The Ring brothers just completed their latest creation, a '67 fastback dubbed Kona, Hawaiian for black, and are already dreaming about the next Mustang on the drawing board.
"I don't want to give away all my secrets, but we want to build a car that, when it's done, looks like it's been almost through the ringer," Jim Ring explained, meaning as if the car had been road raced, used and abused, yet is brand new.
Maybe that's what's next for modified Mustangs: steering away from the bling, bling. That's where Jim and Mike Ring are headed. In the case of Kona, they tried "really hard" to make the '67 appear "not homemade."
Just three years ago, their first creation, a '66 convertible, sent shock waves through the Mustang world. Their second Mustang restomod, a '65 fastback in a more subdued bluish-gray, grabbed even more attention. Both cars were heralded as much more than mere modifieds. Basically, the Ring brothers' Mustangs are more like high-dollar street rods, yet they aren't. They're restomods. Instead of having a combination of aftermarket bolt-on parts, a lot is fabricated from scratch.
Kona, their third build, has already gathered as much or more fanfare from the cognoscenti. On display nationally last July at the 8th Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, word quickly spread. Amateur snapshots flashed on various Web sites, and the hobby was abuzz. Jim remembers one Web post: "Not too bad; another top five pick for a couple guys with a body shop who are not car builders."
On a street rod, another clean-up...
On a street rod, another clean-up detail is to shave the trunk lock, which the Ring brothers did. However, instead of using a keyless remote to pop the trunk, they devised their own hardware. It uses the fuel door Allen-head bolt at the 12-o'clock position to release the trunk. Again, just another little detail that makes you grin when you're taking in the whole of the Kona.
"Not too bad" is the understatement of the year in the classic Mustang and Ford hobby. "Not car builders" is definitely no longer true. "Top five" refers to the top five finalists for Goodguys Street Machine of the Year.
The arrival of a new Ring brothers Mustang has become an event, like the unveiling of a new car. If you're a Web geek, perhaps you saw this '67 fastback last summer when word burned across sites like wildfire. We got a phone call from a Mustang aficionado who feverishly asked, "Have you seen the new Ring brothers Mustang? Everything's black; the body, the interior, even the wheels. It's incredible." They named the car Kona for a reason.
"I think we're going to start naming all our cars, so people can identify them," Mike Ring explains. "That beats calling the first one 'that red '66 convertible' or the second one 'that bluish-gray '65 fastback.'"
We flew to Milwaukee and drove the 125 miles to their shop west of Madison in Spring Green, Wisconsin, population 1,444. Classic Auto Body sits on a corner lot on the south side of Highway 14 going through town. An unassuming business catering to exhausts, tires, and bodywork for late-model cars, the building hides a small, new shop in the back where we found Kona parked alongside a couple of classic Mustangs in various states of disassembly. An upstairs level with wooden shelves was neatly stocked with Mustang parts.