Text and photos by Steve Temple

In broadening our coverage to include a more diverse field of vehicles, we came across a dramatically modernized Mustang from Ryan Venturine. Prior to that buildup, his first ponycar project was a painstaking restoration of a ’66 coupe. In addition to teaching him how to work on cars, it helped him develop an appreciation for workmanship, and the realization that a car can become a rolling work of art (yet certainly not something simply to sip wine over, as we’ll see).

You see, Venturine’s longed for a Fastback that he could not only express his creative impulses on, but also drive like a banshee. In 2008 he found a blank canvas in a dilapidated six-cylinder ’65.

“I barely got it to Scott’s Hot Rods shop, firing on only two spark plugs,” he recalls. Admitting some initial difficulties in working with such a weak piece, “It became a Frankenstein. I got in way over my head.”

But he persevered against all the naysayers who said it was an impossible build. Even though his fellow Mustang buddies told him he was crazy, the car would become a revenge of sorts, a personal vendetta against all the obstacles he encountered along the way. And “Vendetta” would become the name of this challenging project.

Fortunately Venturine had some solid supporters in his corner. One was a professional car designer, Gary Ragle of Ragle Design, who rendered several concepts to provide some overall artistic direction to car as the bodywork was repaired and the chassis transformed by Scott’s Hot Rods, located in Oxnard, California. While Vendetta didn’t turn out precisely as initially sketched by Ragle, he did appreciate Venturine’s input and ideas as it progressed. “He was really fun to work with,” Ragle recalls. “He had an idea, a theme, a soul for the car. He wanted something very modern, not just a rehash of an old car.”

Ragle notes the interior in particular, with its electronic controls and wraparound console. As for the exterior, he points to the blacked-out roof panel between the rails, and the eyebrows overhanging the headlights, which gave the face of this Fastback a menacing scowl, right in keeping with its vengeful intent.

This predatory persona proved to be a recurring theme as the project progressed. Initially Venturine had both the body and foundation reworked at Scott’s Hot Rods in Oxnard, California. The bodywork was extensive, and included replacing rusty rear-quarter panels, chopping the top, laying back the windshield, flaring the fenders, and enlarging the quarter windows. This shop fabricated a whole new tubular chassis with an integrated roll cage braced by through-bolting to backing plates. Then the customized body was mounted on—not welded to—the frame. (Note how the bottom of the rocker panels are flush with the frame rails.) Why use this approach?

“Ryan wanted a really aggressive Mustang, to beat on heavily,” explains Justin Scott Padfield of Scott’s Hot Rods. “We plan for the worst, in case we need to rebuild or repair some damage. So the body and chassis can separate.”

Included in this all-custom chassis setup is a Scott’s standard IFS with polished stainless steel control arms and a rear-steer configuration, where the rack is located behind the crossmember. Aldan coilovers are at all four corners, and the rearend is a narrowed Moser Ford 9-inch with 33-spline axles.

In keeping with his driving style and forward-looking design, Venturine wanted an aggressive, hunkered-down stance. “It’s about as low as a cigarette pack above the ground,” he laughs. While he says that Scott’s did a great job on the chassis and metalwork, Vendetta still needed some fine finish details before it fully realized his intentions. To facilitate that, he consulted with Alan Palmer of Palmer Customs.

Their intents and interests clicked, and, to put it simply, “I liked Alan’s working style,” Venturine notes. They shared a mutual vision for Vendetta, and out of the many dozens of cars he’s customized, “Vendetta is my favorite,” Palmer says. A surprising statement, considering how much extra effort went into fitting the custom glass and custom bumpers, and gapping the body panels. “The whole thing was a challenge,” he admits. “Mustangs have so many body lines running through them.”

What was his approach to creating a distinctive look? “We exaggerate the lines a bit, make them crisp, focusing on the edges.” He also fabbed and welded in the headlight buckets with those big eyebrows, and reworked the steel front fascia’s custom bumpers and functional brake ducts. Another modification is the rear decklid so it has less of an overhang, with a smoother, more rounded finish. In all, many hands reshaped the form of the car, with overlapping efforts between Scott’s and Palmer’s shops.

The cutout in the hood was fairly straightforward, to show off the induction system for the 427 Roush, a 351 stroker rated at 580 horses. Lift open the lid, and there’s a smoothed firewall with custom metal panels and radiator shroud. The result is a futuristic looking engine bay that conceals all the traditional mechanicals. Ring Brothers supplied modernized hood hinges.

Other forward-looking items are prevalent in the cockpit. The wraparound waterfall-style console fabricated by Palmer features a couple of monitors, one of which has an aircraft-style electronic touchscreen. It controls and/or displays a surprising array of functions, everything from exhaust temp to door locks, headlights to the GPS map, and then some.

Sixties vinyl never looked as advanced as the diamond-pattern upholstery and deep-bolstered racing seats. But it’s not all for looks, as the shoulder harnesses and rollcage attest. Venturine drives Vendetta with a vengeance. “I treat this car like an athlete,” he says, “and hammer it every chance I get. She wants to run, so I don’t keep her locked up. Like a thoroughbred, I just let ‘er go.”

So while he’s won a mantle-full of First-place car-show trophies, his preference is to carve through the canyons of Socal, and also cruise Vendetta on Ventura Highway. But not into the sunset, as the song lyrics go. Venturine has even more plans for this project car, trying to make it as perfect as he can. Once done, that should make everything even in his mind.