When Mike Gerace decided to build a car for his wife, he didn’t do things by halves
People build hot rods and muscle cars for many reasons. For some it might be the perfect way to showcase the work of a small business. For others it might be a labour of love. For Mike Gerace it was both. As owner of Hot Rodifications, Mike needed a car to promote his business and his abilities to build one-of-a-kind vehicles. Perhaps more importantly, he had also always told his wife he would build her one. “My wife has always loved hot rods and muscle cars,” Mike says. “After all, she spotted me in the summer of ’86 while cruising the local hot spot. I was in my ’66 Chevelle. She says she saw my car first. Of course, I like to think that I had something to do with it.”
Mike knew she loved old Mustang Fastbacks. So when the time came recently to build his muscle car memento, he knew exactly what to look for. He studied the lines of the ’65s through to the ’68s looking for the right combination of vintage flavour and aggression.
“Then one day I was thumbing through a magazine and I saw an article on the Air Ride Technologies poster child for vintage Mustangs,” Mike says. “That brought the cross-hairs into full focus. It had a stance like no other Mustang I had seen before.”
With its earlier roots, a longer hood and rear window lines, the ’69 Sport Roof was born. Mike found his through an internet ad, hooked up his enclosed trailer, armed himself with a cashier’s cheque and headed off to fetch the Fastback.
Road Trip Time
“An old friend and I left Denver that afternoon and got to LA around 7am the next morning,” Mike recalls. “I inspected the car and we had a deal. The whole trip lasted 36 hours and covered 2200 miles.”
The car had been in storage between 1983 and 2004, and was an R-Code with 38,560 original miles. Apparently its first owner had a Mustang performance shop and used the car for R&D, so it had a few modifications when Mike picked it up. The roll bar had been removed, the car had been mini-tubbed and the front shock towers had been notched to accommodate a 427 side-oiler. Another cool modification was the nitrous tank saddle. This was hidden between the rear seat and a firewall in the trunk, with the braided lines running under the seal plates then beneath the dash where the solenoids were mounted. In turn the lines ran out of the firewall to the motor. As bad guys in cartoons always say: the only thing better than being evil is being sneaky! As the Mustang was raced for a while there were, in Mike’s words, “enough Auto Meter gauges to launch Apollo into space”.
The Honest Modifier
At this point we have to applaud Mike for his honesty. Take it from this journalist, many in the biz have purchased a vehicle already modified then taken credit for the full build-up. Not Mike. He was clear that the body came with a change or two, like the widened rear fenders and the brilliant red paint job.
While the body is morphed and menacing, the motor is as well. With a 428ci Cobra Jet strapped between the shock towers, the lighting of the fire begins with a full MSD ignition system and is fed through a 750cfm Demon carburettor. An estimated 450 ponies are pushed out by this big block, with 644Nm of torque.
This earth-trembling power is laid down via a C6 transmission that defies gravity through the nine-inch Ford with 31-spline axles and 410 traction-lock rear end.
They say the most important upgrade one can make to a car is where the rubber meets the road. The Fastback isn’t messing around when it comes to that. The treads in this case are Michelin 265/35R19 front and 315/35R20 rear. These wrap 19×9-inch Bonspeed Huntington alloys up front and massive 20 by 12s out back. Talk about tuckin’ the rims up in the guards!
The wheel tuck and the stance are what really make this ’69 special, and exemplify Mike’s skills as a fabricator and builder. As you can probably guess, the car is on air. Air Ride Technologies Air Bar out back and Shock Waves up front, to be exact. Other suspension components include Total Control tubular A-arms and Randall’s rack and pinion. A fair amount of re-engineering was required to get the car this low to the ground. Much of it is hush-hush, but Mike did admit to this wily reporter that he had steering arms fabricated, added different spindles and changed around a bunch of Total Control parts up front, then cut the Air Ride bar out back. The end result is a stance that is absolutely dumped in the weeds.
Mike even fabricated a 3/16-inch stainless steel skid plate that would not only protect the oil pan from the occasional ant crossing the road, but also strengthens the curves on those twisty roads in the Rocky Mountains.
Mike is from Colorado, where many a hot rod aficionado is out taking the twisties on any given Sunday. Of course, at the time of the photoshoot the tyres were rubbing a bit, but what do you expect from Dubs on a stance like this?
The Perfect Shape
The original ’69 Sport Roof is a dramatic yet subtle extension of the ’65-’68 Mustang Fastback, with its longer hood and rear window lines. This is why Mike chose it to modify for his wife, Dianne.
“She puts up with me doing this all hours of the day, so the least I could do was build her a hot rod,” he says. Taking an already fantastic Ford and turning it into a menacing emissary with the scowl and stance of a crouching mongoose is a feat in itself. And when it’s done properly, the result is pure hot rod magic.
One could say this creation is worthy of being made into a DUB car. As far as we can see, it already is.
1969 Ford Mustang Fastback – Specifications
Engine: 428ci (7014cc) Ford Cobra Jet, Edelbrock aluminium heads, 750cfm Speed Demon carb, MSD Pro billet distributor, MSD 6AL, FPA ceramic coated headers, Be Cool aluminium radiator
Driveline: C6 automatic transmission, Ford nine-inch diff, 4.1:1 ratio
Suspension: Total Control tubular front A-arms, Randalls rack and pinion, Air Ride Technologies Shock Waves, Air Ride Technologies Air Bar rear
Brakes: 13-inch Baer discs, Baer callipers.
Wheels/ tyres: 19×9 and 20×12-inch Bonspeed Huntington rims, 265/35R19 and 315/35R20 Michelin tyres
Interior: Saleen seats, Auto Meter gauges
Performance: Approx 450hp, 644Nm
Words & Photos: Isaac Mion