Nic Conley
March 2, 2013

Mustang guys are some of the most driven car fans out there. There is almost nothing a true enthusiast won't do for his/her Mustang. When building that dream Pony, these people go to extremes to make sure everything is done properly, even if someone else is building that Mustang for them. But how far would you go? Would you purchase the shop that is building it to ensure it gets finished? Well, this guy did! Steve Barham is a veteran logger from northern Idaho. After working in the woods since he was a teen, then running his own logging business, Steve decided to buy the fledgling body shop in order to finish his baby.

Steve definitely isn't unfamiliar with great Mustangs, as he already owns an '08 Shelby GT500 and a '69 Mach1 with the revered 428 CJ. Hot Bodz and Custom Rods in Lewiston, Idaho, started this project in the winter of 2005 with a totally rusted out, barely recognizable '65 fastback purchased on eBay and located in Pennsylvania. Barely any of the sheetmetal could be salvaged, but the shop stripped it, cut the shell down to literally a skeleton, then welded and shaped the new panels until a perfectly smooth body emerged. An Art Morrison Max G frame assembly was ordered and the body was fitted to it and the suspension system.

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Shortly thereafter, the shop owner ran into financial troubles and bailed out of the business, but he hauled the ponycar to his personal shop late in 2008 where he enlisted former Ford technician, Arren Connors, to continue work on the car. Said shop owner then opted for the Hawaii beach over the Idaho winters and bolted, while Steve's dream car sat in boxes nowhere close to being completed. Eventually, a second owner ran the shop for two years without ever touching the car and finally filed for bankruptcy, leaving Steve and Arren to discuss where to go from there. Steve was given the opportunity to purchase the business, and in late 2010, the new Hot Bodz and Custom Rods opened with Arren running the show, and Mustang parts started flying.

By summer of 2011, the car had moved under its own power, and was being reassembled for the last time. As previously mentioned, every body panel was replaced or extensively modified to accommodate the custom frame, which was powdercoated the screaming yellow hue.That yellow, by the way, is a PPG custom color with PPG Performance Plus Glamour Clearcoat added. The factory steel hood was used, but modified with a custom inlet scoop and cowl-type trailing edge. An R-model front apron was also installed and a custom chin spoiler was molded in at the bottom. The frame came complete with front coilover suspension, a 9-inch rear axle and a four-link suspension. Arren is responsible for the beautiful plumbing and wiring throughout, as well as taking care of all the headaches that come with building any project.

A top-notch Mustang requires a top-notch powertrain, so Steve acquired an '03 Cobra engine and transmission to propel the yellow fastback. It is still stock, other than a smaller blower pulley to increase the boost and a custom tune to accommodate the added airflow. The T56 channels the estimated 500 hp to a custom Strange Engineering 9-inch rear axle and 3.56 gears. A set of Billet Specialties wheels wrapped in Proxes T1R radials was tucked neatly under the yellow fenders.

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The car is loaded with small details as well, such as fresh air scoops that are ducted from the nostrils next to the headlights to the front wheel wells, and from the sidescoops to the rear calipers. The hood is also ducted, directing fresh air to the engine air inlet under the hood. For a cooler charge inside the cabin, a Vintage Air air-conditioning system was plumbed with custom-made dash and center console vents.

Although the car has only been shown three times, it won its class in all three, including the Best of Show at the 2011 International Mustang Meet in Spokane, Washington. In addition to Steve's triumphs with his Mustang, Hot Bodz and Custom Rods is now a full-service shop specializing in making dreams just like Steve Barham's a reality.

Steve is adamant about crediting those who helped create this Mustang and saw it through to the end, including Arren Connors, who orchestrated the bulk of the build, George Frank for the outstanding upholstery and interior work, and Ron McGuire at Custom Coat of Lewiston for the hours and hours of powdercoating work.