Mark Bremier is a fun guy who loves cars. The '65 Mustang you see burning the hides on our cover really isn't Mark's doing. In fact, he got this classic Mustang in a partial trade with the former owner of another car. "I guess this car would run you $25,000 to $30,000 if you bought it outright," Mark told us. But we understand our readers aren't typically people who just go out and buy ready-made, high-performance restomods. Our readers, like most of us at Mustang & Fords, prefer to build 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 for under $15,000 and have something to feel proud of. As enthusiasts, we have to be resourceful and creative.
We found this '67 hardtop...
We found this '67 hardtop in Southern California, price unknown. Just because it's a California car doesn't mean it is rust-free. There are a lot of Mustangs on the California coast that live in salty air. Many of them can be as rusty as those we find in the salt belt.
We wanted to dissect Mark's Mustang hardtop, and see what we could actually build this car for. We're going to look it over, and figure out what we could build this car for in real-world dollars and time without breaking the bank. follow along with us as we show you how to build a wicked ride.
You can get into a rust-free classic Mustang for $200 to $7,000. This is where 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.
Begin your plan with a no-nonsense, low-buck ride, such as a '65-'68 Mustang hardtop. These days, you can even aim for a '69-'70 hardtop because we've seen some really bitchin' things done with these otherwise lackluster 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 ours snapped up in Burbank for $1,000. the original owner just didn't want it anymore.
Do the bodywork yourself and...
Do the bodywork yourself and save a bunch of money. You can still get a high-end-looking paint job by doing the grunt work yourself. If you don't get it right the first time, try it again.
Great finds are still out there. You just have to beat the bushes for them and be patient. Ideally, you will find a V-8 car for your particular project, but don't let a six-cylinder deter you. Six-cylinder Mustangs are generally the cheapest. Those sixes, and their weak suspensions, 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 you will have to invest thousands in for sheetmetal replacement and bodywork. Spend more and get a rust-free body you can get right to work on. If you live in the salt belt, and you find a rust-free car in Arizona or California, spend the money on the car and shipping. It will still wind up costing you less than the rust repair. Plus, you can get right down to car building without having to wait for time-consuming bodywork.
The trick to making a $1,500...
The trick to making a $1,500 paint job look like a $10,000 paint job is the guidecoat and blocking. Work the surface until it is perfect. When you guidecoat and block-sand the surface, you find all the flaws.
If you have the patience and perseverance, search for a good rust-and-damage-free body without the over-inflated purchase price found in the collector publications. Cruise the used car lots. Check the classifieds every week. Drive up and down side streets looking for the neglected classic someone wants to get rid of for a song. Remember, not everyone sees vintage Fords the same way we do. Some see an old Ford as just that-an old Ford. They don't see the classic side nor the value; those are the ones you have to watch for.
Mark Bremier's '65 Mustang hardtop has a few mild, yet complex, body modifications wrapped up in the 10-second package. Mild, run-of-the-mill modifications are a front valance from Tony Branda Mustang & Shelby Parts and a fiberglass decklid from Mustang Depot. These are easy bolt-ons that make a huge difference in the car's appearance. The former owner extended the rear wheel lips to accommodate the larger tires and wheels in back. This is costly and not always necessary. Consider alternative wheel sizing and offset instead.
Rolling stock does not have...
Rolling stock does not have to cost you a fortune. We're talking 16- and 17-inch wheels that look sharp for less money. You don't have to have high-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 than the big names out there.
We like the two-tone finish on Mark's Mustang-extremes of light and dark with black and Hugger Orange to mimic the Harley-Davidson colors that sets the car apart from others. But it also costs more than a more traditional paint job. The fender flares and cowl vent deletion add to the 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 color combinations can make all the difference without costing a fortune.
Paint and body are always huge concerns when it comes to cost. That's why beginning with a solid, rust-free body is so important to saving money. We spoke with Allan Shepley at Mustang Central about the cost of paint and body, with the understanding they would be starting with a rust-free body. Allan explained that you never know what you're going to find when you tackle a car body. The truth comes when you get down to the bare steel. That's why you have to thoroughly inspect a body before buying. Look for accident damage and sloppy repair. Search for rust. Small rust bubbles in the paint normally mean huge problems and expense beneath the surface.
What does bodywork and paint cost? Bodywork doesn't cost much more than the materials involved if you do the grunt work yourself. If you can do the preparation yourself, you can save thousands of dollars. Take your Ford to Maaco, Earl Sheib, or 1-Day Paint & Body, and have them do the final prep work (guide coat and block sanding) and painting. Realistically, if you do the prep work yourself, you can get into a nice paint job for under $1,500. Color sand and rub it out yourself.
Mark went with Centerline Sabre 17-inch wheels on his ride. These wheels really bring out the Hugger Orange and black PPG basecoat/clearcoat finish. The Sabres are priced at $250 each. Falken tires from Discount Tire tipped the financial scales at approximately $100 each. This means you can get into good-looking tires and wheels for under $1,500. truthfully, you can get into even better deals on tires and wheels for under $1,000, depending on size. you can purchase a nice set of used wheels, then clean them up for your Mustang. Snap up an old set of 15-inch Cragars, Keystones, Magnums, or styled steel wheels, and you can press them back into service for less than $500 a set. Be more conservative with wheel size, save a bunch of money, and still look sharp.
Brakes And Suspension
It's nice when you can afford...
It's nice when you can afford those high-end binders from Baer and Wilwood. However, for the rest of us there's Stainless Steel Brakes and Mustangs Plus. You can fit your steed with factory front disc brakes that will stop you just fine. For hard braking, step up to carbon metallic brake pads. Extra-wide rear drum brakes designed for the Fairlane station wagon offer plenty of stopping power. You can get these guys from Mustangs Plus.
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 the system and getting it installed is expensive. Mustang Central would charge us $3,000 to install the Rod & Custom Motorsports front end. That, along with the cost of the front-end itself, would blast us past the $15,000 mark.
Instead opt for a front suspension system from Dallas Mustang and new steering 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. You can either live with your Mustang's rear drum brakes, or pop for a set of rear disc brakes for $600. Based on what we know about good rear drum brakes, you don't necessarily need the rear disc brakes, at least not right away. Shelby-style underride traction bars are a nice add-on for around $300. Staggered rear shocks also help traction issues using off-the-shelf Ford parts that don't cost much.
Getting a rigid platform doesn't have to cost a bundle either. Subframe connectors from Mustangs Plus can be had for approximately $150. Torque boxes are also cheap at approximately $70 each, especially when you consider the rigidity gained from this installation. If you can weld in the torque boxes yourself, you save even more. These are nice, constructive mods that will tighten up your act for less than $300.
Mustangs Plus' Grab-A-Track...
Mustangs Plus' Grab-A-Track suspension is a great bargain because it is so affordable. Opt for a set of 620 coils, polyurethane bushings, and a 1-inch front sway bar, and you're ready to rock-without spending a fortune. When your budget permits, step up to Global West or Total Control suspension components.
Transmission And Rear Axle
Our objective here is to get the most bang for the buck for our driveline 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 can be had new or used, and for not much money. A new World Class T-5 is priced right at under $1,200. The TKO hauls down about twice that amount. We could suggest an old Ford Top Loader, but why? It would cost more to rebuild a Top Loader four-speed than it does to just go with the T-5. If you prefer an automatic, the AOD or AODE makes more sense than that old C4 Cruise-O-Matic. Our message here is efficiency along with speed. We want the overdrive unit so we can go cruising between drag races. Mark's Mustang is fitted with a Lentech AOD transmission with a 3,200-rpm stall converter, transbrake, and overdrive. While this is the best AOD in the industry, it isn't necessary to go 10.79.
A 9-inch Ford rear axle from Currie Enterprises makes great sense because it is reasonably priced. You can go with Ford's C7AW case for both strength and low-cost. Currie also has cases that will handle the twist of a powerful small-block. The most affordable 9-inch path is a four-pinion unit with limited-slip. You don't have to have the 31- or 35-spline axles to crack a 10-second quarter-mile.
When we are car building, thinking about the driveshaft just isn't fashionable or cool, but it is necessary. A good old-fashioned steel shaft works just as well as an aluminum shaft and for less money. If you have the original factory shaft, and it's too long for your T-5 or AOD application, have it shortened for about $150-about half the cost of a new shaft.
The engine is what gets us to a 10-second quarter-mile-or doesn't. How do we build an affordable engine that will crack a 10-second quarter-mile? First, the engine is where you're going to spend most of the $15,000 necessary to blast down the 1320 in 10.79 seconds. You need a rock-solid bottom end that will take the punishment necessary to go 10.79.
Contrary to what bench racers will tell you, you don't need a steel crankshaft to do 10.79-seconds in the quarter. A good nodular iron crank will get you there. Why? Because drag racing is short term. It happens quickly and it's over. If you are going road racing or intend to go 8-seconds in the quarter-mile, you need a steel crank and H-beam rods. To get there in 10.79, you don't.
A solid bottom end is a good investment in many ways because not only will it hold up when the going gets tough, it will stay together when the going is normal for a long time.
Mark's powerplant of choice is a Coast High Performance 347 Street Fighter, an affordable crate engine sporting an SVO Sportsman block (which you do not need to go 10.79), Eagle H-beam rods, Probe 8.5:1 pistons, Total Seal piston rings, main girdle, Trick Flow aluminum heads with 2.02/1.60-inch valves, Anderson B-451 roller camshaft, Harland 1.6:1 roller rockers, Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, Mighty Demon 650-cfm carburetor, 1000HP fuel system, MSD ignition, MAC 131/44-inch long-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 is certainly sound, but unnecessary to go 10.79. A factory 5.0L roller block will get you there with the Coast 347ci Street Fighter package inside. 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.
Mark's Mustang has custom upholstery over factory bucket seats. There are many options that can cost even less. TMI's new carbon fiber upholstery is one option. The Haneline instrument panel can be substituted with a stock five-dial cluster and Scott Drake's soft-glow instrument faces. The 8-point roll cage is excellent for safety, but you can get away with a simpler roll cage that is less involved. Mark's Mustang also has a Ron Francis electrical system. you can get away with a stock wiring harness from Painless.
The interior is where you can save all kinds of money, yet use your imagination at the same time. Companies such as Mustangs Plus and Dallas Mustang allow you to shop for terrific interior appointments without having to spend a lot of money.
A stock automatic shifter does not have to be replaced with something from 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, use a Cougar automatic shifter base instead of a Mustang's.
Always spend money on the side of safety. A three-point safety belt system doesn't cost much and can save your life. A four- or five-point safety harness designed for racing makes no sense on the street. It becomes user-unfriendly for even the most seasoned racer when it's time to 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 things we haven't), you can get into good-looking, high-performance driving for under $15,000 and crack the quarter-mile in under 11 seconds. To get there, you have to watch every penny and engage in common sense thinking. First, ask yourself what you can do yourself-and do it. If you 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 your money wisely. This means spending less in areas that really don't have a significant effect on the big picture: a budget suspension, stock disc brakes with rear drum brakes, chassis-stiffening components (that don't cost much to buy and install), a factory 9-inch case with a four-pinion differential, low-cost traction bars, a fit and trim interior, and affordable rolling stock.
To build a 10.79-second rocket ship, invest your money into the engine where performance counts. Invest wisely in the driveline, which has to effectively channel all of that power to the rear wheels. focus your creative 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 to come later.