She may be silver, but this 1965 Mustang has won nothing but gold.
From the first time you lay eyes on Matt Hird’s stunning 1965 Mustang fastback, it’s obvious the car is special. In a country with as many Mustangs as New Zealand, building one that stands out from the crowd has become increasingly difficult, yet that’s something Matt has easily achieved. But the reason the car stands out isn’t so obvious until you inspect it more closely. From the outset of the build, Matt knew he wanted to retain the classic feeling of the Mustang but bring it into the 21st century, and that is exactly what he has done.
Over the last few years the process of combining the best of America’s classic muscle with the latest technology, handling and stance has taken off. We’ve seen everything from Chevelles to Camaros to Cadillacs modified in such a way, but one of the vehicles that has pulled the look together better than the rest has to be Matt’s fastback. The Hamilton-based sales rep hasn’t gone all out changing every aspect of the vehicle, but rather has created a later model impression of how the vehicle would have been finished if it were built new today, and the result is simply astounding.
He’s previously owned a ’68 Mustang and a couple of rotary-powered Mazdas, but Matt and wife Sharlene had both always loved the shape of the ’65 to ’66 Fastback, and around two years ago decided to take the plunge after finding the car while surfing on the internet. With the help of Bryce and Lisa from Westcoast Classic Imports, before he knew it, it was sitting in his garage. His motto for the build was, “If I’m going to do it, I will do it once and do it right.” He continued, “Let’s be honest, I don’t think there is ever a good time in your life to spend this kind of money on a car, so why not do it when you’re young enough to enjoy it?”
The build of the car was already underway before brother-in-law Chad showed Matt a catalogue that featured a host of bolt-in air suspension items designed specifically for Mustangs. Straight away the previously purchased suspension componentry was on-sold and the Air Ride gear ordered. It’s not that Matt wanted to hang with the cool kids who can bounce their cars the length of Hamilton’s Te Rapa straight: the suspension would allow the car to achieve the desired ultra-low stance, yet get itself off the ground, over curbs and up driveways if need be.
Thanks to the gear being model specific, installing the Shockwave front struts was a simple bolt-in proposition. Likewise, the Airbar four-link system installed in the rear end was almost a direct bolt-up.
The system replaces the stock springs and shocks with two self-damped air struts. Upon start-up a 12-volt air compressor fills two nine-litre air tanks mounted in the boot to provide pressure for the system. At the press of a button on Matt’s keyring the car raises to attention, ready to hit the roads. For simplicity, another airbag controller has been mounted between the leather retrimmed front seats.
Up And Running
The aim was never to give the car huge, unusable amounts of power, just enough to make cruising the streets with the family a good experience. For this Matt chose to build a 4949cc (302ci) Mexican block that he had stroked out to 5686cc (347ci). Richard at SK Motors fitted the engine with roller rockers, aluminium Edelbrock Performer heads and an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold. Atop the high-flowing intake sits an equally high-flowing Edelbrock 600cfm Performer carb. With a Mallory distributor, Bosch GT40 coil and Ford 8mm leads firing the setup into life, the combination is good for around 298kW (400hp). To help the motor’s breathing the JBA shortie stainless steel headers send combustion by-products south through 2.5-inch pipes and Flowmaster mufflers. Not only do the twin pipes sticking through the vehicle’s rear valance look good, the tone they emit ensures passers by know that this pony has plenty of kick.¨Matt wanted to hit the road without fear the new-found power would cause the transmission any grief, so despite it being the stock item it has had a thorough rebuild. During the build a 2500rpm stall converter was fitted to provide good up and go without excessive fuel consumption. Further down the driveline resides a rebuilt diff which, along with the bulk of the undercarriage items, is now coated in Subaru silver paint.
Smoother Than Silk
The engine bay saw some serious attention before the engine was dropped back into the hole. On first glance it appears to be clean and smooth, and it is. What goes unnoticed is the amount of seam welding that took place to not only flatten out the appearance but also add rigidity to the body. The combination of chromed accessories ” including a custom air filter cover, strut brace and custom strut tops along with polished alloy rocker covers and radiator ” works remarkably well with the rich silver hue that now adorns the body. There isn’t one particular aspect of the engine bay, or the car for that matter, that screams ‘look at me!’, it’s more a combination of all modifications working in unison to create a flawless, high-quality finish.
That exceptional quality extends to the exterior, which is now far less cluttered than when it left the factory. All badges bar the GT item now fitted to each front guard and another badge in the custom mesh front grille have been removed. The superb workmanship can be attributed to panelbeater Shane Latto and painter Mike Neshausen. With no added wings and scoops the ’65 appears smoother than most other Mustangs we’ve seen.
Recipe For Success
There’s no doubt the one defining factor of the ’65’s exterior is the choice of wheels. Measuring in at 19×8 inches up front and 20×8.5 inches down the rear, the custom-made Foose Monterey two-piece billet wheels are absolutely stunning. Sure, custom rims may cost a bit more than off-the-shelf items, but these are worth every penny. With the New Zealand Foose wheels agent, Top Town Tyres, being based in Hamilton, other wheels were never considered for the car. The rubber bands wrapped around the large slabs of chrome are sticky Falkens of 235/35R19 and 235/30R20 proportions.
The only downside with big rims is that without big brakes they can throw the whole look of the car completely off track. Matt was well aware of the potential disaster from the start, and has imported some very impressive SSBC stoppers to avoid it. The Force 10 330mm discs and four-pot aluminium callipers do a great job of filling the 19-inch front hoops. Down the rear are slightly smaller 286mm discs and single-pot callipers, also from SSBC.
More Than Skin Deep
The interior of the iconic pony car has seen just as much love as the exterior, if not more. Matt originally purchased a reproduced trim kit, but by the time he got to fitting it the exterior had gone well beyond expectations, and installing it wouldn’t have done the car justice. Instead he sent the interior off to Jason and Ian at Waikato Motor Trimmers, who have perfectly re-covered it with leather. A Flaming River tilt column refreshes the driving position, and since it connects to a manual steering rack and pinion, wheel response is also much improved.
Before new carpets were laid, a layer of Dynamat sound deadening was fitted. Thanks to the Dynamat, the audio system installed by Brian at Audio Active is crystal clear, even over the engine’s clatter. This isn’t just your average sound system; Matt commissioned Bryan to provide a full boot install, complete with top-of the-line DLS 10-inch subwoofer and DLS amplifier.
Saddle Up And Hit The Road
Granted, it may not be the most modified Mustang in the country, but Matt is a firm believer in the ‘less is more’ philosophy and has stuck to his credo. The combination of old metal and new technology makes for a car that not only looks great but also sounds great; and it rides as good as a new car. As NZV8 went to print the Mustang had only made it to one show, The National Mustang Convention where, because it wasn’t yet registered or warranted, it was ineligible for judging. It was, however, a clear winner for the coveted title of People’s Choice. In a hall packed with more than 100 other Mustangs and thousands of Mustang-adoring spectators, winning this award is a big deal. Don’t go thinking it’s just a show pony though, destined for a life spent strapped to a trailer, hitching its way from event to event. Far from it. Matt was very reluctant to even tow the car from Hamilton to Auckland for NZV8’s photoshoot, and if it hadn’t been for a few last minute hassles (and fast-looming magazine deadlines), the car would have been driven.
Over the next few years this Mustang will see plenty of road trips around the country, and the only thing that will end that part of its life is when Matt’s young child grows too big to fit the confines of a Mustang rear seat. Maybe by that time another remarkable vehicle will reside in the garage. If it’s built with the same fastidious attention to detail that has gone into this car, you’re sure to see it in NZV8 in years to come. Just let the bank balance heal itself a bit first.
1965 Ford Mustang Fastback – Specifications
Engine: 4949cc (302ci) Mexican block stroked to 5686cc (347ci), roller rockers, aluminium Edelbrock Performer heads, K&N Air filter with custom cover, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold, Edelbrock 600 Performer carburettor, Mallory distributor (points), Bosch GT40 coil, Ford Racing 8mm sparkplugs, JBA shortie stainless steel headers, Flowmaster mufflers, 2.5-inch pipes, Griffin four-core aluminium radiator, deloomed engine bay
Driveline: C4 Gearbox, 2500rpm stall converter, shift kitted, rebuilt diff
Suspension: Air Ride Technologies Shockwave airbags (front), Air Ride Technologies Airbar four-link system with Shockwave airbags (rear), two nine-litre air tanks and compressors, keyring remote control, Flaming River manual steering rack and pinion with new tilt column
Brakes: Stainless Steel Brake Corporation (SSBC) Force 10 330mm discs with four-pot aluminium callipers (front), 286mm rear discs with single-pot aluminium callipers
Wheels/ tyres: 19×8 and 20×8.5-inch Foose Monterey two-piece billet aluminium rims, 225/35R19 and 235/30R20 Falken tyres
Exterior: 2003 Subaru silver paint
Interior: Pony seat cushions, custom leather and custom carpets, Billet Specialties ‘Fast Lane’ steering wheel, Sony iPod head unit, Pioneer 6×9 speakers, DLS 10-inch subwoofer, DLS amplifier
Performance: Approx 298kW (400hp)
Matt Hird – Driver Profile
Occupation: Sales rep
Previously owned cars: ’68 Mustang notchback, Mazda RX-7
Dream car: This at the moment
Why the Mustang? Because of the classic shape
Build time: 18 months
Length of ownership: Two years
Matt thanks: His wife Sharlene for never questioning the cast of things, the free help of mates Greg Cornes, Tim Wood and Mark Dalton, panelbeater Shane Latto, painter Mike Neshausen, Jason and Ian at Waikato Motor Trimmers, Richard at SK Motors, Mark and Brendon at Top Town Tyres, Brian Horsley at Audio Active, Grant at Appco Hamilton, Rob and Sue at the Mustang Centre, Bryce and Lisa at Westcoast Classic Imports, George at Advanced Plating & Polishing. Boothy for the use of the trailer, Mark at Pickerill Auto Electrical, Jim Brown for the gearbox
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Quinn Hamill