Jim Smart
February 4, 2005
Photos By: Jeff Ford
The most plentiful and cheap Mustang going is the humble hardtop. Wefound this one at Carlisle priced at $3,500. It had a lot of rust andwas not worth the asking price. For the same amount of money, plusshipping, you can get into a southwestern desert rat and not have tosweat the rust repair.

What does bodywork and paint cost? Bodywork doesn't cost much more thanthe materials involved if you do the grunt work yourself. If you can dothe preparation yourself, you can save thousands of dollars. Take yourFord to Maaco, Earl Sheib, or

1-Day Paint & Body, and have them do the final prep work (guide coat andblock sanding) and painting. Realistically, if you do the prep workyourself, you can get into a nice paint job for under $1,500. Color sandand rub it out yourself.

We found this '67 hardtop in Southern California, price unknown. Justbecause it's a California car doesn't mean it is rust-free. There are alot of Mustangs on the California coast that live in salty air. Many ofthem can be as rusty as those we find in the salt belt.

Rolling Stock

Mark went with Centerline Sabre 17-inch wheels on his ride. These wheelsreally bring out the Hugger Orange and black PPG basecoat/ clearcoatfinish. The Sabres are priced at $250 each. Falken tires from DiscountTire tipped the financial scales at approximately $100 each. This meansyou can get into good-looking tires and wheels for under $1,500.truthfully, you can get into even better deals on tires and wheels forunder $1,000, depending on size. you can purchase a nice set of usedwheels, then clean them up for your Mustang. Snap up an old set of15-inch Cragars, Keystones, Magnums, or styled steel wheels, and you canpress them back into service for less than $500 a set. Be moreconservative with wheel size, save a bunch of money, and still looksharp.

Brakes and Suspension

Do the bodywork yourself and save a bunch of money. You can still get ahigh-end-looking paint job by doing the grunt work yourself. If youdon't get it right the first time, try it again.

On Mark's Mustang, a Rod &Custom Motorsports front end was installed, which does not come cheap.This is a great front suspension system, but the cost of buying thesystem and getting it installed is expensive. Mustang Central wouldcharge us $3,000 to install the Rod & Custom Motorsports front end.That, along with the cost of the front-end itself, would blast us pastthe $15,000 mark.

Instead opt for a front suspension system from Dallas Mustang and newsteering gear from Flaming River--all of it for under $1,100. A Rod &Custom Motorsports front disc brake kit can be had for another $400. Youcan either live with your Mustang's rear drum brakes, or pop for a setof rear disc brakes for $600. Based on what we know about good rear drumbrakes, you don't necessarily need the rear disc brakes, at least notright away. Shelby-style underride traction bars are a nice add-on foraround $300. Staggered rear shocks also help traction issues usingoff-the-shelf Ford parts that don't cost much.


The trick to making a $1,500 paint job look like a $10,000 paint job isthe guidecoat and blocking. Work the surface until it is perfect. Whenyou guidecoat and block-sand the surface, you find all the flaws.

Getting a rigid platform doesn't have to cost a bundle either. Subframeconnectors from Mustangs Plus can be had for approximately $150. Torqueboxes are also cheap at approximately $70 each, especially when youconsider the rigidity gained from this installation. If you can weld inthe torque boxes yourself, you save even more. These are nice,constructive mods that will tighten up your act for less than $300.

Transmission and Rear Axle

Our objective here is to get the most bang for the buck for ourdriveline because most of the rest of our money will go into the engine.You have a couple of choices here. A World Class or TKO five-speed canbe had new or used, and for not much money. A new World Class T-5 ispriced right at under $1,200. The TKO hauls down about twice thatamount. We could suggest an old Ford Top Loader, but why? It would costmore to rebuild a Top Loader four-speed than it does to just go with theT-5. If you prefer an automatic, the AOD or AODE makes more sense thanthat old C4 Cruise-O-Matic. Our message here is efficiency along withspeed. We want the overdrive unit so we can go cruising between dragraces. Mark's Mustang is fitted with a Lentech AOD transmission with a3,200-rpm stall converter, transbrake, and overdrive. While this is thebest AOD in the industry, it isn't necessary to go 10.79.

Rolling stock does not have to cost you a fortune. We're talking 16- and17-inch wheels that look sharp for less money. You don't have to havehigh-end wheels and name-brand tires to crack a 10-second quarter-mile.Opt for speed-rated tires from Pep Boys that cost considerably less thanthe big names out there.

A 9-inch Ford rear axle from Currie Enterprises makes great sensebecause it is reasonably priced. You can go with Ford's C7AW case forboth strength and low-cost. Currie also has cases that will handle thetwist of a powerful small-block. The most affordable 9-inch path is afour- pinion unit with limited-slip. You don't have to have the 31- or35-spline axles to crack a 10-second quarter-mile.

When we are car building, thinking about the driveshaft just isn'tfashionable or cool, but it is necessary. A good old-fashioned steelshaft works just as well as an aluminum shaft and for less money. If youhave the original factory shaft, and it's too long for your T-5 or AODapplication, have it shortened for about $150--about half the cost of anew shaft.


The engine is what gets us to a 10-second quarter-mile--or doesn't. How do we build an affordable enginethat will crack a 10-second quarter-mile? First, the engine is whereyou're going to spend most of the $15,000 necessary to blast down the1320 in 10.79 seconds. You need a rock-solid bottom end that will takethe punishment necessary to go 10.79.

Contrary to what bench racers will tell you, you don't need a steelcrankshaft to do 10.79-seconds in the quarter. A good nodular iron crankwill get you there. Why? Because drag racing is short term. It happensquickly and it's over. If you are going road racing or intend to go8-seconds in the quarter-mile, you need a steel crank and H-beam rods.To get there in 10.79, you don't.