Years of attending car shows will likely have the consequence of wanting a hot rod of your own, and that’s exactly what happened to Sean and Lou Anne Ripp of Sacket’s Harbor, New York. The project would be a present to both of them, who were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. What began as a quest for a concours restoration project, however, turned into something more personal and representative of the union of two different individuals, rather than adhering to a single standard.
The Mustang was the Ripp’s car of choice and the basis for their anniversary project.
“We started out looking for a ’65 drop-top, but couldn’t find something in our price range,” Sean recalls. A friend, however, called and told them of a ’65 fastback for sale. It was Poppy Red and featured a 289 V-8 with a three-speed transmission.
“Lou and I went to look at it and found a solid driver, but Lou hated the ‘freaking orange’ color.” Sean had three of his friends look at it, two of which were Chevy guys and certain to find something wrong with the Pony if for nothing else than the Blue Oval badge on it, but the car proved to be a solid foundation on which to build. “We later discovered the car was once located in Corning, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada—a long distance from the snow and salt of northern New York,” Sean tells us.
Bought in 2001, the Mustang served reliably for three years before the gas filter sprung a leak and fueled an engine bay fire in 2003. The fire extinguisher did some damage in addition to the fire itself, but the Ripp’s pressed on, driving the car a while longer before a sloppy wristpin tick encouraged Sean to rebuild the engine—it was better to rebuild the engine before any damage could occur from it coming apart.
“I promised to have the motor rebuilt and back in by the following spring,” Sean recalls. “Seven years later, it was ready.” The snowball of mechanical repair began with pulling the engine for a rebuild. Cleaning up the engine bay revealed a rotted front apron where the battery was hiding years of acid damage. That had to be repaired and the interior was looking pretty worn as well. While the original intent was to perform a restoration of the Mustang, it was a reader question in a magazine that steered Sean and Lou Anne toward a more personalized route.
As the reader was pondering the same question, the response from the magazine editor was that if it wasn’t a really rare car, modify it, make it your own, and enjoy it. Picking out the paint color of the car also guided them down the restomod path, as Lou Anne picked out Ford’s Redfire Metallic after chasing down a Mustang owner to find out what color it was. Ford’s Mineral Gray was chosen for the stripes on the exterior.
“We really liked the comfort of custom interiors, and our interior guy, Rich Perez (RP Interiors), recommended going with gray upholstery on a small car like the Mustang, as it allows the details to stand out more,” Sean says. Further restomod attributes appeared as a number of upgrades for safety reasons. Bigger brakes, better steering, and other modifications all make the ride that more enjoyable from a number of perspectives.
Randy Bailey of Bailey’s Auto Refinishing (Carthage, New York) was enlisted to perform the body- and paintwork.
“Working with Randy doing the grunt work on nights and weekends gave me a new appreciation for the work that goes into restoring,” Sean tells us. “After three years, we had a rotisserie restoration with basecoat/clearcoat under carriage, with a basecoat/clearcoat buffed body and engine compartment with the engine and transmission installed.”
Once the car was back home, Sean and his brother, Mike, began working on electrical and final assembly.
“The real battle began when trying to get the Ford wiring to co-exist with the GM components, for example, the single-wire alternator, Spal fan, power windows and door locks, and tilt steering column to name a few.” Mike, a machinist by trade, was able to make progress on the car by fabricating custom stainless and aluminum pieces, and Sean’s son, Adam, became a “specialist” in polishing stainless bolts and hardware.
Sean eventually contacted Dave Edgerton of Distinctive Street Rods (Camden, New York) to have him look at the car. Edgerton agreed to finish the remaining details and work the details out once the car was up and running.
“A special thank you goes out to Patrick, Randy, Mike, Dave, Rich, and a Adam for all of the time and effort to help build this car into what it has become,” notes Sean.
Having bought the car for their 20th anniversary, Sean and Lou Anne were able to enjoy the completed project the week of their 30th anniversary—talk about commitment.
We caught up with the Ripps at the Goodguys show in Columbus, Ohio, where the highly polished Pony easily caught our attention. Since then, they have run the ISCA indoor show circuit to show off the extreme detail of the car, and they have done well with the car.
“We’re getting anxious to really drive it,” says Sean. “We feel there’s about a two-year show life and we’re almost to the end of it. Before the Mustang’s days of elevated car shows where they show off the shiny underside come to a close, the Ripps will be installing a Weber induction system on the car, as well as filling in the license plate spot on the front valance. Once the Mustang is retired from the show circuit, who knows where the Mustang will take them—their 40th anniversary perhaps?
Sean and Lou Anne Ripp’s ’65 Mustang Fastback
Ford 289 cast-iron block, now 292ci, built by Reeve Enterprises (Cazenovia, NY)
Original Ford cast steel crankshaft and connecting rods
Federal Mogul cast aluminum pistons
Ford cast-iron cylinder heads, Manley 1.86-inch intake/1.45-inch exhaust valves, hardened valve seats, bowl cut ports
Ford stamped steel 1.5:1 rocker arms
Comp Cams hydraulic flat tappet camshaft
Edelbrock Performer 289 aluminum intake manifold, Endurashine finish
Edelbrock Performer 600-cfm carburetor, 1405-series, Endurashine finish
9:1 compression ratio
Pertronix Flame Thrower billet distributor
Ceramic-coated tri-Y headers, 1½-inch primaries, 2¼-inch collectors
Polished stainless steel 2-inch exhaust tubing
Stainless Works mufflers
Ford Top-Loader four-speed
Stock Ford clutch
Front: Stock A-arm and coil springs with one coil removed, Flaming River manual rack-and-pinion steering
Rear: Stock Leaf springs with 1-inch lowering blocks
Front: Baer disc, two-piston calipers, 13-inch slotted and cross-drilled rotors
Rear: Baer disc, two-piston calipers, 11-inch slotted and cross-drilled rotors
Front: Billet Specialties SLC65, 18x7, polished finish, 4.25-inch offset
Rear: Billet Specialties SLC65, 18x8, polished finish, 5.00-inch offset
Front: Goodyear Eagle RS-A, P225/45R18
Rear: Goodyear Eagle RS-A, P235/55R18
Custom upholstery by RP Interiors (Horseheads, NY); Medium Gray Euro Hyde leather upholstery, Tea’s Seats sport bucket seats; Billet Specialties 14-inch Holeshot steering wheel with custom leather half-wrap; Custom Auto Sound stereo and speakers; Electric Life power windows; Hotronics window crank switches; remote door locks; retractable seatbelts; Dynamat sound deadener; custom English wool headliner; custom door and trunk panels; Flaming River stainless steel tilt steering column; glovebox-mounted Auto Meter Phantom instruments; custom shift knob; billet pedal covers
Dupont base/clear Ford Redfire Metallic paint with Gray stripes by Bailey’s Auto Refinishing (Carthage, NY), molded-in rear valance, Tri-bar headlamps