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1968 Ford Mustang GT - A Street Car Named Warhorse
Meet the greatest custom Mustang Australia has ever seen
Every once in a while, a car will come along that just blows the rest of the competition away. For Australian Ford fans, that car came in the shape of this '68 Mustang GT, built by Ziggy's Hot Rods in Port Stephens, Australia, situated around two hours north of Sydney.
Known as Warhorse 427, the fastback was officially unveiled at Australia's premier indoor car show, MotorEx, in the middle of 2010, where it took awards for Top Street Elite, Top Design Execution, Top Engine Bay, and Top Engineered Overall. However, Warhorse's story starts almost three years prior, and its journey from wreck to riches didn't exactly follow the usual feature car path, as designer and builder Ziggy Sadler explains.
"The customer, Mike Kluver, wanted a car that could do everything," Ziggy says. "We were originally building another car for him, a totally unique and custom vehicle and were about two years from completion when he came to us and he said, ‘Oh listen, I just want an XW or XY Falcon GT mock-up for a Sunday driver,' because he takes part in an annual charity rally each year and he had a pretty flogged out old '64 Fairlane that he was using for that."
True to the customer's request, Ziggy began a search for a suitable body shell for the new project, but he soon came to the realization that even a dodgy Falcon shell of that vintage was going to cost a pretty penny. They may as well begin with something cool.
"I told Mike that irrespective of what we start with, the end price of the build is going to end up pretty much the same," Ziggy says. "So why not just start with a Mustang? That way it will always be worth some money later and I knew I could get repro stuff for it."
Looking at the heavily massaged panels gracing these pages, you'd be right in thinking that few, if any, original panels would actually fit Warhorse. That's because when the project kicked off, the brief was for Ziggy to build a pretty straight up Mustang with a rollcage, trick suspension, and stereo: something Mike could drive in hillclimb events, take on charity rallies, and cruise on Sundays. More than a year into it, the game plan changed.
"We took the unfinished car to the Summernats in Canberra the year Troy Trepanier was there," Ziggy says, talking about Australia's biggest horsepower party, held in the nation's capital each January. "Mike turned up in his Aston Martin and went looking for his Mustang and I still remember the look on his face. He said to me, ‘Where's my car?' and I said it's inside that circle of people over there!"
The rabid attention the Mustang received over the week of the Summernats brought with it the realization that Mike's 'Stang was already something pretty special. A few weeks later, Mike called Ziggy and informed him that he'd bought another Mustang. "I asked Mike why and he said, ‘Well, that one we're already building was getting too good. Let's make it really special and I'll use this new one as a bash car,'" Ziggy recalls.
That second car, a '68 coupe, ended up following the original plan and is now used as a charity rally and hillclimb racer. After completing the six-month build-up, Ziggy got back to working on Warhorse with the directive of building the finest functional show car possible.
The change in direction for the car might seem extreme, but given the crowd's reaction to the Mustang at Summernats, you can bet the car was already something more special than a mere hillclimber upon its first outing; already sporting some choice body mods and more attention to detail than your average contender.
"The body was done, but nothing was faced up, it wasn't perfectly gapped, and the finer details weren't there," Ziggy says. "I basically spent six months getting all that perfect, going a bit crazy with the overall surfacing of it, as well as making more of the brass moldings and rehashing some of the engine bay stuff."
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We could easily run a whole extra feature just on the bodywork on Warhorse, with Ziggy suggesting an insane 5,000 man-hours having been invested into the design, fabrication, and finishing of the shell alone. What makes this '68 so unique? How about the 40mm lengthening of the sills, the reworking of the wheel arches, and the creation of custom, flush-fitting bumpers and glass? If that weren't enough, you might dig the functional sidescoops, hand-formed hoodscoop, or custom LED taillights and fascia.
"I didn't know my Mustangs at all when we started the project," Ziggy says. "I started to do research and I found that Shelby did what he did and various other people had certain aesthetic and mechanic stuff they did to them. So, what I really tried to do was to take everything that I could find from the '65-'66 right through to the '70-model Mustang, and anything that had ever been done to them, take the pieces I liked from each one, and try to mash those elements into the one car as seamlessly as possible."
It's a similar story inside the '68, where Ziggy and his team (which ranges between one extra pair of hands to as many as eight) spent another incredible 5,000 hours creating something completely unique and original that still retained the feel and essence of the original Mustang. While the custom seats, hand-stitched textured leather, rollcage, and center console may be obvious enough, the hand-built dash, fascia, and crash pad are all part of what make this '68 the best in the country.
Dig a little deeper and you'll find that the 548hp, 427ci World Products Windsor is fed by a hidden modular Aeromotive fuel system that's mounted in the lefthand rear quarter. We say modular because the A1000 pump, surge tank, filters, and relay are all assembled into one neat unit that can be removed from the car in one go. "There's no real reason for the twin Aeromotive fuel logs other than symmetry," Ziggy says.
It's the same on the other side of the car where you'll find the electrical system which includes a Painless convenience module, all the fuses, relays, and harnesses—all removable as a single unit making workbench servicing a breeze. Better still, the Painless unit includes all the modern conveniences like dimming interior lights, automatic headlight operation at dusk, and keyless ignition.
"The engine is pretty mild, but the guy who owns it isn't a car guy so we backed the power off a bit," Ziggy says. "We filmed a promotional video for the car and spent the day driving it around and it's a really fun, crisp car to go cruising in and it never got hot, and was never hard to start—it was faultless all day long. But lean on it while cruising and you'll end up sideways."
With Warhorse taking out so much silverware on its first outing, it came as little surprise when the car won a slew of trophies at Summernats 2011, taking Top Tudor, Top Custom Interior, Top Engineered, as well as a spot in the Top 10 Elite. "Remember, this is still a street car," Ziggy says.
Mike Kluver's '68 Mustang GT
- 427ci Windsor built by Pro Flo Performance
- World Products "Man O War" cylinder block
- Eagle crank and connecting rods, JE pistons, ARP head and mains studs
- Ported Edelbrock aluminum heads
- Comp Cams hydraulic flat-tappet camshaft
- Holley 850-cfm carburetor
- Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold
- MSD billet distributor and ignition
- Dual Aeromotive fuel logs, surge tank, Aeromotive A1000 pump and filters
- 548 hp (408kW), 540 lb-ft (731Nm)
- Tremec TKO 600 five-speed manual and clutch pedal assembly from Mal Wood Automotive
- Quarter Master single-plate clutch
- Fabricated 9-inch housing, 3.50 gears
- Strange limited-slip differential
- Strange axles
- Hardy Spicer driveshaft
- Custom ceramic-coated, 4-into-1 headers (2-inch primaries), dual 3.5-inch stainless exhaust
- Flowmaster mufflers
- Total Control Products tubular arms, 1-inch front antisway bar, VariShock adjustable coilover shocks, left-to-right rack-and-pinion conversion
- Total Control Products triangulated four-bar system, VariShock adjustable coilover shocks, splined NASCAR ¾-inch antisway bar
- Front: Baer/Shelby Mono-block six-piston calipers, 13.5-inch two-piece rotors, Baer pads, braided lines, hidden underdash booster, hidden reservoirs and master cylinder
- Rear: Baer/Shelby Mono-block six-piston calipers, 13.5-inch two-piece rotors, Baer pads, braided lines
- Front: Budnik Shotgun, 18x7
- Rear: Budnik Shotgun, 18x9
- Front: Pirelli Pzero Rosso, P235/40ZR18
- Rear: Pirelli Pzero Rosso, P285/40ZR18
Interior work performed by Stitched Up and Brad's Custom Trim, Budnik Shotgun steering wheel, Flaming River steering column, TCP pedals, custom Classic Instruments gauges, Dynamat throughout, Vintage Air A/C, integrated rollcage, custom bucket seats, custom hand-stitched red leather trim, custom dash and fascia, Simpson harnesses, custom lighting, custom Car Sound audio system featuring a Clarion marine head unit, Kicker speakers, Kicker power amps, Kicker subs, Kinetic battery, Garmin GPS
Custom BASF Glasurit "Cream On Me" basecoat/clearcoat from Klosters Parts & Paints; custom airbrushed emblems by Air Brush World; sills lowered 40mm; flush-fitting windshield, backlite, and quarter glass; radiused wheel arches; custom taillight surround/fascia; active sidescoops, custom cowl panel; flush-fitting one-off bumpers