Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
May 29, 2012
Photos By: Keith Kanak

In the fall of 1965, Steve Naranjo's parents placed an order with Hoover Ford in Denver, Colorado, for a new '66 Mustang coupe. The C-code, C4-automatic-equipped Mustang was delivered with Ivy Gold and White Deluxe interior and an Ivy Green exterior. Steve's parents picked up the Pony later in November, and it served as the family's daily driver for the next six years.

"I spent countless hours as a passenger in the back seat, and learned to drive in it by guiding it around an empty parking lot at Mile High Stadium," Steve recalls. In 1972, Steve received the Mustang as his 16th birthday present. "I have been a die-hard Mustang fan ever since," Steve tells us. One would wonder why, given the condition of the car.

When Steve took possession, the Mustang had been used up and driven hard. The seat frame was broken, the C4 transmission was shot, and it needed lots of maintenance items like brakes, tires, U-joints, and more. "On a bag boy's salary at the local grocer, it wasn't so free after all."

Despite the issues at hand, Steve made the repairs, and drove the Mustang all through high school, making small hot rod upgrades here and there. Mag wheels with Mickey Thompson rubber, a dual exhaust with glasspack mufflers and air shocks to give it the rake that was in style back then--these mods were also meant to detract from a less-than-stellar repaint.

"I installed an eight-track tape deck and rear speakers," says Steve. "It made the rounds at the local cruises like the Scotchman's in north Denver and 16th Street downtown. It looked pretty good in the school parking lot, too."

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When it came time for college, Steve put the car back to stock, and it would serve him through all kinds of weather, paved and unpaved roads, and even a drunk driver who managed to jump the curb and sandwich the Mustang between Steve's roommates' cars.

"It suffered minor dings and dents along the way, and even survived an amazing storm in Ft. Collins, Colorado, with softball-sized hail in 1979," Steve recalls. After enduring the salted winter roads of upstate New York and heavy summer rains of Florida, the Mustang was really hurting. Steve and his then girlfriend, Roberta, limped the Mustang back home to Denver in 1988 during an "adventurous and frigid trip" from South Dakota where Steve was completing some doctoral work. Steve's mother occasionally drove it after that to keep it running, and Steve switched to a new daily driver.

When Steve was up for a move to Arizona, he "contemplated the Mustang's fate after all the years of loyal service." The decision was made to have it towed to his new residence in the much warmer climate of Chandler, Arizona, thinking that one day he would restore it to its former glory.

"All of the vintage autos cruising the streets of Phoenix kept me inspired," says Steve, "but thoughts of restoration came and went. I'd drive the tired Pony around the neighborhood every couple of months just to keep the battery fresh and the blood circulating, but it was clear she was very sick." In the late '90s, the engine finally threw in the towel, relegating the car to garage storage shelf status.

Now married, Steve and his wife, Roberta, welcomed their son, Nathan, into the world and family priorities were reset. Steve would eventually refuse several offers to purchase the car, deeming it was worth more than the offers.

"My lifelong love of cars, especially the old ones, finally infected my son," Steve tells us. "We would attend the Barrett-Jackson auction each year as well as any event that featured old cars--there's no shortage of those in the Phoenix area." With a growing interest in restoring the car, and no doubt some youthful enthusiasm from Nathan, Steve finally decided to go forward with it in 2006.

The father and son effort began with a sporadic six-month disassembly of the Mustang, but the team soon realized that the needed repairs went far deeper than minor mechanicals and new paint. While Steve knew his way around the Mustang from handling the general maintenance and keeping it on the road, everything underneath was rusted and frozen in place. Garage space was also an issue, so Steve contacted John Dinger at The Mustang Shop (Chandler, Arizona) and asked him to take a look at his project.

"This Mustang must have some sentimental value," Dinger ventured. You can just about rebuild any Mustang these days, so Steve went ahead despite the major rust issues. "I had planned nothing exciting," Steve recalls. "I just wanted to get the car structurally sound, rebuild the 289 and C4 transmission, and repair the suspension and brakes."

Then, Steve started finding out about all of the modern upgrades that were available for classic Mustangs, while keeping it original looking and safer to drive. He also came to the conclusion that his garden-variety C-code coupe wasn't exactly a rare Mustang, and would be better off with the upgrade path.

From that point, The Mustang Shop hauled the carcass off and completed the teardown. Ricardo Miranda of Phoenix, Arizona, was put in charge of turning 40-plus years of dents, dings, rust, and rot into a pristine form that could accept the deep PPG two-stage paint. Though many advised him against it, Steve opted to update the exterior green hue with a more vibrant Sherwood Green Pearl from an '01 Nissan Maxima.

"My son and I visited Ricardo every couple of weeks and took in the entire transformation--an amazing process," says Steve.

Back at The Mustang Shop, Steve's coupe received a suspension and drivetrain overhaul. The original 289 was replaced with a rebuilt '65 piece with a mild camshaft upgrade. The C4 was ditched in favor of a T-5 overdrive five-speed manual, and the 8-inch axle was traded for a stout 9-inch with a Traction-Lok differential and 3.50 gears. The sloppy manual steering was replaced with a custom Mustang Shop rack-and-pinion using a Taurus setup as the basis. The chassis was fortified, the exhaust was upgraded with Hedman and Flowmaster components, and the exterior was upgraded with GT-model flair, all with Steve and Nathan taking in every twist and turn. "We became regular fixtures at the shop," notes Steve.

The interior update was a home restoration, with Steve and Nathan installing new Deluxe Pony upholstery and trim. The cabin was layered in sound deadener, a 200-watt sound system was dropped in, and Steve used real walnut to adorn the steering wheel, instrument bezel, glovebox door and center console.

As Steve and Nathan continued to modify the Mustang, Steve realized that the engine just wasn't peppy enough. The problem was easily solved with a 347ci crate engine from Smeding Performance. With 413 hp and 433 lb-ft of torque on tap, acceleration has been greatly improved.

"It's a thrill to drive and never fails to draw stares on the road and at car shows," Steve notes. "That unique dark green color seems to catch everyone's eyes. The car gives my son and me immense joy and satisfaction, and every once in a while, I have to pinch myself to be sure it isn't a dream that my first car will likely go on to outlive me." With family and Mustang being so loyal to each other, we don't see the relationship ever ending.

The Details

Steve Naranjo's '66 Mustang Coupe

Engine

  • 347ci small-block built by Smeding Performance
  • Dart 8.2-inch-deck cast-iron block with splayed four-bolt main caps
  • 4.030-inch bore
  • 3.40-inch stroke
  • RPM forged 4340 steel crankshaft
  • RPM forged steel 5.385-inch connecting rods
  • Keith Black forged aluminum pistons
  • Smeding Performance hydraulic roller camshaft, 212/222-degree duration at 0.050, 0.493/0.510 valve lift, 112 LSA
  • Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum cylinder heads, CNC port matched, hand-blended bowls, 2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch valves, Scorpion 1.6:1 roller rocker arms
  • Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap intake manifold
  • Demon Carburetors Speed Demon 650-cfm carburetor
  • 9.7:1 compression ratio
  • MSD billet aluminum distributor, 6A ignition and high-energy coil
  • 412 hp at 5,700 rpm/433 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm (flywheel rated)

Transmission

  • Ford Racing Performance Parts T-5 five-speed manual
  • Ford Racing Performance Parts Cobra clutch and billet steel flywheel
  • Modern Driveline clutch cable conversion
  • Scott Drake shifter

Rearend

  • Ford 9-inch
  • Traction-Lok differential
  • 3.50 gears
  • 28-spline axles

Exhaust

  • Hedman Shorty Elite headers, 1 5/8-inch primaries, 3-inch collectors
  • Flowmaster 50-series mufflers, 2 1/2-inch aluminized exhaust tubing

Suspension

  • Front: Stock upper control arms, boxed and Heim-jointed lower control arms, adjustable strut rods, 620 lb/in coil springs with 1-inch drop, 1-inch antisway bar, custom-built rack-and-pinion steering from the Mustang Shop (Chandler, AZ), KYB Gas-Adjust shocks
  • Rear: Five-leaf, mid-eye leaf springs, KYB Gas-Adjust shocks

Chassis

  • Framerail connectors
  • Monte Carlo bar
  • Tank Armor
  • Custom export brace

Brakes

  • Front: Wilwood disc, four-piston calipers, 12-inch rotors
  • Rear: Wilwood disc, four-piston calipers, 12-inch rotors

Wheels

  • Front: American Racing Equipment Torq Thrust II, 17x7, 4-inch offset
  • Rear: American Racing Equipment Torq Thrust II, 17x8, 5-inch offset

Tires

  • Front: BFGoodrich g-Force Sport, P225/45ZR17
  • Rear: BFGoodrich g-Force Sport, P235/45ZR17

Interior

  • Ivy Gold and White Deluxe Pony interior, TMI Sierra-grain upholstery, Auto Custom Carpets 80/20 loop carpet, original Deluxe Pony wood steering wheel with owner-built walnut trim, Custom Autosound stereo, TMI center console, B-Quiet sound barrier insulation, owner-built walnut veneer on original five-gauge bezel, reproduction column-mounted Rally-Pac, Classic Auto Air A/C

Exterior

  • '01 Nissan Sherwood Green Pearl basecoat/clearcoat paint, color sanded and hand buffed by Ricardo Miranda (Phoenix, AZ), GT emblems, foglights, exhaust trumpets, white rocker stripes, quarter-panel and rocker molding deleted, GT gas cap