Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
April 1, 2011
Photos By: NotStockPhotography

The Ridler Award is a long-standing merit badge in the street rod community that signals the finest achievements in creativity and craftsmanship, so it stands to reason that a shop that specializes in building vehicles that compete for the Ridler would pull off one unique Mustang, and it did just that.

As you might imagine, there was no easy path to the finished filly that you see before you, and it all starts with Lafayette, Louisiana's Joe Brown, who actually began his relationship with Ford's ponycar years ago behind the wheel of the much-unloved Mustang II. Ironically, it was gold in color as well, as Joe recalls, but he eventually found himself entrenched in the 5.0L Mustang movement of the early and mid '90s, and owned a few Fox bodies while employed as a Ford dealer transmission technician.

"At the time, my hotrod was my daily driver," notes Joe. "Working at the dealership definitely helped, as we could get discounts on Ford Racing parts and help with warranty claims." As with most 5.0L enthusiasts of the time, Joe found himself at the dragstrip a lot, often beating on the less-than-peppy cars from Detroit. After a while, beating on the cars and breaking them led him down a different path.

Joe eventually left dealership life to strike out on his own with a transmission rebuilding enterprise, and during this time, he started to get into the show cars.

"I got into the ISCA indoor car show circuit," says Joe, "and that led us into the hotrod shop. Hot Rod Joe's Rod and Customs of Lafayette, Louisiana, was born and currently operates out of a non-descript building in rural Louisiana, yet turns out some impeccable street machines.

"A lot of local people don't even know that we build cars here because most of them are from out of state. We've built several cars to compete for the Ridler Award, but we do all sorts of street machines, and do a lot with the modernization of old cars."

Joe's '67 was originally a customer's car, that he had picked up at a swap meet at Texas Motor Speedway. Unfortunately for the new owner, the project hardly got off the ground before his better half caught wind of the unapproved purchase, and he ended up needing to sell it in a hurry. Joe knew the '67-'68 fastbacks were hot, and offered to take it off his hands.

The Mustang sat dormant for more than a year before Joe started to occasionally tinker with it. Joe and his crew worked really hard on some customer show car builds, and realizing they were killing themselves to get the jobs done, Joe made the call to scale back the work pace, not push so hard, and start something of his own.

"After 5 o'clock, we work on our cars," states Joe. "It puts a little more fun back in it when you can work on your own cars."

That work ethic provided a bit more time to devote to the fastback, and said time was put into installing a custom full-length chassis from Scott's Hotrods and Customs in Oxnard, California. This provided an independent front suspension, as well as a triangulated four-bar rear suspension, and a rigid connection between the two. QA1 shocks at all four corners keep the coil springs in check. Joe tells us that the undercarriage is just as nice as the rest of the car, and we're more than inclined to believe him.

Attached to the chassis are Wilwood six-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors at the front, and Wilwood four-piston calipers with 13-inch rotors out back. Where the frontend rolls on custom-designed 18x8-inch Intro wheels with Mickey Thompson 26x10x18 Sportsman SR radials, the Ford 9-inch out back, packed with Strange Engineering 3.50 gears and a Traction-Lok differential, rolls on mammoth 20x12 hoops with 29x15x20 M/T rubber.