Angelo Vilardo is a fan of late-Sixties road racing and all the classic machinery of that era—everything from the Lola T70, to Ford's Ferrari-stomping GT40, to Shelby's curvaceous Daytona coupe. But it was the raw simplicity of early Trans-Am pony cars that perhaps left the biggest, most lasting impression on this Canadian enthusiast, an impression that is quite clearly reflected in his approach to personalizing this racy looking, but very street-worthy 1968 coupe.
Why a notchback? Though it's the swoopy fastback models that have perennially captured the hearts and wallets of many Mustang collectors, remember that on the racing side, up until the 1969 season, Ford's factory Trans-Am efforts were always based on the humble and light coupe bodystyle (not to be confused with SCCA's B-Production class where Shelby's G.T. 350 had been campaigned.) Among the most memorable of those Trans-Am notchbacks was the yellow No. 17 Jerry Titus-driven Terlingua Racing Team entry of 1967, with its blacked-out nose and hood, and Shelby's signature over-the-roof striping scheme. Substituting red for yellow, we can't help but see a little of the No. 17 car's overall design theme in Angelo's creation.
But there's a twist: Angelo has fashioned his coupe's blacked-out snout not with paint, but with honest-to-goodness carbon fiber—not that he really planned it that way. You see, it was his cousin, Tony, who first came into possession of the carbon-fiber hood and one-piece fascia (along with a trunk lid) almost by accident while looking for a simple fiberglass hoodscoop for his own '67 fastback project. Seems the seller had hand-crafted the strong, lightweight mid-year parts as prototypes and was willing to use Tony's '67 as a test bed for fitting. But shortly thereafter, Tony sold his '67 project and asked if Angelo was interested in the carbon-fiber parts for his '68. Ang was, but only if he could exchange the fastback-style decklid for a California Special-style version for his coupe. When asked about this, instead of just laying up a new decklid, the carbon-fiber dude then crafted up a fresh complete setup—decklid, fascia, and hood—for Angelo (who also owns Tony's original set of composite components.) Anyway, they lend the coupe's frontal view a pretty distinctive look, finished off with mesh grille inserts and a hand-made aluminum chin spoiler, with brake vents. Out back, beneath the ducktail spoiler is a ribbed taillight panel, a shortened and painted bumper, and '70 Mach 1 exhaust tips. The side marker lights are filled in, and Shelby sidescoops are trimmed down for a more flush fit.
The notchback was a whole lot rougher when Angelo picked it up for a paltry $3,900 back in 2006. As might be expected for that price, it needed some metal surgery, including floorpans and rockers, work that Angelo tackled with the help of cousin Tony. Since then, he says he's "stopped counting" the money spent, and has for the hours invested by Angelo and his build-buddy and fellow Mustang fanatic, Dino, he guesses it's "up in the thousands, but then it could be I'm just slow…" Dino apparently matched Angelo hour-for-hour on the buildup, and at very reasonable cost: "All for the low, low price of beer and pizza," says Angelo.
And when cousin Tony sold his '67 project (to help finance a '66 build), he also sold Angelo the FRPP 351W crate motor, shortened 8.8-inch axle housing, Restomod Speed Shift remote shifter, as well as the Classic Performance Products "MINI Sub-frame" kit that are now installed on the notchback. That CPP suspension kit eliminates the factory strut rods and converts the front suspension to an upper and lower A-arm setup. Angelo has dropped the upper A-arm inboard mounting points by an inch for an improved camber curve (like the '65 G.T. 350) and added a 1.25-inch antiroll bar. The notchback hunkers about an inch lower than stock at all four corners, and the fat, five-spoke Boss 338 rims residing there are at least reminiscent of the Trans-Am days. The coupe's twin bullet side mirrors are similarly retro-racy.
That theme continues inside where the Restomod Speed Shift remote shifter lends a sort of fabricated, competition look while taking a whole lot of reaching out of the act of shifting the coupe's T-5 5-speed.
Here's how Angelo sums it all up: "What I like most about this car is that I can take the family out for an ice cream and it will feel like I'm driving what could be described as my own streetable race car." So it's retro and racy, but also reliable.
Angelo Vilardo's 1968 Mustang coupe
Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) 351W crate engine (circa 2003, M-6007-D351R)
FRPP M-6250-Z303 hydraulic roller cam
FRPP GT-40 aluminum heads
750 Holley carb with ProForm body
Borg Warner T-5, built by Martini Automotive
Luke Racing clutch
Fidanza aluminum flywheel
8.8-inch axle (out of a Cobra, shortened)
Hooker long-tube headers
BBK X-shaped crossover
Flowmaster 40 Series Delta Flow mufflers
2.5-inch mandrel-bent pipes
Front: Classic Performance Products "Mini Sub-frame" kit, KYB shocks, 620-pound coils, 1.25-inch bar
Rear: 1-inch Laurel Mountain drop leaves, KYB shocks
Front: Vintage Cougar disc brakes
Rear: Ford Explorer disc brakes
Front: Boss 338, 18x8
Rear: Boss 338, 18x9.5
Front: Continental Extreme Contact, P245/45ZR18
Rear: Continental Extreme Contact, P295/45ZR18
Instrument panel stuffed with Auto Meter SportComp gauges, Tuner FX buckets, Grant GT steering wheel, Restomod Speed Shift remote shifter
Custom carbon-fiber front fascia, hood, and decklid; custom mesh grilles; custom aluminum chin spoiler with brake cooling inlets; filled side-marker lights; modified Shelby sidescoops; finned aluminum taillight panel; '70 Mach 1 exhaust tips (black); PPG single-stage urethane finish by CFD Auto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada