The 2011+ Ford Mustang certainly has throwback features from the good old days. While it may resemble the old fastbacks of the late-60s, it still didn’t have enough of that vintage flair according to Johnny Sparks and Doug Kielian. Here’s the story of how a late-model Mustang became an almost-clone to its ‘60s kin.
Coming from his family’s 1,600-acre wheat and millet farm in Haxtun, Colorado, Johnny Sparks fixed all of the large farm equipment to make sure it was up and running for harvest. Becoming incredibly handy with hand and power tools, you can bet that he can probably fix just about anything.
Soon Sparks decided to enroll in the University of Nebraska to pursue agricultural economics. Having read about Doug Kielian and the Auto Krafters Body Shop in a car magazine, Johnny arranged to meet with Doug and his wife Stephanie and was soon signed on as an intern.
Sparks started out sanding the bottom of a car and within three years he was thriving in Doug’s shop helping with the restoration of countless Mustangs among other cars. Sparks also took a metal-shaping class with Wray Schelin who helped him learn TIG welding and helped him perfect his metal shaping skills.
It was mid-July of 2011 when Sparks and Doug attended a car show put on by a local Ford dealer and wanted to see some of the cars that were there that their shop had helped restore. In the community of Lincoln, Nebraska, Doug’s restoration shop had been established for 22 years as the place to go for your restoration needs. There were about six of Doug’s past projects on hand at the show and he thought it would be good for Johnny to get a glimpse of some of his shop’s past work. With Doug’s friend Jeff in town to buy a short wheelbase Lincoln Mark VIII, the three walked around talking to everyone.
At this particular show is where Sparks had his first look at the ’11 model Mustangs. During this time, Doug and the guys came up upon a black GT at the end of the lot that caught their eye. Johnny was drawn to the 5.0L powerplant but had a strong dislike for the new rear end.
They walked around the new car and checked out all of the new gadgets and gizmos that still seemed to resemble the vintage Mustangs. It looked to be high-tech and ahead of its time in safety, reliability and performance. Doug had said as he checked out this new Mustang, “If they had made it look a little more “Mustang-ish”, I’d buy one!”
That’s when Jeff and Doug started joking back and forth about cutting it up and making it look more like a ’68-69 fastback while elbowing each other. Sparks being the quiet guy, didn’t really say much about it. They exited the show and all went their separate ways.
Come Wednesday when Sparks was supposed to be back at work at 8 a.m. there was no sign of him. Now that Sparks was quite the craftsman and had proved himself over the past couple years, Doug relied on him to help get the shop up and moving.
Sparks showed up at about 11 a.m. with quite the surprise out front. Sitting outside of Doug’s shop was the same black GT that had caught their eyes just days before.
“What the heck did you do that for? You don’t need a new Mustang,” said Doug to Sparks. Sparks replied back with “I bought it so we can cut it up and chance it like you guys were talking about.” Doug said that it was just some “shoulda, coulda, woulda” talk and that he didn’t mean for him to go out and buy it. In the back of Doug’s mind he already knew what the car would look like and he was starting to get excited about it, but he didn’t let this on just yet. He still talked to Sparks about the new car and most people would baby it and not bring it to the shop to chop it up.
Johnny’s family still had no idea that he had purchased a new car and planned to start chopping it to pieces. After six months passed, Doug told him that if he was serious that he could be ready with a saw as soon as Doug returned back from the Barrett-Jackson auction in Phoenix. And just as Doug returned from the auction and walked into the shop at 1 a.m., Sparks was in the shop with the new Mustang interior torn apart and armed with a saw and ready to start hacking away.
They had the tools, the talent, the desire and ambition, but did they have the tenacity to pull this off? Those were Doug’s thoughts, but he was ready to make this a worldwide sensation, a one-of-a-kind prototype, a modern twist on a classic.
The work started in December of 2010. Sparks mocked up some quarter panels from some cardboard lying around. He then ordered Dynacorn rear quarter-panels, door skins, front fenders, a front bumper, and a trunk lid from a ’68 fastback. He also went ahead and purchased rear body panels and bumper and a front valance and grille off of a ’69 Mustang.
Doug helped him figure out where the car needed to be cut or modified to help the car flow together. From a car that sported the cues of an old fastback, nothing seemed to fit or flow at all. Mocking up the driver’s side took about two months. After that, the passenger side only took about a week’s worth of work.
Sparks was needed back on the family farm as soon as major fabrication began, so Mark Schlacter provided a place to house the project in order to get it completed over the next five months.
One of the most challenging aspects of the build was getting a rear window to work with a ’68 fastback quarter panel. That’s when they raised the rear window slightly and trimmed the quarter panel where it then resembled the ’68 fastback. Sparks had to build the quarter-extension from scratch to get the ’69 and ’68 parts to mesh together. The trunk dip rails were built entirely from scratch.
Even the headlight buckets and grille support was hand-fabricated by Sparks himself. Sparks also was able to extend the hood 6-inches out of 0.040-inch-thick aluminum, a task within itself.
Soon the project starting coming together and it was donning a red primer paint job just in time for the 2011 SEMA show. During wintertime, Sparks reworked some of the areas and fitted the 2011 quarter panel glass where it used to be and unveiled that version of the Reversion Mustang at the Knotts Berry Farm show and soon set out on the Hot Rod Power Tour, Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup in Steamboat Springs and Fun Ford Weekend in Denver. Sparks still felt like there was more to be fine-tuned.
That’s when the color change came about. He was working on tightening up the gaps and building another hood, modifying the front valance and a few others and now that SEMA was rolling around again, he had another deadline set. It was painted a bright blue hue with the help of Ron Jones and Jose Hernandez.
All of this was dreamt up by a 20-year-old farm kid from the Midwest. The project experienced some tough times, especially with Sparks and a ten-hour a day farm job. The build was still completed within 9 months with the help of an old-timer body customizer.
The Reversion Mustang sold this past January at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona for a mere $61,600, just a tiny amount considering the amount of labor, money, time, blood, sweat and tears that went into such a creation. Money can’t buy the experience that helped the young kid achieve something most folks won’t in a lifetime, build a completely custom car that has been awed over at SEMA twice. Hopefully there will be more incredible projects from Johnny Sparks in the near future.