1965 Ford Mustang Convertible

Wayne Walker couldn’t believe his eyes when he gazed at the digital image of his ’65 convertible. “Tim told me to check my email for a photo of my Mustang,” Wayne recalls. “He had cut off the whole front end except for the framerails!”

The year was 2004 and Tim Chesney, who has since established TAJ Motorsports with his son A.J. (T for Tim plus A.J. equals TAJ), was building a modified Mustang for his cousin Wayne. The two share a passion for early Mustangs. Tim can “build and fix anything,” but Wayne wasn’t sure what he wanted in a modified. He was willing to let Tim experiment.

Experiment he did. Since building Wayne’s “Pearl Pony” as his first modified, Tim has come up with a personal style for his Mustangs (see “Delta Heat” in the February 2011 issue).

Wayne’s father bought the ’65 convertible in 1977 from a used car lot for $1,300. It was powered by a 289 but Wayne and his father later learned that the Mustang started life as a six cylinder. Over the years, Wayne’s father turned the convertible into a GT clone.

Wayne got the car in the late 1990s. A few years later, it needed updating so he sent the ’65 to his cousin. At Wayne tells it, “I only wanted a re-paint, a set of aluminum heads, and a four-speed instead of an automatic.”

Tim stripped the convertible “down to the frame” and the build began. The two cousins perused Mustang vendor catalogs for the right parts.

Wayne wanted more of a good handling, autocross-type build. At Barrett-Jackson, he had spotted a car with a Heidts Superide suspension, so he asked Tim to add it to his convertible. Tim sliced off the shock towers to install the Mustang II-style front suspension with chrome tubular control arms, QA1 coilover billet shocks, and 12-inch Wilwood disc brakes.

Tim also adapted Heidts Superide independent rear suspension, normally associated with street rods, to the uni-body Mustang. The kit has a lower control arm but not an upper, similar to a late-model Corvette, along with center housing stub axles, third member, tie bars, half-shaft assemblies, brake rotors, strut rods, and coilover springs—literally an entire rear end assembly. The locking 9-inch Currie rear differential is loaded with 3.73:1 gears. The inboard Wilwood rear disc brakes are novel for a Mustang.

With the new suspension and wider American Racing Shelby wheels with B.F. Goodrich KDW tires, Wayne wanted more torque and horsepower, setting a goal of outrunning Corvettes. He settled on a 351 bored and stroked to 427 cubic inches and beefed up with a Coast High Performance Street Fighter kit. Instead of a four-speed, he upgraded to a T56 six-speed transmission.

When Tim installed the engine, discontent set in. “He didn’t like the way it looked,” Wayne explains. “So he started over. He cut off the firewall, the inner fenders, everything except the frame.” Only then was Chesney satisfied with a look that Walker describes as “slick, clean, and beautiful.”

Wayne was “fine with that.” In fact, one of the things he always disliked about Mustangs was the all-too-common water leak in the cowl vents. Wayne wanted to take out the cowl vents. Tim thought that was a great idea.

Wayne remembers that Eleanor-style Shelbys were popular when Tim was putting this car together. Although determined not to build an Eleanor clone, they couldn’t resist the Shelby-style sequential LED taillights, sourced from Mustang Project, and Shelby LeMans stripes. The biggest challenge was putting the red pearl coat over the white base in a way to prevent the final finish from looking pink. In the right light, a shimmer of red reflects through the white paint.

Tim’s son A.J. designed the interior, starting with a set of ’84 Mazda RX-3 seats custom upholstered in red and white. A.J. carried the red and white theme into the dash, door panels, and console, as well as the trunk. The senior Chesney adapted the rollbar from a ’93 Fox-body Mustang.

When Tim delivered the car to his cousin, he had a surprise. On the test drive, Wayne wondered about “that button on the console.”

Chesney said, “Push it and see.”

Wayne hit the button and a big grin spread over his face. He had opened up the exhaust cut-outs with an electric switch. Tim says, “He opens them up every time he drives the car.”

With this build, Wayne was able to reach his primary goal—the ability to outrun Corvettes. He hasn’t lined up against a Z06 yet, but he has taken on standard Corvettes. With 516 horsepower and 533 ft-lb of torque, Wayne says, “All they ever see is my taillights.”