It's never that simple when you're putting a car together. It doesn't matter whether your changing a set of spark plugs or rebuilding a transmission, the process never goes according to plan. Jeff Colvin knows this only too well. He owns a fistful of vehicles, including no fewer than seven early Ford Broncos and four Mustangs ... well three and half perhaps as one of them is currently a rolling shell. What is interesting is that two and a half of the Pony collection are four-light 1985-86 GT cars and out of all them, it's the one on these pages that is nearest and dearest to Jeff, because it's the one he's had the longest. Today, it looks stellar, but when he first picked this thing up it wasn't in quite such good condition, in fact it was a bit of mess. The car really wasn't that old either. "I found this one back in 1993. My first car had been a 1966 Fairlane with a 390 and after playing around with Toyota Mini Trucks and later a first gen Mazda RX-7, I wanted to get back into the muscle car scene, but I wanted something with good driveability that had the creature comforts like air, power windows etc. - I thought a 5-liter Mustang would be the way to go."
Like many of us Jeff had a budget, so a new or pristine example was a little out of his range. This '85 wasn't. "It belonged to a buddy of mine when I worked at Crutchfield. It had been used for Pizza delivery and I worked out a deal with him to get the car because he needed reliable transportation. The car had been hit in three corners and the nose needed replacing, so what was left of the original paint had a few large patches of primer over it. The motor was also in need of a rebuild. The car would start up, but above 3000 rpm it would start knocking. Still, the previous owner had driven the car like this for a couple of months." Despite these issues, Colvin saw this car as a diamond in the rough. "Although it had no carpets, the rest of the interior, including the seats, was mint."
Back On The Road
Nevertheless, what Colvin had on his hands, even if it was only eight years old at the time, was a project. One that he needed to get running. "I had a friend port the stock heads and intake and then managed to get a local shop to build me an engine - a 302 punched .030" over. I added aftermarket headers to the motor and put a 3.45 ring in the 7.5-inch rear." With the '85 back up and running, Jeff thought it was time to go and have a bit of fun with it. "I took it to the local test and tune nights at Summer Duck Dragway Park." However drag racing can be hard on cars and parts, and eventually, something else broke. "I was at my first street car shootout. I launched the Mustang and twisted the output shaft out of my stock T-5 trans on the first pass." That was followed up by shattering the 7.5 on the street. Now broken parts were one thing, but back in the early mid 1990s the late-model Mustang movement was still in its infancy in some areas and finding specialists and replacement parts wasn't always that easy. "I wasn't on the super highway then, so a lot of stuff came by trial and error and reading car magazines, there just weren't that many people in my area building 5.0s."
Without a garage in which to work on the car and not a whole lot of money to throw at it, Jeff was clearly quite limited in what he could do, but nevertheless made the most of it. One night though, things almost came to a head. "I'd been out riding my Motocross bike and broke my ankle. Still, I figured that I could install a new set of springs in the GT. With the car on jack stands, I was trying to pry out one of the old rear springs and I guess I pulled too hard. One of the jacks sank into the ground and the car fell on top of me. Luckily I wasn't pinned. That was a day I can tell you." As with a lot of things, it is trial and error that brings out the best results. "I'll admit that I've made a few costly mistakes with this car," says Jeff. "The worst has been saving up for a mod, getting the part and then finding that it doesn't fit right and having to spend more money on modifications to make it fit. When my rebuilt engine started making a ticking noise, I figured one of the stock rockers had collapsed. So I ordered some replacements, but they were shipped to the wrong address. When I finally got them and they were installed, I found that they wouldn't clear the stock valve covers, so I had to fork out for a new pair. I put the motor back together and guess what? It was still ticking. So I ended up pulling the engine apart again and found that I had cracked piston skirts. Once I'd rebuilt this engine again, it lasted probably for another 30k miles or so, but one time, when doing burnouts in front of my house, the crank let go and took out everything except the cam, rockers and intake." Now surely, that would be enough for anybody to seriously question keeping a car such as this, but Colvin had other ideas. He bit the bullet, literally and got his hands on a D.S.S. 306 motor assembly.
With a Tremec T3550 installed behind, he now had a combination that was designed to last a little longer. "I know there are guys who've complained about the D.S.S. motors, but mine has held together really, really well. Every time I dyno the car it seems to gain a little power." Although Jeff has won tons of awards with this Canyon Red beauty and has enjoy giving it plenty of workouts, mainly autocrossing and drag racing, even he admits, that today the car doesn't see as much road time as it once did. "This car is great and I love it. At Year One's Bristol Bash in 2001 I had a blast. I actually mis-read the awards and thought the Year One Cup was for the best average in all three events, so I competed in all of them. I must've changed my tires 17 times over the course of three days, but I still managed to finished runner up in the car show. That was a lot of fun, but now it's been moved to Georgia, so it's tougher to get to for me. I plan on going, but having children, both a son and a daughter, kinda changes things and because of our crazy child seat laws in Virginia I've been doing more off-roading with my Bronco, as it's more family oriented than going to an Autocross or track day as we don't have to take two vehicles." Still, Colvin takes the '85 out when he can, for drives in the country and to local cruise ins. "Not too long ago, I met up with a bunch of Mach 1 Registry guys and we cruised Skyline Drive, our local mountain parkway. Even though it was raining, it was a good time and my T-tops held out pretty well against leaks." When we talked to him, he mentioned that he still has further plans for the '85. "I might install a custom or tubular K-member and do the five lug conversion - a few people beat on me because the car still has four lug wheels and disc/drum 'junkyard' brakes, but the '87 front rotors, SVO 73mm calipers and '93 Cobra Master cylinder stop this thing fine and right now I don't plan on road racing it. I also have a built 347 stroker for it that's been sitting for almost two years, but I'm afraid at this point, because the car runs so good. Because, if I take the 306 out, I know that I'll want to start filling in all the holes in the engine bay, clean things up and, well, it'll just start snowballing into another major project." Now how many of us can relate to that?
Jeff Colvin's 1985 Mustang GT
Ford Cast Iron OHV 5.0-liter V8
DSS Pro Bullet 306 cid short block, 10.5 compression; AFM hydraulic roller camshaft, lift .542/.563, duration 224/232; Omega 1.6 ratio roller rocker arms; Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads, Performer RPM intake manifold; K&N air filter; BBK long tube headers, 1.75" diameter primaries; MSD Ignition billet distributor, 6AL ignition controller, Super conductor 6.5mm plug wires; Autolite 3924 spark plugs; Fliudyne aluminum radiator; Flex-a-Lite electric fan; March underdrive pulleys; Dr. Gas 2.5" off road X-pipe; Dynomax 2.5" cat-back exhaust
Tremec 3550 manual transmission; S.P.E.C. Stage II clutch and pressure plate; Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft; Detroit Locker differential; Superior 31-spline axle shafts; Ford SVO 4.10 ratio rear axle gears
Kenny Brown 6-point street roll cage, double cross subframe connectors; Front brake conversion to 11" 1987-'93 OEM Mustang, rear conversion to 10" 1988 OEM Thunderbird Turbo Coupe; Russell stainless braided brake lines; Dugan Racing strut tower brace; Steeda Tri-Ax short throw shifter
1993 SVT Cobra rear wing, tail lights; Saleen side skirts; HO Fibertrends 2.5" fiberglass cowl hood; Medium metallic Canyon Red base/clear paint by Masters Auto Body, Charlottesville, VA
1986 Mustang SVO cloth seats; RCI Cam Lock 5-point restraints; Auto Meter gauges, including water temperature, oil pressure; MSD Ignition shift light; Interior trim modifications by owner
HPM Megabyte Jr. rear lower control arms, panhard bar kit; Koni Red front struts, Yellow rear shock absorbers; Coil over conversion with 725 lb/in front springs and 230 lb/in rears; Steeda caster/camber plates, double adjustable upper control arms
Wheels And Tires
ROH 17" x 8" Reflex wheels all around; Sumitomo 235/37R17 front tires; Nitto 275/40R17 drag radials out back
Best Et To Date: 12.39 @ 110.6 mph
310 RWHO, 313 RWTQ