Jerry Heasley
July 25, 2011

Gabriel Ducote said his painter, Levi Gibson, is "more particular than me." This was his downfall, so to speak. The bodywork and paint looked so good, Gabriel had to make "everything else look as good as the paint." Another "problem" was putting on "one nice little shiny piece." One new part makes "the other ones look bad." Eventually, Gabriel built his '65 coupe to show standards. But first, he lived many Mustang adventures over the better part of a decade. Doesn't every classic Mustang modifier? The happenstances can be as humorous as they are challenging to the mind, body, and spirit. Gabriel began with the joyful purchase in 1994 in Louisiana. He's a Cajun by birth. His new old ride was a Raven Black Mustang with a white Pony interior. The 289 under the hood was a stock two-barrelùa garden-variety C-code. The transmission was a C4 Cruise-O-Matic, and the rearend was a common 8-inch. Giddy up.

Waiting two weeks on the antique license plates from the state of Louisiana tried his patience. Finally, the grand day arrived. Gabriel could drive the '65 coupe to his heart's content. The Mustang was fun until the original 289 two-barrel blew up. Oh well, Gabriel wanted more power anyway. He went old school with a '70 vintage 351.

"Little did I know the challenges that lay ahead and all the other stuff," recalled Gabriel.

There was good stuff like getting married in 1995 and driving away from the wedding in the little '65 coupe. There was bad stuff like grenading the C4 transmission and 8-inch rearend at 100 mph. Apparently, the pinion angle facilitated this failure, but that's another story.

Part of the life and times of owning a classic is limited driving, along with an education and lab work in the mechanical arts. Driving assembly line Fords not engineered to be on the road for 50 years has a tendency to facilitate the purchase of a late-model 'Stang. Gabriel bought a '92 Mustang GT in 2002.

Meanwhile, through three moves, the first to Virginia, the '65 coupe remained for the eventual big-time build. Late-models come and go, but Mustang classics are mainstays. With the '92 suffering from odometer abuse, Gabriel began looking for another late-model steed. He purchased his dream Mustang, a brand-new '07 Shelby GT500 and not coincidentally, in black and silver.

Three years earlier, in 2004, Gabriel had already begun work on the big build of the '65 coupe. The family was settled in, the latest move finished, the garage erected and filled with appropriate tools, the bank account recovered.

"I was fortunate to have met Mr. Levi Gibson of Albemarle, Virginia, to go over and beyond expectations." Gibson works full-time at a body shop, but agreed to do the '65 coupe at home in his spare time in 2005.

"After 300 man hours on the bodywork and paint, he quit counting," Gabriel explained.

In January 2006, the painter returned the coupe, looking like a show winner, body-wise. It was up to Gabriel to take his classic Mustang to the end of the build.

Gabriel beefed the stock suspension with KYB shocks, a 1-inch antisway bar up front, and a set of Doetsch Tech adjustable shocks to comfort the leaf springs in the back.

As much as he liked the R-model bumper look, Gabriel wanted to keep his chrome bumper, too. This Shelby-style fiberglass valance features a '69-style spoiler from Mustangs Plusùthe hood is a '67-style with functional scoop.

On the inside, Gabriel welded in new floorboards and topped them off with a pair of FloFit buckets that came from the supplier with the Pony upholstery installed. The rear seat is stock Pony, but customized in silver and black to match the front. Gabriel changed out the stock steering column for a tilt column that is collapsible, and thus safer, and a LeCarra three-spoke steering wheel allows easy view of the full set of gauges. The bezel and Haneline gauges came as one unit. That's a stock Mustang console from 1965, of the "short" variety to accommodate the air conditioning unit, and Gabriel smoothed the textured finish of the inside of the doors and painted them silver.

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The 351 Windsor might be old-school, circa 1970, but provides an estimated 350-400 very reliable horsepower. The coupe runs 180 to 190 degrees on a hot day thanks to the Griffin radiator, electric fan, and fan shroud.

You can't miss the wheels against the jet-black paint, and Gabriel picked out a nice set. The front 18x8s with low-profile tires have no fit issues with the stock wheelwells, and neither do the 18x8s in the rear.

He completed the car in his home garage. In the process, Gabriel got an education in the car arts, which he still deems as "three times as difficult" compared to the work he does everyday--renovating and building houses.

Of course, he wouldn't give up part-time hobby work on his dream Mustang in place of more mundane work on a house. After 12 years, the '65 has become a family member as well as a car show winner.

The Details

Gabriel Ducote's '65 Ford Mustang two-door hardtop

Engine

  • 351 Windsor, Assembled by JKK Machine Shop, Alexandria, LA
  • 4.040-inch bore
  • 3.50-inch stroke
  • '70 Ford D0OE cast-iron cylinder heads, Manley SS 1.94-intake/1.60-exhaust valves, Crane triple valvesprings
  • Comp Cams steel roller tip 1.7:1 rocker arms, Comp Cams pushrods
  • Ford steel rods with ARP bolts
  • Keith Black hypereutectic pistons
  • 10.5:1 compression ratio
  • Stock steel crankshaft
  • Crane KYD flat-tappet camshaft, 272/284 duration and 0.484/0.512 lift
  • Professional Products Hurricane polished aluminum intake manifold
  • Edelbrock 750-cfm four-barrel carburetor with manual secondaries
  • K&N air filter
  • Pertronix Flame Thrower distributor, coil, and MSD 8mm wires

Transmission

  • Ford C4 automatic built by Weavers in Madison, VA
  • 11-inch TCI Saturday Night Special
  • 2,200-rpm stall speed torque converter

Rearend

  • Ford 9-inch with 3.54 gears
  • Traction-Lok differential
  • 31-spline Moser axles

Exhaust

  • Hedman shorty headers, 15-/8-inch primary tubes, 3-inch collectors
  • Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers

Suspension

  • Front: Stock upper and lower A-arms modified with 620-lb/in coil springs for a 1-inch drop, KYB shocks, 1 -inch antisway bar
  • Rear: Five-leaf mid-eye springs, Shelby under-ride traction bars

Brakes

  • Front: Stainless Steel Brakes Corp Disc, four-piston calipers, 11-inch discs
  • Rear: Stock drums

Wheels

  • Front: Boyd Coddington Smoothie II polished aluminum, 18x8, 4.75-inch offset
  • Rear: Boyd Coddington Smoothie II polished aluminum, 18x8, 4.75-inch offset

Tires

  • Front: Nitto NT555, P225/40/ZR18
  • Rear: Nitto NT555, P245/40/ZR18

Interior

  • FloFit bucket seats with silver/black Pony vinyl upholstery; stock rear seat in matching silver/black; LeCarra three-spoke steering wheel; collapsible, tilt steering column; Alpine radio with 1,000-watt amp; two 10-inch Alpine subs; two Alpine 6x9 and two Kicker 6-1/2 speakers; two Alpine tweeters; original textured finish on lower door panels sanded and painted silver; Haneline gauges in bezel; OEM carpet from TMI; original short console

Exterior

  • All stock emblems removed, 351 front fender badges from CJ Pony Parts, Mustangs Plus '67 Shelby fiberglass hood with functional scoop, Mustangs Plus Shelby '65-style front valance with '69-style spoiler, PPG paint in Raven Black with Silver LeMans-style Shelby stripes, Paint by Levi Gibson of Albemarle, VA

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