Dale Amy
October 25, 2006

First, some history: When he saw Jerry Bruckheimer's Hollywood remake of Gone in 60 Seconds, Don Gasiunas developed an instant and overpowering infatuation for Eleanor, the starring pseudo-Shelby. Now that in itself is not extraordinary, as something about the frenetic on-screen fastback has apparently tickled the fancy of many a movie-goer. But what is unusual is that Don was sufficiently smitten to throw himself (and his wallet) into the building of a homemade Eleanor clone of his own-an 18-month-plus project made stranger by the fact that all his previous musclecars had been of GM manufacture.

By all accounts, Don's first Mustang turned out pretty well-well enough that it was invited to many classic-car shows where it soon started raking in trophy hardware, and ultimately attracted the attention of a certain New Jersey singer/rock icon (think: "Have a Nice Day") who offered to take it off Don's hands for a reasonable wad of cash. Well, that turned out to be OK with Don, as he had already decided that what he really wanted was a custom Mustang with a convertible top. Goodbye, Eleanor, it's been nice.

This finally brings us around to the subject of our story: this topless replacement for Eleanor that Don simply refers to as "Unbridled," a cagily pony-ish name synonymous with unrestrained or uninhibited. This certainly seems like a horseshoe that fits.

Though he lives in Canada, Don wisely sought out a relatively unoxidized Southern ragtop on which to base his project. His search eventually put him in contact with a man who had been, as Don puts it, "instructed by his wife to sell off his acquired collection of rust-free California Fords in various stages of decay." After a flurry of phone calls and e-mails, Don gained title to a '67 convertible that had resided under a carport in the desert for the past 17 years. The bonus: "With fresh gas, new plugs, and a new battery, this car was able to start."

Not that it probably mattered much anyway since Don had a new power source in mind, one that was never part of the '67 Mustang's original underhood option list: a 351 Windsor stroker. Braced by an Eagle billet-steel backbone swinging a 4.00-inch stroke, the Windsor was bored 0.030-over for a healthy 408-inch displacement. The reciprocating stuff is a combination of Eagle I-beam rods (6.125 inches) and JE flat-top forged pistons, resulting in 9.5:1 compression within the chambers of Edelbrock's Performer RPM alloy heads. The intake side is all Edelbrock, too, including an 800-cfm Thunder Series AVS carb. Underneath, a custom-ground roller bumpstick from Crane Cams rules the valves through 1.5:1 roller rockers, while scavenging duty falls to 151/48-inch Hooker long-tubes feeding a ceramic-coated 211/42-inch exhaust silenced-a bit-by two-chamber Flowmasters.

Still undyno'd as we write this, the combo is guesstimated at 525 flywheel ponies, explaining the second number on its billet-carved oval aluminum air breather (guess if it turns out to produce 550 hp, Don will have to throw away this lid and whittle out another.) Whatever the exact power level, it flows downstream through a Centerforce clutch and one of Tremec's rugged, new, TKO 600 five-speeds, and gets divided in a Currie 9-inch bearing 3.50 gears for effortless topless cruising.

Underneath, the chassis is dominated by Total Control Products' utterly modern and thoroughly adjustable coilovers at the bow and stern, a combo that proves handling and ride are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Subframe connectors and shock tower reinforcement are also from the Total Control catalog, while Baer was the source of the 13-inch Track system front brakes and 12.5-inch Touring rear discs. By now, you should be getting the impression that though this thing was clearly constructed to show standards, it was just as clearly made to be driven.

That showy-but-functional theme continues in the cockpit, starting with Rally-series buckets from ProCar (by SCAT), and the leather-rimmed, British-manufactured Moto-Lita steering wheel on a Flaming River tilt column. Auto Meter Phantom gauges look surprisingly at home in the stock '67 instrument panel. A closer look reveals a brushed-aluminum center console (having yet a couple more gauges) with carbon fiber-look upholstery, custom-made for the project by Mustang Connections in London, Ontario.

Tunes weren't forgotten, either, with a remote-control Alpine head unit feeding a quartet of Infinity drivers. To disguise the 6x9 rear speakers, the back-seat area side panels were also custom crafted of aluminum, and covered in carbon fiber-look material to match the console. To help dampen road noise, the interior structure was first insulated with Dynamat sound-absorbent material. As with all killer projects, the room we have for description simply doesn't do justice to the time and effort spent. It's all in the details.

But all this cool stuff is hidden by an equally cool body that is tastefully Shelby-ized with side scoops, rear fender extensions, hood, and beak extensions, all from Maier Racing. It's also personalized with a custom rollbar-complete with third brake light-and 17-inch PS Engineering rims, 8 inches across in front and 9.5 inches out back wrapped, respectively, in 245/45 and 255/45 Michelins. Give the coilovers credit for the hunkered stance.

Custom styling touches abound, especially in the front and rear details, including the conformal spoiler built into the decklid. And check out the silver stripe that echoes the rear fender contours and softens the border between the Tuxedo Black of the top surfaces and the Matador Red of the flanks, all exquisitely applied by Maple, Ontario's A&T Auto Restorations. Of course, they wouldn't have had a canvas to paint had RMF Fabricating's Joe Roy and Ron Baron not applied their skilled attention to the metal and specialty fabrication.

In all, the project consumed a surprisingly brief eight months, and we dare not guess how much hard currency, though it's safe to assume any profits Don might have realized from the sale of his previous Eleanor fastback were happily spent in the creation of his current topless masterpiece. Unbridled lust will do that to a person.

The Details
67 Mustang convertible
Owner: Don Gasiunas, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Engine
351W bored and stroked to 408 ciMachined by Active Engines, MississaugaBillet crank, 4.00-inch stroke6.125-inch Eagle I-beam rodsJE flat-top pistons9.5:1 compressionEdelbrock Performer RPM heads and intakeEdelbrock Thunder Series 800-cfm AVS carbMSD distributor

Transmission
Tremec TKO 600
five-speed Centerforce
Dual-Friction clutch

Rearend
9-inch
31-spline axles
3.50 gears

Exhaust
Hooker long-tube headers, 3-inch collectors
2.5-inch ceramic-coated exhaust
Flowmaster two-chamber mufflers

Suspension
Front: Total Control coilovers
Rear: Total Control coilovers
RRS power rack-and-pinion steering

Brakes

Front: Baer 13-inch Track
Rear: Baer 12.5-inch Touring

Wheels
Front:PS Engineering, 17x8
Rear: PS Engineering, 17x9.5

Tires
Front:Michelin Pilot Sport, P245/45ZR17
Rear: Michelin Pilot Sport, P255/45ZR17

Interior
ProCar (by SCAT) Rally-series bucketsCustom trim panels and console by Mustang ConnectionsAuto Meter Phantom gauges in stock clusterMoto-Lita leather-wrapped steering wheelFlaming River tilt steering column

Exterior
Shelby fiberglass components byMaier RacingMetal and custom fabrication by RMF Fabricating, BoltonBase/clear pearl finish by A&T Auto Restorations