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Project: "Money Pit"

Carter Kustom shows ESM the re-build of an R-Coded 1969 Mustang Mach I.
Text by J.R. Janicek | Photos Courtesy of Carter Kustom

Project: Money Pit

In 1969, Ford Motor Company was building its prized "Pony Cars" in three assembly plants: Dearborn, MI, San Jose, CA, and Metuchen, NJ. Ford initiated a new marketing strategy at the beginning of the 1969 model car year which produced five very different individual Mustangs built for very different purposes.

Ford still produced the "Plain-Jane" Mustangs in hardtop coupes, convertibles, and fastbacks (A.K.A. "Sportsroof") body styles. Also, introduced in 1969 was the "Luxury Grande" model which was a bargain basement priced "Thunderbird-like" Mustang that was packed full of luxurious creature comforts. The Boss 302 and 429 Mustangs reflected Ford's racing direction. The fifth new Mustang, no doubt, was the true blue hot-rodders numero uno... The Mach I.

In March of 1969, the Mach I was named "the quickest four-person production car" ever tested, earning it a chapter in the history of automotive enthusiasm and securing its legacy for the future. Even while it stood still at a stop light, the 1969 Mach I looked like it was in motion thanks to the shaker hood scoop and the long lowered body lines.

Fortunately for ESM, we ran across one of these much sought after muscle cars at the 2004 Mustang 40th Anniversary. The builder, Steve Carter of Carter Kustom, has given us the privilege of taking a peek at the build up (or should we say... "re-build") of what the owner, Dwayne, has dubbed "The Money Pit." Oh yeah, not to give you true blue Mustang fans a coronary, but we must mention that this is an R-Coded car, which simply means it is the real deal... not some damn knock-off kit car. Yep, speaking of "knock-off," we probably did just that to a few Mustang fans, but for those of you that are still "hangin' ten" with us, take some aspirin and continue reading.

Now, the name "Steve Carter" should be ringing the hell out of your door bell by now if you have been an avid reader of ESM, because we featured one of his build ups last year of a 1953 Chevy pickup. In fact, it was the Chevy truck amongst an enormous crowd of Mustangs at the Mustang 40th Anniversary that caught our attention in the first place! Over the past year, we have become very familiar with Steve's tastes, likes, and dislikes as well as his particular style of building. Even for those of you that may not be Mustang or muscle car fans (Gasp! The hell you say!), you have to appreciate the attention to detail that Steve gives to his customers' rides. Therefore, we must say that Steve is, in our opinion, a master fabricator and builder extraordinaire! Hey, there is no room for modesty or subtle "I'm The Man" hints in the custom auto industry, so Steve is "The Man" and we have to say that Steve will say "You're damn right!" There is no doubt that Steve enjoys his work and it shows... literally. So, let us begin our brag session by giving you a glimpse of the re-build of the 1969 Mach I Mustang "The Money Pit."


( N o t e :   C l i c k   o n   t h e   p i c t u r e s   t o   e n l a r g e . )

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The re-build initially started out when Steve discovered rust in the floor board and frame. Steve had to cut out the floor board to repair the rusted portions.
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The new floor board installed and ready to go! Oh but the build eventually goes much further as you shall see...
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A constant problem with these old Stang's was overheating issues. Steve decided to solve the problem by cutting off the stock front end and making it "free air." This is the before picture... not much room!
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Before shot of the shock towers and stock firewall, both of which will be saying "sayonara!"
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Chop, chop, chop... that is what Steve does in his shop!
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Stock front end and shock towers... going... going... gone!
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The new front end with 12½" cross drilled rotors and the new rack and pinion power steering. Stopping and steering issues... no more!
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The new front end is installed and the old firewall is cut out. Steve plans to smooth out the firewall for a cleaner look.
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New smoothed custom firewall... now we're talkin'!
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Stock rear end and drum brakes just isn't going to do on this muscle car!
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New Ford 9" posi with 355 gears rear end with 11" Ford Explorer disc brakes.
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Rear end and disc brakes install completed except for the brake lines.
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MSD Ignition system moved and tucked away nicely under the wiper cowl area.
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Custom covers for the ignition system hides it nicely under the wiper cowl.
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What ignition system? You street rodders out there can appreciate stuff like this!
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Steve uses 2 inch steel tubing for structural support of the improved "free air" engine compartment.
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Engine mock-up to check for proper fitment and clearance.
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Side view of mock-up engine installed in "free air" engine compartment area.
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The powerplant is removed and the rest of the nose area is built. The paint booth is next!
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The nose area is sanded and smoothed to perfection, then primered... next comes the paint!
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Steve said it was difficult to match up the nose paint, and after playing mad scientist for a while, with various colors of green paint, Steve came up with a close match.
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The paint has dried and will be wet sanded and buffed to a deep gleam. The base color has six coats of clear applied to it.
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Now this muscle car needs... well... some muscle! The next item on Steve's list is the 428 Ford power plant.
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The oil pan on this car is a one-off design that was converted from a front sump system to a rear sump system. Steve used cardboard for the mockup on the engine.
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After the mockup of the oil pan, Steve flattened his design out on paper which became the template in which steve would use to cut the pan out of steel.
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Finished oil pan. The notch in the pan is for rack and pinion power steering clearance. Everything is hand made except for the flange which was cut off of a stock oil pan.
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Steve says the original motor blew up after driving it about three miles, so Steve was also tasked with a total engine re-build. Here the new powerplant is being sanded and smoothed for paint.
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The Ford powerplant is a 428 SCJ (Super Cobra Jet) with a solid lifter cam and ported Edelbrock heads. In this picture, the paint is in its final drying phase. Once dried, it will be reassembled and ready for install.
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The engine is installed into the engine compartment. The serpentine belt system, hand fabbed by Steve, consists of Chevy and Ford pulleys that were also modified for this one-off system.
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To solve hood spring clearance issues, Steve also had to hand fabricate an offset master cylinder that is hand polished. Lot's of work!
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There is no such thing as too much power to steve, so he decided to give the power plant a little more "VROOM!" by juicing it with NOS.
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NOS bottle mounted in custom made hand polished bracket, which is made out of ½" thick aluminum and is designed as a "side loader."
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The NOS bottle was mounted in trunk on driver's side... Go Baby Go! With the new nitrous system, the factory shaker hood had to be modified though.
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Shaker hood modification parts solve clearance problems with the higher manifold and nitrous plate. A bucket and pan had to be made to attach the center piece to the hood.
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With all the "VROOM" this car was going to have, Steve decided to add a little attitude to the factory hood with the addition of a Carter Kustom specialty... ghost flames!
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Completed modification of the factory shaker hood. Notice the air breather element is attached to the hood and of course... FLAME ON!
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Engine installed and complete. All polished components were clear coated to preserve the luster and ease cleaning.
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Next on steve's list was the exhaust and support cage. Here is a picture of the undercarriage with the old exhaust and support cage.
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The new exhaust, is made out of sectioned 2½" mandrel bent steel that will be jet hot coated after mockup.
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Exhaust installed after many long hours of work! The exhaust will be removed smoothed and jet hot coated next.
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Dual Flowmasters is what helps this muscle car breathe with relative ease! These will also be jet hot coated.
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Here is an after picture of the new custom support cage and jet hot coated exhaust... super kewl! Next, Steve will install a new transmission to take control of the wild horses that run this muscle car! VROOM-VROOM time is nearing!
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The transmission is installed after the floor was raised 1½" for proper clearance. This had to be done in order to make the new transmission removable with relative ease. A custom plate covers the hole in the hump which is bolted into place.
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The new transmission also would receive a new shifter as well. The one-off custom shifter was made out of ½" inch aluminum. Not reflected in the template is a sort-of trademark of Carter Kustom... a skull shifter knob!
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A true four point roll bar was fabricated out of 2" chrome molly tubing.
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Completed roll bar. Notice the four point section is concealed under the interior side walls.
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The interior reinstalled with finished hand polished shifter and custom steering wheel.
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Steve scrapped the ugly stock seats for Corbeau four-point harness bucket seats.
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Here is a picture of the car with front license plate and chin spoiler, before this project began (notice old engine installed).
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In true Carter Kustom fashion, Steve removed the chin spoiler and shaved the license plate mounting holes for a cleaner front end.
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Maybe back in the day, raised white walled lettering tires, mud flaps, and 15" wheels were cool, but not by contemporary standards!
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Steve swapped the stock wheels for larger 18" Vintique replicas of Ford Magnum wheels. The polished billet wheels were sealed with Zoop seal to pro-long the luster. The mud flaps were also removed, but unfortunately steve couldn't convince the owner to remove the "school bus stripes."
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Pictured here is the reassembled, newly improved 1969 Mustang Mach I, but this time it is three inches lower all the way around with adjustable coilovers up front and lowering blocks in back. There it is folks, the whole enchilada... ariba, ariba, undalay, undalay!
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For those of you with inquiring minds, Steve put the Mach I on the dyno and here are the horse power numbers it was pushing... let's go smoke a Vette!

Be sure to visit ESM in September, for we will have a detailed feature on Project: "Money Pit." See you then!



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