Update 2019: See the How It Is Page for more pictures
Update 2015: The car is running, driving and getting miles on it
A Little History
Believe it or not, the old Mustang was my FIRST car… and I STILL have it. Purchased in the fall of 1974 while I was still 15 years old, the car had no idea of what it was in for. I distinctly remember the pain of having the car setting there in the driveway but having no (legal) means to enjoy driving it. Originally equipped with a two-barrel 351 Windsor engine, the car was extremely jacked up in the rear with no engine modifications. I spent the next several months cleaning and detailing my new found love in preparation for my 16th birthday. It was probably cleaner then than it ever has been since. Since I worked at an A&W drive-in before I owned the car, I definitely had ‘car fever’. For the first year of my ownership, the car was left pretty much alone. I did lower the back end down some by removing the air shocks that were in addition to the re-arched springs.
Hot Rod Heaven
The reason I say that decision changed my interest in the car is that IF I had bought the side pipes, I feel certain I would have been primarily concerned about the ‘showiness’ of the car and nothing about performance. By buying the headers I got a taste of increasing performance. I loved tinkering with my dirt bikes looking for that ‘extra edge’ before I got my car license so I guess it might have been natural to do the same with the car but now I was hooked.
The car became nearly my ONLY interest and I continued to try to get all the performance out of it I could. The next improvement was a new intake manifold. I wanted the Ford ‘Shelby’ intake for the 351W but at nearly $200 back then, I just couldn’t come up with the cash. I settled instead on a ‘split port’ job which probably was a good choice since it would help provide more low end torque. Of course now I had to have a four-barrel carb too and a new 780cfm Holley was in order.
What Was Next
The summer after my 17th birthday I had a dilemma… I had some extra money I wanted to spend on the car. But what to do? I originally went to purchase some fancy ‘side pipes’ of the day… those that look like you have full headers exiting behind the front tires and then dumping into a big 4″ pipe. (In reality you only had a 2″ pipe feeding that big 4″ unit but it still looked pretty cool. It definitely wouldn’t help performance any though.) Once I got to the store to buy the pipes something happened. I can’t remember if they didn’t have them stock or I just chickened out.
I ended making a decision that I personally think changed my interest in the car for a long time to come. Instead of buy those ‘showy’ pipes, I came home with a new set of Appliance brand headers and shorty header mufflers. One of the downfalls of the Ford Windsor engines was it’s limited exhaust capabilities and one of the best performance mods you could do to a car back then was headers. So after my friend Tab Marsh and I spent a day and a half trying to get these headers on the car… (it was a real pain since the car had power steering back then) we were ready to ‘race’.
Performance improved dramatically and now I was ready to get serious (ha ha) about racing. I remember that summer of street racing nearly every night and working on tweaking the car out during the day. By then I had ‘moved up’ to working at the Humpty-Dumpty grocery store as a checker. This gave me the whole day to work on the car, work the evening shift, and then go racing after getting off work. The most fun was racing a huge guy we called ‘Tiny’ in his 440 powered Chrysler. The car was completely stock and would run head-to-head with my modified ‘Stang. Of course we would have been lucky if we were running 15 or 16 second quarter mile times but the was fun… and dangerous too. Somebody must have been watching over me all those years since I was never present during any mishaps while street racing.
The Next Step
Eventually the old Stang became a much healthier horse with a complete replacement of the 351W in favor of a much modified 302 Windsor. Although it sounds funny replacing a 351 with a 302 to improve performance, one has to remember the time frame this was in. The 351W was a lone pony in the mid 70’s with hardly any REAL performance parts available for it. The biggest problem was in the bottom end of the engine since the 351 had pretty weak rods and the longer stroke that tended to limit it’s reliability at higher RPMs.
Additionally I had a friend that was just getting out of the Ford hotrod business and had a complete bottom end and original 289 HiPo heads he wanted to get rid of. Aha! I snatched up the parts including special Ford heavy duty 302 rods, a worked over cast crank, TRW 12.5:1 forged pistons and a solid lifter Ford 289 HiPo cam. I took an existing block I had and did a makeover on it chamfering all the castings and holes, having it bored out to the .030 over, had the whole assembly balanced and rebuilt the 289 heads including a three angle valve job, new springs and aluminum retainers, screw in studs and a few other items
A Edelbrock dual plane manifold toped off the engine and a dual-point Accel distributor and coil provided the spark. With the addition of a 5:43 to 1 Nodular Iron carrier rear end, the little pony felt pretty good on the street. (Of course one couldn’t drive anywhere except around town and gas was almost a dollar a gallon but dang it WAS fun). In the early/middle 80’s when the car was at it’s best performance wise when the 302 was pulled back down and a Boss 302 steel crank added, motor re-balanced and a different cam added. The only ‘official’ place I ever ran was a 1/8 mile drag strip in Lawton Oklahoma where it turned a best of an 8.02 ET. I’ve been told that should equate to around a low to mid 12 second quarter but I guess I’ll never know.
The Way It Was 2001
As of 2001 the car sat in the garage in the middle of a long, long rebuild project… in fact it’s being going on now for nearly 10 years and it’s not much further along than it was when it began. I have a plan but time, money and commitment are hard to come by today. I have not idea what type of engine configuration I would like to use and even if I’ll go back with the automatic or look at a 5 speed option.
Initially I thought I really wanted to drop a later model EFI motor in the thing but nostalgia keeps pulling on me to keep it carbureted and fun to drive but still capable on the highway. Of course I don’t have to worry about that for some time to come since there is so much work to do.
With my son Austin just about 6 years old he is getting interested in the old Stang and things are starting to happen again. Since moving to our New House, the car has finally made it into the garage for some father and son car fun. Austin is now crawling under it, wanting to sit in it and ready to help ‘put it back together’. Of course he doesn’t quite understand the long time and effort it takes to make this happen yet but hey, we’ve still got 10 years until he’s 16.. 🙂
Wow.. four years ago I was going to do something with this car. The fever is here again and this time it’s do or never do. The plan is updated and a page for progress has been put up under Follow the Rebuild… so follow the rebuild! And BUG ME if it doesn’t appear I’m getting anything done.
So our son is now heading off to college this week and many opportunities have been lost for time working on this car together. BUT we did have great times on several of his car projects and continue to work on things together as time allows. The car didn’t make it by his 16th birthday but he’s had Mustangs, and Nissan’s and Subaru’s in the mean time that we’ve had good time with.
Now it’s time to scale down and man up to get the car at least on the road by mid 2015.