Smudges on the shifter handle? Yes, sir! Dirt, wood chips, and tiny pebbles embedded in the carpet? You bet! A fresh layer of dust caked on the valve covers? Of course! When the task at hand is making a car look all pretty for photos, stuff like this can drive you nuts, and Randy Robison's '70 Mustang fastback is guilty of all three offenses. It even has a subtle-yet-peculiar wrinkle on the driver-side quarter-panel. For those who value pragmatism over pretentiousness, however, there's an endearing element of authenticity to all these quirks. You see, you'll never find minor blemishes like this in the typical checkbook machine because that would require actually driving the damn thing. In contrast, Randy drives his car often, he drives it hard, and he built it himself on a real working stiff's budget. While pricier g-Machines might flash more bling, this pony stomps them all with a big wallop of track-honed pedigree.

If Randy added up all the receipts, he figures the total tally on this Mustang would come to roughly $35,000. Considering you can easily blow two thirds of that figure on a stock Mustang fastback, it's an impressive feat to say the least. Like most guys capable of pulling off such deft budget stretching, Randy started building cars at a very young age. "Both my dad and stepdad were into cars, and I grew up working on project cars and going on cruises as a kid. I built a '40 Chevy sedan when I was 14, sold it to my uncle, and used the money to buy a '64 Impala," he recalls. Although he was surrounded by Chevys, Randy soon got bitten hard by the Mustang bug. "I testdrove a brand-new '88 Mustang 5.0-liter in high school, and that got me hooked on Mustangs. That was the first new car that I bought, and I traded it my senior year for a '67 Mustang fastback. I ended up selling the fastback, and over the years I played with a couple of mod-motor Cobras and an SVT Lightning pickup."

Although Randy thoroughly enjoyed his late-model phase-strapping a ProCharger onto his Cobra and pushing it to 10-second e.t.'s-he yearned for the days of stomping the loud pedal in a proper muscle car. "New cars are comfortable and reliable, but they're not that interesting and there's one just like yours on every street corner. I love how you can personalize an old car, and even when I owned late-models, I really missed the muscle car experience," he explains. Consequently, Randy picked up a '67 Mustang coupe that he built up as another straight-line machine. Nevertheless, his heart ached for another fastback, and he wouldn't have to wait much longer for his dream to come true. "I went to the dragstrip one day and met David McMillan, who had a very nice '70 Mustang fastback. Even though it was a drag car, it was very tastefully built. It had a very nice stance, and it wasn't cut up or gutted. David and I became very good friends, and I immediately started pestering him to sell the car to me." Like any skilled predator would, Randy pounced as McMillan experienced a moment of weakness. "He was having trouble installing a clutch in the Mustang, so I said that I'd take the car off his hands. He said he'd consider it, and I called him every day until he gave me the answer I wanted to hear," Randy says. The hard work paid off, as McMillan finally relented and Randy brought home his new ride. "Since my coupe was a drag car, my plan all along was to turn the fastback into a Pro Touring build. The car had a big cubic-inch Cleveland small-block and a Top Loader trans in it, but David was willing to sell it to me as a roller for $8,000 back in 1999. That was right before Gone in 60 Seconds came out and before the prices of fastbacks boomed, so if I bought this car two years later, there's no way I could have gotten it for so cheap. After the price of these cars skyrocketed, I was like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights and said 'Did that just happen?' I just didn't see it coming."

These cars shot up in price out of nowhere. I'm lucky I bought it at the right time." -Randy Robison

Immediately after Randy rolled the Mustang into the garage, he built a 392ci Windsor small-block, bolted a Tremec five-speed stick behind it, and dropped in the new powertrain. The simple yet effective Windsor combo matches a Ford Racing block with a Scat rotating assembly, GT40 aluminum heads, and a mild COMP 224/230-at-.050 hydraulic roller camshaft. It's good for an honest 452 hp while maintaining perfect street manners. With the new motor and trans in place, Randy cruised around in the Mustang for five years until a trip to his first Goodguys show inspired a new wave of changes. "After I got back from Goodguys, I wanted a more balanced car with better handling and braking along with a new paintjob," he explains. Although the Mustang had a solid, rust-free body, some fresh sheetmetal was on Randy's wish list as well. "I like the front end of the '69 model Mustangs better than the '70 models, so I swapped in a new hood, fenders, and grille off of a '69. If I knew I was going to swap in a '69 model front end, I probably would have just got a '69 fastback to start out with, but I knew the history of this car and that was worth a lot. After bolting on the new front clip, I sent the car to Ray Mitchell in Forney, Texas, to apply a fresh coat of Cadillac Galaxy Silver paint."