Jim Smart
November 1, 2007

When Layne Read unearthed this '69 Mustang nearly a decade ago, it wasn't much to write home about, just a well-appointed Sports-Roof with a 351W and the Interior Dcor Group. Because the car was already restored, it gave Layne a clean canvas on which to build. It just wasn't doing much for his adrenal glands, which prompted a plan.

Call this SportsRoof a cure for midlife crisis. As Layne and his wife, Colette, watched their daughter graduate from high school, the wheels of creativity began to turn. Both wanted a fun car-a sporty ride they could enjoy on many levels. At first, they considered a Saleen Mustang, then an SVT Cobra. The problem was that these cars could be seen at practically every corner. Though good-looking rides in their own right, the Reads felt such late-model cookie-cutters just didn't stand out.

"Why don't we put the money we'd spend on a new Mustang into the Mustang we already have?" Colette suggested. Layne was realistic. He knew it wasn't just a money thing, but a time thing. He saw a full-scale car-building project as more than Colette ever bargained for. The project took three years and a lot of perseverance.

Outside of bodywork and paint, which were performed by Mustang Ranch in Murray, Utah, Layne and Colette performed all of the work. Not content with the car's rather lame 351W engine-it was vanilla and short on power-Layne decided to reach higher. This is a custom-built, 351ci small-block sporting 450 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque. Layne has proven you can pull this much horsepower with a 351W short-block. The engine loves autocrossing, and it craves the open road. It sports a choppy idle coupled with abundant low-end torque; off idle, it pulls like stink. At cruise power, it drones through Flowmasters with a throaty bark.

Layne spent his money on the engine and chassis. This is a 351ci Windsor small-block with stock displacement. You'll find a hot Crane hydraulic-roller cam, forged pistons, AFR 185 heads, an Edelbrock Air Gap, and a 770-cfm Holley four-holer. The result is 450 hp and a whopping 405 lb-ft of torque.

This kind of unboosted, nonsqueezed power comes from the right combination of parts. Layne opted for AFR 185 aluminum heads, a hot Crane roller-hydraulic camshaft, an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap, a 770-cfm Holley carburetor, an MSD ignition, and Hedman Super Competition headers. Flowmaster Delta Flows give this monster a deep, rich sound.

Power management is as multifaceted as Layne's creativity. In the tunnel is a Tremec World Class T5 five-speed transmission-but this is no out-of-the-box job. Inside are special hardened gears and carbon-fiber synchros. A billet flywheel with a custom 10.5-inch clutch offers lightweight, fast-revving performance. A balanced steel driveshaft and big universal joints yield smooth, reliable service. A JMC hydraulic clutch system makes the going easier. Layne took his 9-inch Ford rearend and made it bulletproof with 31-spline axles and a 3.50-geared Traction-Lok. This enables him and Colette to not only cut the apexes, but cruise the interstates.

We watched Layne tackle a challenging autocross at Park City, Utah, before we shot this feature. Most apparent to us was the power. Brute torque gets Layne through the super twisties in fast-quick style. Highly effective brakes, suspension, and driving skills are what save his butt. Through it all, we couldn't help but notice the body style that kicked donkey in SCCA/Trans Am competition a lifetime ago. It can easily be said Ford's best stylists shaped the '69-'70 fastback to perfection, renaming it "SportsRoof" in the process. It remains the best-looking Mustang fastback ever.

Underpinnings, coupled with driving skill, make the difference when it comes to safety and handling. Layne opted for Total Control components from stem to stern-power rack-and-pinion steering, upper and lower control arms, heavy-duty springs, subframe connectors, Edelbrock shocks, Stam-Bar adjustable sway bars, a Fays2 Watt's linkage, and 4 1/2-leaf mideye springs. Single-piston Kelsey-Hayes front disc brakes get the job done nicely, and without rear discs-Layne stayed with factory drums in back. We like the Raceline GT wheels that are color-matched for style.

When Layne was planning his SportsRoof supercar, he took a common-sense approach to everything. He went high end where he needed to and well within budget elsewhere. His priority was to focus on power, handling, and stopping. What he had left after the necessities went into cosmetics. That's Ford's own Dark Shadow Grey with House of Kolor Ice Blue Mylar Flake. Those subtle Le Mans stripes are Platinum Pearl Ghost.

Inside, Layne kept his efforts low-key, yet strong. Those are Corbeau VX2000 bucket seats, and Layne had the rear seat upholstered to match. Electric-Life power windows make light work of letting in outside air. An Alpine CDA-9831 stereo system envelopes Layne's inner world with sound, while an Alpine subwoofer shakes things up.

Layne gives much credit to Colette, who has been supportive throughout his dream project. Happily, this turned out to be her dream, too-sharing something special with her husband and an extraordinary life in the fast Layne.

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