Eric English
May 6, 2011

Being paid to build top flight street machines sounds like a fantastic job, and yet we know enough people in the biz to realize it’s also an occupation rife with challenges. Working with unrealistic/unreasonable customers, sticking to a timeline, getting parts to fit and work right, and complying with a myriad of governmental regulations are just some of the many pitfalls. Still, we’re not aware of many successful builders who are looking for a career change, because at the end of the day, it’s a pretty good gig.

Harold Hopink of Langley, British Columbia, knows well the pluses and minuses of the industry, having run his own shop--California Rod and Custom--for the better part of 20 years. One perk of the business we hadn’t thought much about, but which Harold experiences regularly, is aptly manifested in the form of the gorgeous ’66 Mustang seen here. You see, Harold and company built this car for the current owner who travels on business much of the year, and for personal reasons didn’t want his name in print. Huh? Who knows, maybe a wife or girlfriend doesn’t know about an expensive toy? Regardless, the situation has led to an enviable arrangement for Harold, as he became the defacto caretaker with a green light to use the car as he sees fit. Actually, it’s a good deal for all involved. As the owner knows his pride and joy is getting regular exercise and associated care, Harold enjoys pedaling a super cool hot rod, and California Rod and Custom gets regular props as a result of the rolling business card.

We’re told the genesis of the project was a solid original ’66 GT that was initially headed for a stock-style restoration.

"Another shop was going to do the work, but directed the owner to us since it was already overloaded. When we sat down with the owner, it was quickly evident that a stock restoration wasn’t likely to please him in the end. Of course, he had higher expectations at the performance end, and we knew these desires wouldn’t be satisfied with the kind of performance which is based on 40-year-old technology," noted Harold. To that end, he essentially started with a clean slate, listening and suggesting as made sense. The result is impressive by any measure.

Under close scrutiny, one quickly notices several attributes that make this a far above average effort. First, is the gorgeous shape as dreamed up by the Ford design team so many years ago. Today’s technology is infinitely superior than the 1960s’, but we’ll argue to the grave that the shapes are not. The first-gen Mustang fastback is a silhouette to behold, and all the more when left to its own elements, with not a scoop, spoiler, or stripe to be found. Think about it-the restraint is noteworthy.

Not so conservative is the modern rolling stock, which combined with a low-down stance, lends to an almost caricature type persona. Those are 20-inch Intro billet hoops out back, 18-inchers in front, and all tucked way into the bodywork thanks to a combination of suspension components from Total Control Products and RideTech. Of course, with such hardware, dialing in the perfect ride height is a breeze.

It was Harold’s idea to go with the multiple throttle body EFI, having been intrigued by a crossram-style intake he saw in a Mooneyes catalog. Turns out it took quite a bit of extra machining, plus custom fabricated linkage to get the whole affair working properly, and yet the extra effort paid off in an engine compartment which separates this Mustang from the crowd.

"Everyone seems to admire this car while it’s in action, but once it comes to a stop and the hood comes up, the interest is even more intense," says Harold. Under the gorgeous brace of TWM throttle bodies, sits the expected stroker small-block--this one displacing 331 cubes. Edelbrock heads take their valve commands from a Comp Cams hydraulic roller, and the resulting grunt is put in play through a TKO five-speed kit from Keisler.

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The interior is the final element to fawn over, but it certainly doesn’t play second fiddle to anything else. Consider it a tasteful blend of letting the original lines dictate direction, while still leaving no stone unturned. From the array of Classic Instruments gauges, to the custom con-sole, to the leather-wrapped door panels, kick panels, and Corbeau seats, the cockpit is a class act. Tunes flow from a fully modern sound system built of Kenwood and Phoenix Gold components, likely as important a 21st century update as any you’ll encounter in a truly driven street machine.

We caught up with Harold last summer at a West Coast Goodguys event, where he was enjoying the fruits of his labor, discussing the car, the build, his shop, and everything in between. It’s clear this Mustang is in good hands even in the owner’s absence, as the role of caretaker is handled with an expected heavy dose of responsibility. And that may well be where the rub to this story comes in, since there’s something critically missing from an automotive experience that doesn’t quite allow for exploring full potential. It’s why a car guy such as Harold isn’t fully satisfied to just care for someone else’s ride, nice as it may be, but has to own his own stuff as well. Sure, Harold has put the hammer down on this hot fastback, but he hasn’t hammered the car to see what it’s really capable of. There is a difference of course, and it’s the latter right that’s reserved for the guy holding the pink slip. As they say, ownership has its privileges.

The Details

’66 Mustang 2+2
Built by California Rod and Custom, Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Engine

  • 331 cubic inches
  • ’70s vintage 302 block
  • 4.030-inch bore
  • 3.25-inch stroke
  • Probe forged pistons
  • Probe I-beam rods
  • Probe crankshaft
  • Edelbrock Performer RPM heads
  • Comp Cams roller rockers
  • Comp Cams Magnum 270HR hydraulic roller, 0.533-inch lift, 215 degrees at 0.050
  • Moon Cross Ram intake
  • TWM throttle bodies
  • Accel 30-lb/hr injectors
  • MSD distributor
  • Micro-Tech ECM

Exhaust

  • JBA full length 158-inch headers
  • JBA 2-inch exhaust kit, metallic ceramic coated

Transmission

  • TKO five-speed from Keisler
  • Spec clutch, pressure plate, and billet steel flywheel

Rearend

  • 9-inch housing
  • 3.89 gears
  • Moser 31-spline axles
  • Eaton Truetrac differential

Suspension

  • Front: Total Control Products tubular control arms, coilovers, and rack-and-pinion steering
  • Rear: RideTech four-link with Varishock coilovers
  • Chassis Total Control Products subframe connectors and shock tower bracing

Brakes

  • Front: Baer Disc, 13-inch rotors, two-piston calipers
  • Rear: Baer Disc, 12-inch rotors, single-piston calipers

Wheels

  • Front: Intro, 18x7-inch
  • Rear: Intro, 20x8.5-inch

Tires

  • Front: Hankook Ventus, P215/35ZR18
  • Rear: Hankook Ventus, P245/35ZR20

Interior

  • Custom by California Rod and Custom, Langley, British Columbia; leather-covered Corbeau seats, custom door panels, and console; Flaming River steering wheel; Classic Instruments All American series gauges; Kenwood head unit with Phoenix Gold amps; 12-inch subs (2); 6-inch mids (4); and tweeters (4)

Exterior

  • Silver Mica PPG two-stage paint by California Rod and Custom