Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
September 13, 2011
Photos By: Isaac Mion

Compromise is a very important part of any successful marriage. Some may not agree and think of it only as giving something up, but the combined efforts of two individuals can often produce a better result than what one can accomplish on his or her own. Car enthusiasts often make compromises with their spouses, be it for garage space, money for parts, time alone in the garage and under a car, or whatever. For Simi Valley, California's Craig Heidenthal, all he had to do was keep the original color of the Mustang that he had just dragged home.

"To my surprise, the first thing out of her mouth was, 'I love this car. Please don't change the look or color of it,' Craig recalls. The car in question was the very '64-1/2 Mustang you see before you, but it wasn't always so pretty.

"The car was parked outside long-time friend Steve Rasussen's repair shop and remained under a ragged cover for more than 10 years that I know of," says Craig. "After the first time I pulled the cover back, I had always wanted it ever since."

Rasussen's wife, Julia, was given the Mustang on Christmas 1972 by her father. It was her first car and they obviously didn't want to part with it for sentimental reasons. Craig eventually convinced them it was better off with him than continuing to degrade on its own, and when the shop dog made a home in the backseat after digging through the convertible top, they agreed to give it a better home.

As Craig tells it, selling his wife, Connie, on the project was rather easy.

"She loved this car with all of its dents, bad paint, oil dripping, smoking, and dog hair. She even wanted to drive it. In 40-plus years, she has never wanted to drive any of my old cars," notes Craig. "My mission was to make my lovely wife happy, and build the car that I wanted to." And a compromise was born.

Craig called on his friend Gus Keller to help him pull the Pony apart piece by piece in his two-car garage. The first stop for this drop top was Prestige Body Works in Oxnard, California, where Craig's friend, Darryl Knapp, performed a complete body restoration, taking the vintage panels and straightening them up before recoating them using PPG products in the Pagoda Green hue that Craig's wife Connie stipulated. It's certainly not the manliest of colors, but it completes the sleeper status while still turning a number of heads-that's no easy task.

Mark Chuhaloll at Coast Drivelines in Ventura, California, assembled the new Ford 9-inch rear axle, packing it with 31-spline axle shafts and a Trutrac limited-slip differential. Craig then brought the Mustang to Brian Wallach at American Off Road in Thousand Oaks, California, where the Chassisworks four-link rear suspension was fitted. Wallach also modified the Maier Racing Panhard bar to fit.

The front suspension comes from RRS and features a coilover strut with RRS' front disc brakes. RRS also supplied the power rack-and-pinion conversion to provide a much more modern feel and more accurate steering inputs.

The convertible came back to Craig's house for a new wiring harness, and with a little help from his friend and brother-in-law Burt Burl, whose tool truck often becomes Craig and Gus' personal tool box on wheels, a new Ron Francis wiring harness was installed, along with a new windshield, chrome and stainless trim, and interior threads from TMI.

It was also about this time that the original 289 was ditched in favor of a new Ford Racing Performance Parts crate engine from Jegs. The crate V-8 packs 345 hp in a budget-minded price tag. Backing up the potent small-block is a Tremec T-5 five-speed manual with a McLeod Super Pro Street clutch and a Fidanza aluminum flywheel.

At the 2008 SEMA show in Las Vegas, Craig found himself searching for a roots-style supercharger that could properly boost his Mustang's power output.

"After four days of walking the show with not one company wanting to talk to me about supercharging a pushrod 302 engine, I started looking for a supercharger that I might be able to fabricate an installation kit for," recalls Craig. Weeks went by and his efforts turned up nothing. Craig did seem to gravitate toward the roots-style Magnuson TVS-1900 supercharger, both for its efficiency and its looks.

While his search went on, Craig had dropped his car off to Lawrence "Kiwi" Bryant at Bryant Fabrication in Camarillo, California, for some exhaust work.

"He can TIG weld the balls on a snowman-he's that good," claims Craig. With the 2-1/2-inch stainless exhaust completed, Craig went to pick up his convertible, and asked Bryant if he knew anything about Magnuson superchargers. Craig went on to explain his idea and before long, Bryant had placed a call and the duo were discussing the idea with Jerry Magnuson himself who liked the idea so much that he decided to get involved.

Bryant went on to design the upper and lower intake manifolds that house the liquid-to-air charge cooler, and he also fabricated the coil pack brackets and the serpentine system based off of March Performance pieces. The Magnuson TVS 1900 huffer features Eaton four-lobe rotors with a 160-degree twist for an efficient and powerful package. A Thermodyne 14x14x1 heat exchanger with a Ford Racing Performance Parts Bosch pump and a custom reservoir tank move the coolant through the charge cooler and heat exchanger up front, and the cooler intake charge temperatures allow for increased timing-something quite important for Californian's especially, as they are saddled with 91-octane premium pump gas. Craig topped the blower off with a Ford Blue Oval emblem.

The front mounted supercharger pulley is often the issue for Ford engines, as their distributors are in the front of the engines. Bryant got around this by switching to a distributor-less ignition system.

An XFI engine management system from F.A.S.T. was wired up to control the 45-lb/hr fuel injectors, and a F.A.S.T. 92mm throttle body swallows copious amounts of air to compensate for the fuel. With just a few hours of setting up some base programs, the Mustang fired up and idled straight out of the box. Final tuning was performed at Bottle Blown Racing in Camarillo, California, where Harv St. Mary tweaked the XFI system to the tune of 440hp and 460 lb-ft of torque at 7psi of boost.

With such an abundance of torque on hand, it's no wonder that Craig says he can light up the tires in Fourth gear-certainly not something you would expect from a pale blue/green convertible with shiny wheels.

According to Craig, this Pagoda Green gem was born July 15, 1964. While some may balk at the idea of modifying an original 289/four-speed convertible, Craig kept the exterior appearance mostly original, while modifying the Mustang's performance underneath to provide a safe, and fun driving experience for him and his wife. See, compromises aren't that bad after all, are they.

The Details

Craig and Connie Heidenthal's '64-1/2 Mustang Convertible

Engine

  • Ford Racing Performance Parts M-6049-Y302 Crate Engine, 302ci
  • Production 5.0L short-block
  • 4.00-inch bore
  • 3.00-inch stroke
  • GT-40X turbo Swirl aluminum cylinder heads, 1.94-inch intake/1.54-inch exhaust valves
  • E303 hydraulic roller camshaft, 220/220 duration at 0.050, 0.498/0.498-inch valve lift, 110-degree lobe center
  • 9.0:1 compression ratio
  • B&H/Magnuson TVS1900 roots-style super-charger system with liquid-to-air charge cooler

Transmission

  • Tremec T-5 five-speed
  • McLeod Super Pro Street Clutch
  • Fidanza aluminum flwheel

Rearend

  • Ford 9-inch housing cut to 52 inches
  • Detroit Trutrac differential
  • 31-spline axle
  • 3.50 gears

Exhaust

  • JBA Shorty style 1-5/8-inch stainless steel headers

Suspension

  • Front: RRS coilover strut
  • Rear: Chris Alston Chassisworks triangulated four-link, Vari-Shock coilover shocks
  • Maier Racing subframe connectors and Panhard bar

Brakes

  • Front: RRS disc, 11.29-inch rotors, single-piston calipers
  • Rear: Wilwood disc, 12.19-inch rotors, Dynalite four-piston calipers

Wheels

  • Front: American Racing Torque Thrust II, polished aluminum, 17x8
  • Rear: American Racing Torque Thrust II, polished aluminum, 17x8
  • Tires mounted and balanced by Jimmy and Kern Jones of Hubcaps 101 (Oxnard, CA)

Tires

  • Front: BFGoodrich g-Force Sport, P235/45ZR17
  • Rear: BFGoodrich g-Force Sport, P235/45ZR17

Interior

  • All new upholstery from TMI, Dakota Digital gauges, NPD lighted sill plates, Infinity speakers in kick panels and trunk, hidden XM satellite radio, XFI mounted in glove box, four-speed shift lever, five-speed knob

Exterior

  • Factory panels repainted by Prestige Body Works, PPG Pagoda Green

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