Dana Bowers remembers his first car like it was yesterday. Built more than three dec-ades ago when he was the tender age of 18, his '68 Olds Cutlass got him started in the hobby. The adventure, encompassing more than six years and considerable cash from the young man's wallet, resulted in a completely rebuilt car, boasting a high-performance engine, an 800-watt sound system, and a beautiful Metallic Root Beer paintjob. The car was great fun to drive and had an unexpected benefit, since Dana thinks it might have even caught the attention of Annette, the beautiful girl next door who would later become his wife.
Both he and Annette were car lovers, but when the kids came along and life's responsibilities got in the way, the custom car gave way to higher priorities. The thought was always there, however, that when the children were grown they would get back into the sport. Time passed and after three children and two grandchildren, the moment was finally right to change old memories into realities. He had always liked classic Mustangs, so that seemed like a good place to start. They looked at some Mach 1s and some second-generation fastbacks but it was an Internet car that really got his attention. He found a '66 fastback and contacted the seller to let him know he was interested. Unfortunately, weeks went by with no response. About the time they were giving up on ever seeing that car, Dana got a phone call from the owner in Nashville, Tennessee. He still had the Mustang and was interested in selling it.
A road trip with friends and family left balmy South Florida in November 2007, only to arrive in Nashville where the temperature was 60 degrees colder! The shorts and T-shirts were quickly replaced with warmer clothes, but the chilly weather was quickly forgotten when the crew first saw the Mustang. The owner had used it exclusively for quarter-mile drag racing. Rust-free and with smooth sheetmetal, the car had a 5.0L roller cam engine from a '93 Mustang Cobra and a Top Loader four-speed transmission with just a little more than 1,000 miles! When the owner cranked the engine it started immediately, creating a flood of old memories for Dana.
The deal was made and the team trailered the car back to Fort Myers, thawing out in the process. Along the way, Dana was already dreaming of the way he would shape the new family hot rod. Since it was not a numbers-matching car and there were so many cool aftermarket items available, the first year was spent in upgrading all the basics. The mechanical makeover began with front and rear disc conversions from Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation. The combination of power rack-and-pinion steering from Unisteer Performance Products, Street Bandit front and rear racing suspension, and Coy's 17-inch C-5 wheels with Nexen rubber, paved the way for the Mustang's introduction to the 21st century. The 5.0L V-8 needed very little help coping with the automotive time warp, thanks to a hot rodder's dream sheet of performance parts that began with forged TRW pistons, a Comp cam, an MSD ignition, and Ford Racing aluminum heads and intake, fed by a 600-cfm Edelbrock carb. Hooker Headers and dual Flowmasters completed the performance package, adding a mellow rumble to the rejuvenated Pony. Keeping the driver in close touch, the four-speed Top Loader trans with Hurst close-ratio shifter multiplies the power sent to the 3.80-geared 8-inch rearend. The experts at Modified Motorsports in Fort Meyers, Jack Katzias and Robbie Simon, took charge of the mechanical upgrades, making sure that all the new parts worked together in harmony.
Moving inside, the family redid the interior, adding two important upgrades. The Classic Auto Air A/C was a necessity in South Florida and, for entertainment on road trips, a Custom Autosound stereo system was installed that included a 10-disc CD changer and a unique speaker pod behind the rear fold-down seat. Dana's oldest son, Ian, had the idea to replace the stock wood trim in the Pony interior with Carpathian Elm Burl wood. Since Dana does custom woodworking for a living, the personal touch set off the interior beautifully. With the final addition of new Auto Meter gauges, the former spartan race car took on a thoroughly elegant appearance.
Once the long list of upgrades was complete, the most important finishing touch was paint and it took a while to find just the right artist. During the search, colors were discussed and Dana initially felt the '66 should be painted black, similar to the original old family ride. Annette had another suggestion however, after seeing a beautiful, three-stage candy red paint at Cambird Auto Body in Fort Myers. Dana and Annette hit it off immediately with the Cambird shop owners, Tom and Anita King, who got the job of completing the cosmetics on the car. The body was stripped, and in the process, revealed several of the colors in the Mustang's past that had been applied by previous owners. The Cambird crew spent six weeks on the classic Pony, bringing the sheetmetal back to factory smooth and spraying the new Candy Red. Seeing the completed paintjob for the first time, Dana said it was the best he had ever seen and he regularly gets comments from spectators who tell him the same thing. The car was sound deadened with Dynamat throughout and reassembled, ready for its debut on the show circuit. In the process, Dana and Tom became good friends and now travel to shows together, each displaying their favorite cars.
Dana says the return to the automotive hobby has been a marvelous experience, especially with the kids involved throughout the process. He also enjoys reliving past memories and meeting great people at both local and national events. The former race car has come a long way, already amassing a collection of more than 50 awards. Even without the trophies, Dana says, "I just enjoy getting behind the wheel and bringing back the feeling of those good old times." Hey, we understand exactly!
Annette and Dana Bowers' '66 Mustang fastback
- '93 Mustang Cobra 5.0L
- 4.030-inch bore
- 3.00-inch stroke
- TRW forged pistons
- Comp Cams roller cam, 0.522-inch lift, 268-degrees duration at 0.050-inch
- Ford Racing aluminum cylinder heads
- Ford Racing intake
- Edelbrock 600-cfm carburetor
- Comp Cams 1.6:1 roller rockers
- MSD 6AL ignition and coil
- Top Loader four-speed
- Hurst shifter
- 8-inch housing
- Richmond 3.80 gears
- 28-spline axles
- Hooker headers, 1 1/2-inch primaries, 3-inch collectors
- 2 1/2-inch dual exhaust
- Flowmaster 40-series mufflers
- Front: Replacement control arms, Street Bandit performance springs, KYB Gas-a-just shocks, 1-inch diameter antisway bar, Unisteer rack-and-pinion
- Rear: Street Bandit lowering blocks, KYB Gas-a-just shocks, 3/4-inch diameter antisway bar
- Front: Stainless Steel Brakes disc, 11.25-inch slotted rotor, four-piston caliper
- Rear: Stainless Steel Brakes disc, 10.5-inch slotted rotor, single-piston caliper
- Front: Coy's chrome C-5, 17x7
- Rear: Coy's chrome C-5, 17x8
- Front: Nexen N3000, P215/45ZR17
- Rear: Nexen N3000, P235/45ZR17
- Leather "Pony" interior with custom Carpathian Elm Burl wood accents, Auto Meter gauges, Custom Autosound stereo with rear-mounted speaker pod, illuminated pony doorsill plates
- Three-stage custom Candy Red with Silver Metallic basecoat, Red Candy color coat, and tinted clear, fiberglass Shelby-style hood