In the world of car collecting, the first and last years of production seem to be the favorites. When talking about the Mustang, however, there is no end in sight to the production run for America's favorite Pony car, so collectors look to the early years. The downside is these introductory models didn't benefit from the inevitable refinements and improvements that came with each new model year. Mike Palmer, from St. Johns, Florida, is a consummate car guy and thinks he's found an answer to the problem.
Growing up in the car business with his father, Mike had already owned three cars by the time he was in his senior year in high school. Working hard to make the payments, he learned as much about fiscal responsibility as he did about the car business. He currently owns Ernie Palmer Toyota in Jacksonville, and has had a succession of amazing cars over the years. Although his '641/2 Mustang was the first model year, Mike's restomod doesn't suffer from any technological shortcomings. As a matter of fact, it is the best of both worlds, combining classic lines on the outside with the latest modern technology under the skin. Originally built by Mike's good friend, Matt Akins, the car embodied an idea that both men shared. Both were intrigued with the idea of creating a car that Carroll Shelby might have built back in 1964.
Akins began the process by salvaging a two-owner '641/2 that looked good at first glance, but had lots of hidden rust. Instead of a relatively quick restoration, the project turned into a major rebuild with virtually every panel on the car being replaced. Once the body was sound, Akins added a Shelby-style hood from US Body Source, auxiliary headlights in the grille, and a unique tail section, created from a combination of Mustang race car spoiler parts. He smoothed the Shelby-style rear lip and endcaps into the Mustang's sheetmetal, then added the distinctive '68 Cougar sequential taillights to the modified Mustang rear panel. Twin pipes coming through the rear pan, a GT350 gas cap, and Shelby bullet side mirrors were the perfect accent pieces.
Suspension refinements to almost half a century-old technology included new upper and lower control arms, rear sway bars, upgraded 11-inch discs in the front, new drums in the back, and stainless steel lines. Torsional rigidity and roll resistance was increased with a Monte Carlo bar joining the front fenders, and an export brace that con-nected the shock towers to the firewall. Both were chromed for show. A reworked 260 V-8, a Pony interior, and a silver and charcoal gray paintjob suitable for Eleanor's younger sister, completed the changes. After a few years of enjoyable ownership, Matt was ready to move onto other projects. That's when Mike came in, intent on taking the car to the next level.
Mike's idea of what Shelby might have done began with replacing the original Windsor 260 V-8 that came with the car, and shoehorning in something just a little stronger. Mike's parts manager, Bob Nelson, created the new powerplant by stroking a 302 to 347 cubic inches. Using a forged Eagle crank, H-beam rods, and pistons, the engine creates 9.8:1 compression and runs on premium fuel. A Comp hydraulic roller cam activates 2.02-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves using Comp rockers with a 1.60:1 ratio. An Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor creates the optimum air/fuel mix for the engine, routing it through the Edelbrock Performer Air Gap intake that delivers a cool charge to the free-breathing AFR 185 aluminum heads. MSD ignition triggers the fire while JBA long-tube, ceramic-coated headers dump into a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. A Ford AOD automatic trans multiplies the power sent via the aluminum driveshaft to the Ford 9-inch rear, equipped with 3.50 gears and 28-spline Strange axles. A Griffin aluminum radiator and front-mounted oil cooler keep fluid temps in the green.