Being paid to build top flight street machines sounds like a fantastic job, and yet we know enough people in the biz to realize it’s also an occupation rife with challenges. Working with unrealistic/unreasonable customers, sticking to a timeline, getting parts to fit and work right, and complying with a myriad of governmental regulations are just some of the many pitfalls. Still, we’re not aware of many successful builders who are looking for a career change, because at the end of the day, it’s a pretty good gig.
Harold Hopink of Langley, British Columbia, knows well the pluses and minuses of the industry, having run his own shop--California Rod and Custom--for the better part of 20 years. One perk of the business we hadn’t thought much about, but which Harold experiences regularly, is aptly manifested in the form of the gorgeous ’66 Mustang seen here. You see, Harold and company built this car for the current owner who travels on business much of the year, and for personal reasons didn’t want his name in print. Huh? Who knows, maybe a wife or girlfriend doesn’t know about an expensive toy? Regardless, the situation has led to an enviable arrangement for Harold, as he became the defacto caretaker with a green light to use the car as he sees fit. Actually, it’s a good deal for all involved. As the owner knows his pride and joy is getting regular exercise and associated care, Harold enjoys pedaling a super cool hot rod, and California Rod and Custom gets regular props as a result of the rolling business card.
We’re told the genesis of the project was a solid original ’66 GT that was initially headed for a stock-style restoration.
"Another shop was going to do the work, but directed the owner to us since it was already overloaded. When we sat down with the owner, it was quickly evident that a stock restoration wasn’t likely to please him in the end. Of course, he had higher expectations at the performance end, and we knew these desires wouldn’t be satisfied with the kind of performance which is based on 40-year-old technology," noted Harold. To that end, he essentially started with a clean slate, listening and suggesting as made sense. The result is impressive by any measure.
Under close scrutiny, one quickly notices several attributes that make this a far above average effort. First, is the gorgeous shape as dreamed up by the Ford design team so many years ago. Today’s technology is infinitely superior than the 1960s’, but we’ll argue to the grave that the shapes are not. The first-gen Mustang fastback is a silhouette to behold, and all the more when left to its own elements, with not a scoop, spoiler, or stripe to be found. Think about it-the restraint is noteworthy.
Not so conservative is the modern rolling stock, which combined with a low-down stance, lends to an almost caricature type persona. Those are 20-inch Intro billet hoops out back, 18-inchers in front, and all tucked way into the bodywork thanks to a combination of suspension components from Total Control Products and RideTech. Of course, with such hardware, dialing in the perfect ride height is a breeze.
It was Harold’s idea to go with the multiple throttle body EFI, having been intrigued by a crossram-style intake he saw in a Mooneyes catalog. Turns out it took quite a bit of extra machining, plus custom fabricated linkage to get the whole affair working properly, and yet the extra effort paid off in an engine compartment which separates this Mustang from the crowd.
"Everyone seems to admire this car while it’s in action, but once it comes to a stop and the hood comes up, the interest is even more intense," says Harold. Under the gorgeous brace of TWM throttle bodies, sits the expected stroker small-block--this one displacing 331 cubes. Edelbrock heads take their valve commands from a Comp Cams hydraulic roller, and the resulting grunt is put in play through a TKO five-speed kit from Keisler.