It might be hard to imagine it, what with the serious tire and a jungle gym cage inside this 1967 Mustang coupe, but this hot track monster used to be daily transportation for Doug Chittenden of Spring Lake, Michigan, back in the 1980s. His son, Josh, wasn’t even born until July 1980, so early memories of the Mustang are foggy, but his father used to drive it every day to his job as a mechanic at the local Shell station (remember when gas stations actually did repairs?). “I don’t recall the car being daily transportation, but as far back as I can remember, it was there,” Josh tells us of his memories of the Mustang.
Doug purchased the Mustang from a family friend in early 1980, and though it was his daily driver, he didn’t hesitate to take it to the local Sunday drags and bracket race the Mustang.
“In our family, NHRA bracket racing on Sundays was, and still is, just as constant as death and taxes,” Josh explains. Josh’s father built his own fiberglass bumpers and trunk lid, added the hoodscoop, and called it “Foolish Pleasure.” Ford’s marketing slogan of the day was lettered across the rear of the decklid: Have You Driven a Ford…Lately?
After Josh’s father bought their first home, which they still reside in today, the Mustang went into storage. In the mid-’90s Josh was getting close to driving age and Doug pulled the Mustang out and started running it again. Eventually, the father and son would race brackets together; Doug in his Mustang and Josh in his father’s F-150 pickup, which was also their tow rig and ride home! In 1997, Josh stepped into the driver seat of the Mustang for the first time. Running in the 12-second zone with its mild 2V-headed Cleveland, the Mustang seemed like a rocket ship for the teenager, but quicker e.t.’s and faster trap speeds would come.
In 2003, the father and son team decided the tired Pony needed a facelift. They took the entire race season off and stripped the Mustang down, replacing rusty floors, installing a new ladder bar rear suspension, and a narrowed 9-inch to allow wider slicks (to this point Doug was running a 9-inch slick). Josh, who had now been earning a living in the paint and body trade for close to a decade, was tasked with all of the bodywork and spraying the Mustang with a fresh coat of paint. The car would run in this configuration for another year or so before the father and son drag team got serious.
“Sick of bringing a knife to a gunfight, we purchased a C4 trans equipped with a trans-brake and a Neal Chance converter. Coupled with a Cheetah shifter and Deadenbear air shift system, it helped the launch consistency and evened the playing field,” Josh explained of one of their better upgrades in 2004. The next year, their Cleveland, which they nicknamed “old faithful” and had powered the car down to the low 11s, was pulled in favor of a 351 Windsor stroked to 408ci with forged internals and AFR heads. While performance was impressive, running in the mid-10s with the new combination, the engine soon showed signs of problems.
“We spent most of 2005 racing while chasing gremlins (never a good or fun thing), which turned out to be a cracked block,” Josh lamented. With the block issue fixed, the remaining season allowed the duo to click off a best e.t. to date of 10.27 seconds.
Josh’s dad is widening the rear wheel openings in late 2009 after the crash.
In 2009, Josh and his father registered to be on the hit SPEED TV show Pink’s All-Out at the US 131 Dragway in Martin, Michigan. Arriving for a Friday-night test pass (Saturday would be in front of the film crew for final decisions on who would get a chance on the show), the guys were excited. However, the excitement went up in a puff of smoke, literally, as a broken rod bolt allowed a connecting rod to wreak havoc on the Windsor’s bottom end.
“It took nearly two months to put together another similar Windsor and there were only two race weekends left on the schedule,” Josh explained. With the new engine together and only two races left, Josh got the bright idea to hit the Martin, Michigan, event and see what the new engine could do.