Your first hot rod. Having those keys in hand is a huge moment in any gearhead’s life. It’s your ticket to the open road. It’s responsibility. It’s freedom. It’s the first time you get to be a real member of the hot rodding community. Whether it was actually your first car, or it followed hard time behind the wheel of beaters, time and experiences with your first hot rod will create some of your best and worst memories and can even frame your future. This particular Mustang project actually altered the entire course of one gearhead’s life.

Of course there was no way Filip Trojanek’s mom could have known that back in 1968 when she picked up the little ’66 V-8 coupe as a daily driver. Actually, Filip didn’t see it coming either. While he had a budding interest in muscle cars, for most of his youth it was just his mom’s Mustang—a neat car, but not something he fixated on. All that changed thanks to a bad break that kept him immobilized for several weeks while his leg healed. During that time he stocked up on car magazines to occupy his time and quickly became immersed in the hot rodding world.

When he was back on his feet, Filip had a parts list and plans for what he now planned would become his Mustang. Luckily his mom agreed and at 14 years old, Filip started what would become literally a lifetime of wrenching. Once he was legally driving it, not much time passed before Filip started with all the typical high school muscle car mods. You know the stuff; it was all focused on looking and sounding cool in the parking lot and going fast in a straight line.

After he enrolled into a mechanical engineering program at Oregon State University, however, Filip’s focus began to shift. He became less concerned with just how fast cars could move in a straight line and more interested in how they became fast on all fronts: cornering, maneuvering, and braking. Of course the whole time he was basically just thinking about the inherent structural deficiencies of vintage cars versus modern ones, and learning what could be done to improve his Mustang. Actually his first major engineering project was an independent front suspension clip designed to work on vintage Mustangs. He ended up scrapping it as his education continued, but the inspiration was set.

After graduating and accepting a position in San Francisco, Filip began hanging around Infineon Raceway in Sonoma regularly and studying the menagerie of modern and vintage street cars and race cars that lap the challenging track on a daily basis. From there he began formulating how he could take what he’d learned in school and meld that with racer’s experience to transform his Mustang into an extreme track car capable of performance on par with NASA AIX, ALMS, and SCCA World Challenge racers—all while still maintaining some semblance of street driveability.

That’s a tall order to say the least, but Filip took it a step further since he wanted to accomplish those goals with the Mustang’s original unibody and subframes intact. “It’s not like I approached it with the idea that a ’66 Mustang was the ideal platform to build an outrageously fast track car,” Filip says. “It had style and a V-8, but not too much else going for it considering the direction I wanted to go. I could have built a perfectly designed tube chassis with Mustang panels on it, but there’s something about working with an original car.”