Want a new Mussie without those overseas ownership hassles? Now’s your chance
Most people will agree that Ford has done a great job redesigning the new ’05 Mustang. It’s the first new Mustang in over 25¯years, and definitely worth the wait. However there’s just one small problem. As with all Mustangs since 1965, there is still no official RHD model. What about a left hand drive permit? No problem. All you have to do is pack your bags and go to the US. Once your there you can buy your new Mustang from your friendly Ford dealer, and drive around the country for 90¯days or more. After owning and using the car for 90¯days you can ship it back home, and the LTSA will issue you with a LHD permit. Just one other detail; you must own the car for five years before you can sell it.
However, most people choose to convert their vehicles to RHD. This eliminates having to own and operate the vehicle overseas, and you can sell the vehicle whenever you please.
So what’s involved in converting a Mustang to RHD? We sat down with Andy Culpin, who converted the Mustang you see on these pages, to find out. Andy admitted that converting a vehicle to RHD would never be easy. Mainly due to the fact that the designers of the vehicle haven’t worried about making allowances for things to be on the hand right side. The next problem is Andy himself. He’s his own worse critic. He explains that one of his major goals with any conversion project is to make it appear as if he hasn’t been there; so everything must be to the original factory standard or better.
This philosophy obviously comes from his four decades of automotive experience. He has spent a large part of his career restoring classic cars for both local and overseas clients. He’s also a great motor sport fan, building single seat race cars from the ground up and preparing numerous Targa cars.
Andy explains that one of the major concerns he had was the Mustang’s twin firewall, which is used as part of the circulation for the car’s air conditioning system. New panels had to be constructed, shaped and painted to accommodate the conversion, and most importantly it had to look factory.
The original air conditioning unit is used, but the ducting is changed and the pipes from the actual unit itself have to be modified. Andy admits that he’s no air conditioning specialist, so for this part of the project he seeks advice from a specialist automotive air conditioning company. Sure, it adds to the cost of the conversion, but it’s better to have the experts in and do it right from the start.
Next we asked him about the steering rack. Apparently this is a rather sensitive subject, since other converters borrow his ideas. Andy tells us the steering rack is something quite special. For starters it’s a completely new unit manufactured in Europe, with no modifications needed to fit it to the right side of the vehicle. Also, as an added feature this rack has half a turn less lock-to-lock than the original.
Inside the car we noticed the dash and interior was very well constructed, with the panels matched in fit and colour. Also there none of that smell of fibreglass which some conversions have.
Andy points out that 80¯per cent of the dash is from the original car; all that’s been done is cutting and swapping the panels around. The metal frame behind the dash has been reversed and remanufactured to keep the factory design the same.
He makes a point of saying that its all about attention to detail. For example, on the Mustang you can’t simply swap the seats around. All the internals have been swapped, including the compressed air-controlled lumbar support system, as well as the airbag and child recognition sensors.
Well, to sum up we spent half a day going over this car, and it’s certainly one of the best conversions we have seen to date. The attention to detail is what really makes this car. When you get behind the wheel for a drive it just feels right.
Andy thinks so too, and he offers a three-year warranty on the conversion.
On the right side of the road
Take this beast out on the road and you’ll know straight away that the Mussie is back by the reactions of people on the street. The kind of attention this is getting reminds me of the ’80s, when I was cruising the Auckland highways in my ’66 ’Stang. That turned a lot of heads. Mind you the sound of a 289 at 7500rpm through a single five-inch side-exiting exhaust probably had something to do with it as well. Having said that, the soundtrack from the modern machine is not bad either. There is a great induction noise from up front, and a good solid sound from behind letting others know there’s an eight-pot on board — but it’s not so loud as to attract that wrong kind of attention from the ticket givers.
Around the world many (but not all) journos are on the media wagon about the fact that Ford opted for a live rear axle rather than independent. There are pros and cons for both, and let’s face it, over there in the US — with their ironing board flat roads — you’d be hard pressed to feel the difference. As for over here, look on the bright side, if you want to lower your Mustang there are no camber issues in the rear¦ and it’s a lot easier to tub! If it’s an out-and-out performance Mussie you’re after I’m sure Andy will be able to help you out there, as well. With the right set of springs and shocks thrown at a live axle, it can behave itself quite well. Not that there is really anything wrong with the stock item for everyday driving.
Overall, this ’05 Mustang is a great drive that all can enjoy — even those sitting on the side of the road.
2005 Ford Mustang
Engine: Aluminium block, 4.6-litre twin cam 24-valve V8, 9.8:1 compression ratio, 3.55-inch bore, 3.54-inch stroke, nodular iron crank, five main bearings, hypereutectic aluminium alloy pistons, hydraulic lifters with roller finger followers, Visteon sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection, alloy heads
Driveline: Tremec five-speed manual, Valeo clutch, semi-float beam axle, limited slip diff, 3.55:1 ratio.
- Front — McPherson strut with rear facing L-arm, Tokico shocks
- Rear — Three-link with Panhard rod, Tokico shocks
- Front — TRW 316mm discs
- Rear — TRW 300mm discs
Wheels/Tyres: Factory five-spoke 17×8 alloys with 235/55ZR17 tyres front and rear
Performance: 224kW@5750rpm, 434Nm@4500rpm