1966 Mustang GT - RD & GT
"Mustang Steve" Wilkes Has Developed His Own Line Of Restomod Parts Using His '66 GT Fastback
Steve Wilkes owns one of the most interesting restomods we've ever encountered. Because his '66 Caspian Blue GT fastback looks so stock, much of the handiwork goes unnoticed. The kit he developed and sells from his Carrollton, Texas, shop to adapt '94-'04 Cobra brakes to '65-'66 Mustang spindles is a good example.
"You don't even have to pull the spindles off," Steve says. "The rotors fit the original drum-brake studs perfectly. I built an aluminum adapter that bolts onto the original drum-brake spindle."
In most cases, 17x8-inch Bullitt wheels from '01-'04 Mustang GTs require a 1-inch spacer up front to prevent the inside of the front wheels from bumping into the vintage Mustang's upper control arms, but Steve narrowed his front wheels to 17x7 for clearance without the spacer. "The wheel fits as though it belongs there," he says. "To narrow the wheel, a cut was made about 1 inch inside the bead on the inner part. Once the outer bead and wheel lip were taken off, a 31/44-inch ring was removed from what was left. The previously removed outer lip and bead were then welded back together. The 31/44-inch slice and two kerfs of the cutoff tool on the lathe add up to 1 inch removed. I used 235x45/17 tires up front with my Cobra brake setup. The finished wheel has a 4.72-inch backspacing, and the face of the wheel looks identical to the unmodified 17x8 ones on the rear."
The more we analyzed this '66, the more we realized that Steve isn't just a restomodder. He really enjoys developing parts as he modifies his '66 Mustang, which is how this build progressed. Steve sells his parts and posts answers to tech questions on his Web site, www.mustangsteve.com.
"The car was a basket case when I bought it in 1992. Everything that has ever been done to it, I did myself. I painted it. I recovered the seats. I rebuilt the engine. I installed the five-speed."
Steve goes past doing the actual work. A T-5 is a popular transmission for first-generation Mustang restomods. Steve went a step further by designing his own cable clutch setup.
"I enjoy modifying and installing late-model parts," he says. "What I really attempted to build is something that has late-model features and more convenience."
For years, Steve has been partial to '70 Mustangs, so his classic theme for his '66 fastback is part early GT, part '70 Mach 1. "If Ford built a Mach 1 in '66, this is what I would've had," he says. "I've owned 10 '70 Mustangs, from Bosses to convertibles to Mach 1s. I picked up this '66 out of the want ads in the Dallas newspaper. I figured I'd throw an engine in it, paint it, and sell it to make a quick buck. But I fell in love with it because it's so simple to work on. This particular car has never been wrecked."
Inside, Steve mated an original Mustang horn ring to a Grant wooden wheel. The console is a stock '66 Mustang short version, necessary to mount the OEM air-conditioning evaporator case. He adapted switches from a '77 Chrysler Cordoba to work the power windows and door locks. "I wanted to make the switches look as though they came from the factory."
Underhood is a 351 Windsor that Steve calls "a big 289." It has been enhanced with a Crane retro-fit roller cam, Edelbrock aluminum heads, and a port-matched Weiand Stealth intake with a 670-cfm Holley. Balanced and blueprinted, Steve says the engine made 400 hp at the crank on an engine dyno.
To put this power to the ground, Steve chose a 9-inch rearend out of a Lincoln Versailles. He fitted it with a 3.70:1 Traction-Lok. He modified the suspension with 600-pound front springs and a 1-inch sway bar, along with a set of Cobra Jet rear-leaf springs from a '68 Mustang. He lowered the car "like Shelby did," meaning he relocated the upper control arm mounting points 1 inch lower.
So how does the 400hp restomod drive? "It's a bit rough," he says. He did, however, drive it from Dallas to Atlanta last year and says, "Going down the highway, it rides beautifully. You can put one finger on the steering wheel and cruise all day."
Needless to say, Steve enjoys the car. He has it where he wants it.
"My main thing was to keep the body stock-appearing without scoops or anything like that, and I wanted a fully optioned car. It's an original A-code (289 two-barrel) car, but I added the Hi-Po emblems to the fender because I like them. I figure if a high-performance engine had 271 hp and I have 400 hp, I can still lay claim to high performance. I'm not a concours guy by any means."