Most any kid would kill for a used Mustang as a first car, and we know of some lucky people who recount the story of such an accomplishment. Raymond Drake III, of Newport Beach, California, is one such person. It was 1978 and he was living in Jacksonville, North Carolina. On his 15th birthday, Raymond paid $500 for a barely running '66 Mustang (remember those days?). Raymond worked on it for a whole year with his neighbor, Lt. Colonel Buck, and his father, Dr. R.D. Drake Jr. By his 16th birthday, all that the Mustang needed were rear tires and insurance so that Raymond could drive it to high school. "My dad paid for two back tires and six months worth of insurance as my 16th birthday present. Suffice it to say, the insurance lasted longer than the tires," Raymond explained.
Raymond drove the '66 all through high school until a street-racing accident left him and his high school pal Brian "Moose" Hickum hanging upside down by the car's seatbelts. It would be the first, and last, time Raymond raced a car with anyone in the passenger seat. The Mustang was going to be a father and son project, but his dad's follow through on the project was hit and miss due to the busy doctor's schedule. Raymond ended up doing all of his own work, learning from his neighbor and friend Lt. Colonel Buck. Eventually, Raymond's skills with a wrench meant helping to fix his sister's car, and so on. Time marched on, and Raymond went through a plethora of Fords, including a few more vintage Mustangs, a '70s Bronco, and some F-series trucks, all while growing up and coming into his own--but he never forgot that '66 Mustang. Raymond's life wasn't without issue, and during a particularly bad period--which included a divorce--he opted to go visit his mother in California.
"It was supposed to be a 30-day trip, and I'm still here 19 years later," he tells us. His mother founded Garland Drake International, a company that supplies salons with hair additions. His mother asked him to work for her, and he went to cosmetology school. "It was 60 women and me, not a bad ratio for a recently divorced guy," Raymond chuckled. After graduation and a short stint elsewhere, Raymond came home to his mother's business, and is now director of education and the lead instructor of their education program for stylists. He's also a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, and has spent years volunteering to help others find a better path. "My license plate is RAOK, which stands for Random Acts of Kindness, which I try to do three of each day, and can't tell anyone about them; four, five, and six I might brag about," Raymond explains of his life discipline.
You might think being a stylist or adding hair extensions is a low-stress environment, but not when you're working with famous actors and musicians like Diane Keaton, Gwen Stefani, and others. Raymond tells us it can take up to seven hours to do someone's hair for a major event like an awards show or a concert. The stress can be pretty bad at times, and Raymond was in desperate need of some stress relief for fear of falling back on prior bad decisions. He was considering a project car of some sort when he came upon the intersection of Drake and Raymond streets while on a weekend trip. He took it as a sign when he saw a '66 Mustang coupe parked a few doors down from the streets with the same name. A young college girl had purchased the Mustang with her boyfriend as a project, but he was "no longer in the picture," and she wanted the car gone. Raymond offered her an Escort GT he had modified as an even trade. She bit, and the Mustang was his. He didn't even know if the Mustang would make the four hour trip home, but it did--barely.
Within a few short weeks of ownership, Raymond had already named the project "Knightmare," mostly because that's what it was. "No matter how good the parts were or how much I paid for them, everything seemed to break," Raymond told us. It certainly didn't help matters that Raymond's career was blossoming, and he had limited time and literally no place to work on it; the very first time he tried to do some welding in his driveway, he found out that the city of Newport Beach looked down on residential car repairs. "I literally towed the Mustang around for two years on a tow dolly behind my Isuzu Rodeo finding places to work on it," Raymond remembered. Two of those locations became very instrumental in his build. Harbor Radiator in Costa Mesa and Total Car Care in Huntington Beach.
"A friend and mentor of mine, Gregg Ohaver, owns Harbor Radiator and said I could use his tools as long as I cleaned up after myself every night. So no matter what I did, I had to have the parking lot cleared and my Mustang home by that morning," Raymond stated. Harbor Radiator's parking lot, or a tent setup out back of Total Car Care, owned by his best friend, Mike Evans, is where most of the body mods happened. Raymond widened the '66 8 inches, beginning with a taper toward the rear mid-door. The widening was done with steel panels and new door and quarter skins. Fiberglass flares were used to round out the look. After five failed engine build attempts by a well-known shop, Raymond got a little help from Mike and Bruce at Total Car Care, and they built the engine themselves. The new 418 Windsor stroker replaced the 302 that came in the car when Raymond bought it. Backing the 500-plus-horsepower Windsor is a Tremec TKO-II five-speed, which replaced the four-speed behind the 302 as well. With the engine now the centerpiece of the car (this is before the wild custom paint Raymond did himself), Raymond bent up metal panels for the engine bay--in a meager 6-inch bench vise no less--and decided the engine looked too nice to cover with a hood.
Though the Mustang was still under construction, Raymond took it to the annual Mustang show held at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. Even in black primer the Mustang got plenty of looks and the kids loved it; especially when Raymond flipped the switch for the QuickTime Performance electric exhaust cutouts and fired the stroker up. Between revving the engine for the crowd and playing with his Air Ride controls, he was having loads of fun, but later found out that he had been disqualified from the show competition for starting his car! The next year, Raymond returned to the Queen Mary show with a Midnight Blue paintjob and took a 2nd Place trophy in the modified class. The day was nothing more than a blur of cleaning and polishing because, even though it looks like a show car, Raymond drives his Mustang almost daily and doesn't usually keep it in "show ready" condition. "Cars are meant to be driven, and I take mine everywhere," Raymond, who routinely takes his car to NorCal and Vegas on trips, explained.
Not being able to leave well enough alone (and wanting to take the car to the next level), he decided to repaint the Mustang and add airbrush work to it. Raymond felt with the money he would spend on someone else's custom airbrush work, he could buy the equipment himself and do it. He had some previous airbrush skill, and learned more techniques locally--with the help of Coast Airbrush in Anaheim--and used his car as practice. He now does custom airbrush and striping on the side for a local motorcycle paint house, D3 Designs. With the Queen Mary show rolling around again, Raymond decided to pull out all the stops and airbrush his Mustang with flames, simulated wood screws, murals, and the kicker was the airbrushed skeleton on the passenger door.
"Originally, the plan was to keep the passenger side somewhat normal, but the normal side was just plain and dull. It was almost Halloween, and anyone that knows me knows I get into Halloween. Whenever I give someone a ride, they inevitably reach for the dash when I take off, so I had fun with the idea and painted the skeleton on the side reaching for something to hold onto," Raymond explained of his wild paint scheme. After years of taking ribbings from some of the guys at the shops he worked on his Mustang at, as well as from a few ex-girlfriends, the car has become something that Raymond is really proud to own and drive. He knows it is not for everybody, but he's cool with that. Why? Because he built the car for himself to enjoy to drive, because a Mustang like this was meant to be driven.
Raymond Drake's '66 Mustang coupe
- 418ci stroker (351 Windsor based)
- 4.030-inch bore
- 4.10-inch stroke
- Steel H-beam rods
- Forged pistons
- Steel crankshaft
- 10:1 compression ratio
- Edelbrock Victor Jr aluminum cylinder heads
- 2.15-inch intake, 1.56-inch exhaust valves
- 1.72:1 roller rocker arms
- Clay Smith hydraulic roller cam, 0.636-inch lift, 256 degrees duration at 0.050-inch
- Edelbrock Air Gap aluminum intake
- Holley/SMI 750-cfm Double Pumper four-barrel carburetor
- MSD billet distributor
- MSD 6AL ignition
- 502 hp, 522 lb-ft torque
- Built by Total Car Care, Huntington Beach, CA
- Tremec TKO-II five-speed manual
- Currie Enterprises 9+ housing
- Traction-Lok differential
- 3.89 gears
- JBA mid-length headers, 2-inch primaries, 3-inch collectors
- MagnaFlow mufflers
- 2-1/2-inch dual exhaust by QuickTime Performance, Huntington Beach, CA
- Front: Classic Performance Products tubular control arms/subframe, Air Ride Technologies Shockwave air shocks
- Rear: Mustangs Plus Grab-a-Track leaf springs, traction bars, coilover shocks
- Mustangs Plus Ronster frame reinforcement kit, Mustangs Plus rollbar
- Front: Disc, 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers
- Rear: Disc, 12-inch rotors, single-piston calipers
- Front: Budnik Gasser, full polished, 16x8
- Rear: Budnik Gasser, full polished, 17x12
- Front: Riken Raptor, P205/50R16
- Rear: Michelin Pilot Sport, P335/35R17
- Custom black leather with aluminum trim, M-Detail Recaro seats with Pony interior style upholstery, Dakota Digital gauges behind tinted glass fascia running the length of the dash, JVC CD/MP3/DVD head unit, eight Momo component speakers, one 13-inch JL Audio carbon-fiber subwoofer, dashpad supports removed and dash smoothed, switches removed from dash and relocated to trans tunnel, Mustangs Unlimited power window conversion, three-point seatbelts, handmade aluminum door panel inserts, owner-created fiberglass headliner
- Owner painted/airbrushed with help from Harbor Radiator, Costa Mesa, CA, and Total Car Care, Huntington Beach, CA; owner-widened body 8-1/2-inches, starting mid-door and tapering rearward; shaved door handles, trunk lock, fuel filler, and emblems; fiberglass wheel flares; fiberglass front fenders, fiberglass front valance, fiberglass trunk spoiler; gas filler moved to trunk; glass taillight panel with 300 LEDs for tail/brake lights; owner built steel rear valance and bumper molded to body