Jim Smart
March 16, 2011

The stuff of legend and Hollywood folklore, the Sikorsky UH-60 "Black Hawk" tactical support helicopter has always had an enormous responsibility. Kirk Stricker flies the Black Hawk out of the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base in Southern California, where his job is to get troops and supplies to critical positions reliably and quickly. In peacetime, Kirk will tell you that flying the Black Hawk is a surreal experience. In wartime, it's a dangerous occupation. When we went to press, Kirk was serving in Iraq to help maintain peace over there. He was expected to return home in time for Christmas.

When Kirk isn't serving our country in far-away places, he's a bank manager and committed husband and father. He bought his '65 fastback as a way to spend time with his family. "I saw the Mustang as something the whole family could enjoy," Kirk says. "It's based on my earliest memories in my grandpa's junkyard in Wyoming."

Time spent with his grandfather instilled his interest in classic Mustangs. At 16, Kirk's grandfather gave him his first Mustang. They worked on the car together. Kirk had to sell that car when his daughter was born. Since then, he has owned several classic and late-model Mustangs.

It took Kirk a considerable amount of time to find this Silver Blue fastback, which was located in San Jose. It had a solid body with fresh paint, but mechanically it was a mess. The 289 didn't run. Brakes, suspension, and driveline were in poor working order. Kirk's challenge was to convince his wife, Nicole, that it was worth the time and expense to finish the restoration. He hauled it down to Mustangs & American Classics in Mission Viejo, which got the Mustang in operating condition.

Because Nicole is supportive of Kirk, she got squarely behind his Mustang project. In fact, the entire family became involved, "This is a great hobby for the whole family," Kirk tells us. "We travel to car shows together and have a great time." He's proud of the fact that his youngest, three-year-old Caleb, can identify all Mustang model years.

Because the car's original 289 couldn't be saved, Kirk decided on a new Ford Racing X302E Boss 302 crate engine with 340 horsepower and 310 foot-pound of peak torque, perfect for a street engine. The X302E delivers with a steel crank, forged I-beam connecting rods, forged pistons, E303 hydraulic roller camshaft, and aluminum GT-40 heads. Kirk finished off the small-block with an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, Holley carburetion, Autolite ignition with PerTronix Ignitor electronic retrofit, finned Shelby valve covers, and Tri-Y headers. Underneath, a crossover pipe unifies both banks, blending into a pair of Flowmaster Series 40 mufflers.

Kirk's braking system consists of easy-to-service four-wheel disc brakes, with four-piston stockers in front and SN-95 units in back. Good for cruising yet effective when it's time to turn up the flame. Because Kirk thrives on focus and control, he likes making the driving experience his own while taking others along for the ride.

Between the buckets is a Tremec World Class T-5 five-speed transmission dovetailed into an 8-inch Ford axle sporting a 3.25:1 Limited-Slip. In gears one through four, Kirk puts his 302 to work. In overdrive, he cruises and saves fuel. With 3.25:1 gears and overdrive, Kirk can take the family cruising to just about anywhere a long stretch of freeway will take them.

Wheels are 17-inch Budnik X-Series wrapped in General ZR-rated tires. Inside, Kirk has chosen Scat Procar bucket seats along with a matching fold-down rear seat, Grant steering wheel, and MP instrumentation. His sound system is Custom Autosound's reproduction AM/FM stereo coupled with a Pioneer remote control system and six-speaker sound.

Kirk says his Mustang will never be for sale because he worked so hard to get here. It isn't only about the car, but the memories Kirk makes with his family. And because Kirk spends a considerable amount of time in far-away places, the memories he makes with his family and the Mustang are something money can't buy.

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