Thirty-five years of age is a bit late to get into the hot rodding game, but there's no doubt that Josh Martin is a real-deal car guy. No, he doesn't have the requisite yard full of decrepit jalopies, or a kitchen repurposed as an engine assembly room, however, despite his relatively grease-free resum, Josh's visceral instincts tell a different tale. While the only thing most men remember about the 1996 flick Swingers is the hot little number named Heather Graham, Josh was mesmerized by the '64 Comet he saw on screen. With a scintillating young lady stealing most the thunder, even most car guys wouldn't give the Comet a second look. Nonetheless, Josh knew he had to build himself a Comet one day, and 13 years later, that day has finally arrived. His vision has materialized in the form of a '65 Comet hardtop that packs a 540hp late-model GT500 motor, a six-speed stick, and a full Art Morrison chassis. Granted, Josh is an unseasoned rookie, he's built a far nicer car on his first try than most veterans could build after their hundredth attempt.
Growing up in the frigid Midwest, Josh was taught the way of the Blue Oval at an early age. As a kid, he watched his dad restore countless Mustangs and Fairlanes while anxiously waiting for the snow to melt. Although he always wanted to build a muscle car of his own, time quickly passed, as he dedicated the years to getting educated and starting a family. Once 2006 rolled around, Josh was finally ready to play. "I fell in love with Comets after watching Swingers back in 1996, but didn't have the time or money to actually build one until 10 years later," he recalls. "After doing some research, I stumbled upon a '65 two-door hardtop model, and thought it was the meanest-looking car I had ever seen. I'd never even heard the term 'Pro Touring' before, but I thought it would be cool to build a car with a modern engine, driveline, suspension, brakes, reliability, and comfort features. I originally planned on dropping in a 4.6L mod motor out of an '03-'04 Mach 1, but when Ford Racing came out with the supercharged 5.4L GT500 engine, I had to have it."
In addition to the smell of...
In addition to the smell of fresh cow and stingray hide, the interior features Classic Instruments gauges, a Budnik steering wheel, an Alpine stereo, and a Vintage Air A/C system. Painless supplied all the wiring, and the headliner is covered in leather as well. Langdon Brothers Upholstery of Dillsboro, Indiana, designed the entire interior.
His search for a rust-free project car led him to California, where he found a 289-powered '65 Comet Caliente. The metal was arrow-straight with only a few patches of rust in the floorboard-perfect for what Josh had in mind. Well aware that few shops would be able to execute his grand plans, Josh shipped the car to Chris Sondles and the crew at Woody's Hot Rodz (www.woodyshotrodz.com). "I gave Chris a big list of ideas and sent him pictures of cars that had design elements I wanted integrated into the Comet. Throughout the three-year build, we constantly bounced ideas back and forth on the phone and via email, and he did an amazing job of building the car I envisioned," Josh explains.
The most time-consuming part of the build was grafting a custom Art Morrison chassis beneath the Merc's body. "The Comet is essentially a Mustang with different outer sheetmetal. With the complete Art Morrison chassis, we basically installed a full-frame in a unibody car," Chris says. "To prep the body, we stiffened the rocker panel area, and cut off the entire front end of the car, from the back of the shock towers forward. We then cut out the original floorpan, welded in a new one to accommodate the frame rails, and built some custom body mounts. The bumpers now mount directly to the frame instead of the body, and the radiator sits in a custom core support."
Early Mustangs, Comets, and...
Early Mustangs, Comets, and Falcons have rather tight engine bays. Relocating the shock mounts to the frame using the Art Morrison chassis allowed eliminating the shock towers to free up precious space. Not only is the 5.4L mod motor taller than the 4.6 liter, the electrical doodads behind its blower forced Woody's Hot Rodz to move the firewall back an inch. The stock intercooler core is mounted behind the radiator.
Stock '65 Comets have three...
Stock '65 Comets have three plastic slats affixed to the front fenders. Woody's Hot Rodz went for a more streamlined look by replacing the bulky plastic with pieces of steel brake line that were cut in half. A custom "GT500" badge in lieu of the factory Mercury emblem hints at what's underhood.