One of the first big jobs Richard tackled was the hideous bodywork. Finances would dictate that he do the work himself, and he would be relying on his past work painting planes as an aircraft mechanic. That experience paid off, as he avoided most of the beginner pitfalls of bodywork. The paint, however, was a different story. Richard knew from the start he wanted a satin black hot rod, so he went with black epoxy primer. After a few months though, it started looking chalky and splotchy. The solution came by accident one day when he was rehabbing his interior with some Dupli-Color black Vinyl & Fabric coating. With the interior done, Richard had nothing to lose by testing a small part of the chalky exterior with the same spray can. “I thought it looked pretty cool, so I went over to Kragen’s and bought eight more cans,” Richard says. “I’m kind of embarrassed about it, but it looks pretty good. I just wanted it to look decent for the car show that was coming up.” (Richard’s preferred technique: Tape off each body panel and spray paint them independently. It avoids dry spray.)

This is also right around the time when the trips to Barona’s eighth-mile dragstrip began, and Richard started getting serious about performance. Instead of ordering parts from a catalog, Richard became fast friends with the operators of the local Ecology Auto Parts. Picking the boneyard, however, isn’t the nostalgic walk down memory lane that it used to be back in the ’80s, when parts for ’60s cars were still plentiful. Today’s junkyard crawl requires a lot more imagination—you’ve got to be able to look at a ’97 Ford Explorer, for instance, and visualize the rear axle and brakes fitting perfectly under your ’69 Mustang. Some risk is involved, but Richard takes the attitude that if the measurements are close enough, he’ll make a way for it to fit.

Richard has taken similar risks with parts from several late-model cars, including a driveshaft from an ’89 Thunderbird, electric fans from an SVT Ford Contour, valve covers from an ’89 Lincoln, an alternator from an ’84 Camaro, mirrors from an ’87 Mazda RX-7, a roof from a ’94 Cadillac (the sheetmetal was used to fabricate a rear seat delete close-out panel!), and much more. What sets Richard’s salvage yard Mustang apart from rust-bucket rat rods is that his car is built with a high level of craftsmanship. It’s not going to fall apart with the least provocation, nor does it look like it’s cobbled together by a hooligan. In fact, you won’t find a single spot of rust or “patina” anywhere. If the FAA could certify hot rods, this one, without a doubt, would be airworthy.

This slick Mustang, however, almost didn’t become an autocross hero. A few weeks before Richard’s first Goodguys autocross, a trip to the boneyard netted him a 460 Ford big-block and C6 transmission from a ’70 Lincoln Mark III. “My original idea was to mostly restore the car, then I started drag racing it,” Richard says. “I could do more stuff to the 302, or just go big, so I started looking for a 460. When I went to the junkyard and saw that Lincoln, I knew that year was a good engine. I thought, man, I’ll buy this and go drag racing. While I had the engine apart, I went to my first autocross, and that totally changed the direction of the car!”