Project Mustang - on the waterfront
We finally get our grubby paws on the shiny new project car
We've gone a bit quiet on Project Mustang over the last couple of months and there's a good reason for that: it's been floating somewhere between the Classic Speed workshop in the Philippines and the palatial Unique Cars offices in Melbourne.
During that time, Uncle Phil - who has managed the project - has been like a cat on a hot tin roof, stressing over when his new toy would arrive and in what shape. If you're picturing him waiting at the docks, impatiently hopping from one foot to the other, you wouldn't be far off the mark.
Finally, we get the call. It's here - or to be more precise, Sydney. Phil's on the first bomber out of Melbourne and belting on the door of the customs agent before you can say 'crankshaft'. With the paperwork apparently in order, it was time to ferret out the container and unwrap the mag's new toy. This time, we had photo and video folk on hand to record the joyous event.
So there's Phil, cutters in hand to break the shipping seal, desperately trying to track down the correct container. There it is. He opens it, and the big grin on his face sinks without a trace. Before he even pulls the dust cover, he knows something is wrong.
With the cover off, a very scrappy looking 1967 fastback is unveiled - not the spotlessly rebuilt '64 ½ coupe he was expecting. Looking like a man whose favourite puppy has just been stolen, he starts searching for an explanation, or the dingbat responsible. Were we sent the wrong car? Has the real one been snatched by pirates? As it turns out, it was a simple paperwork mix-up and the right car is soon found in another box.
Happy again, he fusses around as the customs people give it an inspection for stray plant or animal life and give it a clean bill of health. At last, he gets to start it up, and what a glorious noise it produces.
Nearly a year in the making by the time we bought the donor car and got it restored, Project Mustang has been quite an adventure. From day one, the idea was to build a good, solid road car that had plenty of grunt without edging over into the realm of uncontrollable track animal.
The body alone received hundreds of hours of treatment, stripped back to bare metal and straightened on Classic Speed's custom-built jigs, while also being converted to right-hand drive.
We went with a dual-wishbone, coil-sprung, front-end matched to a new steering rack, all from Total Control. The set-up is height, compression and rebound adjustable. Out back, we've stuck with leaf springs, albeit with modern dampers. A coil rear-end was an option, but Phil has opted for simplicity, saying the more complex set-ups can move around as they wear. Braking is by Wilwood, with four-piston calipers up front and two-piston on the rear.
At the heart of the mechanical package is a 347ci version of the famous 289 V8, fitted with electronic ignition. Fuel injection was an option, but we've gone with a Holley 600 carburettor, matched to an electronic choke and fuel pump. Both Phil and Classic Speed engineer Richard Dearing reckon this is a good package that provides nice day-to-day performance along with some useful adjustability.
Noise is handled by a Classic Speed-designed stainless steel exhaust system which "sounds tough", according to Phil. All up, that lot is good for 400 horses.
Getting it to the ground is an 11-inch heavy-duty hydraulic clutch, a TKO Tremec five-speed transmission, balanced tailshaft and a Strange nine-inch diff running a 3.70 ratio. Phil says the diff ratio is a compromise that's ideal for the five-speed transmission - any higher and the engine (in this tune, at least) would struggle in top.
Inside, the Classic Speed people presented us with a little surprise. We sent some Scat front seats trimmed in vinyl and they (along with the rear thrones) came back in leather. The interior is rounded off with a decent stereo plus a really slick air-conditioning system by Vintage Air. But what really gets the Uncle Phil heartbeat up is the R-model replica dash. "It's a flat racing-style dash," he explains, "It's awesome."
Overall, the finish and presentation has a huge feel-good factor. "When you open those doors, it just jumps up and says 'I'm pretty good'," says Phil. "Classic Speed is the perfect venue for someone who has a little money and wants to tailor-make a Mustang specifically for their needs. The ability is there to do everything you want in an old car and have it built to new quality."
So what now? Well, once we get plates on it, we'll head off and do a little final tweaking and sorting. Classic Speed builds a damn nice car, but Phil has some specific set-up in mind. "A day in the garage will be good," he says. "I want it to turn-in properly and be nice and responsive on corners. I like a car that can virtually drive itself on the highway." Watch this space…
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