A tale of one man and two award-winning showstoppers
Imagine this: it’s a beautiful Sunday morning; you stumble out of bed, throw on some clothes, wolf down your breakfast and open the garage door to go for your Sunday morning cruise. You think to yourself as you scratch your head with one hand and butt with the other, shall I go for an adrenaline-fuelled blast around the hills in my Mustang Fastback, or should I take a top-down lazy cruise to the coffee shop in my Mustang convertible for a latte and a muffin? It’s a scenario most of us can only dream about, but it’s one that Christchurch man Brent Robertson has made a reality.
The Chicken or the Egg
Which came first? The Fastback was started first by a different owner. Brent saw it being built and decided he wanted to get a convertible done. Then the Fastback came up for sale when it was 80 per cent complete, so Brent snapped it up — and both cars were finished at around the same time. Confused? Yeah me too, so let’s back it up and start from the beginning¦
Local Canterbury car dealer (let’s call him ‘Person X’) imports a fairly clean Orange 1966 Mustang Fastback which he on-sells to another fella (you guessed it ‘Person Y’), who brought it into Gordon Fraser at Precision Autobodies along with a die cast Hot Wheels model of a Fastback and basically said, “Make my car look like that.” Which is what Gordon set about doing.
If you are going to make a factory Mustang Fastback look like a Hot Wheels model that has never actually existed, you can’t just buy and fit parts off a shelf or import a body kit from overseas, so Gordon and his crew got to work cutting and shaping cardboard templates and sticking them to the car until they got them just the way they wanted, and could transpose what they had designed to metal.
The stock body was in pretty good condition, but with the build that was going to take place Gordon decided to re-skin the doors and put some new guards on the front. It had the usual boot rust and needed some new panels in the floor, and the wheel arches were also infected with the deadly rust, but they were coming out anyway since you can’t make a Hot Wheels Fastback without mini-tubbing it.
Some of the ideas on the model didn’t make it to the real car, such as the side scoops, which when scaled up to size and attached to the Fastback looked too much like an add-on and didn’t flow with the rest of the car.
Person Y was a very busy guy and never had much time to see the car so Gordon was pretty much left to get on with it, giving Person Y three options to choose from on the major decisions such as wheels, body colour and so on.
Cut and Paste
As well as the exterior modifications, the guys at Precision also mini-tubbed the rear end to fit the fat Hot Wheels-style rear feet. In doing this they got rid of the leaf springs and put a custom four-bar in the back, which in itself looks like a work of art — shame it is on the under-side of the car and only gets seen by the occasional piece of road kill.
Of course, mini-tubbing the rear end meant they also had to change the interior to fit around the tubs and the altered gearbox tunnel. In fact there isn’t much that the boys at Precision didn’t alter in the Fastback, most of which looks so factory that it goes unnoticed unless pointed out. To make way for that huge Ford 427 engine, Gordon created some one-off engine bay panels, moved the alloy radiator forward and relocated the battery to the boot. An RRS front suspension kit and power steering were also fitted, but Gordon told us the biggest challenge was probably getting the exhaust to come up and out of the sides of the car without it touching or rattling anywhere. This included having to move a section of the floor up about four centimetres to allow the exhaust to clear everything.
The motor for the Fastback project was purchased from World Products and came with the carb and high-rise manifold. Not wanting anything to stick out of the bonnet, Gordon went for a futuristic-looking cross-ram throttle body set-up. It required a lot more time and expense to get it all set up and tuned just right, but man does it stand out from the traditional carb/air cleaner arrangement.
At this stage in our story, I’d like to introduce ‘Person Z’ — let’s call him Brent Robertson. Brent is the co-director of Brent’s Toyotas, well known in Christchurch for its TV adverts involving Brent, some cars and his cat — but that’s another story. Anyway, Brent had been watching the Fastback build take shape, and was so impressed by Gordon’s work and inspired by the build that he decided to buy a 1967 Mustang convertible and get the team at Precision to work their magic on it, although Brent didn’t want to go to the same extremes as the Fastback and was just after a nice, clean Muzzy.
About the same time work got underway on Brent’s convertible, in a strange twist of fate (or just plain good luck) the 80 per cent completed Fastback came up for sale. Having kept such a close eye on this beautiful piece of machinery, Brent just couldn’t pass it up. When he purchased the Fastback it had all its bodywork complete and was painted. The engine was also in place but still needed the wiring, clutch and lots of other little bits doing to finish it.
Did Brent ever consider altering anything when he took possession of the Fastback? “I was tempted to change the colour but I got talked out of that pretty quickly,” he laughs. Brent really liked the bright silver of Matt Hird’s 1965 Mustang Fastback (a cover car in NZV8 issue 33), but it was too far into the build and would have meant taking the engine out and pretty much starting over, at least that is how it would have felt to Gordon.
Considering the extent of the Fastback build, the convertible is pretty much stock — you could say it’s just the way a classic convertible should be. When asked what has been done to it, Brent just laughs and says, “Pretty much the battery in the boot was the only thing changed”. That’s not true, of course. Yes, it appears to be stock, but it isn’t easy to make a 42-year old-car look as if it has just rolled off the production line (and had a shiny crate motor dropped into it and big chrome alloys bolted on).
At some stage in the convertible’s life it’d had a bit of a tap in the ass, so Gordon replaced the rear guard and boot lid, but apart from that she was a very tidy rust-free car to start with. That said, Gordon and his team have done a fantastic job on the panel and paint, showing off the long, clean lines of the convertible superbly.
Brent was very particular when it came to the choice of interior styling and design, and got Derek at NZ Vinyl Repairs to do five mock-ups before achieving the look Brent was after. Derek must have dreaded Brent’s visits but the result is fantastic.
The convertible’s chassis got a good going over too, with the whole underbelly stripped back to bare steel, seam welded and re-undersealed.
At the same time, all the suspension was given a birthday present, with KYB gas shocks all round, King springs up front and 40mm lowering blocks on the standard rear leaf springs. To assist in handling, a large 29mm front sway bar and 19mm rear were fitted, and to make it all look as good as it handles, all the suspension components and standard eight-inch diff were powder-coated in satin black.
All Things Shiny and New
With Brent’s convertible looking like a million bucks, it was a given that it would get a shiny new motor under the bonnet. For this a brand new Ford 302 Windsor crate motor was purchased from Silvester V8 Performance. The engine has been treated to a heap of must-have goodies, including GT40 alloy heads, an Edelbrock dual plane RPM air gap manifold and a Holley 600 carb. Other parts that made their way into the engine bay are those we have come to know and expect to see in all high quality street machine builds, and include a Holley electric fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator, Mallory distributor, MSD coil and 8mm leads.
Everything in the engine bay that can be has been polished to a high quality shine, and all wiring has been lengthened and hidden under the guards. Keeping with the theme of clean and uncluttered, the windscreen washer bottle has been relocated to under the left front guard and, as Brent revealed, the battery has been relocated to the boot.
Finishing off the package are the 18×8- and 18×9-inch Boyd Coddington Smoothie 2s that look like they were made for this car. They work perfectly with the Mustang’s lines and pick up the chrome accents like the door handle, wing mirror, bumpers and sill.
Thanks to some long hours and very late nights, both cars were finished (well, almost finished) on the Friday before the Christchurch Mustang show. All the hard work and expert craftsmanship paid off with the Fastback winning Best Engine Bay, 1964-1966 Restomod and the much sought-after People’s Choice, for which it garnered more than double the points of the second place getter — which just happened to be Brent’s convertible.
So what does the future hold for these two classics? Even though Brent admits that he is a little afraid to drive them now that they are all done and looking so fantastic, I am sure he will get over that pretty quickly once he’s behind the wheel. And with the possibility of hiring a race track for half a day to get the feel of them and iron out any little bugs, hopefully we dreamers will get a chance to see these two hot Mustangs out and about on the streets of Christchurch some time real soon.
1966 Ford Mustang Fastback – Specifications
Engine: 427ci (6996cc) small block Ford — World Products Hardcore series engine. Mahle pistons, Total Seal piston rings, Hardcore series pushrods, Morrison Motorsport throttle body set-up, Tsunami 800hp fuel pump, custom surge tank, Bosch 800cc injectors, Clemtech Products custom design ignition system, 2.5-inch custom free-flow exhaust with two turbo flow mufflers, alloy radiator and custom header tank, Link engine management
Driveline: Tremac TKO 600 gearbox, Tilton twin-plate rally series clutch, Strange alloy diff centre and 28-spline axles, shortened diff housing
Chassis: Seam welded
Brakes: Front — 330mm RRS, rear — 300mm RRS
Suspension: Custom four-bar and adjustable coil-over set-up, Koni shocks and springs, Nolathane bushes and custom swaybar
Wheels/Tyres: Boyd Coddington Junk Yard Dog 18×8-inch front and 18×10-inch rear
Exterior: Custom steel side skirts and bonnet scoop by Gordon Fraser, exhaust surrounds by Mark Saville, panel by Gordon Fraser & Simon (Si-Fi), paint — custom Charcoal Grey by Kyle (K-Factor)
Interior: Retrimmed original front seats, narrowed rear seats and custom parcel shelf. After market wooden steering wheel and shifter. Panasonic head unit and 6×9 speakers
Performance: 426hp (318kW) at the wheels at 5300rpm
Length of Ownership: Eight months
1967 Ford Mustang convertible – Specifications
Engine: 2007 Ford 302 (4949cc) Windsor, GT40 alloy heads, Edelbrock dual-plane RPM air gap manifold, Holley 600cfm carb with electric choke, Holley electric fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator, Mallory Unilite distributor, MSD Blaster coil, 8mm leads, JR Headers with custom dual 2.25-inch pipes, Alloy radiator with cut-down Falcon core
Driveline: Rebuilt Ford C4 gearbox, Ford eight-inch standard diff, rebuilt driveshaft
Chassis: Underbody stripped, seam welded and undersealed
Brakes: 320mm front rotors with four-pot callipers — front; 290mm rotors with single-pot callipers — rear (Stainless Steel Brake Corporation)
Suspension: Standard rear leaf springs with 40mm lowering blocks, KYB gas shocks all round, King springs, 29mm front and 19mm rear sway bars
Wheels/Tyres: Boyd Coddington Smoothie 2 wheels, 18×8-inch with 245/40/18 tyres (front) and 18×9-inch with 265/35/18 tyres (rear)
Exterior: Paint and panel by Precision Autobodies, Mazda6 Gun Metal Grey
Interior: Leather seats and door panels and dash top, leather trimmed Grants steering wheel, factory gauges with brushed alloy fascia panels
Build Time: 18 months
Length of Ownership: 20 months
Brent Robertson – Owner Profile
Occupation: Co-director Brent’s Toyotas
Dream Car: 1961-1964 Corvette
Why the Convertible: Always wanted to do a rebuild. I saw Gordon doing the Fastback and that inspired me so I thought a convertible would look sharp and be fun to drive.
Why the Fastback: Was the car that inspired me to do the convertible. I love the look and toughness of this car; I had to buy it when it came up. I think the two cars make a great combo.
Fastback thanks: Gordon Fraser — project manager. Simon and Kyle. Mark Clemence at Auto Electric City. Stephen at Axonobel Car Refinishers. Nick Mitchell. Karl Chamberlain. Rob and Hibby at The Mustang Centre. Frank at Circle Track Engineering. Richard at Phoenix Welding and Engineering.
Convertible thanks: Alistar Herreman from Brent’s Toyotas who assembled the car and did the mechanics and engine bay — he has done a fantastic job and his attention to detail makes the car. Gordon Fraser, Simon and Kyle at Precision Auto Body. Derek at NZ Vinyl Repairs for the leather interior. Silvester V8 Performance for engine and brakes. The Mustang Centre for parts.
Story: Barry Lorimer Photos: Adam Croy
This article is from NZV8 issue 47. Click here to check it out.