Modified Mustangs & FordsProject Vehicles
Modified or Stock?
Which Is Best For Your Vintage Mustang Or Ford?
Step By Step
Here's a debate that's as old as the hills. Should you go modified or stock with a vintage Mustang or Ford? Maybe it's Mom's old Falcon that's been in the family since 1964, so for sentimental reasons you want to leave it the way it was. Or perhaps it's a fresh purchase that's sparked those early morning shower brainstorms, with visions of Torq-Thrusts and Edelbrock Performers dancing in your head. Whichever, the question of modified versus stock keeps coming up.
There are basic laws governing the modified versus stock debate. Rarity determines direction. As a rule, we advise against extensive modifications on a rare Ford or Mercury because it can affect resale value down the road. If the vehicle has historic value, that makes originality even more critical. But this doesn't mean you can't have fun in the meantime.
Virtually every kind of Mustang has been modified at least once, including the rare ones like Shelbys, Bosses, Hi-Pos, and California and High Country Specials. We've even seen modified Torino Talladegas, Mercury Cyclone Spoiler IIs, Cobras, Cougar Eliminators, and others.
A rule of thumb is to leave the rarest cars stock and original. But Southern California legend George "Pops" Boskovich wasn't concerned about rarity 30 years ago when he built "Pop's Toy," a '69 Boss 429 Mustang (see Oct. '98 issue). He understood the rarity of the Boss 429, but he wanted more than the stock Hemi-headed ground-pounder could deliver.
He swapped the matching-number Boss 429 engine for a 427 SOHC Cammer and a C6 Cruise-O-Matic. Seems his Boss is worth more as a Cammer than it was as a stock Boss 429 because it became a Southern California legend along Van Nuys Boulevard during the '70s. Few could conceive of Pop's Toy being powered by anything but a Cammer, despite its Boss 429 status.
Our point? You can modify anything so long as it's tastefully executed. Taste is what sells a collectable car, not always originality.
Restomod--Is it for You?
The new age of restomod has been an exciting renaissance for enthusiasts, especially on the Mustang side of things, because it enables us to personalize our rides without fear of embarrassment or persecution. Restomod is different from "modified" because it is a concept developed around tasteful modifications that make a vintage Ford better than ever.
If you're not sure about restomod, consider this. Let's take a ride in a bone-stock '65 Mustang coupe with the C-code two-barrel 289, automatic transmission, and four-wheel manual drum brakes. Hop in and take a 200-mile drive through a variety of driving conditions--stop and go, freeway, down a canyon road, out to the desert for a high-speed blast. Those modest bucket seats become hard on the posterior after about 50 miles. The huge steering wheel reminds us of driving a school bus. A panic stop on the freeway snaps us to attention with the reality of early '60s braking systems. Lean on the two-barrel Autolite 2100 for peak torque around 3,500 rpm. It's embarrassing when a Toyota Avalon passes you by without breaking a sweat. Click on the Philco AM radio for what? The traffic report and talk radio? C'mon! Time to steer out of trouble! A flatbed truck lost a sofa all over the freeway. The squeal of biased-belted tires and a soft suspension remind you how much handling technology has improved over the past 35 years.
Our point is simple--restomod is a no-brainer for the enthusiast who wants to retain the classic lines of yesteryear while vastly improving safety, comfort, and convenience. Though not always for every owner or every vehicle, we like the flexibility it yields. If you're concerned about permanent alterations that cannot be reversed, keep your modifications bolt-on in nature and store those original parts on the shelf for safekeeping.
If you don't give a hoot about originality, restomod and beyond is for you. If you're on a budget, keep the platform cheap and have a plan going in. Unless you absolutely must have a Mustang fastback or convertible, opt for the low-buck and plentiful '65-'70 coupes, which can be purchased for as low as $500 depending on condition. The average selling price in restorable condition is $1,500-$3,000 depending on region and the seller's expectations.
If you're tempted to turn your nose up at '69-'70 coupes, take another look. Envision it lowered with wheelwells full of rubber and the throaty sound of Flowmasters underneath. Modified, the '69-'70 coupe is a good-looking ride. What's more, they're plentiful and cheap because they aren't as popular as fastbacks and Mach 1s. This factor by itself is what makes them unique.
The '69-'73 Mach 1s are perfect for the modified versus stock debate. When we were looking for a tastefully modified '69-'70 Mach 1 cover car for this issue, we were surprised at how few there were in personally expressive Southern California. Most owners had stockers. Why? Because the '69-'73 Mach 1 came from the factory with "modifications." What about stripes? The Mach 1 has glistening graphics. What about wheels? Most of us like the factory styled steels or Magnum 500s. What about hopping up the engine? With a Mach 1, it's best to limit your efforts to internal engine modifications and factory-based engine dress-up--like cast Boss 302/351 valve covers and a chrome air cleaner lid. If it's a 428 Cobra Jet, those factory cast aluminum valve covers are as good as it gets. The Machs were tastefully executed right off the assembly line, so if you're going to modify one, keep your efforts subtle.
While the '74-'78 Mustang II tends to be the redheaded stepchild of the hobby, these cars make good restomods. Least popular are the coupes because it's impossible to shed the '70s econo-car-look. Most popular are the '76-'78 Cobra II and King Cobra hatchbacks, which can look sharp with the right modifications. Bad logic is to buy a four-banger or V-6 Mustang II and retrofit it with a V-8 because parts are hard to find. Be patient and keep searching for a V-8 model. Mustang IIs can be upgraded to five-lug hubs from Rod & Custom Motorsports, which means they can be fitted with high-performance disc brakes fore and aft. Trick suspension parts are also available from the street-rod industry for the Mustang II. Common sense is to fit one of these unpolished gems with a late-model Mustang's 5.0 V-8 and a T5 five-speed for cruiseability and fun-for-the-buck performance.
Outside the Mustang realm is Fairlane, Torino, Cyclone, Falcon, Cougar, and even Galaxie. Modified or stock? Some car lines lean toward a stock persona. Others are natural candidates for restomod. The full-sized Galaxies and Marauders lend themselves to a touring restomod treatment--uniformly sized tires and wheels all around, some lowering to improve handling, internal engine mods, and a throaty yet quiet dual-exhaust system. Some model years are out of the question for any restomod project, like the '69-up Galaxie 500 and LTD hardtops, with the only exception being the XL. And four doors? Forget it. They just aren't hip.
The Fairlane, Torino, Comet, and Cyclone make good restomod candidates depending on rarity and collectibility. We've seen some nice '63-'64 "K" Fairlane restomods out there that do the nameplate justice. The '65 Fairlane--stock or modified--doesn't excite anyone due to its boxy shape. Fairlane and Comet derivatives from '66-'71 are popular restomods. A '66-'67 Fairlane hardtop can be molded into a super-bad street punk with the right combination of parts and accessories. Lower these guys just a pinch and fit them with period wheels from the '60s, like Cragar SS mags or American Racing Torq-Thrusts. Want something different? Opt for a Fairlane or Comet two-door post sedan for an outlaw look.
Falcon, of course, is the restomod champ. Ford gave us a wealth to work with from '60-'65. Those old two-door sedans from '60-'62 make great smoothees. Slam them low to the ground and fill their modest wheelwells with tire and wheel. Go find some Mustang powertrain hardware and infuse new life into Grandma's old sedan. The cool thing about a Falcon is flexibility. You can build a retro sedan with period pieces, or you can go high-tech with a slippery aero look. Those early Falcons are at home in 2000 because they're timeless.
When it comes to '63-1/2 Falcon Futura/ Sprint hardtops and Sprints from the Total Performance era, we suggest keeping these more period correct with speed/performance goodies popular in the '60s. We can envision Cal Custom finned aluminum valve covers or a 289 High Performance chrome dress-up kit to get started. How about an Edelbrock F4B high-rise and Holley carburetion? Stuff an Autolite or Mallory dual-point in the block to round out those period mods. Shelby Tri-Y headers or 289 Hi-Po exhaust manifolds make the cut for a '60s modified. Torq-Thrusts (14- or 15-inch) with blackwall BFGoodrich Radial T/As give a Falcon hardtop a period look without the instability of bias-ply tires. Excite onlookers with a set of dual red-band radials from Coker Tire.
Our message here is one of priority and taste. Any time you undertake a car project, whether it's a concours restoration or an all-out ultramod, you should follow a logical path to your goal. If you're on a budget, it's smart to prioritize your project centered around what you can afford and when each step can be accomplished. Modified or stock, there has to be a plan and the resources to get there.