Jerry Heasley
October 1, 2008

Sanding every groove and body seam on a '67 Mustang fastback was physical therapy for Brook Phillips. He calls his Pit Viper project "a rehab deal."

After a bad car accident about three and a half years ago, Brook found himself in a halo and a full body brace for the better part of a year. "I had to learn to walk and use my hands again," he says. "Picking up Cheerios and putting them in cups got boring really quickly."

To pass the time and build up his strength, Brook turned to his passion for cars. He had always wanted to build a '67 Mustang into an Eleanor replica. As a body shop owner for 16 years, he had the skills. "I liked the Eleanor look," he explains. "I wanted to make it my own, so I changed the hood, grille, front end, and side exhausts. I refined the '67 until the car had the overall look of an Eleanor, yet completely different."

The result is a stunning '67 Mustang fastback that's not a Shelby, not an Eleanor, and certainly not a stock Mustang. Brook decided to name it Pit Viper. "Everybody associates snakes with Mustangs, so I researched the most dangerous family of snakes-the Pit Vipers, which are rattlesnakes."

After building his first car, Brook found himself building others by request. He says, "People saw what I had done and asked, 'Can you build one for me?' or 'Can you redo my car?' I couldn't race anymore and wanted to get into older cars, but never thought about doing it full time."

Through his company, Total Performance Inc., Brook has sold five Pit Vipers to date, including one to Dallas Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman (see the "Cowboy Mustang" sidebar). "Terence opted for a Pit Viper that had already been built," Brook says. "However, TPI customers can also customize their own car. From the paint scheme to the wheels and tires, we invite our customers to the drawing board and let them design the car of their dreams. The Mustang has proven to be the most popular muscle car of all time, and we're taking the legend to a whole new level with this limited build of Pit Vipers."

Obviously, the TPI Pit Viper is filled with vintage Shelby styling cues, such as the '67 Cougar taillights and the sidescoops. The front end is aggressive like an Eleanor but with a totally new look. The custom hood gives the Pit Viper a unique appearance. "We cut and stretched a stock metal hood to match the extended Shelby headlight buckets," Brook says. "I made my own hoodscoop. It's not really carbon fiber and it's not really fiberglass. It's more of a hybrid."

The scoop is functional and mounts the filter on the underside of the hood in a custom box that mates to a four-barrel Holley 750. Brook cut out and inserted vents into the indentations where the factory-mounted turn-signal indicators are on the Exterior Dcor Group hood. These vents serve as a functional air extractor.

The look is fresh and different, but the hood length, scoop, and extractor makes it too heavy for regular hood hinges, even the custom billet-aluminum versions from Ringbrothers. "The strongest shock we could find barely held up the hood," Brook says. This explains the switchblade-looking hood props that give the engine compartment such a novel look. They secure the hood in the up position.

Inside, Brook wanted an update without giving up the vintage looks. While he could've inserted digital gauges, a Momo shifter, shifter paddles, and all kinds of 21st-century stuff to make the interior resemble the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet, he didn't want to detract from the original feel of the '67.

Brook explains, "People like the old cars because they have that vintage flair to them. I wanted to retain that. I handmade the dashpad, which looks close to the old dash. It's a bit thicker and more substantial, but it still retains stock characteristics."