Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
April 30, 2012
Photos By: Cesar Andre

There are people who lease cars, and there are people who buy cars. Linda De Leon falls into the latter category when it comes to the '65 Mustang you see here. Linda purchased the 289ci V-8–powered Pony in November 1964 and drove it until her husband, Robert, commandeered the colt for fun runs on the weekend.

Robert promptly swapped out the exhaust for a higher-flowing version, and painted the Ivy Green fastback black with gold stripes--a set of 14-inch American Racing wheels completed the racy look.

"My dad went to Shelby in Gardena for disc brakes, and ended up trading a set of stock drum front brakes for them," the De Leon's son, Mario, told us. After that, the Mustang pretty much stayed that way until Robert and Linda gave it to Mario.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

It was quite the birthday present for the then 16-year-old Mario, who was enrolled in auto mechanics classes at school. Through his school classes, Mario rebuilt the 289ci engine, and later, he and his father stripped the car and performed the bodywork while attending an auto body class at the local college. Reworking the panels and taking care of some minor cowl panel and floorboard rust, Mario and his father whipped it into shape and had it painted a midnight blue with white stripes, obviously sticking with the already established racing theme.

"Once the five-speed conversion became more affordable, we did that," recalls Mario. "We also redid the interior with a stock black vinyl interior." During this time, Mario had completed the Ford Asset program, had become a master technician, and exercised his skills at Sunset Ford in Westminster, California.

Ten years after the blue/white paintjob and overhaul, Mario noticed that the paint on the roof was starting to get spotty.

"Rather than match the roof, I decided to do it all over," quips Mario. The plan this time around called for more than just a repaint. Mario decided it was time to get serious about horsepower, and had Ford Performance Solutions build him a solid 349ci foundation on which he could mount a Paxton supercharger for the ultimate in car show eye candy, and tire-burning torque.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

While the engine was getting overhauled, so was the Mustang body. It was during the paint process that Mario was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Mario began chemotherapy treatment and would end up putting the car back together during this difficult time--a therapy of another sort, perhaps.

With the Mustang back together, the new powerplant didn't run as well as Mario had hoped. Problems with a blow-through-specific carburetor made the supercharged combination troublesome. Despite the issues, Mario drove the car like this for over a year. Eventually, Mario found himself in the passenger seat of a stroked and turbocharged '67 Mustang that belonged to one of the then owners of CPR Street Performance. Duly impressed with the turbo system, Mario purchased one from CPR for his own Mustang.

"I wanted to be different," says Mario about the turbocharger. The driveability problems were finally solved after Mario swapped the carburetor out for a Professional Products Powerjection III EFI system, which he tunes himself.

The interior space was renovated as well, with custom tweed upholstery, a custom center console, and a thumpin' 1,400-watt sound system. The last item was really scrutinized, as Mario now makes his living as a custom stereo installer and tech support agent.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

As a project is never complete, Mario has plans for a brake upgrade, intercooler, and possibly an update on the interior using suede leather. For now, Mario and his 3-year-old daughter, Miki, cruise around and hit the local shows, which has been rewarding on a number of levels.

"I want to thank my dad for his continuous support, even though I spent a lot," says Mario. "I would like to thank my daughter, Miki, for always helping her dad clean the car." It sure looks as though this heavy-hitting hand-me-down is destined to stay in the family.

The interior space was renovated as well, with custom tweed upholstery, a custom center console, and a thumpin' 1,400-watt sound system. The last item was really scrutinized, as Mario now makes his living as a custom stereo installer and tech support agent.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

The Details

Mario De Leon's '65 Mustang Fastback

Engine

  • '92 5.0L (349ci) Built by Ford Performance Solutions (Anaheim, CA)
  • 4.040-inch bore
  • 3.400-inch stroke
  • Forged steel crankshaft and I-beam connecting rods
  • Mahle forged aluminum pistons
  • Procomp Avenger 205cc aluminum cylinder heads built and ported by Dr. J's Performance (Anaheim, CA), 2.05-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves
  • Custom hydraulic roller camshaft, 244/244-degree duration, 0.599/0.599-inch lift, 114 LSA
  • Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum intake manifold, port-matched
  • Professional Products Powerjection III fuel injection system
  • Master Power 70mm turbocharger set for 16 psi of boost
  • 125hp nitrous oxide injection system
  • 9.2:1 Compression ratio

Transmission

  • '85 T-5 five-speed manual built by OC Gear (Orange, CA)
  • McLeod street/strip clutch
  • Stock 28oz 289 steel flywheel
  • B&M Ripper shifter
  • Aluminum driveshaft
  • Shelby driveshaft loop

Rearend

  • Ford 8-inch housing
  • Currie TSD differential, 28-spline axle shafts and 3.80 gears

Exhaust

  • Custom turbo headers and single 3-1/2-inch exhaust with MagnaFlow muffler built by CPR Street Performance (San Diego, CA)

Suspension

  • Front: Boxed stock upper and lower control arms, Edelbrock IAS shocks, 620 lb/in coil springs cut down, manual steering
  • Rear: Maier lowered leaf springs, Shelby 3/4-inch antisway bar, Ridetech Shockwaves

Brakes

  • Front: Stock disc, four-piston calipers
  • Rear: Stock drum

Wheels

  • Front: American Racing Equipment Torq Thrust II, 17x7-inch
  • Rear: American Racing Equipment Torq Thrust II, 17x8-inch

Tires

  • Front: Bridgestone Potenza RE92, P215/50R17
  • Rear: Mickey Thompson ET Street, 26x11.50-17LT

Interior

  • Custom black and orange tweed upholstery, Shelby four-point rollbar, RJS five-point harness, custom center console, Shelby gauge pod, Auto Meter gauges, 1,400-watt stereo system with 14 speakers, Eclipse DVD touchscreen, installed by X-File Audio (Los Angeles, CA), aluminum pedal covers, Momo steering wheel

Exterior

  • House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl basecoat/clearcoat with white stripes and ghost flames, shaved door handles, filled in cowl, molded rear valance, Shelby R model-type front valance, Maier 3-inch cowl induction-style fiberglass hood