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1967 Ford Mustang GTA - The Day The Earth Sped Up
When 390 cubes aren’t enough, go bigger
Detroit’s Big Bang theory formed our automotive reality in the ’60s--at the same time, Ford, GM, and Chrysler came to the realization that bigger engines in smaller cars had the power to reduce the laws of physics like gravity, inertia, and motion to mere flies on the windshield of their hell-bent-for-leather marketing freight train. Lightweight ponycars could now be had with 390s, 396s, and 383s, allowing above average car nuts to dramatically expand their personal performance universe.
The ’67 Mustang before you is one such example. Only this car takes the Big Bang concept up several notches. This was originally a pristine example of Ford’s 320hp, 390-powered ponycar. No slouch in its own right, but that was then. Now, it has a 600hp, 484ci FE packing more punch than most asteroids of equal size and weight.
The current owner, Tony Samples, is a retired fabricator and shop manager for the aerospace industry. As you might imagine, his enthusiasm for mechanical detail is all encompassing. That would also explain how this car went from a casual rebuild project to the outer limits of what might be called "restosupermodification." Despite this Mustang’s clean and stock-looking exterior, there is hardly a system or part underneath or inside that hasn’t been lovingly massaged, refurbished, upgraded, or otherwise improved to match Tony’s vision of the perfect big-block ’67 Mustang.
This genuine S-code 390 GTA Mustang spent its entire life in the car-friendly climate of Georgia. When the original owner passed away, this machine found itself retired and parked in his brother’s garage for 20 years. It was about that time when Tony discovered it and made it his mission to buy the car.
Tony’s job one was creating a modern FE engine that continued the car’s historical ties to its original S-code heritage. Digger Don of Don Dixon’s High Performance engines (Norcross, Georgia) got the nod for the build that started as a new 427 Genesis side-oiler block and was stroked to 484 cubes. An Eagle crank and H-beam rods anchor the rotating mass. A pair of aluminum Edelbrock Performer heads were ported by Jentzen Porting Service and offer up a 10.5:1 compression ratio.
This engine hosts a Crane solid roller cam and roller rockers, in addition to assorted valvetrain components of the same brand. An MSD and a forged aluminum-cased distributor send the spark to all parties involved. An 870-cfm Holley feeds the beast, while exhaust chores were given to a custom set of Tri-Y headers, Spintech mufflers, and 3-inch exhaust tubing. The nicely detailed 427 FE-based 484ci powerplant looks like it was installed by Carroll Shelby’s crew, although Lockheed’s Skunk Works might be closer to the fact.
With 600 lb-ft of torque on tap, Tony opted for a heavily fortified Performance Automotive and Transmission Center (Bossier City, Louisiana) AOD four-speed automatic to give his forward motion some extra snap. This transmission was set up to perform without any electronic intrusions, including no converter lock-up. It utilizes a 2.84:1 First gear ratio and an 0.63 overdrive. The converter is an 1,800-rpm-stall unit. The AOD is rated for 800 hp, so Tony still has room to tweak this engine if ever inclined. A custom 5-inch-diameter driveshaft sends the power rearward.
Out back, a Ford 9-inch with 4.10 gears and heavy-duty locker are the last things the horsepower remembers as it’s spit out to the pavement. The differential is supported by a Total Control Products four-link suspension utilizing fully adjustable coilovers. The frontend stays planted with the help of Global West upper and tubular lower control arms, conventional coil springs, and adjustable shocks. Tony says his intent was to be able to readily adjust the suspension for road courses or the dragstrip. Welded-in frame connectors, a cross-braced frontend, and seam welding around the shock towers allow all these specialty suspension pieces to work efficiently.
Any car that can move down the road with this much authority needs a braking system with equal tenacity. That’s why Tony added Wilwood slotted disc brakes to the rear with enhanced Kelsey Hayes calipers up front. All four of these four-piston units operate with an electro-hydraulic power booster that can generate 2,500 psi of hydraulic pressure at all times.
This mighty Mustang leaves its stylish hoof prints with the help of 16-inch-diameter American Racing Wheels inside Toyo R888 competition road race tires up front, and RA1 Toyos out back. They’re all DOT rated. As a result, the only glue coming out of this horsepower factory sticks this Pony to the ground with a vengeance.
Tony is not some kid who might be willing to give up certain amenities in exchange for not-so-cheap thrills. So, his personal comfort was part of the design strategy that went into the finished version of this Mustang. A serpentine drive belt operates a 134a-based Vintage Air A/C system and March power steering pump. Custom power windows and door locks help give the interior a more modern flavor as does the Custom Autosound package that is iPod driven, and includes a CD changer and satellite radio.
The interior also sports a comprehensive set of Auto Meter gauges, including a large-face 200-mph speedometer and 10,000-rpm tach, and a signed Nardi wooden steering wheel. All interior components were replaced with new parts except for the original dashpad, and Recaro seats hold driver and passenger firmly in place for the excitement about to take place.
On the outside, all of the chrome has been replaced or replated. The body never knew the meaning of the word rust, so the fresh paint has the easiest job in town and matches the original color (Silver Frost) precisely. While he was at it, Tony replaced all of the rubber moldings with new items.
Despite this car’s early, unaltered life cycle, Tony never had aspirations of doing a classic restoration on this Mustang. Sure, it was a matching numbers car and an auction house probably would have loved having it on its block in original form. But that’s just not Tony. This is a guy who loves to fix or improve all things mechanicaleven if they’re not broken. And if anyone at all on Earth knows exactly how he feels, it’s you.
It was a good to great car when we started, said Tony. And now it’s as good as any I can think of.
Tony Samples’ ’67 Mustang GTA, S-code
- 484ci FE-based V-8 built by Don Dixon
- 427 Genesis side-oiler block
- Eagle crank with H-beam rods
- Aluminum Edelbrock heads ported by Jentzen Porting Services
- 10.5:1 compression ratio
- Crane solid roller cam and roller rockers
- Edelbrock intake
- Holley 870-cfm carburetor
- MSD billet distributor
- PATC-built AOD four-speed automatic
- Non-lockup converter with 1,800-rpm-stall speed
- Chassisworks 9-inch housing
- 4.10 gears
- Detroit Locker differential
- Custom-made Tri-Y headers
- Spintech mufflers
- 3-inch exhaust exiting in front of rear wheels
- Front: Global West upper and lower tubular control arms with conventional coil springs and adjustable gas shocks. Welded-in frame connectors, cross-braced frontend and seam-welded shock towers, heavy-duty sway bar
- Rear: Total Control Products four-link suspension with adjustable coilovers
- Front: Kelsey Hayes disc, vented rotors, four-piston calipers
- Rear: Wilwood disc, slotted/vented rotors, four-piston calipers
- Front: American Racing Torq Thrust D, 16x8
- Rear: American Racing Torq Thrust D, 16x9
- Front: Toyo Proxes R888, P225/50ZR16
- Rear: Toyo Proxes RA1, P255/50ZR16
- Restored to stock condition except for Recaro driver and passenger seats, plus custom dash with Auto Meter gauges including 200-mph speedometer and 10,000-rpm tachometer, Nardi steering wheel
- All chrome replaced or replated, all weather stripping replaced with new, Silver Frost repaint with original-style vinyl top