Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
March 30, 2012
Photos By: John Machaqueiro

"I couldn't decide on the color for a long time," recalls Rod. "One day, an '01 F150 Lightning passed me on the road and I was sold." Said Lightning was bathed in the rich E4 Bright Red hue. "I get more compliments on the color than you can imagine." The vibrant color was then adorned with custom Boss 351 graphics to complete the intended look.

After persevering through such a lengthy and troublesome build, no doubt with the help of his friends, family, and his wife, Theresa, Rod continues to upgrade the car as he sees fit--this winter's upgrades include a 4.10 gear change and rear disc brakes.

As you might have noticed from the cover shot, Rod puts the hammer down whenever the need arises, and while the Mustang has won a number of awards at various shows, it shines on the dragstrip as well. Rod and some of his buddies he hangs out with often drop in on their local quarter-mile, Island Dragway in Great Meadows, New Jersey. For the track, Rod switches the rear rubber out for some sticky Hoosier Quicktime Pro tires, which have enabled a best short time of 1.62 seconds with a healthy 3,500-rpm launch. The Mustang stopped the quarter-mile clocks in 11.66 seconds and at a speed of 119 mph—pretty stout for any street car, let alone a classic. Probably more important than the stellar elapsed time was the fact that Rod met his goal of smoking his buddy's 454ci Corvette. And even with that accomplishment, some of the greatest rewards Rod gets from the car are the waves and thumbs up from others passing by on the road.

While it is true that Ford didn't build a Boss 351 in 1970, maybe if they had ridden in Rod's sassy SportsRoof, they might have had a change of heart. In any case, the best part of this hobby is that you can build the car you want.

Topped off with very capable aluminum AFD cylinder heads, a solid, flat-tappet camshaft and a 750-cfm Holley four-barrel, the Cleveland offered up 535 hp on the engine dyno, and 487 lb-ft of torque

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The Details

Rod and Theresa Sassaman's '70 Mustang SportsRoof


  • 351C four-bolt-main iron block (383 ci) built by RPM Machining (Lehighton, PA)
  • 4.031-inch bore
  • 3.750-inch stroke
  • Coast High Performance rotating assembly
  • 4340 forged steel crankshaft
  • Lightweight forged steel I-beam connecting rods
  • SRS forged aluminum pistons
  • AFD aluminum cylinder heads, 2.19-inch intake valves, 1.71-inch exhaust valves
  • Harland Sharp 1.73:1 aluminum roller rocker arms
  • Comp Cams solid flat tappet camshaft, 242/252 duration at 0.050, 0.589/0.624 valve lift
  • Edelbrock Performer Air Gap intake manifold
  • Holley 4150 HP 750-cfm carburetor
  • MSD Pro Billet distributor and 6AL ignition
  • 10.5:1 compression ratio
  • 535 hp, 487 lb-ft of torque


  • Tremec TKO 600 five-speed manual
  • Ram Powergrip HD clutch
  • Ram billet steel flywheel
  • Quicktime steel bellhousing
  • Modern Driveline hydraulic clutch conversion
  • Steeda short-throw shifter
  • Inland Empire aluminum driveshaft


  • Ford 9-inch housing
  • Strange Engineering carrier
  • Detroit Truetrac differential
  • Motive Gear 3.89 gears
  • Superior 31-spline axles


  • FPA headers, 1-1/3-inch primary tubes, 3-inch collectors
  • Aluminized 2-1/2-inch tubing with X-pipe
  • Dynomax Ultra Flo mufflers


  • Front: Stock upper and lower control arms, Global West 1-inch lowering springs, QA1 adjustable shocks, Unisteer power steering conversion
  • Rear: Global West drop leaf springs, QA1 adjustable shocks, Calvert Racing Caltrac bars, Southside Machine frame connectors


  • Front: SSBC 11-1/4-inch discs, single piston caliper, Hurst Line-Loc, Wilwood billet master cylinder
  • Rear: Stock 10-inch drums


  • Front: Weld Pro Star, 15x7-inch, 3-1/2-inch offset
  • Rear: Weld Pro Star, 15x8-inch, 4-1/2-inch offset


  • Front: BFGoodrich Radial TA, P225/70R15
  • Rear: BFGoodrich Radial TA, P275/60R15, or Hoosier Quicktime Pro 27x10.50/15LT for dragstrip duty


  • Black vinyl replacement interior; Auto Custom Carpets carpet; Grant woodgrain steering wheel; LED dash lights; Auto Meter tachometer, oil pressure, and water temperature gauges; Scat Procar Rally 1000 bucket seats; Shelby console gauge pod; Hurst shifter handle


  • Dupont Bright Red (E4) basecoat/clearcoat applied by Seeger’s Autobody Inc. (Plumsteadville, PA), Graphic Express Custom Boss 351 striping