Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 28, 2007
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

Many of you will recognize Steven McCarley as the driving force behind last year's Mustang Club of America 30th Anniversary Celebration in Birmingham. MCA members will also recognize him as the club's new vice president. He's definitely an emerging leader in the Mustang hobby. Butfirst and foremost, Steven is a Mustang enthusiast, as evidenced by the '66 Mustang hardtop he built himself. If you're thinking the VP of the MCA owns a concours show car, think again. Steven's creation is modern restomod with vintage-musclecar appeal.

The first thing most people notice about the hardtop is its stance. In fact, the car won the "Best Stance" award at the NMRA's Atlanta event last year. The car sits just right with Steven's combination of ride height and wheel/tire fitment. Check out the "Getting the Stance" sidebar for his explanation of how he chose the suspension components.

About eight years ago, Steven was working on another early-Mustang project when a coworker suggested he check out a Web site with collector cars for sale. While scanning the site, Steven stumbled across a '66 hardtop in Auburn, Georgia, located on the opposite side of Atlanta from Steven's home in Stockbridge. "The car looked good in the Internet photo, so I drove over to see it," he tells us. "It was a bone-stock hardtop, an A-code with a four-speed that the seller's father had purchased brand-new. It was well-used-well-used-up would be a better description-but it was clean and complete. I actually drove it home."

He later confirmed that the Mustang was indeed an original 289 four-barrel car with a factory four-speed. Plus, it had factory disc brakes, a Pony interior, and the quicker-ratio GT-style steering box. "The interior was toast, the suspension was shot, and the paint was badly oxidized, but it was still nicer than my original project, so I switched cars."

Even though Steven is heavily involved in the MCA, which is recognized for its concours standards, he knew from the start that he wasn't building a restored trailer queen for trophies. "From day one, it was going to be a hot rod," he says. "I'd love to own an original '65-'66 GT hardtop, but I like to play too much to keep my cars stock."

From inside an 18x20 building in his backyard, Steven began disassembling the hardtop. The car was rust-free and undamaged, so cleanup consisted mainly of removing dust and dirt. For his purposes, the body and chassis were clean enough to forego chemical dipping or media blasting. The cleaned-up chassis and subframe, including the engine compartment, were coated with Eastwood's Chassis Black paint.

Steven says he performed 99 percent of the work in his backyard shop, including the suspension assembly; restoration of the interior was done with help from his wife, Nancy, who came up with the two-tone red-and-black theme; and revitalizing the exterior paint with assistance from Sam Murphy from Murphy's Restoration. Amazingly, the black lacquer, applied "26 years ago for the original owner by an old man in a barn," came back to life with color-sanding by Steven and buffing by Sam. The Mustang still has its original glass, bumpers, and stainless trim, but nearly everything else was replaced.