Jim Smart
October 1, 2002
Photos By: Mustang Monthly Archives

Some call it restification. Others call it restomod. Anyway you look at it, it is the fine art of keeping with a Mustang's original lines while making it safer, faster, and more fun to drive. Twenty years ago, the focus was on restoring a stock, original museum piece you could drive on and off the trailer, occasionally driving it to keep the oil circulated. When Wall Streeters and the faint-of-heart abandoned the classic-car market in the early '90s during the Gulf War era, thoughts and values turned more toward having real fun with these cars. Used trailer sales skyrocketed. So did the sale of used biased-ply reproduction tires and stock exhaust manifolds. The '90s made us feel comfortable with driving (and modifying!) our Mustangs again.

So what to do with a retired trailer queen? How do you turn around a stiff, stodgy concours trophy winner and make it a fun-to-drive automobile? You stick your toe in the water with stealthy modifications no one knows are there but you. Stealth mods make a Mustang fun to drive without wrecking its classic lines.

Classy Chassis

One of the first things to be attentive to is safety. Upgrading your Mustang's soft suspension components is a great start. Look to Mustangs Plus for ready-made, no-brainer, handling-upgrade kits that make it easy to choose the right springs and sway bars and shocks for your application. Stiffer springs improve handling. So do thicker sway bars. Adding a rear sway bar gives us even greater value in the handling department. Gas shocks firm up the ride. Need we say more?

Discs Rear

Four-wheel disc brakes are pretty common on new-car showroom floors today, especially at your Ford dealer. New Mustangs have been getting four-wheel disc brakes since 1994. But there's no reason why your vintage 'Stang can't have them. Stainless Steel Brakes has rear disc brake conversion kits in stock ready to ship to your front door. Rear disc brakes improve braking because they don't fade under heavy use. They're also much easier to maintain than drum brakes because there are way fewer parts. Pad changes are a cakewalk. What's more, they look terrific through the spokes of aftermarket wheels.

Give Me A Brake

Disc brakes are the single greatest way to improve safety in a classic Mustang. Front disc brakes can do more for your stopping distance than any other single brake modification. Master Power Brakes has a variety of disc brake kits for classic Mustangs. Fit your steed with period disc brakes, like four-piston units for 1965-'67, or single piston for 1968-up. Upgrade your 1965-'66 with single-piston units for simplicity and ease of maintenance. This is an easy swap and can save your life.

Try Tires…

Few thing do more for driveability than the right tires. If you're still motoring around on biased-play tires, stop squealing and get dealing with your favorite tire dealership. Coker Tire can help. Coker Tire is well known for classic car tires of all types, including gangster whitewalls. But did you know Coker Tire produces radial tires with a classic look? For example, redline radials give your Mustang a sporty look without drifting away from an original demeanor. Redlines look sharp wrapped around a nice set of Styled Steel or Magnum 500 wheels. Whitewalls are also available for the more conservative type.

The BFGoodrich Radial T/A is a time-proven, good-looking, sporty radial tire. Its raised white letters are at home on the GT, Mach 1, and Boss series Mustangs. See your local BFGoodrich dealer for more details.

Wheel Serious

This one isn't really stealthy, but it can make a difference in the way your Mustang looks. Aftermarket wheels are the bolt-on answer you can bolt-off anytime the mood hits. American Racing Torq-Thrust D and Torq-Thrust II five- spoke wheels are likely the most popular aftermarket wheel going. Cragar SS mags, still available new from days of old, are the second most popular clas-sic wheel. Styled Steel and Magnum 500 wheels are also popular picks. The wheel you pick, be it a classic or a modern-day bil-let special, should jibe with both the car and your personality. Be wise. Check your wheel well dimensions before putting down the cash.

Graphics

Tired of the same old thing? Lay down groovy graphics to put the 'tang back in your Mustang. GT-style stripes work well from 1965-'70, C-stripes are bitchin' for 1967-'68, and pinstripes add a touch of class to any model year Mustang. Boss wrap-around stripes are a natural for 1969-'70 and hood stripes add sizzle anytime. You can install any of these yourself and save money. Look to California Mustang for stripe kits. Pinstriping is best left to the professional.

Fiberglass Class

Fiberglass isn't thought of as a stealth mod because you can see it. But it is subtle in its approach. Mustangs Plus has a wide variety of fiberglass body parts to dress up any Mustang. So does Tony D. Branda Mustang & Shelby. Slip a Shelby hood onto your 1965-'68 Mustang. What about a duck's tail decklid for your hardtop, fastback, or convertible? The decklid gives it a California Special look. Fiberglass requires the talents of a professional or someone who is very patient. Bolt some 'glass on and behold the looks.

Exhaust System

Want to improve performance? Start with your Mustang's exhaust system. Nothing does more for auto attitude than throaty dual exhausts. We have a couple of mufflers in mind for a testosterone result. Flowmaster three-chamber mufflers sound terrific. They give any Mustang V-8 that Hi-Po/Cleveland throaty burble. Walker Dynomax mufflers offer a more hot rod tone-a soft roar-when the butterflies are pinned. Always use an H-pipe to balance pressure between the two sides. This also improves sound quality.

On The Radio

Thank goodness for Custom Autosound. Under the careful, thoughtful direction of Carl Sprague, the company has conceived a wide variety of sound systems for vintage automobiles, including the Mustang. These guys fit right into a Mustang's dashboard without any special modifications. Talk about a stealth mod. The USA-6 stereo unit looks like a period AM radio from the '60s. Yet it brings you a CD controller, AM/FM stereo sound and more for under $200. Not bad. Turn on and tune in to stealthy vibes from Custom Autosound.

Headlights

You may not consider headlights a modification. But have you looked through a Mustangs Plus or National Parts Depot catalog lately? Mustangs Plus has the super-sharp tri-bar headlamps for 1965-'68 and 1970-'73 Mustangs with single headlamps. The tri-bar is a composite headlamp where the bulb inside is replaceable. These lamps cast an intense beam of light to the road ahead.

National Parts Depot brings us the Xenon headlamp from Wagner. The Xenon lamp aims a bright beam of electric blue light, bringing your classic into the new millennium in short order. Kinds of reminds us of those BMWs on Los Angeles freeways.

Cool Instrumentation

Have you ever wanted to install an aftermarket instrument panel but didn't want to lose the original look? JME Enterprises has the answer. For 1965-'66, JME brings you this elegant billet instrument panel fitted with Autometer gauges for a vintage Shelby racer look. What's especially nice is this instrument panel's uncluttered styling coupled with plug-in convenience.

For 1967-'68, JME uses the factory instrument bezel fitted with Autometer instruments for an original, yet aftermarket look. All JME clusters are easy to install and require virtually no maintenance. A new JME cluster is coming for 1969-'70 Mustangs. Stay tuned to Mustang Monthly for more details.

Secret Sound

If you're like most of us purists, you like that vintage Ford AM radio mid-dash. It brings back sweet memories of strange noises off the airwaves, buzzing power lines, and the baseball game on a Saturday afternoon. But the humble AM radio isn't much good for easy listening music. It lacks depth and rich sound. Custom Autosound introduces SecretAudio for vintage Mustangs. You can hide this guy anywhere in your Mustang and use the hand-held remote control to fire it up and tune in. This way, the AM radio remains where it belongs.

Fit And Finish

You probably wouldn't think of "fit" as a modification, but it is because too many of us get it wrong. Mustangs with sloppy body-panel fit are the norm out there. You know, doors that don't line up and headlight doors out of alignment with the fender. The stealthiest Mustang modification is achieving perfect body panel and door fit, which puts your Mustang head and shoulders above the rest. Yet, no one knows why it looks much better. They only know they like what they see.

Transmission Transition

Automatic transmissions give us plenty of room for stealthy mods. For one thing, you can firm up the shift and achieve greater acceleration without engine modifications. How? With a shift improvement kit from Trans Go. Follow the instructions carefully and reprogram your transmission's valvebody in an afternoon. Transmission life is extended with a shift improvement kit because clutch and band slippage are eliminated, which saves clutch, band, and seal life.

Another steal-thy transmission mod is the installation of Ford's AOD or AODE transmission. The AOD/ AODE have overdrive, which lowers engine rpm, improves fuel efficiency, and reduces engine wear and tear. The AOD is a mechanically modulated automatic overdrive transmission. The AODE, first available in 1993, is electronically modulated and needs computer control to function properly. This transmission is best used hand-in-hand with a 5.0L SEFI engine and computer designed for the AODE.

Get A Grip

Here's an invisible mod no one knows is there but you. Centerforce's reputation for greatness comes from the Dual-Friction clutch enthusiasts are crazy about. The Centerforce clutch has an innovative diaphragm design that uses flyweights to apply more pressure on the clutch disc as engine rpm increases. For you, this means a softer clutch pedal without clutch slippage.

Fluid Clutch

If you've been driving a classic Mustang with a manual transmission, you understand the discomfort associ-ated with that old bellcrank clutch linkage. It makes for a stiff, unreliable clutch pedal. JMC Motorsports can help with a hydraulic clutch kit that makes short work of shifting. This clutch kit consists of a master cylinder (that installs where your Mustang's old clutch linkage was), hydraulic line, hardware, and a slave cylinder. All of it installs with no special tools. Bleed the system and you're ready to roll.

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Roller Derby

Stealth mods have always included internal engine upgrades, like roller cam-shafts that take the effort out of opening and closing valves. Roller lifter camshafts allow us more aggressive cam-shaft profiles without the driveabil-ity issues exper-ienced with flat tap-pet bumpsticks. Roller tappets experience less wear than flat tappets. They allow the lifter to follow an aggressive cam lobe without consequence. Crane Cams offers the enthusiast roller hydraulic camshaft conversion kits for older V-8 engines like the 260, 289, and 302ci small-blocks, 351C, 390, and 429. The result is crisp, snappy throttle response with the subtle click of roller tappets.

Induction Junction

If your V-8 engine is equipped with two-barrel carburetion, it's easy to step up to four-barrel atomizing with a trip to Summit Racing Equipment. Summit Racing Equipment sells genuine Edelbrock induction systems, including the Performer RPM manifold and carburetor for small-block Fords. The Performer RPM hides nicely beneath your factory air cleaner, if necessary. If you want an open-element air cleaner, Summit Racing Equipment can help. Top your Edelbrock carburetor with an open-element air cleaner and shut the hood. Then step into upscale performance.

Sneaky Snappy!

Are you tired of point bounce at high revs, not to mention having to gap ignition points every 10,000 miles? When Pertronix introduced the Ignitor ignition module many years ago, we were convinced it was too good to be true. It was compact, rock solid, and fit nicely inside our Autolite and Motorcraft distributors. A decade later, the Ignitor is the standard for stealthy aftermarket ignition systems. Today, Pertronix brings us the Ignitor II programmable ignition module. These folks took a great idea and made it better. After you install the Ignitor II, opt for a Flamethrower ignition coil and spark-plug wires for optimum performance.

Great Crates

The post-puritan age has brought us a wealth of crate engines to choose from. Companies like Performance Automotive Warehouse, Summit Racing Equipment, Coast High Performance, and Ford Racing Performance Parts offer us a wealth of crate engines and kits easily shipped to your door in a matter of days. These crate engines and kits allow us to get power back into our Mustangs in days rather than weeks. What's more, no one knows it's a crate engine but you. Drop it in, then turn and burn. With most crate engines, you get a warranty-plus factory reliability and backing.

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