Jim Smart
October 26, 2011

Project Reclaim from Mustangs Plus and The Restomod Shop is finally complete and we've taken our first test drive. This "born again" fastback is fun to drive with abundant torque, a throaty bark, crisp handling, and comfort. Much of the car's restoration and restomod efforts were covered in previous issues of Mustang Monthly.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

When Ron Bramlett from Mustangs Plus sat down with us to chat about Project Reclaim's long trek from salvage yard relic to restomod show car, he related his memories about dozens of classic Mustang bodies that went to the crusher. Back in a time when reproduction parts weren't so plentiful, Mustangs Plus acquired these cars for their good parts, then sent their rusted and damaged bodies to the crusher.

It was just dumb luck that this six-cylinder fastback survived, either because the wrecked body was either too hard to reach with the forklift or the truck was always too full to haul it away. So the fastback remained in the sea of wrecked and damaged bodies since the 1980s.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

A couple of years ago, Ron started thinking about how badly damaged Mustang bodies, which are no longer plentiful, could be saved, especially with the abundance of Dynacorn's reproduction sheetmetal. That's when Ron contacted us and proposed Project Reclaim as the resurrection of a '65 Mustang six-cylinder fastback that had been sitting in the Mustangs Plus salvage yard for over two decades. Picked clean, the body was rusted out and suffered from collision damage. Most believed it could not be saved. But they did not know Terry Simpson at The Restomod Shop, the restoration and modification arm of Mustangs Plus. Terry's fabrication skills are what make The Restomod Shop a departure from a lot of shops, which tend to farm out most bodywork. We had the good fortune of watching Terry and his team bring Reclaim back to life.

We knew we didn't want anything radical, but instead a slippery fastback road hugger that could be driven anywhere. We also wanted reliability, which would come from the stroker 331ci Street Stealth small-block from MCE Engines and a support system like a Flex-A-Lite fan/radiator combo. We envisioned a Painless Performance wiring system to provide power for the electric cooling fan, Edelbrock electric fuel pump, MSD ignition system, RetroSound sound system, and more. For exhaust, we selected JBA shorty headers with Spintech mufflers.

Body & Paint

Once the Mustang carcass was pulled from the Mustangs Plus salvage yard, The Restomod Shop stripped the body and went to work with a wealth of Dynacorn sheetmetal at its disposal. As the guys tore into the project, it became apparent there would be a lot of frame table time and sheetmetal replacement. Sheetmetal work alone took weeks before the final bodywork and paint could be performed.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Observing the project, we learned something about body structure and impact trauma. Accidents don't just damage at points of impact. They send shockwaves through the body, causing distorted sheetmetal in other places. On Reclaim, the right-front collision damage traveled from the radiator support to the framerail to the firewall and floor pan. Before replacing anything, Terry placed the body on a frame table for heating, pulling, and yanking until everything measured up to factory specifications. Once the body dimensions were confirmed, Terry replaced the radiator support, front crossmember, right framerail, shock tower, and inner fender aprons.

While Terry worked the body, his associates prepped the new Dynacorn sheetmetal for installation. Because the floor pan was so badly rusted, Terry opted for a full Dynacorn floor pan. Terry's plan for structural integrity included the Chassis Strengthening Kit from Mustangs Plus.

Both durability and good looks come from Vintage Air's FrontRunner serpentine beltdrive, a billet timing cover/accessory drive package that provides a tight, compact look. We also put a lot of thought into the fuel system with a 22-gallon tank protected by Tank Armor from the Antioch Mustang Stable.

The body had to make a statement. Terry blended in sidescoops and '67 Shelby-style fiberglass hood, decklid, and front valance. Other body tricks include Tony Branda quarter windows, Scott Drake sequential taillights, Billet Restomod fuel cap, Restomod Shop custom fabricated ground effects, and Tri-Bar headlights with integral signal lamps.

For paint, Ron decided to go with his own special color mix from House of Kolor, now known as Restomod Blue, along with his own twist on white Shelby-style LeMans stripes flowing into a scooped fiberglass hood.

In terms of labor and materials, Ron estimates that it cost approximately $18,000 to get Reclaim's body ready for paint. Cost, of course, depends on the extent of rust and body damage you have to begin with.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Engine & Driveline

Marvin McAfee's vision for Reclaim was a modest increase in displacement--331ci--with plenty of street torque and an engine that's finished by 6,000 rpm. For the build at his MCE Engines, Marvin ordered a Ford Racing M-6010-B50 5.0L Sportsman roller block from Hawaii Racing in Simi Valley, California, along with a 4340 steel stroker kit from Probe Industries, Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam and valvetrain, Holley heads with 2.02/1.60-inch valves, Weiand dual-plane intake, Holley Street Avenger carburetor, and MSD ignition system. The result was exactly what Marvin predicted with 328 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, good for raw acceleration and making power by 6,000 rpm.

Although we initially considered a Tremec five-speed, we wound up with a T-56 six-speed from Ford Racing for the wow factor. Ron Morris Performance provided the crossmember, while Inland Empire Drive Line set us up with a custom aluminum driveshaft. At the rear, we went with a Currie reproduction 9-inch case with 3.89:1 Traction-Lok for good hook-up. Total Control provided the FAB-9 axlehousing, which went with its g-Bar Canted 4-Bar rear suspension.

Suspension & Brakes

One of the greatest investments you can make in a road-going restomod are elements designed to keep you safe. That's why we opted for Total Control and Stainless Steel Brakes for this project. Total Control's Front Coil-Over Conversion includes upper and lower control arms with TrueCenter technology for improved suspension geometry and a lower center of gravity for road-hugging performance. VariShock QuickSet coilover shocks are fully adjustable. Also on board is Total Control's power rack-and-pinion steering.

In back, we kicked it up a notch with Total Control's g-Bar Canted 4-Bar suspension system. With it, you get the FAB-9 housing for Ford 9-inch differentials, adjustable suspension geometry, adjustable shock mounts, and either VariShocks or ShockWave air springs.

We achieved advanced braking with Stainless Steel Brakes' Tri-Power disc brake package. At the rear, we opted for A110-15 disc brakes with Xtra-Life 13-inch rotors and red powdercoated 30mm three-piston calipers. Up front, we used the same basic package with A120-14 Tri-Power brakes with 13-inch rotors and 30mm three-piston calipers. When you add the SSBC power booster and billet master cylinder, you have unbeatable stopping power.

Where the rubber meets the road, we opted for 17x8-inch Vintage 60 wheels from Vintage Wheel Works wrapped in Falken Azenis PT722 A/S tires, P235/45R17 front and P245/45R17 rear, from Discount Tire. We chose this all-season performance tire for its good looks, exceptional handling, and comfortable ride, a combination that is hard to achieve from a high-performance tire.

Inside Moves

For Reclaim's interior, Ron wanted a combination of nostalgia, high-tech, and comfort. He hammered out the look for the bucket seats and passed the information along to TMI Products, which made the custom stitched upholstery in their popular Sport Seat package on brand-new Dynacorn frames and tracks. Three-way charcoal shoulder belts from Retro Manufacturing complement the buckets, not only in terms of aesthetics, but also for improved safety.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Carpeting is a late-model style tight pile from Auto Custom Carpets. We decided to eliminate the dash padding and go with Restomod Blue body color. The rear seat has been replaced with a cargo floor for luggage, while in place of the rear access is an MP Products panel with 6x9 speakers. Doors are clad with ABS panels from MP Products to provide a richer, more fully upholstered look. Other mods include brushed aluminum Lokar door handles and pedals, Ford Racing instrumentation, Electric Life power windows, Dynacorn reproduction wing window assemblies, and smoked window glass from JRD International.

The RetroSound in-dash sound system includes LCD display, conventional control knobs, auxiliary inputs, remote control, and a 3-1/2-inch fascia that fits into the classic Mustang dashboard provision. RetroSound envelopes us with sound from a pair of 6x9 speakers in back, 6-1/2-inch speakers in the kick panels, and a twin-coil speaker in front.

Classic Auto Air's Perfect Fit climate control system almost escapes notice because, aside from dash-mounted outlets, you hardly know it's there. The Perfect Fit is controlled via the factory heater control. Working with Perfect Fit is Quiet Ride Solutions' Acoustishield, a thermal and acoustic insulation that quiets the classic Mustang driving experience also helps inside air temperature by shutting out heat and cold.

Driving Reclaim

Reclaim is great fun to drive. Punch the keyless start button from Flaming River and the 331 roars to life. Acceleration through First, Second, and Third, with shift points at 5,500 rpm, is predictable and confident. As expected, torque comes on strong from 2,500 through 5,500 rpm.

Worthy of note is the great Total Control handling and confident braking from Stainless Steel disc brakes, which makes you want to push this Mustang harder. Where Reclaim really shines is the craftsmanship. Although we've sung the great virtues of Terry Simpson, we also need to mention Richard Bramlett, who put this car together once Terry got the body in paint. Richard's vision was reliability and aesthetics. Mark Vasquez was also instrumental in this car's craftsmanship because he has been restoring classic Mustangs for decades.

Once you've grown accustomed to driving today's quieter, user-friendlier cars and trucks with their creature comforts and technology, driving an original classic Mustang can be a letdown. With all of Reclaim's refinements and attention to detail, it makes us want to drive a classic Mustang again.

Project Reclaim articles

Subject Issue
Rebuild a Junk Mustang September 2007
Bodywork December 2007
Paint and Graphics January 2008
Build a 331 Stroker February 2008
Install a Larger Fuel Tank June 2008
Currie Rear-End July 2008
Total Control Front Suspension August 2008
Total Control Rear Suspension September 2008
SSBC Brakes October 2008
Sound Deadening March 2009
Shelby Rear Quarter Windows February 2010
Painless Performance Wiring February 2010
Halogen Tri-Bar Headlights March 2010
Headliner October 2010
TMI Seat Upholstery November 2010
Custom Instrument Panel December 2010
Powerbraid Wiring Wrap January 2011
Billet Grille April 2011
In-Dash Air Conditioning May 2011
Electric Life Power Windows July 2011
Export Brace August 2011
Lighted Sill Plates September 2011

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery