Jerry Heasley
April 13, 2006

"If somebody wants to build the taillight panel, we can sell them the buckets," Mike said. "Or, like the cowl, anybody could just bolt those pieces into another Mustang," referring to the inserts on top of the cowl just behind the fiberglass grille. It seems everywhere you look on this car, there is a unique, fabricated part.

Press the red button inside the rear scoops and the door pops open. Inside, the Ring brothers have gone to extreme lengths. "My mother always said, if you can get over the dog, you can get over the tail," Jim recalled, "And I guess what I mean by that is, if you can get through the outside of the car, you can spend a few hours on the inside."

Anybody can buy and install parts. What makes this interior pop is the fresh, new layout. The white gauge cluster is completely custom, laid out on a carbon-fiber dash directly in front of the Waterfall steering wheel from Flaming River. Really trick and new-car fresh is the start/stop button in the center of the dash.

Tor Caraway, who has experience fabricating parts clear back to Shelby-American at the Los Angeles International Airport facility, is one of the shop crew who built Kona. He and Jim do the fabrication work. His son, Simeon, who laid the black paint on Kona and runs Classic's collision body shop, popped the hood-lock pins so we could eyeball the engine. A car this innovative must have something cool for power.

"It's a fuel-injected eight-stack," Jim said. Horsepower is around 500-525 for the Roush 402R, which is a bored and stroked 351. The stacks refer to the four Momar injection units, each topped with a small air cleaner sandwiched between polished housings, too much bling for Jim's ever-accelerating pursuit of a more OEM-appealing restomod.

"You either revert to all painted stuff, which has been done a billion times, or all chrome stuff, which has been done a billion times. We're trying to find a way through the middle of all that mumbo jumbo to come up with something new in the engine compartment."

As you can see, the Ring brothers are treading a fine line in the looks department, and although going fast is not the be-all, do-all, end-all purpose of their build, Kona is no slouch on power. This is a hot rod, but the Ring brothers question the exact meaning of hot rod and the direction of state-of-the-art, Mustang-restomod car building.

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"What do people want in a hot rod?" Jim asked philosophically. "To feel shook up and deafened by the exhausts or clean, crisp, unseen ideas put together with good horsepower, good brakes, and a smooth, quiet ride? If that's possible in an old car, what are we chasing?"

Jim and Mike even discussed the suspension. Basically, it's got a Fat Man front suspension with an Air Ride four-link in the rear. They contemplated going back to all rubber mounts and trying to build a car that's "cool and soft."

As far as looks go, cool is the objective. Jim believes everybody throws up their hands in resignation, thinking the only thing that's cool is to go back to the early days and the Shelby look as far as scoops and stripes and so forth.

"It was cool, don't get me wrong, but nobody can think outside that box. That's what we're trying to do, think outside that box to create ideas and things that people will look back on 30 years from now and want."

We can't wait to see the next Ring brothers Mustang. Give them another seven to eight months. We'll be back.