Not every 13-year-old has the cash to buy a '65 Mustang fastback--but this was 1980 (when the prices were much lower) and the fastback was pretty rough, further lowering the entry point for a young Shannon Kelleher of Pompano Beach, Florida. The fastback, owned by a neighbor, was part of a deal that was made when Shannon's dad sold his '65 Vette to the neighbor. Shannon was supposed to get the GM sports car, but the neighbor made an enticing offer and Shannon's father countered with a "yes," stipulating that the fastback had to go to his son for a fair price.
Shannon drove the car from the neighbor's shop back to his parent's house (and no, 13 is not the legal driving age here in Florida, so we didn't go there!). En route, one of the 289's head gaskets decided it didn't like keeping the oil and water separated and gave up its sealing properties. Normally this would have dejected any new owner, let alone one at just 13 years of age, but instead, it put a smile on Shannon's face, as he now had a reason to pull the engine out and rebuild it for more power.
"That's where all the madness began," Shannon tells us.
The first build of the fastback started right then and there. It took Shannon the better part of two years and change to build the fastback into a white and red striped Shelby G.T. 350 clone (what 15-year-old doesn't dream of a Shelby fastback?). The fastback emerged with a dual-quad-topped 289 fully rebuilt with a hot cam, Keystone Vortex wheels, and more. Shannon hit the 1983 Miami World of Wheels indoor car show circuit and was the youngest owner on the show floor with his Mustang.
While the indoor show circuit became Shannon's calling for many years, and Shannon picked up other rides to build, including a Fox-era Mustang, after several years of showing the fastback, he lost interest. Now in his early 20s, he toyed with the idea of selling the Mustang. But his parents offered their garage as storage instead. "They told me ‘just keep it, it's your first car,'" Shannon remembered, and figured he'd take them up on their offer. None of them knew it would be more than 10 years before Shannon would pull the Mustang out again in earnest.
It was 1990, a new decade was under way, and Shannon felt it was time to do the Mustang right (remember, he built it as a 13-year-old, including doing the paint himself). This second iteration would have more of a street machine vibe to it, which was popular with the indoor show-crowd at the time. The build, like many, took longer than expected. Shannon logged nine years of 20- and 30-hour weeks--working on it nights and weekends, building the Mustang into most of what you see here (yes, that beautiful paint is from the second build, and is 13-years-old!). The Mustang did well on the show circuit, as you'd expect, but after three years of raking in the trophies, Shannon got bored with the shows and put the car in its trailer--for another eight years.
Yet another decade begins, and it was 2011 before the car saw sunlight again. This time because Shannon's son, Will, came home from school with some interesting news. It seems one of Will's classmates was bragging about his father having the "baddest Mustang in town" and Will knew his dad's Mustang was something better. "The Mustang was an '05-up style with Lambo doors and big-ugly 20-inch wheels," Shannon stated. Will asked his dad to drive him to school in the fastback so that everyone could see who really had the baddest Mustang. When Shannon swung open the trailer doors, he was greeted to a show-winning Mustang--with four flat tires, a dead battery, stale gas, and a shot carburetor. Shannon aired up the tires, flushed out the gas, rebuilt the carb, dropped a new ignition box in place, and the car fired up. But it needed some cleanup work if he was going to drive his son to school.
"I got it running, but it got me all back into it again," Shannon says, referring to building up the Mustang and hitting the show circuit. Will's ride to school would have to wait just a bit longer, as Shannon put calls in to Billet Specialties for custom wheels and Mickey Thompson for new rubber, and he replaced all of the original glass with new reproduction glass (something that wasn't available during the first two builds). Build number three was well under way.
The paint was wet-sanded and buffed to perfection, all of the shiny bits were polished again, and some new engine brackets and custom breathers were added to the stout little 289 that was built during round two. Shannon was never quite happy with the interior or trunk of the fastback, so he had local interior-guru, Jeff Phipps, pull the interior and redo it in a more subdued look. He used beige and black colors with stainless mesh, billet, and carbon fiber for accents. The trunk got a makeover in black suede with stainless mesh. The interior work took three to four months to stitch up and install, and the car was finally ready--again.
Shannon took the fastback to a local show just to get the crowd's reaction, but assumed the street machine look might be a bit old, and that people would overlook the car for other modern metal. Shannon was shocked with the crowd of people around his fastback all day, and even more so when he was called up for the Best of Show award. Thinking the award might have just been a fluke, Shannon took the fastback to the biggest show in the area, and once again drove home with a Best of Show award sitting beside him on the seat. "I started to think the old girl might still have it," Shannon thought. Of course, his wife, Michelle, thought he was nuts.
With two Best of Show trophies on the shelf, he figured he'd go for broke and hit the biggest shows in the U.S. to see what would happen. On the road he went with his fastback, first to the Goodguys in Nashville, where he received a Bobby Alloway "Pro's Pick" award. Next was Goodguys Columbus, one of the biggest shows in the nation that averages 5,000 to 7,000 cars. In Columbus, Shannon was approached by one of the PPG paint higher ups who could not believe that the paint on Shannon's car was 12 years old. Right then and there, he got the PPG Dream Car Award.His third event was the prestigious Shades of the Past in Tennessee. We're talking Riddler and Oakland Roadster Show contenders here. Shannon felt he had no chance in winning, as the competition comprised some of the best cars he's ever seen lined up to compete against his Mustang.
"I just thought there was no chance," Shannon surmised. While Shannon's fastback did take a "Top 25" honor, when the Best of Show was announced, Shannon's Mustang wasn't the winner. His luck must have run out--or did it--as right after the Best of Show was announced, the announcer told the crowd they did have one more award. "What could be better than Best of Show?" Shannon thought. They then announced that one muscle car and one street rod had been chosen to represent the event for next year's T-shirts, event posters, advertising, and so forth. Shannon's fastback took the honor.
"It was so cool to go back to the show and see all these people wearing the show shirt with my car on it," Shannon excitedly explained to us in our interview. Now, if Shannon can get a break from the show circuit long enough, he still owes his son a ride to school. Yup, the Mustang's been a little busy lately, but Shannon hopes to fulfill that promise soon, especially now that the third time has been the charm!
Shannon Kelleher's '65 Mustang Fastback
- 289ci small-block (297ci total)
- 4.060-inch bore (0.060-inch over)
- 2.87-inch stroke
- Steel I-beam rods
- Steel crankshaft, knife-edged and balanced
- JE forged pistons
- JE rings
- 11.75:1 compression ratio
- ARP head and main studs, block O-ringed
- Comp Cams roller cam, 0.733-inch lift, 320 duration at 0.050
- Dart iron heads, port matched
- 2.02-inch intake, 1.60-inch exhaust valves
- Comp Cams springs
- Scorpion roller rocker arms
- Geardrive timing set
- Edelbrock aluminum intake
- Holley 780-cfm four-barrel
- MSD billet distributor
- MSD 6AL ignition
- Taylor ignition wires
- NOS direct port nitrous system, controlled with throttle switch
- NOS nitrous plate under carburetor, second stage controlled with in-car button
- Engine block smoothed/painted
- Built by T&L Auto Machine, Pompano Beach, FL
- Ford C4 three-speed automatic
- Built by Russ Auto (Oakland Park, FL)
- B&M shifter
- B&M shift improvement kit
- Hughes 10-inch 5,000 rpm stall converter
- Ford 9-inch housing
- Detroit Locker differential
- Strange 5.33 gears
- MAC equal length headers, modified for chassis
- 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers
- 3-inch Alumacoat dual exhaust
- Front: Chassis Engineering Mustang II, tubular control arms, Aldan coilover shocks, narrowed rack-and-pinion steering
- Rear: Custom ladder bar, Aldan coilover shocks
- Full tube frame, 16-point Funny Car-style rollcage
- Front: Wilwood disc, four-piston calipers
- Rear: Wilwood disc, four-piston calipers
- Front: Billet Specialties Bonneville G, 18x7, 5-inch offset
- Rear: Billet Specialties Bonneville G, 20x15, 6-1/2-inch offset
- Front: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R, 26x8R18LT
- Rear: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R, 33x22R20LT
- Beige leather and suede with carbon-fiber and billet accents by Jeff Phipps of West Palm Beach, FL; Recaro seats; Billet Specialties steering wheel; handmade fiberglass dash, console, and door panels; Auto Meter instruments; floating nitrous bottle mounts; one-off custom shifter handle; Pioneer head unit; 1,000-watt amplifier; 6-inch front speakers; 6x8 rear speakers
- PPG basecoat/clearcoat Orange Sherbert and black two-tone, VFN fiberglass hood, front valance, and decklid; shaved driprails, wipers, door handles, emblems, gas cap, and cowl vents; tucked bumpers, widened rear quarters, pinched front fenders, reshaped scoops, deleted vent windows, and reshaped quarter extensions