Pete Epple Technical Editor
April 18, 2011
Photos By: Bill Erdman

Al Cascelli, of Blairstown, New Jersey, has owned many different cars of all brands over the years.

Normally, he would keep one for a few years and then sell it to pick up something else. But for the last 22 years, one car has remained a staple in his ever-changing stable of cool cars and hot rods-his '86 Mustang convertible.

The 63-year-old auto wholesaler purchased this Regatta Blue convertible in 1989, and has spent the past 22 years making it his own. At first glance, you would think this Fox is an older rendition of the Pony, but in fact, Al simply prefers the older body panels.

"I added the '79 front and rear bumper about two and a half years ago," he explains. "I have always loved the '79 nose. It's more aggressive in my opinion, and it has the air dam, which the '86 nose doesn't."

When Al decided to change the look of his Pony, it wasn't as simple as swapping a few panels and matching the paint. The entire car was brought down to bare metal in preparation for fresh paint and the earlier Fox fascias.

"The paint was starting to fade a touch," Al adds. "There has never been any rust on the car. In fact, I think it has only seen rain two or three times!"

The bodywork and paint was tackled at Precise Restoration in Hackettstown, New Jersey. Once the car was stripped, George Morrison and the team at Precise fitted the '79 Pace Car front fascia, rear fascia, and '79 body moldings to tie it all together. Next, a hood from an '82 Mustang was tapped to cover the engine bay, and Precise Restorations measured and cut the hole for the Banshee Performance shaker hoodscoop that adds to the aggressive nose. Lastly, a rear spoiler from an '89 Mustang finished off the back of the car. With the test-fitting complete, the body was coated with three coats of DuPont Regatta Blue, followed by five coats of DuPont clearcoat. The end result is a near-flawless finish that turns heads everywhere it goes.

With the outside completed, Al turned his attention to the interior. The original equipment for this convertible's driver compartment was white leather with a white convertible top. Al has since upgraded to grey interior and a black convertible top, and he even added some custom touches to make it his own. The '86 door panels have given way to '87 door panels, and the instrument cluster is accented with a laser-cut stainless steel panel.

With all of this show, Al knew his '86 needed a little more go. To handle the power production, he turned to Bobby Ball at Finish Line Auto in Blairstown, New Jersey. Ball started with a fresh 302 block, and filled the bores with a set of SRP pistons and stock connecting rods, which are set in motion by a stock crankshaft. A set of Roush cast-iron cylinder heads help the 0.020-over pistons produce 9.0:1 compression, and a Comp roller camshaft actuates the 1.94/1.64-inch valves. The combination is topped with Trick Flow Specialties intake manifold, which hides under the functional shaker. To add some extra punch, Al added 8 psi of boost from a Paxton SN-93 centrifugal supercharger.

Al turned to PSI Motorsports in Weber, Texas, to handle the calibration, and once the tune was written, his Fox laid down 422 rwhp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Even though this is primarily a show car, Al couldn't stay away from the track, and all of his hard work translated into some seriously quick quarter-mile performance. Al was able to crank out a best e.t. of 11.68 at 119 mph.

Although Al has owned the car for more than two decades, he has only started showing the car seriously in the last few years. In total, Al's convertible has earned 23 First Place trophies-11 of which came in 2010. At one point, he was even offered a large amount of money for the car.

"I was at a local show in Boonton, New Jersey," Al tells us. "I won First Place, which was a huge surprise given it was primarily a '50s and '60s car show. A Mustang fanatic approached me and said, 'This is the most gorgeous Mustang I have ever seen, and I have to own it!' He then handed me a check for $22,000, but there was no way I could sell it. The car is a part of me now. If the day comes when I can't enjoy it anymore, my son has dibs on it!"

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