Eric English
February 1, 2004

The self-appointed "expert" approached our photo shoot with all the refinement of a pimply-faced teenager on his first date. Gazing at the high-performance fender badges on Steve Bodine's '65 fastback, and speaking loudly to his tag-along buddy, the conversation went something like this, "It's a hi-po." Then after an inspection of the inner fender-panel, a disapproving "aw, it's really only a 2-barrel car," was heard. the two departed with nary a remark about the Paxton blower or first-rate workmanship, not even a generic "nice car." Nope, just criticism of a beautiful early Mustang.

If Steve was feeling bad after the obvious snub (he wasn't), it surely passed over the next two hours we spent with him. We checked out nearly every square inch of this sweet 2+2, and we can assure you the car holds its own with the best of them-K-code or not. Other onlookers seemingly agreed, as positive comments quickly outnumbered the earlier clueless loudmouth's. the experience does reinforce a lesson yours truly was taught at an early age, and seems particularly apropos in the world of vintage automobiles: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all!

We, on the other hand, have plenty of nice things to say about this brightly hued '65. And now that we're off our soapbox, let's rewind back to 1995, when Steve thought he was realizing a long-held dream with the purchase of another first-year fastback. He knew the car wasn't perfect, but a new coat of Rangoon Red paint and a new pony interior made it seem a worthy place from which to build.

"Seem"is the operative word, for as Steve began to dig in, he uncovered some nasty skeletons. those lumps in the trunk floor were made by the leaf-spring shackles, since badly rusted framerails couldn't support the springs on their own. More hidden rust in the engine compartment raised Steve's level of concern, but the topper came with a call to a former owner to inquire about the car's history. The gentleman expressed surprise that his old Mustang was still on the road, since it had been totaled some 20 years earlier. Great, not only rust, but major accident damage too!

Feeling the need for advice, Steve turned to Larry Berkovich at West Coast Restorations in Snohomish, Washington. Larry gave the car a once-over, and quickly suggested Steve cut his losses by switching all his good parts over to a solid-donor shell. a drastic move on the surface, but in Steve's situation, however, the idea made perfect sense. Larry had the precise shell in his inventory, and the $3,500 price tag would be less than the necessary repairs on Steve's car, with none of the negative connotations of a heavy reconstruct. it wouldn't make sense to reassemble the fastback with a pile of worn-out bits and pieces, so West Coast launched a restomod restoration.

Randy Sargent got to work on the new/used C-code shell, adding a Shelby-style 'glass hood before laying down the flawless two-stage Viper Red hue. The bright '90s color seems almost like a hotted-up version of the orangey-red Rangoon, so it's a fitting tribute to Steve's discarded initial effort. GT foglights and dual exhausts round out the visual deviations from stock, along with 16-inch American Racing Torq-Thrust IIs. Stainless Steel Brake Corporation's 4-wheel discs lurk beneath the sparkling rims, while Global West springs and Koni shocks at all 4 corners are the hidden partners that help hold the road.

Our earlier "expert" seemed to miss the centerpiece under the hood, and considering its larger than life reputation and appearance, we have more evidence the guy was not playing with a full restomod deck. Of course, we're speaking of the polished Paxton supercharger, which gives plenty of ball-drive oomph to the already healthy 289. It's an updated version of the Paxtons sold in the mid-'60s, which some consider the ultimate accessory for an early small-block Ford. West Coast's Shawn Carlson assembled the little Windsor using blower-friendly, forged/dished pistons, 289 hi-po rods, a Comp Cams hydraulic bumpstick, Edelbrock aluminum heads, and a Shelby dual-plane intake. Metallic ceramic Hooker headers and a Griffin aluminum radiator follow the overall approach of Steve's ride-where form and function are held in equally high regard.

Pulling off a top-notch restoration like this may be no sweat for the wealthy, but for the rest of us there's usually some sacrifice. Steve's wife Terri was nice enough to put off buying some longed-for furniture to make the project come to fruition, and his daughters now get an arm twist to come to car shows with dad. Truth is, everybody seems to enjoy an occasional ride in the red-hot fastback, with a trip to the local burger joint one of the preferred family outings. And, thankfully, no more experts.