The Terrible Twos: Looking For Mustang II Parts? Look Right Here
Vincent and Philip Tripi Jr. are cornering the market on the “Forgotten Mustang”
If you’ve never been to the Carlisle All Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, then you don’t understand how huge the event is, especially the swap meet area, which covers about 50 percent of the fairgrounds. During the 2017 Carlisle Ford show, we devoted nearly an entire day to wandering through the swap meet looking for killer deals on Mustang and Ford parts, and interesting things to cram into our luggage for the trip home.
That’s when we stumbled upon a rarity in the Mustang world: a table full of Mustang II dash inserts, sheetmetal, and trim parts. Standing in the booth pimping his wares in true P.T. Barnum style with a megaphone was Vincent Tripi (19), along with his older brother Philip Jr. (22). Behind them were two enclosed trailers packed to the rafters with nothing but Mustang II parts. For this author, a Mustang II nut constantly on the hunt for elusive II parts, it was like finding the Holy Grail in that huge warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I had to know more.
Philip Tripi Sr. is a car guy and has had several Mustangs, including a 1966 model that he showed with his boys, which got them interested in cars. They pulled their first engine and worked on it when they were 13 and 15 years old, and began to get into cars on their own. Phil Jr. was the first to dip his toe into the Mustang II world when a buddy’s bragging about fixing up his Vega with his father prompted Phil to look for his own car, eventually finding a ’78 Mustang II on Craigslist for cheap. He rebuilt that car using a parts car, and when it was done he listed the parts car on Craigslist and was shocked at the money he got out of it. Younger brother Vince liked Phil’s car, so he got one himself, also a 1978 II. He built it up, selling the parts he didn’t use.
Those Craigslist- and eBay-listed parts began to generate a shocking income for the guys. It was then that they saw the untapped market in Mustang II parts and ramped up their efforts in finding, parting out, and reselling Mustang IIs—which very few other people do. It has mushroomed into the outfit we stumbled upon at Carlisle, way back in the corner of the swap meet, nearly hidden from view.
As we got to talking with Phil and Vincent, it became obvious that these are two young guys who are dedicated to the concept of having fun with cars and friends, while also studying and competing in athletics year-round. Their Terrible Twos business that had humble, almost lucky beginnings has mushroomed into a legit moneymaker. It has two dually pickups, two enclosed trailers, a car dolly (that Vince bought years ago for $600), and a 2000 Ford school bus converted into a western-themed RV that pulls one of the trailers and serves as their hotel room at the various swap meets they attend. And it all happened as both boys competed in three sports (soccer, track, and wrestling, lettering in all three), went to school (college now for both of them) full time, and maintained good grades. As their dad Philip Sr. told us, “ They kept their noses clean and out of trouble.”
Inside one of those trailers, as you can see in the photos here, are rows of file cabinets organized with all the small parts. With two complete trailer loads of parts, if you’re looking for a part for a Mustang II, it’s probably in there. If it’s not, they have eight or nine parts cars at home (with more being added or subtracted every day) and loads more parts that won’t fit in the trailers. They make good money but are smart about it, investing most of it back into the business in order to build it. They don’t have a fancy website or marketing agency helping get the word out—that’s all done by word of mouth from satisfied customers and a lot of action on eBay and Craigslist, as well as swap meets like the one at Carlisle where we discovered them.
In a time when the Mustang II is still looked down upon and made the redheaded stepchild of the Mustang world, the Tripis have discovered a gold mine by selling Mustang II parts and cars, filling a void that is sadly enormous. Will the Mustang II market ever be as big as the early cars? That’s seriously doubtful, but it’s great to find people that are passionate about any kind of car, especially the forgotten Mustang II. It’s even more reassuring to discover two young people who are hardcore into having fun with cars, and hardcore enough to start and grow a business dedicated to them.
These are the guys’ personal cars. Phil’s gray 1978 T-top car is named Reverend Burnout, and was bought as a four-cylinder car off of Craigslist for only $750, but without a title. Philip said, “This is the car that started the Mustang II business. Everybody knows ‘Do not ever let me catch you near my car let alone touch it!’ or even let me catch them in the garage just looking at this car, even if it’s covered.” They tracked down the title to a man in Alden, New York, who assumed the car was junked long ago. The car was in the Tripis’ town parade, and Phil Jr. drove a contestant for the Tulip Festival Queen Pageant while she sat out of the T-tops. It also placed twice in the MCA regional show with Third Place the first year and Second Place the next year, to Vincent’s red-and-black Cobra. The paint on the Reverend is “Eleanor Gray and Eleanor Black” that was custom-mixed in Los Angeles and shipped to the painter in New York. The drivetrain is a 325hp small-block with an automatic trans and 3.80:1 posi rear, and has run 9.40 in the eighth-mile. Phil told us, “Usually the only one to ride in the car is me alone and a big brown stuffed monkey as my co-pilot that I put in the driver’s seat at cruises and shows. I’ve only taken about three girls out with the car, as the car goes for only one joyride a year that is not a cruise night, drag racing, or a car show. All three girls said they can open their own doors and I replied with a smile, ‘Yes, but I don't trust people around my car.’”
The yellow ’76 Mach 1 was originally Phil Sr.’s car that he bought out of North Carolina and later sold to Vincent, who took the hood, 351 engine, transmission, and rear end for his red Cobra. He put a 302 in the yellow car, added a teardrop hood and black bucket seats and used it as a daily driver.
Vincent’s pride and joy is this Cobra II that he regularly races at the local drag strip. He originally got it as a driver while building a 501ci 1968 Eleanor project, which he was really excited about, until he had a big change of mind and sold the ’68 to focus on the King Cobra. Philip told us, “My brother wasn't kidding when he said he went all out as every piece on his car is red or black no matter what it is or how small.” Vince had O&L Speed Shop build the 351W he pulled from a Mach 1, and Dan Fox Racing built the automatic trans (with reverse manual valve body) and 4.11-geared rearend. The now-357ci engine makes 440 hp, and the car runs in the eights in the eighth-mile. Phil said, “My brother loves racing the older guys at the track, and especially young kids at the track on our local Wednesday night Fast and Furious nights, as they look down at him because he is in a Mustang II. However, all they ever see are the car’s taillights down the track. This car doesn't just throw you back in the seat—it literally implants you there when it launches. Even being Vincent’s brother I won’t ride down the track with him as his car scares the hell outta me when you put it to the floor. The best way to put it is if you see his red-and-black Cobra on the street don’t line up next to him at a light because you will get embarrassed.”
Vincent’s car is kind of a restomod, as his King Cobra air dam and flares are molded into the body of the car. Inside is a four-point rollcage with modern-style Cobra racing buckets up front. The car also has a “whoo loo” horn that does 60 different sounds that Vincent plays constantly at car shows. Phil Jr. said, “It all comes together beautifully though along with my brother’s work, as he placed first in 1970-1979 Mustang Custom at the Regional Mustang show.”
Another automotive hobby that the Tripi brothers like is demolition derby. Phil said, “We run the local derby every year at the Erie County (NY) Fair. I’m more into bigger cars like my orange ’78 LTD or Jurassic Park ’90 Crown Vic and try to have my cars represent movie cars, like my black Death Race car I did out of cardboard. My brother, on the other hand, it doesn’t matter what kind of car he has in the derby. For this hobby, we are two complete opposites—I’m completely wild out there and have been threatened to be banned for being so wild. I have landed on top of cars and lit one of my own cars on fire before, just from being wild; while my brother is more controlled, with careful, planned-out hits as he waits for me to take out as many cars as I can—which is on average seven cars before I find some crazy way to take myself out. Then my brother plans his hits for the last few cars. We joke that I’m like the Navy Seals going into battle and cleaning house as much as I can, and my brother is like the President doing light work and getting all the credit for making it to the finals through the qualifying heat.”
Vincent Tripi is also one of the youngest competitors to ever run in a state fair finals heat when he competed at only 16 years old at the New York State Fair, representing all of Erie County against 43 other counties. He said, “When we originally got there my dad and I walked through the competition and were shocked at how much these cars were protected. With stop sign steel going over the roof of cars and bars down the doors. I didn’t have any of that stuff except one two-point bar behind my seat.” Vincent still managed to place 13th out of 43 counties at only 16 years old, with the next youngest competitor to make it to that heat being in their thirties.
This is before and after of Phil Jr.’s 2004 4x4 Ranger that was all but destroyed by a drunk driver before they got it and had the whole thing rebuilt in only 36 days, with custom lights, a real OEM ’69 Cougar Eliminator hood scoop, rollbar, 17-inch rims…the works. Phil said, “This truck has competed in multiple shows and is drag raced almost every week in the summer with usually one or two passes a week, but don’t let the show truck look fool you—it knows all about hitting the trails in the back of the farm, and I run it every day in the summer as my daily driver. It originally had 58,000 miles when I got it and today, four years later, it has 89,000.
Philip said, “How could I be the CEO of the largest Mustang II business and not have a true numbers-matching King Cobra?” So he got this original car from Maryland. The car was originally found as a package deal with two other parts cars by a customer who called the boys letting them know about a man who had three Mustang IIs for sale down the street. We were all set up to go get the cars and Philip was ecstatic about getting his hands on the King, but the seller backed out and it seemed the cars were lost until the owner called them back a year later. On the way home from the World Police and Fire Games, where Phil Sr. won his second gold medal and was sleeping/calling everyone he knew in the back of the SUV, they drove to where the cars were and had to dig them out of mud that was halfway up the doors. Phil Jr. said, “All I was thinking was ‘holy @#$# how are we gonna pull this off with an Explorer and little Harbor Freight winch without ripping this car in half? Thinking how rotted out it must be.’ After an hour and a half of struggling we pull the King out of the mud. To our amazement the underbody was solid like I’ve never seen. I kicked my brother out of the driver’s seat cause even though it was getting winched onto a dolly, I’m the only person driving my King. This was a bad move because as soon as I sat down and grabbed that steering wheel I had a mouse run right up the inside of my pant leg. I dove out of the car into the mud and it looked like I was having a massive, overly dramatic seizure on the ground. My father just looks over at me totally losing it on the ground yelling ‘What in God's name are you doing?’” Phil Sr. and Vince still get a laugh to this day around Phil Jr., as they are about to pull another car into the shop saying did you check for mice or snakes first. The King Cobra is just about to undergo a full restoration, and Phil said, “Everybody better watch out because the lift will be tied up awhile at Nationals with this King when it’s done, and winning First Place. This car isn't just to show that I have the best King Cobra, but also to show that at Terrible Twos, WE ARE THE BEST!”
Contact the Terrible Twos
Like we said earlier, the Tripis don’t have a website, and would rather we don’t share their cell phone numbers here, but you can find them on Craigslist and eBay Motors under the handle lenseking2 or email them at TerribleTwos7478@gmail.com or Lenseking2@msn.com.