Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
January 27, 2012
Photos By: Keith Kanak

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There are plenty of classic Mustang fans out there who don't necessarily wave the Blue Oval flag, nor have "blue blood" running through their veins, and that's fine. We understand that people might drive a brand X or an import for daily driving duties and have their classic Mustang as a weekend toy that reminds them of their high school years, for example. But when we come across someone who's a member of the Ford faithful and has darn near a whole fleet of FoMoCo--brand iron for daily driving and family rides, well, it just makes the smile on our face grow that much more in approval.

Take Jack Nelson of Farmington, New Mexico, for example. We thought it was tough remembering the oil change schedules for our own six Fords, but Jack's weekends must be full with the 10 Fords he holds the keys to (not including his off-road Jeep and a '71 Plymouth he's toying with). His garage full of Fords reads like any of our dream lists: the '70 convertible seen here, a supercharged '08 Roush F-150 daily driver, an '08 F-350 Super Duty dualie for towing, an '05 Saleen Mustang (also supercharged), two stout Fox Mustang drag cars, a '71 Mach 1, a '67 coupe that his son drives, and a '65 fastback his daughter uses. Oh, and lest we forget, there's a '65 Comet Cyclone drag car being built as we write this, and he has a '62 Country Sedan in the wings with a 427 SOHC "cammer" slated for it. No, he's not adopting either, we already asked.

What's even more amazing is that Jack, a paraplegic since a traffic accident at the age of 16 left him without his legs, uses custom hand controls in every vehicle he drives. And we're not talking about short trips to the grocery store either. Those two Fox drag Mustangs are 9- and 10-second-capable race cars with full 'cages that he climbs into and races himself. The '70 you see on these pages is regularly taken through the autocross at Goodguys events and elsewhere. Running through a set of cones at speed is tough enough for some people, but Jack is able to do it controlling the gas and brake with one hand, and using his other hand for steering inputs. It humbles us and our driving skills just thinking about it! Being wheel-chair-bound certainly hasn't slowed him down or hindered him in building his projects; "It hasn't slowed me down, if anything, age has, as I'm now 51," Jack explained.

The convertible started off as just another project car for Jack, nothing really special was in mind originally. All he knew was he wanted the car to be green. Jack likes a green car (his '05 is Legend Lime and his '71 Mach is Dark Green Metallic) and knew the '70 would be green as well. But what color green? Those of you checking the photos on these pages may already know the answer, but for those not up on modern Ford paint colors, Jack used the Dark Highland Green from the '08 Mustang Bullitt edition.

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"I've always liked green cars; just partial to the color. I saw an '08 Bullitt on the road and said, 'That's the color.' I got the VIN from a car on the dealer lot and ordered the paint that way."

But we're getting a little ahead of the story here. You see, Jack had the '70 Mustang in the capable hands of Jim Malone of Wild West Street Rods, also in Farmington, for the last seven years. It only took Malone's shop a short while to cut the front clip off and upgrade the convertible to a full Martz front chassis setup, four-link rear, perform all of the metal repair and bodywork, and have the car sitting in primer. But during all of this, Jack and his brother decided to go drive around in circles in the dirt and went short track racing. Malone put the car in storage, where it sat for five years. Once Jack got the itch to finish the car, it took a scant 8-10 months to shoot the color, assemble the car, and do the interior.

Jack likes his classic Mustangs modified, but in a clean manner. No huge fiberglass hoods, no giant bling wheels, just a subtle, almost stock look, with lots of power. Jack likes the horsepower, that's for sure. Save for a Mach 1 grille and '68 Mustang chrome mirrors, the exterior is stock appearing, just the way Jack likes 'em. Under the hood, though, is a whole 'nother ball game as they say. RPM Engine Development in Chandler, Arizona, a shop known for its race engines, built Jack a 482ci FE stroker using an Eagle stroker kit stuffed into an original FE cross-bolt block. Other goodies include stack injection controlled by a FAST EZ EFI system, and a custom radiator and beltdriven electric fan combo (the fan motor is offset for clearance). Backing the FE was an AOD transmission, but the lock up overdrive took so much power it didn't put a smile on Jack's face when he drove the car. The convertible now runs a Performance Automatic C4 and a Gear Vendors unit so he can use overdrive only when he truly needs it. Out back is the typical 9-inch doing its best to put all 560 lb-ft of torque to the ground through the BFGs, which are wrapped around a set of fully polished AC III wheels by Team III.

Inside the drop-top Mustang is a different story. While still subtle and very much still looking like a Mustang interior, Jack's interior was stitched up by Lupe Sandoval of Ron Mangus Custom Hot Rod Interiors. Lupe does all of Wild West Street Rods' interior work and for Jack's car, he modified the ProCar seats by shortening the backs, removing the headrests, and then cutting the seat foam for Jack to sit lower, he also shortened/trimmed the stock dashpad. Nu Relic power windows are controlled by the company's retro window crank switches, and a Vintage Air GenIV system keeps Jack and his fellow riders comfortable.

As a member of Goodguys, Jack took the completed convertible to his first Goodguys event in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2009. There was no TV cable connected to the transmission (he didn't realize it needed one), holding the AOD in First gear. Due to the engine's custom cam, the vacuum brakes didn't work either, but he still came home with the Ford in a Ford and Best Ford Muscle trophies that year. He went back in 2010, with the AOD fixed and a new hydraulic brake assist unit, and this time at Scottsdale, he won the Goodguys Pick. He recently added another award to his shelf at the 2011 Loveland, Colorado, Goodguys show when he took home the show's Mighty Mustang award. Kermit might always be complaining that it isn't easy being green, but for Jack Nelson, we'd have to say green has been a pretty good color for his Mustangs.

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The Details

Jack Nelson's '70 Mustang Convertible

Engine

  • 482ci FE stroker
  • Original FE cross-bolt block
  • 4.26-inch bore
  • 4.25-inch stroke
  • Eagle 4340 forged steel stroker crank
  • Eagle forged H-beam connecting rods
  • Forged JE pistons
  • 10.5:1 compression ratio
  • Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum cylinder heads
  • Edelbrock aluminum water pump
  • Comp Cams custom-ground hydraulic roller
  • Stack EFI with FAST EZ-EFI
  • March serpentine pulley accessory drive
  • Blue Thunder valve covers
  • ARP fasteners throughout
  • ATI SFI damper
  • MSD Pro Billet distributor
  • MSD 6A ignition
  • MSD plug wires
  • Mattson's Custom Radiator aluminum radiator with Sidewinder fan
  • C. Cook Enterprises air cleaners custom fit to clear the stock hood
  • 540 hp
  • 560 lb-ft torque
  • Built by RPM Engine Development, Chandler, Arizona

Transmission

  • Performance Automatic C4
  • Gear Vendors overdrive unit
  • B&M shifter

Rearend

  • Ford 9-inch housing
  • Detroit Locker differential
  • 3.90 gears

Exhaust

  • Ceramic-coated Sanderson headers

Suspension

  • Front: Martz Chassis Mustang II-style front clip, coilover shocks, 450 lb/in springs, power rack-and-pinion steering, 1-inch antisway bar
  • Rear: Martz Chassis four-link, coilover shocks, 200 lb/in springs, Panhard bar, 7/8-inch antisway bar

Brakes

  • Front: Wilwood 12-inch slotted/drilled disc, four-piston Dynalite calipers
  • Rear: Wilwood 12-inch slotted/drilled disc, four-piston Dynalite calipers
  • Hydratech Hydraulic power assist unit

Wheels

  • Front: Team III AC III fully polished, 17x8
  • Rear: Team III AC III fully polished, 17x9-1/2

Tires

  • Front: BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW, P245/45ZR17
  • Rear: BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW, P355/50ZR17

Interior

  • Custom tan leather interior by Lupe Sandoval, JME Enterprises gauge cluster, Scat ProCar seats, Grant steering wheel, Vintage Air GenIV heat/cool system, New Relic power windows, custom console with hidden parking brake handle, B&M shifter, custom hand controls for throttle and braking

Exterior

  • Dark Highland Green basecoat/clearcoat by Wild West Street Rods, Farmington, New Mexico; firewall smoothed; new quarter-panels, floorpan, rockers, and torque boxes installed; blacked out taillight panel; pop-open gas cap; Mach 1--style hood stripes with 482ci designation; Tri-bar headlights; hood lanyards; front spoiler; black cloth convertible top

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