Certainly no one can fault Scott Stites for his car ethics. Through the years he'd collected some valuable real estate but had decided early on not to own any of it. If a more desirable car or a better deal came along, or he needed cash equity to enhance his standard of living, he didn't hesitate to divest one property to receive another. Simply, he bought his cars as investments and apparently wasn't hampered by any of the emotion or sentimentality that is usually dragged along behind them.
Look at the desirables he's owned and look how he directed the proceeds from each to improve his family's quality of life. In '76, he bought a '65 Mustang convertible, restored it, and sold the thing for a down payment on his first house. He moved up to a '65 Sting Ray convertible, a 327/300, four-speed car, with the numbers in all the right places. Any mid-year Corvette drop-top is a solid investment. The proceeds from this car enabled the Stites family to lay the money down for that cottage on the lake. In '85, he bought his first new wheels, a Mustang GT that he kept for three years... until he needed a truck for work.
Next, there was an ASC McLaren Mustang, but it didn't last long. He sold it to finance his newest fetish, a '69 Camaro Pace Car convertible. The money from that car was applied to a matching-numbers '67 RS/SS Camaro with a 325hp 396 and a manual transmission. But it went away too, in the name of an '00 Saleen S281 supercharged Speedster. Its days were numbered before they even began. Scott sold it to build this '65 fastback, which he'd imbue with a relaxed Pro-Touring attitude.
We met Scott and his fastback Mustang in Columbus this past June, where we dared him to drag race it at the MSD True Street Challenge. We figured a car this sweet would avoid angry confrontation with asphalt, but owner and machine ate it up without drama, a 30-mile cruise and three back-to-back quarter-mile runs. The resulting low 13-second ETs were impressive for such a modest piece, so we knew we had to shoot it for you.
Stites hangs out in Ft. Wayne, Ind., but he had Jason Huber build the Mustang at G-Force Design Concepts in Chambersburg, Penn. When Huber separated the unit body from the sub-assemblies he discovered the (southern New Mexico-sourced) sheetmetal was virtually rust-free and that all the body panels were original. The G-Force team put the shell in a corner and began to prepare the undercarriage for its new role.
From the outset, Stites was bent on the Pro-Touring ethic-stuff is only there if it needs to be there. Bling would bring tears. The keyword here is function. We're talkin' table-flat handling, annihilator brakes, overdriven gears, and a smooth, torquey motor to maintain momentum. You'll also notice that all the modifications are no more extravagant than they need to be.
G-Force rebuilt the rear suspension around a 9-inch axle, four-leaf springs (with a 1-inch lowering block), Koni adjustable shocks, and Shelby traction bars. To add bending and torsional strength to the 40-year-old chassis, G-Force tied the front and rear of the Mustang together with Maier Racing tubular sub-frame connectors. The stock upper and lower control arms, but with relocated pick-up points (ala Shelby), work with two-inch lowering coils. The springs contain a gargantuan 620 lb-in rate and are paired with vintage red Koni adjustables. Stites also specified a hefty 1.25-inch Hotchkis anti-sway bar to work with it all.
The remainder of the suspension change-out included the Total Control Products adjustable bar and shock tower reinforcement system and the quick-ratio (16:1) Flaming River recirculating-ball steering box. The job of burning off energy in a hurry and recovering just as quickly lays with the Stainless Steel Brakes 13-inch and 12-inch disc brake packages. Before the calipers (four-piston front, single-piston rear) went on, Stites had SSBC whittle the surface with laser-cut G-Force logos. Though the rolling stock may seem a tad undersized, they were the perfect complement to this not-too-tough streeter and aren't any larger than they need to be. Budnik M5 rims (17X7, 18X8) carry serious but conservatively sized Bridgestone S-03 rubber (235/45 and 245/45).
As the intermediary, the beefy Tremec five-speed transmission carries a close-ratio gearset (2.94, 1.94, 1.34, 1.0:1, 0.59:1) that feeds torque via Spec Stage II clutch assembly through a Dynatech aluminum driveshaft to the 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion. Critical safety issues are addressed by the Lakewood bellhousing and a fabricated driveshaft loop. How about that overdrive gear, though? Kinda like falling off a cliff. At 77 mph, however, it comes into its own while the 'Stang's small-block ticks lazily along at 2,000 rpm.
Could a crate motor solve the power problem? It'll pretty much fill the need, especially when it bolts right in. "I wanted a proven, reliable engine that was ready to go," Stites growled. Rather than shoulder the expense and the other issues associated with a one-off combination, he plunked some change down on a Ford Racing Performance Parts 347-cid small-block (PN M6007-C347). Briefly, it's got a two-bolt Sportsman block, Z340A aluminum cylinder heads (2.02/1.60 valves), and a hydraulic roller camshaft (0.563/0.584-inch lift; duration at 0.050-inch is 232/240 degrees). FRPP says it's worth 450 horsepower at 6,000 and 400 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. These numbers are generated at the flywheel with a 650-cfm Holley and tube headers, neither of which came in the crate.
Stuff Stites needed to complete the power module included a Holley 750-cfm double-pumper with mechanical secondaries, MSD 6AL box, and Ford Powertrain Applications full-length ceramic-coated headers. A MagnaFlow stainless steel exhaust (with X-pipe) completes the purging system. A Billet Specialties Tru-Trac serpentine belt system rounds up all the accessories (A/C compressor, water pump, alternator, power steering) and keeps them tight to the engine. The 347 keeps its cool with a big aluminum radiator core and a Black Magic pull-thorough electric fan.
Since he wasn't going to build a completely new engine, Scott could at least mess with the combo a little. Phil Rickard directed this phase from his Dynotech Engineering Inc. (www.dynotech-eng.com) in Ft. Wayne. He recurved the distributor to coincide with engine output, strung some Magnecore 8.5mm wire through FRPP looms, and set the timing at 39 degrees total. At the air intake, he made sure of proper fuel pressure, set the float levels, installed ACCEL pump cams, and changed the jetting to 75 front, 77 rear.
"Phil did an awesome job," says Scott. "The car starts very easily, idles on the money, cruises without seams, and when you put the pedal down it pulls strongly right to redline."
Though Stites could have wigged and sentenced his Mustang to Pro-Touring hell-no frills, no extras, no creature comforts, just a seat and a steering wheel-he really couldn't live with that, not after the beach cottage and all. He wanted his ride to look the part just as much as it could deal it, but his concessions to aesthetics haven't diluted the purpose. They're there because they do something good.
The G-Force crew shaved the body clean, applied an Eleanor II fiberglass hood with Ring Brothers billet aluminum hinges and matched it up with the front valance, side scoops, and side mirrors from a Shelby 350R. G's Steve Whetzel applied PPG Volkswagen Urban Gray Metallic and Reflex Silver Lemans stripes, and followed up with the mandatory clear coats. The front end of this car isn't for the faint hearted but the color choices subdue its outlandish structure without diminishing its purpose.
Inside raves black, accented by just the right amount of brushed aluminum. The Budnik Prism steering wheel turns on a Flaming River shaft. There is Vintage Air air conditioning and cruise control even. No perks overlooked here. Scott, you sure you're not from Cali someplace? Snugly and quietly within a Dynamat shroud, Scott takes the road from a Corbeau GTS II seat, is held by modern three-point restraints, checks out the Auto Meter Ultra-Lights, and gets his cochlea tweaked by Pioneer audio. Happy now, yes, but how long will that last before Stites' conscience applies the sleeper hold and tells him it's time to move on?