The only thing you like better than a nicely done g-Machine is one where the owner is not afraid to drive it hard. Cars that are put together well enough to handle some flogging elevate quickly up the list of cars we want to hook up with. When those rides also happen to look as sweet as Tate Walthall's '65 'Stang, then it's a double bonus. We first spied Tate's Fastback on the cover of Tony Huntimer's Ford Pro-Touring book where it was pictured leaning hard into a corner. A bit of detective work put us in contact with the shop that built the car, Campbell Auto Restoration, and it wasn't long until we had a date for a photo shoot and a track test. This was gonna be fun!
When Tate bought the car a few years ago and brought it home to Oakland, Calif., it was an unfinished drag car project. The car was pretty solid, but he knew he wanted a streetcar that could hang in the twisties rather than a drag car. To tackle this project Tate contacted Kevin Long of Campbell Auto Restoration (CAR) in Campbell, Calif., to help transform the straight-line warrior. Starting with the body, CAR stripped off the old red paint and went to town on the vintage 'Stang. Tate wanted to run wide rubber, so CAR spent many hours reworking the front fenders to gain the extra tire clearance needed. In the rear of the car they removed the quarters and spent many days fabricating new custom quarters to accommodate the increased footprint. You have to look close to tell that the quarters have been massaged at all and that was just the effect the craftsmen at CAR wanted. To add even more to the road race look, a GT-350-R front apron was added along with fully functional Shelby side scoops that feed cool air to the brakes. The team also added quarter-windows like those found on the '66 model. Someone in the car's past had patched the floorboards and, since the repair was done well, there was very little else to do to the body. After the body panels were perfectly straight and aligned, the Mustang was shot in a custom dark blue metallic mix of Glasurit paint and then accented with correct Shelby stripes.
With the bodywork done, it was time to start making the car perform as good as it looked. To get body flex out of the performance equation, CAR set about installing an integral set of subframe connectors. First, they removed the back area of the front frame rail and inserted 2x3-inch steel tubing inside the stock frame rails. CAR then tied the connectors to the rear unibody frame rails, and, since the connectors tuck up tight against the floor, the car didn't lose any ground clearance. The chassis was further stiffened through the use of a Total Control Products tower brace kit in the engine bay and a welded-in four-point roll bar in the interior. For the suspension, CAR went with rear Grab-A-Track leaf springs combined with Koni shocks. To control wheel hop and keep a consistent pinion angle they also installed a set of Competition Engineering Slide-A-Links traction bars. Up front, a complete coil-over front suspension from Total Control Products was bolted into place along with a power rack-and-pinion system and Aldan shocks. The rear of the car was stiff enough, so no sway bar there, but up front went a 1.25-inch hollow bar to help control the roll. Consistent and fade-free braking comes by way of the 13-inch front Baer brakes that spin on '70 Mustang drum brake spindles. Baer's 12-inch rotor kit is mounted in the rear and works together with the front to help whoa the pony car down when needed. All the work spent widening the wheelwells paid off when they were able to run Team III 17x8 front wheels wrapped in 245/45ZR17 Dunlop tires and much larger 17x9.5 wheels with 285/40ZR17 tires in the rear. Now it was time to turn the rolling paperweight into a performance car by tackling the drivetrain.
The motor that came in the unfinished car was one part of the drag project that fit perfectly into Tate's plans. The 351W ran great, so there was no need to pull apart the modified mill. The heads are of the Dart Pro 1 variety and the intake is a Torquer unit from Edelbrock. A Holley 750 carburetor feeds plenty of fuel and air into the combustion chambers and Mallory sparks it up. The custom headers on the '65 needed modification by CAR to accommodate the new linkage for the Centerforce clutch equipped T56 six-speed. This tranny replaced the old manual valve body C4 automatic transmission. Once the headers were tweaked to fit, they were bolted up to a custom exhaust system that flows through a set of DynaFlow bullet mufflers and into some front-exit Bassani mufflers. This design not only makes for a killer sound, but also allows for the cool side-exit exhaust tips. An aluminum driveshaft connects the T56 to the Ford 9-inch rear end that came with the car. Highway cruising with the 3.89 gears is no problem with the addition of the overdrive tranny.
The interior was restored back to like-new condition. AutoMeter gauges reside inside the stock bezel and in the added GT-350 dash pod. Recaro seats help to keep Tate from sliding around during high-speed maneuvers and a Nardi steering wheel keeps him firmly in control. For safety, a fire extinguisher is securely mounted to the roll bar and a four-point harness system secures the occupants. The addition of a GT-350 rear seat delete panel, which has been modified for storage, makes the Fastback a two-seater and the only tunes are courtesy of the 351 Windsor under the hood. The result is an interior safe enough for the track and comfortable enough for the highway.
The Mustang was put to the test at the California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. First up was the drag strip, where several blasts netted a best time of 13.30 at 109.83 mph. Not bad considering the hard low-profile radial tires that weren't traction friendly. Next was the slalom course where our wheelman Nick Licata tossed the 'Stang through the 420 feet of cones at 45.4 mph. A very respectable time to which Nick commented that the handling felt responsive and predictable. The shortcomings of the street tires showed up in the next test, the 200-foot skidpad, were the modified Mustang knocked down a best average of .88g. The skidpad was run both clockwise and counterclockwise, then the best time each way was averaged. The car's suspension definitely had more in it, but the tires would not let it get there. A set of high-grip R-compound tires, such as our favorite, the Nitto NT01, would have made a huge difference. The last test was the 60-0 braking test, where the shortest distance ended up being 151.42 feet. For a car with no ABS and street tires, this is about average. Once again, some stickier tires could have knocked some 25 percent off that distance. The Mustang did well over a broad spectrum of tests and everyone felt that it was well-balanced and a pleasure to drive.
Tate and the team at Campbell Auto Restoration were able to take a single-purpose, straight-line sledgehammer and turn it into a more precise scalpel. As shown, the Fastback can now hit the curves at a local road course as confidently as it can blast down the drag strip. It's the essence of building a Pro-Touring or g-Machine ride: to end up with a well-balanced car that has been improved across the board over its stock configuration. Tate's reborn '65 Mustang is no longer a one-trick pony.