Jim Smart
February 4, 2005
Photos By: Jeff Ford

Mark Bremier is a fun guy who loves cars. The '65 Mustang you seeburning the hides on our cover really isn't Mark's doing. In fact, hegot this classic Mustang in a partial trade with the former owner ofanother car. "I guess this car would run you $25,000 to $30,000 if youbought it outright," Mark told us. But we understand our readers aren'ttypically people who just go out and buy ready-made, high-performancerestomods. Our readers, like most of us at Mustang & Fords, prefer tobuild their own cars. We will add that many of us cannot afford a$25,000 to $30,000 ride either. We're lucky if we can pull it off forunder $15,000 and have something to feel proud of. As enthusiasts, wehave to be resourceful and creative.

We wanted to dissect Mark's Mustang hardtop, and see what we couldactually build this car for. We're going to look it over, and figure outwhat we could build this car for in real-world dollars and time withoutbreaking the bank. follow along with us as we show you how to build awicked ride.

You can get into a rust-free classic Mustang for $200 to $7,000. This iswhere you have to invest your time in the search for a terrific bargain.They are still out there. Think of it as a treasure hunt.

Basics

Begin your plan with a no-nonsense, low-buck ride, such as a '65-'68Mustang hardtop. These days, you can even aim for a '69-'70 hardtopbecause we've seen some really bitchin' things done with these otherwiselackluster rides. Mustang hardtops tend to be plentiful and cheap,regardless of vintage. One example is our own Project KISS, a derelict'68 Mustang hardtop we found in Long Beach, California, for $200.Another example is an Emberglo '66 Mustang hardtop a friend of ourssnapped up in Burbank for $1,000. the original owner just didn't want itanymore.

Great finds are still out there. You just have to beat the bushes forthem and be patient. Ideally, you will find a V-8 car for yourparticular project, but don't let a six-cylinder deter you. Six-cylinderMustangs are generally the cheapest. Those sixes, and their weaksuspensions, can easily be replaced with a V-8 and five-lug suspensions.

Don't err on the side of cheap and pick up a crumbling rust bucket youwill have to invest thousands in for sheetmetal replacement andbodywork. Spend more and get a rust-free body you can get right to workon. If you live in the salt belt, and you find a rust-free car inArizona or California, spend the money on the car and shipping. It willstill wind up costing you less than the rust repair. Plus, you can getright down to car building without having to wait for time-consumingbodywork.

If you have the patience and perseverance, search for a goodrust-and-damage-free body without the over-inflated purchase price foundin the collector publications. Cruise the used car lots. Check theclassifieds every week. Drive up and down side streets looking for theneglected classic someone wants to get rid of for a song. Remember, noteveryone sees vintage Fords the same way we do. Some see an old Ford asjust that--an old Ford. They don't see the classic side nor the value;those are the ones you have to watch for.

The Look

Mark Bremier's '65 Mustang hardtop has a few mild, yet complex, bodymodifications wrapped up in the 10-second package. Mild, run-of-the-millmodifications are a front valance from Tony Branda Mustang & ShelbyParts and a fiberglass decklid from Mustang Depot. These are easybolt-ons that make a huge difference in the car's appearance. The formerowner extended the rear wheel lips to accommodate the larger tires andwheels in back. This is costly and not always necessary. Consideralternative wheel sizing and offset instead.

We like the two-tone finish on Mark's Mustang--extremes of light anddark with black and Hugger Orange to mimic the Harley-Davidson colorsthat sets the car apart from others. But it also costs more than a moretraditional paint job. The fender flares and cowl vent deletion add tothe cost of building the car and aren't mandatory. Mustangs have a nice,clean look as they came off the assembly line. Paint color and colorcombinations can make all the difference without costing a fortune.

Paint and body are always huge concerns when it comes to cost. That'swhy beginning with a solid, rust-free body is so important to savingmoney. We spoke with Allan Shepley at Mustang Central about the cost ofpaint and body, with the understanding they would be starting with arust-free body. Allan explained that you never know what you're going tofind when you tackle a car body. The truth comes when you get down tothe bare steel. That's why you have to thoroughly inspect a body beforebuying. Look for accident damage and sloppy repair. Search for rust.Small rust bubbles in the paint normally mean huge problems and expensebeneath the surface.

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.

Platform

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.

Engine

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.

(above & below left) It's nice when you can afford those high-end binders from Baer andWilwood. However, for the rest of us there's Stainless Steel Brakes andMustangs Plus. You can fit your steed with factory front disc brakesthat will stop you just fine. For hard braking, step up to carbonmetallic brake pads. Extra-wide rear drum brakes designed for theFairlane station wagon offer plenty of stopping power. You can get theseguys from Mustangs Plus.

A solid bottom end is a good investment in many ways because not onlywill it hold up when the going gets tough, it will stay together whenthe going is normal for a long time.

Mark's powerplant of choice is a Coast High Performance 347 StreetFighter, an affordable crate engine sporting an SVO Sportsman block(which you do not need to go 10.79), Eagle H-beam rods, Probe 8.5:1pistons, Total Seal piston rings, main girdle, Trick Flow aluminum headswith 2.02/1.60-inch valves, Anderson B-451 roller camshaft, Harland1.6:1 roller rockers, Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, Mighty Demon650-cfm carburetor, 1000HP fuel system, MSD ignition, MAC 13/4-inchlong-tube headers, 3-inch Dr. Gas X-pipe, and NOS Big Shot plate system(200-400 hp).

The foundation for Mark's Coast High Performance 347ci stroker iscertainly sound, but unnecessary to go 10.79. A factory 5.0L rollerblock will get you there with the Coast 347ci Street Fighter packageinside. You can get into the basics of this stroker package for under$6,000, if you do a lot of it yourself and shop wisely for parts.

Interior

Mark's Mustang has custom upholstery over factory bucket seats. Thereare many options that can cost even less. TMI's new carbon fiberupholstery is one option. The Haneline instrument panel can besubstituted with a stock five-dial cluster and Scott Drake's soft-glowinstrument faces. The 8-point roll cage is excellent for safety, but youcan get away with a simpler roll cage that is less involved. Mark'sMustang also has a Ron Francis electrical system. you can get away witha stock wiring harness from Painless.

The interior is where you can save all kinds of money, yet use yourimagination at the same time. Companies such as Mustangs Plus and DallasMustang allow you to shop for terrific interior appointments withouthaving to spend a lot of money.

(above & below left) Mustangs Plus' Grab-A-Track suspension is a great bargain because it isso affordable. Opt for a set of 620 coils, polyurethane bushings, and a1-inch front sway bar, and you're ready to rock--without spending afortune. When your budget permits, step up to Global West or TotalControl suspension components.

A stock automatic shifter does not have to be replaced with somethingfrom B&M or Lokar. You can dress it up with a nice shifter handle and,perhaps, a different shifter base just to be different. for example, usea Cougar automatic shifter base instead of a Mustang's.

Always spend money on the side of safety. A three-point safety beltsystem doesn't cost much and can save your life. A four- or five-pointsafety harness designed for racing makes no sense on the street. Itbecomes user-unfriendly for even the most seasoned racer when it's timeto run to the market.

So How To Get There For $15,000

If you do the math on everything we have covered here (and a few thingswe haven't), you can get into good-looking, high-performance driving forunder $15,000 and crack the quarter-mile in under 11 seconds. To getthere, you have to watch every penny and engage in common sensethinking. First, ask yourself what you can do yourself--and do it. Ifyou don't know how to do it yourself, learn to do it yourself.

To build a 10.79-second ride, you have to focus on where to spend yourmoney wisely. This means spending less in areas that really don't have asignificant effect on the big picture: a budget suspension, stock discbrakes with rear drum brakes, chassis-stiffening components (that don'tcost much to buy and install), a factory 9-inch case with a four-piniondifferential, low-cost traction bars, a fit and trim interior, andaffordable rolling stock.

To build a 10.79-second rocket ship, invest your money into the enginewhere performance counts. Invest wisely in the driveline, which has toeffectively channel all of that power to the rear wheels. focus yourcreative energy on bodywork and paint, which is what people see first.if you watch your pennies and exercise common sense, you can go fast,look good, and have a little something left over for the upgrades tocome later.