You never forget your first love, especially if she’s a bright red Mustang. But sometimes you have to bend the law, get her back, and turn her out.
You are not to contact the owner of this car, said the agent from the DMV as she handed over the vehicle history complete with the current owner’s contact info. The car in question was a ’70 Mustang SportsRoof that Mark Stutzman had owned as a teenager in the late ’70s. He looked into the agent’s eyes and agreed wholeheartedly not to do so, then rushed home to read the report of his long-lost baby.
You see, Mark is currently the owner of the highly modified ’70 Mustang you see before you. He found the car after many years and took it to Mustang guru Sean Blea. He and his crew at Mustang Concepts in Frederick, Colorado, have managed to take most everything from an ’03-’04 Cobra and fit it into the vintage package. But the road from six-cylinders to supercharged eight is not one that happened overnight, so let’s start at the beginning.
In the summer of 1979, Mark Stutzman’s life changed dramatically. That was not only when he met his first girlfriend, but also when he fell in love with a Mustang in her neighbor’s driveway.
I inquired about the car because I was instantly drawn to its red color, body lines, and overall cool’ factor, said Mark. Sadly, the car wasn’t for sale at the time. Which was probably a good thing as I didn’t have any money!
The neighbor did have another Mustang, a ’65 convertible that Mark’s dad liked and eventually owned.
I was completely infatuated with the curves of that fastback, said Mark. So I started looking for one for sale, but there just weren’t any as nice as the one next to my girlfriend’s house, so I patiently waited. Eventually, his patience paid off. The owner was in the military and had to relocate, and he put the car up for sale. Mark and his dad worked out a deal and the next thing you know, the SportsRoof found its way to Mark’s carport.
At the time, the car had the L-code 250ci six-cylinder, which had ample torque, but not the license-suspending power of a 351. However, the reliable motor allowed for Mark to drive it daily for many years after that.
That ’70 Mustang remained a faithful friend and took me many places like school, the drive-in, prom, dates, the mountains, and road trips to California, said Mark. It also took me to college in Boulder, Colorado, where I met my wife.
Mark also mentioned that he had a pretty bad crash in 1983 and the car basically saved his life, nestling him in her steel cocoon. After the crash, he convinced the insurance company not to write it off and recondition it instead. However, this was not when the major overhaul/restomod took place. He drove it until 1988, when he grew tired of it and decided it would be cool to have a Mustang convertible instead.
Years went by and my wife and I got into family mode, said Mark. I lamented selling my fastback and began to wonder what fate had done to my old faithful friend.
Mark searched near and far for his old flame. One day, after a thorough scouring of eBay and Autotrader, Mark came across a car that seemed similar to his. As it was snowing that weekend, he opted to wait a week to look at it.
As it turned out that was a poor decision, as the car was sold to someone else before I could see it, said Mark. Devastated, Mark soldiered on in his quest to find the one that got away. In fact, he basically turned into a detective of sorts.
Detective Stutzman recounts: I called my former insurance agency and asked if it might have a file on my car, he said. The agency ended up finding a document in its basement with an accident report from 1983!
Mark sang his thanks and praises for Deann, the young woman working at the insurance company. Thank you, Deann. You changed my life, he saidas if she was Tony Robbins or some other motivational speaker.
Newly armed with the VIN, Mark hopped on his Harley and took a ride to the DMV where he joined a very long line. From our experience, most state laws prevent the revealing of a motor vehicle owner’s contact information. But Mark somehow convinced the DMV agent to let him have the information. Mark promised the lady at the DMV he wouldn’t contact the owner. And he didn’t. He had his wife do it!
She explained to the owner that he owned my first car and that I had missed it since selling it years before, said Mark. Thankfully, he completely understood and wished that he could have the opportunity to own his first car, and he offered to let us see the car and see if it was something we would like to purchase. But wait, it gets better.
We met the following weekend and after several hours of speaking, we learned that it was the same car I had called about months earlier and missed due to the weather! said Mark.
A deal was struck and Mark brought his Pony back to the stable. It wasn’t long before the old horse got a makeover.
Sean Blea and I discussed the restoration and restomod options, said Mark. Sean had been dreaming of taking a ’70 SportsRoof and doing an SVT Terminator conversion. He said he could make everything from an ’03-’04 Cobra fit into a vintage Mustang like mine. Getting nearly all the running gear and mechanicals to work on a chassis meant for a car built 30 years previous didn’t happen overnight, however.
First, Blea, his righthand man Rick Mathis, and their team of specialists, media blasted the car and performed the necessary body restoration. While that took place, Blea located a low-mileage ’03 Mustang Cobra that had been totaled and arranged to have it delivered to his shop. An AJE Racing K-member provides a cradle for the 390hp, 4.6L supercharged engine, and upgrades to the front suspension consist of two 600-lb/in coils and adjustable struts, as well as a tubular stabilizer.
Now the advantage of the AJE Racing K-member is that it can be ordered to the specifications of the new motor. Thus, mounts aren’t needed. Of course, the larger motor didn’t just slide right in.
The bulk of the heater protrudes 3 or 4 inches into the engine bay on the stock vehicle, said Sean. To make room for the motor, we had to flatten it on the passenger side. Then we had to add reinforcement ribs on the firewall because without the curves or bends, it would have basically been a piece of flimsy sheetmetal.
This firewall conversion also allowed for the Tremec T-56 transmission to slide in like a penguin at a black tie dinner. However, the fitment of the Cobra’s independent rear suspension and Cobra-specific gas tank required quite a bit of modification. While the original wheelhouses were retained, Blea’s plasma cutter found its way through much of the rear end of the car.
We cut from the torque box to the taillight section and everything in between, noted Blea. Then, we did the same to our late-model donor car, carefully measured and measured again, made our cuts, and set the entire late-model floor beneath the ’70. We then tied it all together, thus allowing all of the late-model components to literally fall into place.
Since they installed the entire rear floorpan from the ’03, the rear seats bolted right in. All that needed to be adapted was the trim and a few custom-fabricated panels. The front end of the cabin wasn’t as simple.
We had to remove about 34-inch from the dash on each side to get the Cobra unit to fit, said Mark. The front seat perches were removed to provide proper driving position and room for the power front seats.
Once the cabin layout had been established, they tore it all apart so they could get their spray on. At first they looked at samples of the stock Ford Red Fire Metallic, but Mark wanted a little more pop.
Getting the color right was quite a challenge, said Sean. The lines didn’t seem to stand out in certain lighting. To remedy this, they added some House of Kolors Candy Tangerine and some additional metal flake, and the result is alerting enough with the blacked out hood and custom-made SVT reverse C-stripes.
We decided to blend a modern SVT/Boss Mustang theme for the exterior, said Mark. Rear window louvers and a rear spoiler completed the look we were striving for.
Nitto NT555R radials (P275/40R17 fore and P315/35R17 aft) take care of the final transfer of power to the ground. They wrap American Racing Shelby Limited Edition rims 17x9 front and 17x10.5 rear.
The brakes that bring all this madness to a halt are Cobra 10th anniversary two-piston calipers with 13-inch vented Brembo discs up front, while the rears are 11.65-inch discs with the factory single-piston Cobra calipers. What’s probably more impressive is that the Cobra’s antilock braking system was also carried over to the old horse.
The ABS is part of the factory braking and traction control system on the Cobra. It would have been more work to remove these items, therefore both of these items are part of our conversion, and work perfectly and have been thoroughly tested, recalls Blea.
To date, the car has been entered in a couple of shows and has won Best Engine and Best ’67-’73 Modified at the 16th Annual Mustang and All-Ford Stampede in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as well as the Award of Excellence-Peoples Choice award at the Horsefeathers Car show in Greeley, Colorado.
With perseverance, some shrewd inves-tigation and an almost fanatic desire to find his original sweetheart, Mark succeeded in reigniting the spark that drove him to so many memorable experiences.
Mark Stutzman’s ’70 Mustang SportsRoof
- ’03 Mustang Cobra DOHC 4.6L (281ci) V-8, cast-iron block
- 90.2mm bore, 90.0mm stroke
- 8.5:1 compression ratio
- Forged counterweighted crankshaft
- Aluminum DOHC heads, four valves per cylinder
- 37mm intake valves, 30mm exhaust valves
- Eaton Generation IV Roots-type supercharger with water-to-air intercooler
- TTC T-56 six-speed manual, single-plate
- 11-inch factory Mustang Cobra clutch
- Custom driveshaft by Drive Train Industries
- 8.8-inch IRS from an ’03 Mustang Cobra
- 31-spline half-shafts
- Factory Traction-Lok with 3.55 gears
- Stock 4.6L DOHC cast-iron exhaust manifolds
- 2-inch tubing
- Flowmaster mufflers
- Front: AJE Racing K-member, adjustable struts, 600-lb/in coils, 29mm tubular stabilizer, rack-and-pinion with power assist, 15:1 ratio
- Rear: Multi-link independent system, cast-iron upper control arms, aluminum lower control arms, fixed toe-control tie rods, aluminum spindles, gas-charged dampers, 600-lb/in coils, 26mm tubular stabilizer bar
- Front: Ford Racing Cobra upgrade, 13-inch vented Brembo disc, Cobra 10th Anniversary calipers
- Rear: 11.65-inch vented disc, Cobra 10th Anniversary calipers, Factory Mustang antilock braking system and traction control
- Front: American Racing Shelby Limited Edition Torq Thrust MS, 17x9
- Rear: American Racing, Shelby Limited Edition Torq Thrust MS, 17x10.5
- Front: Nitto NT555, P275/40ZR17
- Rear: Nitto NT555R Extreme Drag, P315/35R17
- Complete ’03 Mustang Cobra interior with Alcantara/leather upholstery, custom seat modifications, door panels, center console, and custom modified dashboard
- Ford Red Fire Metallic and House of Kolor Candy Tangerine paint; rear window louvers; custom C-stripe; paint, body, design, fabrication, disassembly, and reassembly work performed by Mustang Concepts