March 1, 2012

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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