Joe Greeves
April 2, 2007
Without someone in the picture to establish scale, the slightly smaller-than -original M1stang looks like a well-restored '65, complete with luggage rack, foglights in the grille, redline tires, and side stripes. The "his and hers hoops" are Miata accessories, but they accent the lines of this two-seat roadster perfectly.

When you look at the Mustang convertible in these photos, you notice there's something different but you can't quite put your finger on it. The problem is compounded because there are no people in the picture to give it scale. This small, two-seat roadster is not what it appears. The M1stang is actually a combination of reproduction '65 Mustang sheetmetal married to a late-model Mazda Miata chassis. Now before you write angry letters to the editor asking him if the title of the magazine has been changed to Mustang Hybrid and Fords, let us explain.

Bill Carnes of St. Augustine, Florida, has been a lifelong fan of the Blue Oval. His automotive-bodywork credentials began with repairing Cobras (originals, not replicas) that were damaged during their trans-Atlantic voyage from England. As a career bodyman, Carnes has restored dozens of cars over the years, with first-year Mustangs being one of his favorites. While Ford says it produced more than 417,000 cars in that amazing first year, they will probably not comment on the number remaining. Rust-prevention techniques were not nearly as sophisticated in the early '60s as they are today, and many of those cars, if not lost forever, require major bodywork to restore them. Restoring strength to the unibody not only demands technical expertise, but also lots of time and money. When you're done, you have a very expensive car with 40-year-old technology.

Under the hood, the 1.8L Miata motor benefits from the Jackson Racing, twin-screw supercharger that raises the 140 hp on the original to more than 180 hp on the modified version. It's enough to create ear-to-ear grins in this lightweight car.

In his attempt to create a happy ending for this story, Carnes explored ways of creating the best of both worlds. Several aftermarket companies reproduce vintage-Ford sheetmetal, so the exterior rebuild was possible. Combining the classic tin with a modern Mazda Miata chassis was the real stroke of genius. Amazingly, the scale of both cars is close. After the Miata sheetmetal was removed, Carnes trimmed the Mustang fenders and doors on the edges where the changes wouldn't be noticed. The steel trunk is full-size and the hood is fiberglass. There are no alterations to the chassis, and the conversion process is so vehicle-friendly that no fluids need to be drained from the car or sensors disconnected. Only the battery is removed for safety.

The finished conversion has all the style of the original '65 with all the agility, reliability, and creature comforts of a modern Miata, such as air-conditioning, airbags, four-wheel disc brakes, and a fully independent suspension. The transformation is so nicely crafted that after reviewing the package, Carnes was awarded user status from Ford, with full authorization to build the cars. With a perfected vehicle and Ford's blessings, all he needed was money to proceed.

Enter John Schoeller, a former computer graphics technician, now retired and returning to his first love, restoring cars and antique motorcycles. His dream for decades has been to build a personal car of his own. He saw the ads for the M1stang and it was love at first sight. Before long, he and Carnes were partners, and now they produce a car about every four weeks, beginning with a new demo for Carnes and this Poppy Red dream car for Schoeller.