Hollywood scriptwriters are fond of “what if” scenarios, like sending a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier back in time to WWII. But what if a time machine sent something to the future instead? Like a ’65 Mustang time-tripping to the next millennium? While hardly the plot of a Back to the Future sequel (since it’s not a brushed-aluminum DeLorean), it does play out some interesting possibilities.
Just ask Ryan Venturine, a long-time Mustang fan. His first car was a ’66 coupe that he painstakingly restored. While not an easy task, it taught him how to work on cars. More important, he developed an appreciation for workmanship, and the realization that a car can become a rolling work of art (yet certainly not something simply to sip wine over, as we’ll see).
Venturine longed for a fastback with which he could express his creative impulses, as well as drive like a banshee. In 2008, he found a blank canvas in a dilapidated six-cylinder–powered ’65.
“I barely got it to Scott’s Hot Rod Shop, firing on only two spark plugs,” he recalls. Admitting some initial difficulties in working with such a pale piece, “It became a Frankenstein. I got in way over my head.”
But he persevered against all the naysayers who said it was an impossible build. Even though his fellow Mustang buddies told him he was crazy and the economy was going bad, the car would become a revenge of sorts, a personal vendetta against all the obstacles he encountered along the way. And “Vendetta” would become the name of this challenging project.
Fortunately, Venturine had some solid supporters in his corner. One was professional car designer Gary Ragel of Ragel Design, who rendered several concepts to give some overall artistic direction to car as the bodywork was repaired and Scott’s Hot Rods in Oxnard, California, transformed the chassis. While Vendetta didn’t turn out precisely as initially sketched by Ragel, he did appreciate Venturine’s input and ideas as it progressed.
“He was really fun to work with,” Ragel relates. “He had an idea, a theme, a soul for the car. He wanted something very modern—not just a rehash of an old car.”
Ragel notes the interior in particular, with its electronic controls and wraparound console. As for the exterior, he points to the blacked-out roof panel between the rails, and the eyebrows overhanging the headlights, which put a menacing scowl on the face of the fastback. (Hey, you wouldn’t expect a car called Vendetta to wear a happy face, would you?)
This predatory persona proved to be a recurring theme as the project progressed. Initially, Venturine had both the body and foundation reworked at Scott’s Hot Rods. The bodywork was extensive and included replacing rusty rear-quarter panels, chopping the top, laying back the windshield, flaring the fenders, and enlarging the quarter windows. This shop fabricated a whole new tubular chassis with an integrated rollcage, braced by through-bolting to backing plates. Then the customized body was mounted on—not welded to—the frame. (Note how the bottom of the rocker panels are flush with the framerails.) Why use this approach?
“Ryan wanted a really aggressive Mustang to beat on heavily,” explains Justin Scott Padfield of Scott’s Hot Rods. “We plan for the worst in case we need to rebuild or repair some damage. So the body and chassis can separate.”
Included in this all-custom chassis setup is a Scott’s standard IFS with polished-stainless-steel control arms and a rear-steer configuration, where the rack is located behind crossmember. Aldan coilovers are at all four corners, and the rearend is a narrowed Moser Ford 9-inch with 33-spline axles.
In keeping with his driving style and forward-looking design, Venturine wanted an aggressive, hunkered-down stance. “It’s about as low as a cigarette pack above the ground,” he laughs.
While he says that Scott’s did a great job on the chassis and metalwork, Vendetta still needed some finish work before it fully realized his intentions. To facilitate that, he crossed paths with Alan Palmer of Palmer Customs. Their intents and interests clicked, and, to put it simply, “I liked Alan’s working style,” Venturine notes. Noting a mutual vision for Vendetta, he switched ponycar builders midstream. “We really flowed well together, and he brought great energy to the car. Alan invited and requested input.”
Indeed, out of the many dozens of cars he’s customized, “Vendetta is my favorite,” Palmer allows. A surprising statement, considering how much extra effort went into fitting the custom glass and custom bumpers, and gapping the body panels.
“The whole thing was a challenge,” Palmer admits. “Mustangs have so many body lines running through them.”
What was his approach to creating a distinctive look? “We exaggerate the lines a bit, make them crisp, and focus on the edges.” He also fabbed and welded in the headlight buckets with those big eyebrows, and reworked the steel front fascia’s custom bumpers and functional brake ducts. Another modification is the rear decklid, which has less of an overhang, with a smoother, more rounded finish. In all, many hands reshaped the form of the car, with overlapping efforts between both Scott’s and Palmer’s shops.
The cutout in the hood was fairly straightforward and needed to show off the induction system for the 427 Roush crate engine—a 351 stroker rated at 560 horsepower. Lift open the lid and there’s a smoothed firewall with custom metal panels and radiator shroud. The result is a futuristic-looking engine bay that conceals all the traditional mechanicals. Ringbrothers supplied those modernized hood hinges.
The cutout in the hood was fairly straightforward and needed to show off the induction system for the 427 Roush crate engine—a 351 stroker rated at 560 horsepower
Other forward-looking items are prevalent in the cockpit. The wraparound waterfall-style console fabricated by Palmer features a couple of monitors, one of which has an aircraft-style electronic touchscreen. It controls and/or displays a surprising array of functions, everything from exhaust temp to door locks, headlights to the GPS map, and then some.
It makes us wonder if Lee Iacocca ever imagined this sort of technology ending up on his first ponycar. For sure he never expected how much money could be spent on a Mustang such as this one. (All Venturine is willing to reveal is that it cost “enough.”)
Whatever the price tag, ’60s vinyl never looked as advanced as the diamond-pattern upholstery and deep-bolstered racing seats. But it’s not all for looks, as the shoulder harnesses and rollcage can attest. Venturine drives Vendetta with a vengeance.
“I treat this car like an athlete,” he says, “and hammer it every chance I get. She wants to run, so I don’t keep her locked up. Like a thoroughbred, I just let ’er go.”
So while he’s won a mantle-full of First-place car-show trophies, his preference is to carve through the canyons of So-Cal, and also cruise Vendetta on Ventura Highway. But not into the sunset, as the song lyrics go. He has even more plans for this project car, trying to make it as perfect as he can, along with developing a product line inspired by the design.
Notice those vents at the rear quarters that nicely echo the front brake ducts? Making them functional is still on the to-do checklist, along with some suspension mods to enhance the handling for track duty.
“A typical comment from Venturine is, ‘What can we do next?’” Palmer laughs. After all, the future is still waiting, and Venturine plans to be there. And even after he’s long gone, “I hope this car is being driven a 1,000 years from now.” Now that’s looking ahead!
Ryan Venturine’s ’65 Mustang fastback
Roush Performance 427IR crate engine
351-based, 9.5-inch-deck Windsor iron-block, four-bolt mains
Forged-steel H-beam connecting rods
Roush Performance aluminum CNC-ported cylinder heads
Roush hydraulic-roller camshaft
Eight-stack induction with electronic fuel injection
Rated at 560 hp
Palmer Customs custom 3-inch exhaust
Richmond five-speed manual
Moser 9-inch, narrowed 5 inches
Front: Scott’s Hot Rod Shop’s Standard IFS, Aldan coilovers
Rear: Moser triangulated four-link, Aldan coilovers
Front: Wilwood disc, six-piston calipers, 14-inch slotted rotors
Rear: Wilwood disc, four-piston calipers, 14-inch slotted rotors
Front: Billet Specialties Rail, 18x8
Rear: Billet Specialties Rail, 20x10
Front: BFGoodrich g-Force TA P245/30R18
Rear: BFGoodrich g-Force TA P295/30R20
Custom red and black leather upholstery with diamond-pattern inserts and panels by Conejo Upholstery, custom console and gauge cluster by Palmer Customs, custom six-point rollbar, Crow Enterprises harnesses
Extensive custom bodywork mounted on tubular chassis by Scott’s Hot Rod Shop and Palmer Customs