It's A Part Of Americana That Contributed To Stock Car Racing. It's Also Suggested In The Retro Heritage Of These Cars.
The legend of Junior Johnson is well known among stock car racing enthusiasts. Johnson's family lived near Wilkesboro, NC, an area sometimes called "the bootleg capital of America." His father, Robert, was one of the largest illegal moonshine makers in the area. The name 'moonshine' is assumed to come from the fact that illicit alcohol producers and smugglers would work at night to avoid arrest. Actually, mankind apparently has a far longer aversion to taxes on alcohol. Back in 1811, author Francis Grose had mentioned that, "The white brandy smuggled on the coasts of Kent and Sussex, and the gin in the north of Yorkshire, was also called moonshine."
What those smugglers missed was a method for quickly getting their product from the source to the destination. That was not the case for Junior Johnson and his contemporaries. Highly modified sedans were used to carry the moonshine (sometimes made into 'whiskey' by adding a dollop of molasses to the mix) in order to avoid federal revenue agents. Episodes of high speed runs at night, complex avoidance maneuvers and close calls developed driving skills among the younger family members, who were charged with the product delivery duties. The 'bootleg' turn was a maneuver credited to these drivers. This 180-degree turn was initiated by dropping the transmission into second gear and yanking the steering to the left. When you got it right, the car swapped ends and stayed on the road, letting you head off to where you came from - don't try this at home, kids.
Head North Young Man
You might wonder how the legends of the early South reach out to the heartland, where the Mustangs you see here are made. Tulsa and its closely surrounding area hold about a half million residents who appreciate a lifestyle that made Tulsa one of "America's Most Livable Large Cities" in 2005. Will Williams has been involved in the automotive repair and paint industry since the late 1970s. When the 2005 Mustang was released, it ignited, in Will's own words, "a bonfire of interest." The retro styling elements inherent in the design of the car begged to be aligned with a strong heritage theme. The torrent of aftermarket parts that followed the introduction of the S197 Mustang made it possible to turn vision into reality. Will knew that high quality exterior parts were available and set out to build a particular look, for a Mach I-themed conversion.
Will started with the black car you see here. It was purchased new with the red leather interior and a 5-speed. The suspension was rebuilt to settle the car closer to the ground and build on the dark, almost-evil look. Sport springs, replacement sway bars, front and rear, along with a replacement Panhard rod from Steeda Autosports were added. Performance enhancements were gained by adding a Steeda cold air kit with custom tuned SCT flash tuner and a set of shorty headers from Ford Racing.
Of course, an important part of the muscle car experience comes from the exhaust note and Will told us that he tested seven or eight different systems before finally settling on Pypes Exhaust to supply their polished crossover pipe, plus the Violator cat-back exhaust product. Together, these changes bump the output to an estimated 340 flywheel horsepower. To further enhance the car's acceleration, the Car FX people change out the stock rear axle gears for a set of 4.10s from Ford Racing.
Roll Your Own
Nobody had exactly the right exterior pieces available in a single kit, so it took two months of mixing, matching and testing to get it right. In the end, Will brought in pieces from several suppliers to look after the exterior. Of course, the shaker hood kit from Classic Design Concepts was an absolutely mandatory addition. CDC was also tasked to provide their aggressive chin spoiler, one which is certainly the closest available to that included on the original Machs. The car's rear ducktail spoiler, quarter window louvers and hood struts are also CDC products.
A 3d Carbon lower rear valance panel adds distinctive lines to the rear bumper fascia, while the Xenon rocker panels and side scoops integrate the look of the car's flanks. As characteristic as the shaker scoop is, rear window louvers are also a mandatory component of any Mach I conversion. MRT-Direct filled the bill here, providing their powder coated, all-aluminum rear window louver that hinges at the top to allow for easy cleaning of the rear glass.
Given Will's past experience in the automotive finishing business, you can expect that painting of the components is going to be top drawer, and you'll not be disappointed. All paint work is done in-house by Russell Williams and is available whether you're buying a complete conversion or some exterior parts for your own project.
Pass The NOS, Please
You'll see in the photos that these cars also sport original Mach I side stripes, exactly the same as in the late '60s. These are NOS pieces, or 'New Old Stock' - authentic Ford-produced parts that someone has kept and made available, typically for restoration purposes, but available to anyone if you know where to look. Original rear end graphics are also available, and try as he might, Will was unable to adapt them to the contours of the new Mustang body. As a result, he had to duplicate the look - something he's done admirably - by having custom vinyl cut for the cars.
A final step in the development of the car was to find the 'right' wheels for it. That task proved to be more challenging than anyone expected. As Will told us, "I must have tried about 20 different sets, but when we fitted these it was all over." The wheels that completed the car, and Will's quest for a perfect retro look, are 18 x 9.5-inch 'smokey' chrome wheels fitted with Nitto 275/40-18 tires all-around.
Having put the black car together first, it became a demonstrator for Tulsa Car FX's Mustang conversions. Many people that have seen the car mistake it for a factory release, but Will and his people are always careful to correct that mistake. Regardless, the look and quality of the car continues to drive demand for Will to build more. Of course, he's quite happy to accommodate his customers and each has the opportunity to make the car uniquely theirs. Will and his staff continue to monitor developments from existing and new parts suppliers.
For example, there are a number of differences between the two cars shown in this feature. Doubtless, the more eagle-eyed of you will note that the yellow 2006 car sports a Street Scene Equipment front grille that moves the fog lights to the center, as in some historic Shelby models. Under the hood, this car also picks up a little more oomph, courtesy of an intercooled Novi 2000 supercharger, with supporting air intake and oversized MAF. When strapped on the dyno, this eye-popping beauty laid down a more-than-skin-deep 540 RWHP. This is not the car that Will lets first time visitors take our for a spin, but clearly, it serves to indicate the range of implementations that can come through his organization.
Whether you're a baby boomer looking to revisit some portion of the past, or a newcomer to the Mustang scene wanting to kick life up a notch, there's little doubt that you can find a way to do it with a visit to Will William's shop in Tulsa. As Will told us, "every time we stop for gas with one of these cars, they draw a crowd." There's no extra charge for the celebrity status, if you keep the bootleg turns to a minimum.
Tulsa Car FX Mustang Mach 1s
Ford 4.6-liter, 3-valve SOHC V8
Ford Racing shorty headers; Steeda Autosports cold air kit, SCT custom-tuned flash programmer; Pypes fully polished crossover pipe, Violator cat back exhaust system
Hurst short throw shifter; FRPP 4.10 ratio rear axle gears
Steeda Autosports lowering springs, front and rear sway bars, panhard rod
Wheels And Tires
Nitto 275/40-18 tires on 18 x 9.5" black chrome wheels
Classic Design Concepts shaker hood, aggressive chin spoiler, quarter window louvers, ducktail rear spoiler; MRT aluminum rear window louvers; 3d Carbon rear lower valance panel; Xenon rocker panels and side scoops; Silverhorse Mach I fuel door; Car FX gloss painted outside rearview mirrors, custom rear Mach I vinyl graphics; Ford NOS original 'Mach I' side stripe
Car FX painted interior; MRT gauge pod; Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges, including oil pressure, volts and boost pressure
340 HP (flywheel estimate)