1969 Ford Mustang Fastback: Past Blast

By: John Bowe, Photography by: Steve Nally

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Ford 69 Mustang 103 front quarter Ford 69 Mustang 103 front quarter
Ford 69 Mustang 056 rear quartert Ford 69 Mustang 056 rear quartert
Ford 69 Mustang 126 with John Bowe Ford 69 Mustang 126 with John Bowe
Ford 69 Mustang 225 front Ford 69 Mustang 225 front
Ford 69 Mustang 320 side Ford 69 Mustang 320 side
Ford 69 Mustang 356 side Ford 69 Mustang 356 side
Ford 69 Mustang 133 engine bay 2 Ford 69 Mustang 133 engine bay 2
Ford 69 Mustang 168 interior driver Ford 69 Mustang 168 interior driver
Ford 69 Mustang 187 interior steering wheel Ford 69 Mustang 187 interior steering wheel
Ford 69 Mustang 387 John Bowe Ford 69 Mustang 387 John Bowe

John Bowe gets behind the wheel of a RestoMod Mustang that retains the aura of the classic '69 car but brings the driving experience up to date

 

1969 Ford Mustang Fastback

This car belongs to friends of mine, Robert D’Lord and Emanuel Darmanin from RestoMod Performance and I’ve watched it evolve from a bare shell. It’s a show car and normally a car like this is outside my comfort zone because I believe a ’69 Mustang should be a ’69 Mustang. But this car is what I’d call a modern classic: it looks like a ’69 Fastback because the body hasn’t been customised and it has a lot of modern components that make it easier and more comfortable to drive. It also performs much better than they ever did way back in 1969.

The guys bought it in the US as an unfinished project car, just a stock ’69 with a 302 Windsor, five-speed Tremec and a leaf-spring nine-inch. It was basically an unassembled shell in undercoat but with all the parts. Their ambitious plan was to rebuild it to show quality and take it to MotorEx in Melbourne last year but they only had 12 weeks to do it!

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Actually, the guys built the car twice! Getting it ready for MotorEx was a bit of a thrash. The car still looked great but there were a few mechanical niggles and they weren’t happy with the paint, a legacy of the shell sitting outside too long in the US, even though it had been under-coated. So after MotorEx, Emanuel spent three months on the body, taking it back to bare metal before sending it off to Rapid Smash who painted it in a striking three-layer pearl orange, reminiscent of the famous Parnelli Jones Boss 302 colour.

It’s had a very neat right-hand drive conversion using a new ’67 Mustang firewall from US company Dynacorn, which makes new panels for American muscle cars. Emanuel did a really nice job on converting the dash, even getting the ducts for the climate-controlled Vintage Air air-conditioning to exit in the correct places. A full set of race-style Auto Meter gauges fill the original instrument cluster and that took some doing too. I’d prefer a more classic Mustang steering wheel, like a wood-rimmed Shelby and maybe a Shelby shifter too but that’s just personal taste. Auto Image did the re-trim in black leather with orange stitching and the aftermarket front seats are really comfortable and supportive.

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Under the bonnet is a new 5.0-litre 32-valve Coyote V8 from Herrod Motorsport – the same one used in the 2015 Mustang – although the extractors still had to be modified to fit. Emanuel ditched the Ford ECU in favour of a new local Haltech unit and Haltech also made a new wiring harness. The ECU is really well mapped and that’s one of the reasons the car drives so well. It’s a smooth, refined combination and the engine installation is very professional; it looks like it was meant to be under the bonnet when the car was first launched.

The enemy of most modern cars is weight, which is why they have become increasingly more powerful. This ‘69 is a lot lighter than the new Mustang and with around 270 kilowatts at the rear wheels it’s pretty lively. You only have to tickle the throttle in a corner in second or third gear and it’ll break traction and slide. But it’s very progressive and easy to catch and hold a slide.

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It’s got a six-speed Tremec gearbox with a BF Falcon clutch and the shift is pretty nice. Tremec gearboxes are widely used because they are strong and reliable and I’ve driven a lot of cars with them but sometimes the length of the shifter can affect the way a Tremec operates. This ‘box shifts nice and smoothly and that’s one of the things that makes driving a powerful older car around the streets a lot more enjoyable. There’s nothing worse than having to fight a car in slow-moving traffic.

Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering helps too, as does the more modern suspension setup. The front shock towers were replaced with ‘notched’ versions to allow room for the wide Coyote V8 and it has a strut front suspension with adjustable shock absorbers.

After experimenting with a three-link rear end, which he found way too stiff and hard riding, Emanuel went for a race-style fabricated Pro9 four-link with coil-overs and a fabricated nine-inch housing with a 3.7:1 Truetrac LSD in the rear. When I drove the car my first impression was that the ride was still a bit harsh so we softened the shocks off a few clicks and that made a big difference.

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The 17-inch Riddler alloys look just rightand are about as big as I’d want to go to preserve the classic Mustang look. So many show cars built up from cars from the ‘60s or ‘70s run 20- or 21-inch diameter rims with licorice strap tyres and to me they just don’t look right, they look too cartoonish. Bigger rims do allow more powerful braking systems, though, and with big six-piston calipers and ventilated rotors up front and modern tyres that are so much better than anything from 1969, she stops straight and quickly.

To me, the 1969 Mustang is one of the best-looking muscle cars of all time and getting the stance right is critical and I think the guys have nailed it.

It sits low and flat and doesn’t droop at the front or squat at the rear. It looks purposeful and tough, without you having to worry about it scraping the ground.

Like I said, on paper and on first appearances this ’69 Mustang was not my cup of tea, but the more time I spent looking at the workmanship and driving it, the more I liked it.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

1969 Ford Mustang Fastback

Engine 5.0-litre, 32-valve V8
Power 306kW @ 6500rpm
Torque 530Nm @ 4250rpm
Gearbox 6-speed manual Tremec
Brakes VTTR Racing 6-piston calipers, 280mm rotor (f), single-piston caliper,
180mm rotor (r)
Price $POA
call RestoMod 0435 896 604
restomod.com.au

 

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