Tech | Metal Repair/Replacement
This month our ragged out '68 coupe finally comes full circle as a rust-free fastback. After many hours of cutting, welding, grinding, and more, our fastback project has a fresh new body for us to move forward with thanks to the awesome crew at Drake Customs. Its fastback conversion process is but one alternative to bringing back a classic Mustang from the brink of extinction. Our coupe would have been nothing more than a parts car or scrap metal for the junkyard if we hadn't saved it. So while not everyone will want to convert their coupe to a fastback (or convertible) and not everyone reading this magazine will take the same steps with their project, we can all agree that it's a great feeling to save another classic Mustang from being lost forever, no matter what your taste is in Mustangs.
Our final sheetmetal story in our project series focuses on the inside of the freshly welded fastback shell we finished up last month. The inside is where the Drake Customs fabricators went the extra mile. While the fastback sheetmetal panels (quarters, roof skin, and so on) are available in reproduction, you can't just call up your favorite Mustang parts vendor and order the fastback's interior structure and interior panel mounting brackets. The OE inner structure is very basic, though does get the job done. The Drake Customs inner structure is a dimple die fabricated 18-gauge steel panel designed to not only reinforce the quarter-panel, but allow full installation of the stock vent assemblies. Furthermore, Drake Customs leaves the majority of the coupe inner structure in place as well, further strengthening the area, something even the stock structure doesn't have from the factory.
Drake Customs' final touch is the addition of its handmade panel-mounting brackets. These brackets are handmade from 18-gauge steel and are either welded or screwed to the freshened body shell as part of the Drake Customs conversion process. They are required to mount the upper and lower rear quarter trim panels and the fold-down seat mechanism. The bracket manufacturing is quite tedious but is necessary to build a complete conversion. If you're building a race car or not planning a back seat then Drake Customs can omit some or all of the brackets for a credit. Check out the last of our metal work by Drake Customs' Ray Carmody, Ramon Aguayo, Jesse Villaroel, and Len Harris and tune in for our next installment on Project Generation Gap where we'll get started on our suspension.
The Drake Customs Way
We'd like to thank the guys at Drake Customs for rolling out the welcome mat for our week long visit to their Arizona-based shop. We've spent countless hours over the last 17 years in various build shops, factories, and garages, putting together stories for a number of magazines, but the crew at Drake Customs was one of the most professional and dedicated we've had the pleasure to work with. Not to mention they're a great bunch of cut-ups that will not hesitate to pull the first prank on you after you've been there a whole 10 minutes. Even working 16 hour days, most nights these guys knew what had to be done and didn't complain. You can really tell they've worked together for a while because watching them swarm around a car doing their jobs is nothing short of an automotive orchestra in action. If you're ever in Lake Havasu be sure to stop by for a visit.
Here's the culmination of...
Here's the culmination of our sheetmetal work-complete and ready to be shipped back to Modified Mustangs & Fords HQ-where we will move forward with the suspension and final paint and body.
The inner structure panels...
The inner structure panels are pre-cut to shape, but do require some minor fitment tweaks since every car is just a bit different. A few tack welds hold it in place and then Ramon gets to work adding stitch welds for strength.
Since the coupe's upper shoulder-belt...
Since the coupe's upper shoulder-belt mounting point was cut out during the roof conversion, we measured the mounting point on an original fastback so that the Drake Customs crew could replicate the mount in our body shell. This will allow us to easily add three-point belts down the road when we tackle the interior.