The 69 Mustang (love, loss, & redemption)

Posted: January 5, 2013 in Previous Builds
Tags: , ,


Happy New Year! With the craziness of the holidays finally over and the haze of a week long food coma subsiding, I’m beginning to get back to business on the Z build. I’ve got a lot of work to do and plenty of updates forthcoming, but before I get into all that, I thought I’d take a look back at one of my previous builds – my 1969 Mustang Coupe.

This car has a lot of sentimental value to me. Bought during the trials of a failing relationship, the Mustang was a much needed distraction from the emotional uncertainty I was living with at the time. But what started as a welcome escape, soon rivaled the relationship in the amount of grief it caused me… Rather quickly, the Mustang went from plans for a fun weekend cruiser, to a complete two year tear down. In that time, everything would be rebuilt or replaced.

As the car emerged from its two year rebuild (completely restored), the relationship was ending. We had been through so much together, I honestly didn’t even want to look at her for one more second… my ex or the car! Why keep a painful reminder of what I had just been through? Much less cherish it… then everything changed.

Wile cruising to the local Starbucks for some celebratory coffee (in the Mustang on its maiden voyage) – I met my future fiancee! (although I wouldn’t actually know that til many months later). If it wasn’t for the Mustang, we may have never met. A silver lining indeed! Needless to say my fiancee adores the car to this day. *As a sad update to this post, Abby and I are no longer together. However, I’ll always cherish the time we shared in the Mustang.


Here’s a shot from the day I brought her home (a full week and a half after leaving to pick her up). Notice I didn’t say the day I “drove” her home… here’s what happened.

I originally found the car on eBay: the seller was located in Missouri, a good 1000 miles away from me. I fantasized about the possibility of driving a classic Mustang across the country; I had wanted one ever since high school. What a road trip it would be… what an adventure! Knowing what could (and in hindsight did) happen buying a car sight unseen, I did my due diligence and spoke at length with the seller.

After a few phone conversations and many photos later, I felt comfortable enough striking up a deal (unfortunately outside of eBay – I think you can see where this is going). I repeatedly asked the seller, “do you feel the car is up to taking a long distance road trip?” “Absolutely!” he replied. A flight was booked for Missouri the following week.


He met us at the airport, car in tow. At first glance it looked incredibly clean; a quick drive around the block and all seemed well mechanically. I thanked him for meeting us at the airport, paid him the agreed price, and was on my way. “I took a gamble and it payed off!” Or so I thought… 20 minutes later the car was dead on the side of the road.

In all fairness the seller did come back to try and help. We limped the car into a nearby Autozone parking lot and started replacing anything we could think of – the ignition, plugs, cap & rotor, fuel pump, etc. – the car sprang to life and I was on my way. Success! Two hours later the car was dead again, this time the seller was nowhere to be found.

After a long – expensive – tow to Ohio (where my ex’s parents lived), I spent a week trying to get the Mustang roadworthy. It was at that time I started to realize just how bad the car actually was (notice a pattern emerging with my car builds yet? *rolls eyes*) The Mustang didn’t even have the proper driveshaft for its 4 speed transmission: fluid had been spraying out the back of the tailshaft the entire time I drove it. Had the car not broke down that day (what turned out to be a rusted/clogged fuel tank & lines), I’m certain the 4 speed would have locked up doing 70 on the highway.

After another 9 hour trailer ride home from Ohio (by a good buddy for the price of gas and some lunch), I decided the seller must have spent a lot of time/money on the body, as it was basically rust free with a decent paint job (it’s no show car but nice overall), but ran out of money somewhere along the way. So he slapped together a junkyard drivetrain of mismatched parts to unload the car in “running” condition. And I’m the sucker who bought it. A few weeks later a $500 dollar check arrived in the mail with a note attached “hoping it would make it right.”


Problems ran the gambit from mismatched and broken, to just plain wrong parts on the car. Not to mention loose brake lines, poor compression, a cracked block (notice the sludge buildup in the lifter valley as well), a bad trans, wiring/suspension issues, the list went on and on. 

The final straw was when I went to remove the steering wheel (to fix the non working horn), and found that the seller had cross threaded the wrong nut onto the steering column shaft destroying the threads. The wheel was literally held on by one unstripped thread… not only would the trans have locked up, but the steering wheel could have fell off too! At that moment I knew an entire rebuild was in order.

JSWORKS_Mustang_New_Engine 5.0 Ford Mustang E303 GT40X CRANE ROLLER ROCKERS

First up was the engine. A late model “roller” block out of a 5.0 Mustang was sourced. The block was line honed and factory forged pistons installed. ARP main & rod bolts secured the stock Ford crank/rods in place. A Ford Racing E303 cam was installed as well by the machine shop.

JSWORKS_Mustang_New_Engine_2 5.0 Ford Mustang E303 GT40X CRANE ROLLER ROCKERS

Once the short block was back from the machine shop, a clean used set of Ford Racing GT40 X aluminum heads were sourced and installed, topped with a set of Crane 1.7 roller rockers.


A Ford Motorsports “King Cobra” heavy duty clutch was bolted to the factory flywheel. The 4 speed was ditched in favor of a Ford Racing “World Class” T5 5 speed – both for its overdrive and HP/torque capability.


A late model bell housing was sourced for the T5 along with a fulcrum adapter for the clutch fork. The 5 speed cable normally pulls the fork towards the engine to disengage the clutch, while the factory 4 speed Z bar linkage pushes the fork. The fulcrum point must be changed for this hybrid setup to work correctly.  The wear prone Z bar was fully rollerized for smooth pedal articulation and proper adjustment.


The factory points were ditched in favor of a Ford Duraspark II electronic ignition box & distributor found in an 85 (factory carbureted) 5.0 Mustang. The coil is an MSD blaster 3 (factory ballast removed).


Topped off with an Edelbrock Victor Junior aluminum intake manifold and 600 CFM carburetor. Hooker Competition headers with 2.5″ primaries and a 2.25″ Flowmaster exhaust finish off the package and give the Mustang that classic rumble. The entire combo should be good for around 300+ HP.


I installed an Autometer monster tach with shift light and some oil & fuel pressure gauges to keep an eye on things in the mostly stock cabin.


With the engine and electrical sorted out, my attention turned to the failing 40 year old factory suspension: everything was refreshed or replaced with quality Moog suspension components – with custom bits like a larger front swaybar, front roller spring perches, and a roller idler arm sourced from Opentracker Racing.

I chose to keep the factory manual steering; rebuilding the factory steering box. There were a lot of reasons why I decided to do so: cost was definitely a factor (as R&P retrofit kits cost upwards of $1500), as well as clearance issues – R&P retrofits will not work with standard longtube headers, or the factory Z bar clutch linkage – which would have required converting the clutch linkage to a hydraulic system as well as fabbing up custom headers to clear the steering shaft (adding even more expense to the conversion).

In hindsight, this may have been my single greatest mistake while rebuilding the car. The manual steering (especially with large 245 size tires on the front) was fun to drive for about, oh, three seconds… after that, it’s just a royal pain in the ass. Once you’re up to speed it’s fine, but any extended amount of around town driving can really become a bear.


The factory rear leaf springs (still pictured here) were tossed after one buckled (while driving!) in favor of Maier Racing drop springs. The Maier springs are forward stacked – creating a stiffer front section to help prevent spring wrap up/wheel hop. Bushings were replaced with a set of Global West Del-A-Lum’s to keep the rear squarely planted (an unfortunate byproduct is a harsher ride on the street).


The new suspension really transformed how the car handled & drove. Steering response and overall ride quality was greatly improved, along with less body roll in the turns. I drove the car in this configuration for about a year, until I grew tired of the 15″ Pacer (Cragar knockoff) wheels that came with the car.


I had always loved the look of the original Trans-Am Mustangs from the late 60’s, as well as the minilight’esq wheels they ran in competition. PS Engineering out of CA had recast the original one piece 15″ wheels and began making a two piece variation in larger sizes. These wheels are not cheap, but the quality is second to none. Fun Fact: PSE designed the wheels on “Eleanor” for the Gone in 60 Sec. reboot.


I went with a 17×8.5″ up front (245 45’s) and 17×9.5″ (275 40’s) in the rear to really update the look & handling of the car. Around the same time I upgraded to a limited slip diff and a set of 3.55 gears (replacing the stock 2.73’s). Also pictured is the Trans-Am style filler cap I adapted for use in the factory location.


The 17″ PSE T/A II’s really transform the whole look of the car. Handling was even further improved by the wider (and lighter) wheels with smaller sidewall Sumitomo’s.


A hard launch at the track resulted in a broken driveshaft. Thankfully it let go at the line and caused no other damage. The break was caused by poor penetration of the weld at the tube to U joint cup. Hartman Driveshaft out of Reading, PA owned up to their mistake and replaced the faulty DS and paid for the tow bill.


As an added measure of safety after the driveshaft mishap, I had my buddy Jay of JPC Fabrication (Stroudsburg, PA) weld up a set of Tin Man subframe connectors and driveshaft loop.



The floor pans are original and in great shape. I do like to drive the car so I gave them a coat of rust encapsulating paint just to be safe. If I ever get around to installing a power R&P, I’ll definitely rework the exhaust (as it came with the car and hangs a little too low for my taste).


I really don’t use the Mustang as much as I should, and she sits in the garage more than I’d like to admit. But when I do take her out, she always manages to put a smile on my face. And even when she occasionally breaks down, she still looks pretty just sitting there! (A little classic car humor for you there.)

That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane. Next week it’s back to the grind on the Z build, and I hope to have some fresh progress on the documentary as well.

Stay tuned!


  1. libs012 says:

    Love it. And the Car 🙂

  2. Richard G. Krueger says:

    This car is W O N D E R F U L – -Thank you.

  3. I was wondering if you could contact me and let me know where you got your wheels at, I’m interested in that style for a 17′ though. Thank You

  4. Hi Noel – the wheels are made by PS Vintage Wheels. He’s based out in CA –

    Real quality stuff, but not cheap. My wheels are 17’s as well. Good luck! Jay

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