Scotty Lachenauer
August 27, 2012
Photos By: Scott Lachenauer

Jerry Biss knew exactly what he wanted to drive when he first laid eyes on it back in 1982. His sister, Michelle, had a new boyfriend, and the young courtier was stopping over for his first visit to the family homestead on the outskirts of Mount Holly, New Jersey. Jerry's 16-year-old eyes lit up when the young lad's Wimbledon White '65 Mustang fastback pulled up into the driveway, chanting a twin-piped rumble that was music to his adolescent ears. Engaged by the Mustang's swept lines, mag wheels, and sporty good looks, Jerry knew right away he would be sitting behind the wheel of his own Ford ponycar someday soon.

Jerry learned how to tinker with tools at a very early age. His dad, Bob, was a Phantom jet fighter pilot serving in Vietnam in 1966 when he was shot down over enemy territory--he received an extended stay at the Hanoi Hilton, courtesy of the local Vietcong. That stay lasted seven years--the first seven years of Jerry's life. Up until his dad's return home, little Jerry was the man of the house. From the get-go, he was obsessed with the mechanicals in and around the family residence, and learned how to wrench and repair at a very early age. As Jerry turned to his teens, the thought of using his self-taught mechanical prowess to build up his own personal ride was top on his list.

By the time Jerry was ready to drive, there was no question what car he wanted to take him from point A to point B. It just had to be a Mustang. And not just any Mustang, no, it had to be a fastback. With Jerry's license test date drawing near, his parents shuttled him over to Monty's Mustang Corral, an automotive fixture in southern New Jersey, and they looked for the ride that would become Jerry's workhorse--his own personal steed. There, among the ranks of used 'Stangs, they found a well-worn '65 fastback, complete with an aftermarket 302, 351 Windsor heads, and a four-speed Hurst shifter between the seats. Jerry was smitten from the moment he saw the Mustang, which was wrapped tightly in its faded blue paint and faux Shelby stripes. Finally, his dream of one day owning his own Ford ponycar was about to become a reality.

So a deal was struck, 17-year-old Jerry got his ride, and the wheels were set in motion. Once back home, he immediately cleaned the paint up on the '65 and buffed it out to a decent shine. Next up, there was the constant tweaking and tuning of the engine, electrical items, and fuel delivery system, with Jerry always looking to milk a little more power from the small-block. He also did all the things that kids in the '80s did to their rides back then; traction bars were added out back, lights were placed in the undercarriage, an engine dress-up kit was installed, and last but not least, a badass cassette stereo player was added for tuneful cruising around the local hangouts.

And this Mustang sported that typical '80s look on the outside as well, decked out with Ansen mags at each corner, an aftermarket Mach 1 scoop on top, and finally some cool hood locks to keep it all down tight. It was both a hard-ridden every day driver and hotshot weekend cruising machine all wrapped up under one fastback roof. The Ford helped Jerry get an education, get to and from work, and even got him his first date with his future wife, Kim. And when the rear went to crap in the Mustang due to its constant flogging on Jersey's back-roads, even Jerry's mom, Mary, pitched in by helping him change the gears in the driveway.

But like many cars back then, the road took a toll on the 'Stang. Jerry retired the car, and picked up a compact ride to help him with the long miles he was logging on Jersey's interstates. The blue fastback went into storage at the end of '85, to hopefully reappear one day when Jerry settled down. During the years that followed, Jerry moved out of state with his now-wife, Kim, and he found a long line of day jobs to help put her through medical school and internships. Once they settled in St. Petersburg, Florida, they started a family and a business. After years of raising the kids, and rebuilding the house, Jerry was ready to summon the '65 back into action--after almost 25 years in storage.

Even after sitting dormant for almost a quarter century, the Mustang was still in reasonably good shape when it was pulled from its storage spot. That's pretty lucky, given it spent most of its life in the northeast. As far as concept for the rebuild, Jerry had just a general idea of what he wanted to do with his ride, which would begin with stripping the car to its sheetmetal skin and starting from a fresh canvas. After a short stint at a restoration facility that was far from being on the up-and-up, Jerry decided that he was going to tackle the restoration himself with the help of some friends. So Jerry wheeled the carcass into his own garage and built a rotisserie from scratch to begin restoring the body. The shell was hoisted upon the rig, and Jerry slowly stripped the car to its skeleton.

There were some metal issues from the get-go, but nothing Jerry hadn't tackled before. With his trusty MIG welder, Jerry installed new floors, a fresh trunk area, and a new firewall. Next, full quarters were hung out back, along with new doors and Ford-issue front fenders. Jerry meticulously went through the body, cleaning up his metal work, and then prepped the car for paint. Next, the car received a fresh skin of Dodge Viper Blue basecoat/clearcoat to increase the wow-factor of the '65. Jerry then continued with his original paint scheme from back in the '80s, going with faux Shelby stripes over the top, and custom 5.0 call outs down along the rocker. A metal-framed, fiberglass Shelby hood completes the restyling.

While the paintwork was going on, Jerry turned his attention to the engine. Jerry found a badly beaten '90 Mustang sitting in a back alley in St. Pete. After a quick negotiation, the once-able Pony was hauled back for an immediate tear down. The engine and transmission were salvaged for power, while the body kit was stripped off to pay for the purchase. The remainder of the car was in very bad shape, and was junked.

From there, Jerry tore into the engine, and the Ford production 5.0-block was hot-tanked, magnafluxed, and cleaned up with a 0.20-inch overbore. Next, forged aluminum slugs were placed in the cylinders, and connected to the stock reconditioned cast crank. Up top, a set of aluminum GT-40 heads were put in place, along with a set of 1.7:1 Cobra roller rockers. A Cobra intake finished the look.

From the get-go, Jerry wanted to have an engine that was not only powerful, but also streetable. Working along with his buddy, Wayne Farnham, of Restomod Plus in Clearwater, Florida, the two developed a plan to not only make the 'Stang a dependable, turnkey ride, but Jerry also wanted to have the power on tap to shred the tires out back if he felt the urge to do so. With that, Wayne showed Jerry how to adapt the complete '90 EFI system and computer. That way, Jerry could have the power output he wanted with the dependability of a computer-driven engine under the hood.

A set of period-correct, Jet-Hot–coated Tri-Y headers was added to the build to feed a Dynomax exhaust. To get through the gears, Jerry chose a new T-5 transmission, and adapted the Mustang's vintage Hurst shifter to it. The clutch is a smooth operating cable unit. To get the power to the ground, the 8-inch rear out back was stuffed with very streetable 3.50 gears. Tank Armor was placed over the gas tank to keep it, and everyone inside, safe.

Along with a quick-ratio, 3:1 Shelby-style power steering unit, the Mustang also sports disc brakes up front. Wayne helped out here by building a hybrid system; the disc brake units are direct '65 factory replacements by SSBC, pushed by a more modern '90s brake booster up top.

Suspension mods include a Shelby 1-inch-drop to lower the nose, and both front and rear sway bars now reside under the Mustang. KYB gas shocks are in place in all four corners. Another trick that Wayne conjured up for Jerry's ride was to make custom upper control arm bushings for the '65, which get rid of the typical metal-on-metal ones found in stock Mustangs of that vintage. With all the handling and suspension improvements made to the car, a more modern alignment was given to the Mustang, which included increasing the caster to handle and drive better.

Living in Florida, climate control is a big issue. Jerry found relief from the heat by installing a Classic Auto Air kit in the '65 to help keep the temps cool when he's burning up pavement. Not only does this unit pump in cold air, it also handles the chores of adding heat when necessary and gives the Mustang a reliable defroster. Aftermarket stereo, kick panel speakers, and a Grant wheel now have a home in the Mustang's interior as well. As far as upholstery, Jerry decided to stay with the original Mach 1 seats he installed in the Mustang back in 1983, first getting them freshened up with new skins and foam, and then having them custom stitched with blue piping to match the exterior.

Jerry loves taking his fastback out on the broad streets of Florida's Gulf Coast, shaking it down whenever he gets some time to himself. Jerry's one of the lucky few that had the forethought to keep his ride through the years, both good and bad, to have it there when he needed a blast from the past. Amazingly, when Jerry was tearing down the car, he found a small piece of paper with his wife's phone number on it--it was what she handed to him when they met back in 1985. As a gift, Jerry framed the note and it sits right next to another picture of Jerry and Kim sitting in the front seat of the fastback. Who says good marriages are made in heaven--Ford had a little bit of a part in this one.