Wayne Cook
May 10, 2006
Photos By: Mark Houlahan

Fred and Kathy Kuhman of Walhalla, South Carolina, purchased this '66 Mustang convertible from the original owner about five years ago. Originally yellow with a black manual top, the car had only 80,000 miles showing on the clock. Things were tired but in good shape.

Because the car was in such complete condition, Fred thought about doing a restoration to original specifications. That was until he read about some folks doing 5.0L EFI conversions on their classic Fords. After considerable thought, Fred decided to up the ante with the purchase of an '01 4.6L 32-valve Cobra V-8 engine from MPS Auto Salvage, formerly Mustang Parts Specialties, of Winder, Georgia. The new crate engine included the engine wiring harness and computer, as well as a T-45 five-speed manual transmission mounted to the engine and including a clutch assembly.

It's easy to see that Fred and Kathy don't fiddle around when upgrade time comes, and they knew going in that this was not a simple procedure like a 5.0 swap. The project was a three-year undertaking.

Step one was to get the car outfitted with a new front end from Rod & Custom Motorsports (R&C) of Florence, South Carolina. The R&C front end uses Mustang II components and is a complete front-suspension makeover that eliminates the shock towers and includes disc brakes as well as rack-and-pinion steering. The shock towers are eliminated with the R&C kit, making enough room for the DOHC engine.

Fred says it was an exciting day when the new engine and transmission assembly was finally installed with the new shifter fitting through the original automatic-transmission shifter hole. Everyone involved agreed that this was indeed a two-shoehorn job.

To complete the car's drivetrain, Moser Engineering constructed a 9-inch center section with 3:00 gears and installed it into an axle housing narrowed to accommodate the oversized rolling stock. In this case, 17x8 Cragar S/S wheels and Michelin P245/45ZR17 tires.

The fun was just beginning as Fred and his cohorts, Mike Wright and Tony Heaton, dug into the substantial job of wiring the car for the modern 32-valve engine. A main harness from a '96 Cobra donor car was the basis for the electrical system. Fred recounts many hours spent with both a laptop computer and shop manual before the wiring was finally sorted out with unused leads removed.

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With the powertrain safely in the car, the next challenge was paint and body. After attending many car shows and much deliberation, they decided the original Springtime Yellow color had to go in favor of late-model Ford Torch Red. Jeff Stone at Flat Rock Body Shop did the excellent paint and body work. Jeff is a noted perfectionist, and Fred credits him with the car's awesome appearance.

Inside the Mustang, a Dakota Digital gauge cluster fits in with the modern powertrain and does an excellent job of keeping the driver informed. To keep the heat at bay during those South Carolina summers, a Vintage Air air-conditioning kit was installed. The controls for the air-conditioning system fit nicely in the factory ashtray opening. Pro Street Interiors of Blairsville, Georgia, did the stitch work on the new upholstery. The Shelby convertible-style rollbar came from Mustangs Unlimited and is a nice finishing touch to this comprehensive vintage Mustang project.

We can only imagine what this car is like with the throttle on the wood as the engine winds towards its threshold. With a curb weight of only 2,800 pounds and a redline of nearly 7,000 rpm, we're willing to bet this Pony is one fun package.

The Details
1966 Mustang convertible
Owners: Fred and Kathy Kuhman, Walhalla, SC

Engine
'01 4.6 32-valve modular Cobra crate engine from MPS Auto Salvage of Winder, GA

Transmission
T-45 five-speed

Rearend
Moser 9-inch
3:00 gears
31-spline axles

Exhaust
Flowmaster mufflers

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Suspension
Front: Rod & Custom Motorsports Mustang II coilover front end, rack-and-pinion steering
Rear: Standard leaf springs, standard gas shocks

Brakes
Front: Disc
Rear: Disc

Wheels
Front: Cragar S/S, 17x8, 2.5-inch offset
Rear: Cragar S/S, 17x8, 2.5-inch offset

Tires
Front: Michelin, P245/45ZR17
Rear: Michelin, P245/45ZR17

Interior
Dakota Digital instrumentation
Custom upholstery on late-model seats from Camaro donor by Pro Street Interiors of Blairsville, GA
Custom Pony-style door panels and interior
Vintage Air air-conditioning system
Factory wood-style steering wheel
In-dash AM/FM stereo
'67 Shelby-style rollbar

Exterior
Ford Torch Red in Dupont basecoat/clearcoat by Jeff Stone of Flat Rock Body Shop of Walhalla, SC
Fiberglass Shelby GT350 hood with functional pins and GT350 sidescoops from Mustangs Unlimited
Custom emblems
Custom driving lights
GT-style rear valance
Filled-in cowl opening
Manual-to-power top conversion with custom cloth top and boot

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