From the first day he could recognize physical objects, Jonathan Hallenbeck has been into cars. But it wasn't until a friend introduced him to the One Lap of America concept that the interest became a full-blown obsession. The result of the desire to circumnavigate the continental United States is this Mustang g-Machine, a Boss 302 with engineering beyond any Ford pony car we've seen.
Hallenbeck, 45, became friends with PHR contributor Mark Stielow after purchasing one of the home garage builder's Camaros, the white '69 built in 1993. That aluminum small-block car set trends through its all-around performance, euro style, and brash attitude in an era filled with street-legal drag cars. It wasn't that the Stielow Camaro was too little car for Hallenbeck, a radiologist from Waterville, Maine, but this 427 Cobra owner wanted a Mustang example for similar effect. It's a classic tale, one of a car owner spending big dollars on parts that take expert massaging to come together.
The buildup started with a bare body from Texas that Hallenbeck had restored to original shape in bare metal. The chassis didn't get a complete re-configuration, but it did get the important strengthening necessary to isolate the suspension to do its job. Central Maine Mustang's Emery Pratt, from nearby Pittsfield, created subframe connectors and tucked away all of the fuel and oil lines into the framerails. Global West is the standard lately for serious Mustang suspension, and their de-arched rear leaf springs were left in place to hang a Currie 9-inch (with 3.56:1 gears), and Global's tubular upper and lower control arms are in place up front.
The giant inroads in the late-model Mustang world have created some benefits for the guys into early cars, mainly in the engine compartment. Here, an aluminum 351 Windsor from Ford Racing was bored and stroked to 454 cubic inches. This is a huge weight savings of the iron 460 or aluminum Shelby FE alternative, obviously, helping the car's balance. Machining isn't the only trick, as every detail is state-of-the-art. Hallenbeck used exotic Motec fuel injection and ignition (dig the shaker scoop adaptation!), Comp valvetrain, and a 5-stage dry sump to create on of the coolest Ford engines we've ever come across. Expensive, yes, but it's an amazing piece, producing 601 lb-ft at 5000 rpm and 620 hp at 5,900 rpm. A T-56 six-speed trans and McLeod street twin clutch convert that power to Michelin tires, 245/40-18 up front and 295/32-18 out back (mounted on 18 x 9 and 18 x 11). Baer brakes are all around, too.
This Mustang's interior is a trendsetter, even though it was designed and constructed a few years back. Jack Watson, of Vehicle Control, Inc., in Tekarsha, Michigan, integrated a dash from a '70 Cougar that looks just right. Vintage Air is carefully integrated, as are those door panel inserts that perfectly match the Recaro SRD Le Mans buckets. Not that it's a minor effort, but Emery Pratt also laid down that Seafoam Green hue on the exterior, too.
Stielow normally doesn't take on other projects than his own, but this car was too cool to pass up. "I offered to help Jonathan sort out some of the gremlins in his finished car. When I got it, the car was simply undriveable due to the cold plugs, big camshaft, and Alpha-N setup on the Motec that followed only rpm and throttle position. I converted the engine over to a more reliable roller cam configuration and worked on the rack-and-pinion setup. I had to shorten the steering arms and move them down to fix some terrible bump steer and speed up the steering ratio, too."
Mark loves the way this car works now. "When you hit the gas from third gear at about 3,000 rpm, the car had better be pointed straight! This thing now rips to 7,000 rpm. This car was turned up to 11, but I just needed to bring it back to 10. It's not on 'kill' any more."
This Mustang is an ultimate achievement among the masses of poorly executed Mustang g-Machine project cars (sorry Ford fans, but use this as inspiration for low-cost buildups...). There's a twist, however. Hallenbeck said, "I took some time off the project when the car was nearly completed to fight my own battle with cancer. Finishing off the cancer was in some ways easier than finishing the car!"
Wow. That certainly puts things in perspective. Here's to Hallenbeck and his twist of humor. May he have nothing but spare time to enjoy this car.