Autoworks Racing

1967 Ford Mustang – Obsidian – 39

August 18th, 2009 by NZV8

Ford Mustang 67 V839 fq

We didn’t need to think of a headline for this story. The New Zealand-born builder of the car did it for us.

Editors and writers often agonise over headlines as they try to come up with a catchy phrase or play on words that relates to the subject at hand. But in the case of this black beauty (assuming the sight of the car itself wasn’t enough), the title across the rear hatch works perfectly as the bold lettering to bring you into this story.

If a black stone comes to mind when you see the word ‘obsidian’ then you either majored in geology or you watch way too much of the Science Channel. Obsidian is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a glassy, volcanic rock, usually black and having the composition of rhyolite but containing few or no individualised crystals”. The difference between the car and the stone is that Obsidian the vehicle has many individualised crystals or, in this case, upgrades. The body alone has more than 18 unique modifications, the majority of them functional.

The name actually conferred by the wife of Matt Cooper, the man responsible for building the car. After many hours spent researching the characteristics of rocks that would fit the toughest Mustang built to date, obsidian was found. How is this stuff formed? Obsidian stone is created when molten lava cools. But we’re about to find out the origin of its namesake as we approach the birthplace of this pristine pony car.

Kiwi Conection

First, a little history on the maniacal overlord who runs Autoworks Racing and its sister company, Coupe R Designs. New Zealand-born Mustang maniac Matt Cooper immigrated to the US in the early ’90s. Having owned a Renault Dauphine and a Morris Minor truck with a 2.0-litre Datsun motor back home, Matt was ready for a dose of American muscle.

“My first car here was a ’67 Mustang,” he says. “I was street hustling in San Francisco at the time and had a crush on Steve McQueen, so it was the obvious choice. Since then I’ve built about 200 Mustangs but this is the first time I’ve really had a customer who basically gave me the go-ahead on every one of my ideas, no matter how extravagant.” For the record, Matt didn’t really say that bit about San Fran or Steve McQueen; comedic license and all…
Autoworks Racing is located in the back three bays of a nondescript warehouse somewhere in Southern California. It is there that a small crew of individuals, headed by Matt gave birth to one of the cleanest, most powerful and technologically advanced modern resto Mustangs ever built.

One of the more extravagant and challenging upgrades to this Mustang is the billet belly pan. This piece extends from the front bumper to the rear exhaust, and was built with a speed record attempt at Bonneville Salt Flats in mind. Whether or not a sequel to The World’s Fastest Indian could be in the works remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, pretty much every body modification is designed to improve performance. If it happens to look like some sort of insanely alluring she-devil in the process then so be it.

To accommodate this aerodynamic profile-enhancing feature, Matt had to design the car so that everything, including the exhaust, would fit under (or in this case over) it. “Basically I had to put five kilograms of stuff into a one-kilo box,” Matt says. “But, first thing we did was buy the best ’67 Mustang we could find. It had a really straight body and could’ve been a nice daily driver.”

Matt also mentions that when the originally pale green Fastback rolled into the shop, it was nothing more than another worn down Mustang in need of a little TLC. It got a lot more than that.

The Hard Yards

After acquiring the Mustang, Matt stripped it out completely, keeping the original parts. The Coupe R GT wheels and custom RRS three-link suspension were mocked up in line with where they would sit, along with the 20x10s in the rear and 18×8.5s in the front. Then the entire floor pan was cut out to move the core support, the firewall, the seats and the back end rearwards a full 200mm. As a result, the car’s weight is a perfect 50/50 split front to rear. “As an added bonus, when you’re sitting in the seat, you can’t see the cowling on the hood,” Matt says. Well, he can’t, at least. Matt also notes that the rendering made in the beginning is nearly identical to the finished product. “Sometimes when builders draw automotive renderings, they have a tendency to draw them slammed, when in actuality the car doesn’t even come close to that ride height. With Obsidian I obtained that stance and I still have five inches of ground clearance throughout the bottom side of the car. I can go straight over speed bumps with that thing.”

The pristine shell is privy to a slew of modifications, both concealed and obvious. Inside, there is a hidden four-point roll cage with hand-fabricated panels carefully fitted to conceal it. Once those panels were fitted, they were then removed and used to create moulds. “We basically built the car twice,” Matt groans. Now you see where some of the 15,000 man-hours put into the build went. Slightly more obvious body upgrades include the flared quarter panel and fender intakes to cool the massive 14-inch Brembos at all four wheels, and of course that burly bulge in the bonnet, enshrouded in billet and mesh.

The reason for this eruption in the sheet metal is to accommodate the twin custom Spearco intercoolers that cool the charge from the super-efficient Rotrex C38-81 twin superchargers. The way they mount atop the motor like two horny bobcats on a carcass is an application never tried before. Another first for this Fastback is the non-automatic paddle shifter from Mastershift. We know a good paddling is always a turn on ” but not as big a turn on as the power this beauty produces. The stroked 392ci motor built by Total Performance is chock full of hand-fabricated pieces, and is actually capable of 1300hp, but for the moment Matt is playing it safe and recently measured the car on a dyno at 655hp at the rear wheels, and 854Nm of torque. But it doesn’t end there; we could go on for days about the unique characteristics of this ’67 Fastback. For example, there are two electrical systems, one for the entertainment and one for the Big Stuff engine management and ignition and the like. As Matt notes, “You can run your battery down watching a DVD and still go somewhere.” This Mustang may actually make obsidian a more appreciated stone than it already is. Obsidian is considered semi-precious, partly due to the fact that it may change colour according to how it is cut; jet black cut one way, and glistening grey when cut another. It’s used in scalpel blades and is considered sharper than steel. It appears that ‘Obsidian’ is an even more suitable title than we ever imagined.
If only all headlines came this easily.

1967 Ford Mustang Fastback – Specificaitions

Engine: 6424cc (392ci) engine (351W-based), Big Stuff 3 fuel injection, Rotrex C38-81 twin superchargers and twin active blow-off valves, Hogan custom aluminium intake manifold with twin Viper throttle bodies, twin custom Spearco air-to-air intercoolers, custom billet aluminium pulley system, Aeromotive fuel pump, custom Doug Thorley headers, custom dual exhaust and aluminium tips

Driveline: Tremec TKO 600 six-speed manual with Mastershift paddle shifters, Mitler Bros 9-inch fabricated rear end housing, Currie 31-spline axles

Chassis: Integrated tubular chassis, four-point hidden roll cage and underside belly pan, redesigned shock towers, rear frame rails, reinforced frame rails and jack pads, lowered centre of gravity, perfect 50/50 weight distribution

Wheels/tyres: 18×8.5 and 20×10-inch Coupe R GT wheels, BFG G-Force KDW-NT tyres

Brakes: Brembo 14-inch four-wheel disc brakes with 4-piston callipers, Power Brake Service hydroboost power brakes

Suspension: RRS Phase 5 front coil-over suspension (Koni Double adjustable shocks with Eibach springs), RRS rear three-link coil-over suspension with torque arm, RRS power rack and pinion steering with IDIDIT brushed tilt steering

Interior: Two-seat conversion, Recaro custom ultra leather heated seats with full lumbar seats, three-point safety harnesses, luxury carpeting, sound proofing and heat insulation, electronic air conditioning, Electric Life power windows, door locks and three-speed wipers, push button start, Stewart Warner gauges, handcrafted dash board, handcrafted two-piece door panels, leather-wrapped billet steering wheel with Mastershift manual paddle shifters, Lokar billet pedals and various billet accessories

ICE: Kicker 3000W sound system with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound, DVD GPS navigation, XM radio, MP3, WMA, iPod, Bluetooth, 60GB hard drive, mobile WiFi internet, 10.5-inch LCD touch-screen monitor

Exterior: More than 18 unique body mods, Obsidian black paint, two top-mounted functional fender intakes (for front disc brake cooling), flared functional panel intakes (for rear disc brake cooling), custom front valance with twin functional valance intakes (for superchargers), custom functional induction/extraction hood with billet hood hinges, custom side skirts, functional rear diffuser and sail panel side glass, deep smoke tint glass, custom billet grilles and tail light panel with honeycomb alloy, LED sequential tail lights and custom badging

Performance: 597kW-plus (800hp-plus) on pump gas

Words & Photos: Isaac Mion