Justin Cesler
March 30, 2011
Photos By: Mark Houlahan

If my memory serves me correctly, the 18-year-old version of myself was quite an awesome dude. I was a 155-pound ladies man who knew everything about everything. Besides killer good looks, teenage Justin was about to earn his first million dollars and already drove the coolest '70 Mustang money could buy. With a stock 302 under the hood and a set of long-tube headers flowing into a pair of Flowmaster mufflers, my Mustang was, in my eyes, the hottest thing on the streets of Florida.

Today, 9 years after purchasing my Mustang and after a 3-year stint as my daily driver, life seems to be a bit different. Teetering at the cusp of being 25 pounds overweight and educated enough to realize I know practically nothing, the thought of an 18-year-old "super Justin" seems laughable. As an automotive journalist, I'm still working on making that first million, although it seems much more likely that I'll never even be able to save up that first few thousand, let alone actually buy a house or put some money into retirement.

As for my once untouchable '70 Mustang, well, I still have it, which is great; but looking at it today, in the harsh light of reality, it doesn't seem to be quite the car it once was. Truth be told, it has always been a little rough around the edges, but I always chalked that up to a little thing I called patina. Sure, 'Old Blue' has always had some issues, like the fact that it wouldn't start unless you pushed up and to the right on the stock shifter, but back in the day that seemed really cool, like some sort of trick anti-theft device, as opposed to a major wiring issue that could have left me stranded at any moment.

So, how did it get this way? Honestly, besides the rust, most of it was completely my fault. Many of the modifications were done with zero research, a lack of mechanical knowledge and as little money as possible-a perfect storm of haphazard workmanship and a naiveté that could only come from a teenager. Some issues aren't a big deal, such as my homemade battery box or my egg-crate-lined trunk; while others are truly terrifying, like the lack of a hose clamp on my fuel line or the fact that the Mustang stays running after you remove the key from the column.

Look, our newest project car is rough, I admit that; and it's full of issues and practically about to fall apart. So you're probably wondering why you should care? Well, to be honest, this car represents the vast majority of old Ford projects out in the world today. Whether you have held on to your classic for years, as we have, or you're thinking about going out and buying a low-priced project, you'll no doubt find a plethora of large and small issues before you can get started on the really fun stuff. And that's okay, since nothing you find can't be fixed, but it's crucial that you understand the importance of starting with a solid base, before you jump into something drastic like an engine swap or paintjob. After all, there's no point in installing a 550hp crate engine if your existing wiring is about to burn the whole car to the ground, right?

Without further ado, we present to you the High School Hauler, a '70 Mustang coupe that we plan on taking from rags to riches in a series of affordable, repeatable, and obtainable steps. To round out our fleet of past and present projects, the High School Hauler will serve as a basic street/strip warrior that can get us around town and down the dragstrip, while still maintaining a vintage look and feel on a real enthusiast's budget. Now, that doesn't mean we aren't going to spend some money on our '70 coupe, but it does mean we're going to do it realistically and we aren't going to step beyond the line of what your average enthusiast could afford to do on a modest salary.

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