to the chassis's suspension and handling upgrades. For brakes, Brian opted for Wilwood discs at all four corners with custom-made stainless hard lines and braided hoses.

Satisfied with the chassis upgrades, Brian blew the car apart and started modifying the body for final paint. First, all emblem holes were filled, the cowl was filled, driprails shaved, and all weld seams on the body and engine compartment were filled and smoothed to give the car a sleek finish. Brian liked the modern look of one-piece door glass and designed his own window channels and had new door glass cut to eliminate the vent window assembly. With the help of a rotisserie, Brian and Ron completed the bodywork and painted the undercarriage. Finally, the suspension and brakes were reinstalled and the body placed on the ground for final application of the topcoat. Brian knew that a two-tone paintjob would complement the body nicely, and he wanted to use standard Ford colors for ease of touch up/repairs. A stroll through his local dealership's lot netted him the exact colors off of an '09 Taurus and F-150-Blue Flame and Brilliant Silver. The colors were applied in PPG basecoat/clearcoat, and Rick Kubicki airbrushed the simulated chrome trim back onto the Fairlane.

Rounding third base to completion Brian finished off the fresh bodywork, paint, and chassis upgrades with a 351 Windsor built by Performance Engineering in nearby Ross, Ohio. The Windsor features World Products heads, an Edelbrock Air-Gap manifold, and a Demon 650-cfm carb to put 407 hp to the crank. Brian backed the small-block with a Tremec T-5 five-speed transmission and the venerable 9-inch rear. He then wrapped up the build with NOS rubber/trim items, and rechroming the bumpers and door handles. Brian stuffed an ididit tilt column, Classic Instruments gauges, Scat seats and a Vintage Air heat/cool system into the interior, which was trimmed out by Ron Sutton of Ron Sutton Upholstery in Tipp City, Ohio. For the finishing touch, Brian bolted up a set of 18-inch Budnik Flare wheels wrapped in sticky BFG tires, and a matching Budnik steering wheel tops the ididit column inside. Overall, the challenging build took 41/2 years to complete in his spare time, mostly a lot of weekends, and with the blessing of his wife, Colleen. There's no doubt that Brian has certainly built something different this time around.

The Details
Brian Knigga's '62 Fairlane two-door

Engine

  • 351 Windsor (0.030-inch overbore)
  • Bored, honed, and decked
  • ARP main studs
  • Machined for one-piece rear main seal
  • Eagle forged connecting rods
  • Keith Black forged pistons
  • Speed-Pro rings
  • 10.5:1 compression ratio
  • Stock crankshaft
  • World Products iron heads
  • Comp Cams hydraulic roller camshaft
  • Edelbrock Air-Gap intake
  • Moroso polished aluminum valve covers
  • Demon 650-cfm four-barrel
  • MSD distributor, 6AL ignition, and wires
  • Vintage Air Front Runner serpentine beltdrive
  • 407 hp

Transmission

  • Tremec T-5 five-speed manual Pro 5.0 shifter

Rearend

  • 9-inch axle housing, narrowed 6 inches
  • Traction-Lok differential
  • Richmond 3.89 gears
  • 31-spine axles

Exhaust

  • Hooker headers
  • Thrush mufflers
  • 21/2-inch dual exhaust

Suspension

  • Front: Rod & Custom Motorsports Mustang II conversion, Aldan coilover shocks, power rack-and-pinion steering
  • Rear: Owner-built triangulated four-link, Aldan coilover shocks, owner-built subframe connectors

Brakes

  • Front: Wilwood, 13-inch disc, four-piston caliper
  • Rear: Wilwood, 12-inch disc, four-piston caliper

Wheels

  • Front: Budnik Flare polished aluminum, 18x8, 5.5-inch offset
  • Rear: Budnik Flare polished aluminum, 18x9, 3.5-inch offset

Tires

  • Front: BFGoodrich G-force T/A KDW, P225/40R18
  • Rear: BFGoodrich G-force T/A KDW, P255/35R18

Interior

  • SCAT seats covered in light gray with charcoal inserts, rear seat covered to match with additional foam sculpting, Classic Instruments All American Series gauges retrofitted to original dash cluster, custom door panels, billet handles, ididit tilt column, Budnik Flare steering wheel, Sony head unit, Alpine speakers, Vintage Air heat/cool system, interior work by Ron Sutton Upholstery

Exterior

  • PPG Blue Flame/Brilliant Silver basecoat/clearcoat from an '09 F-150 and Taurus by Brian Knigga and Ron Schoch, chrome body moldings reproduced in airbrush art by Rick Kubicki, shaved emblems, chrome bumpers replated and tucked, shaved driprails, smooth firewall, fabricated inner fender panels, deleted vent window frames for custom one-piece glass, cowl vent area smoothed

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