Story and photos by Joe Greeves

Turning a tired old nag into a thoroughbred doesn’t have to be complicated. Rod Brown, a hardworking farmer from Rolling Fork, Mississippi, knows that firsthand. When he delivered his done-in ’65 Mustang to Tim Chesney and A.J. at TAJ Motorsports, he gave them some simple guidance: “I want it red and I want 600 hp. Other than that, do whatever you want!”

Man, did they ever. The sheet metal of Brown’s Fastback was in poor shape — rode hard and put away rusty. With the car on the rotisserie, numerous panels were replaced and Bondo areas eliminated. Since Brown is about 6 feet 5 inches tall and needed a skosh more room, the firewall was moved forward an inch and the floor pan reconfigured to allow a lower seat height.

Once the body was solid and Brown could fit in it, making the car handle better was the next priority. All the factory Mustang suspension pieces were scrapped and replaced with a Heidts Mustang II chrome front end. Sprucing it up even further are chrome QA1 coilovers, power rack-and-pinion steering, and a Flaming River tilt column.

A Lentech Strip Dominator three-speed automatic with overdrive and custom aluminum driveshaft funnel power to the rear end. It runs a Martz Chassis parallel four-link and QA1 coilovers to suspend the Moser 9-inch center section, fitted with 31-spline Moser axles, 3:83 ratio Trac-Lok differential, and Panhard bar. Stopping power comes from Wilwood slotted and cross-drilled, 12-inch disc brakes with four-piston calipers. They’re actuated by a custom hydroboost power brake unit and polished Wilwood master cylinder. The whole setup rolls on Boze forged alloy wheels (18x8 front, and 18x10 rear), wrapped in BFGoodrich KDW2 rubber (225/35-ZR18 front, and 295/35-ZR18 rear)

How about Brown’s directive on the power output? To achieve the goal of 600 hp, Chesney selected a 351 Windsor block, bored and stroked to 410 cubes. The innards were upgraded with a SCAT forged steel crank, BRC dished pistons, and 4340 forged steel H-beam rods, along with a Crane Mutha Thumper roller cam and 1.7 ratio roller rockers.

Opening up the nostrils of this ponycar’s engine are ported and polished AFR 205 heads, an Edelbrock Air-Gap intake and a 950 Holley four-barrel carb modified by Pro Systems and dual-filtered by a Spectre air cleaner. Breathing out was enhanced with Bassani ceramic-coated headers, polished stainless steel 2.5-inch exhaust, and stainless MagnaFlow mufflers. Sparking new life into this classic Mustang is an MSD 6AL electronic ignition. QTEC electric cutouts add a throaty NASCAR rumble.

All told, did Chesney hit the requested 600 hp? The potent package delivers 596 horses — close enough!

The engine room showcased the potent power plant with a smooth firewall, along with inner fender panels that were hand fabricated and welded to the outer fenders, eliminating the factory bolts.

Lots of grooming was needed to give this steed a sleek look. There is hardly a seam showing anywhere.
“The vision that we had for the car was to smooth everything out,” Chesney notes. “We hid all the wiring, eliminated all visible nuts and bolts, and made subtle changes throughout.”

The TAJ guys even went so far as to widen the rear of the car a half-inch on either side at the top of the fenders, sharpening all the body lines in the process. The trunk lid is fiberglass with a molded-in spoiler and glass end caps. The LED taillights from Mustang Projects are surface-mounted and sequential.

At the front is an Eleanor-style spoiler with Hella driving lights, and the factory headlight buckets were molded to the fenders. The stock parking lights, usually mounted below the bumper, were relocated, turned sideways, and installed next to the headlights. The fiberglass hood is a standard GT350 modified with a ’68 hood scoop, and the three-piece grille was converted to a single unit.

Pop the trunk with its polished aluminum hinges, and prepare to be impressed with the unique chassis bracing and 16-gallon fuel cell, along with the pair of OPTIMA Red Top batteries, MSD electronic ignition module, the Stinger dual-battery solenoid, and fuse blocks for the stereo. The final step was paint, with Tim and A.J. stripping the car to a bare shell, priming, and spraying House of Kolor Blue Blood Red with Ice Pearl, followed by multiple coats of clear.

Inside the cockpit, the rear of the car was tubbed three inches on either side to accommodate fatter tires, which required trimming the fold-down back seat in the process. Tim found a set of Nissan Z buckets in a salvage yard and created a set of frames to accommodate Brown’s height. Front and back seats were covered in red and black vinyl with the headliner stitched to match. Russell Wood installed the custom upholstery in the interior and trunk.

The steel center console has a modified short-throw B&M Hammer shifter, and is loaded with controls for the Alpine stereo, Classic Auto Air A/C, auxiliary lighting, and other switchgear. The dash now houses a JME six-gauge package with red LED backlighting.

Chesney’s background is in computers, so he likes to add lots of interesting electronics like the Viper alarm system, Hide-A-Way radio antenna and a custom audio system beginning with an Alpine head unit, Cerwin Vega mids and highs, and Cerwin Vega 1,000-watt amp driving a trunk-mounted JL Audio sub.

The whole project took two years to complete, but the finished ride really fired up Brown’s enthusiasm. He spanked the flanks hard, boiling the hides in a smothering cloud of smoke. It doesn’t get any more simple!