Can Revology's reproduction Mustang be just as good as the original?

Photography by John Webber unless otherwise credited

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Classic Motorsports.]

On April 13, 1964, Ford VP and top showman Lee Iacocca stepped to the microphone at the New York World’s Fair to introduce a new car model to the press: the Mustang. Flanked on his right by a sparkling red convertible, he welcomed a crowd of reporters to what he described as “one of the most important occasions in Ford Division history.” For months the automaker had been priming the publicity pump, and on this day Ford launched an international media extravaganza. As Iacocca spoke in New York, the much-anticipated Mustang was also being introduced to some 2000 press, radio and TV news people in 11 European capitals.

Iacocca promised a media blitz: “We will run Mustang announcement ads in 2600 newspapers, reaching 75 percent of the households in the country, and in 24 top magazines with a combined circulation of 68 million. Beyond that, we believe we have lined up a television introduction unlike any other ever attempted. On Thursday of this week, we will sponsor three half-hour shows on the three major networks from 9:30 to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. We expect to show the Mustang on TV screens in more than half the homes in the country.” He also bragged about the car’s “astonishingly low” price; a six-cylinder coupe listed for $2368.

Three days later Ford unleashed what Automotive News called “one of the largest promotional splurges in history.” The following morning, World’s Fair attendees jammed the Blue Oval’s Wonder Rotunda for the public unveiling. At the same time, Mustangs began to debut at dealerships, and according to one news report, “people attacked Ford showrooms.” By day’s end, frenzied buyers had snapped up 22,000 cars, and within 12 months they’d bought 418,812. The pony car was fast becoming the most popular car in America.

 

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The lovefest continued in 1966, when Ford sold 607,568 Mustangs, a single-year record. The car’s sexy long-hood, short-deck styling, four seats, options galore, and “astonishingly low” price made it irresistible. Even the name was inspired, evoking the Wild West that captivated America at the time. Ford sold 1,288,557 Mustangs in two and a half years, and that remains the shortest time in which a new nameplate has reached that sales volume. The Mustang became the car that defined the ’60s–a cultural icon.

In 1964 Iacocca told the press, “We designed the Mustang with young America in mind.” But that was then. Fifty-two years later, “young America” has lost its hair, packed on pounds, and developed a need for bifocals. Early baby boomers are now (gasp!) hitting the big seven-oh. But none of that matters when they slide into their first-generation Mustangs, slip on their Ray-Ban Aviators, and crank up the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around.” Suddenly they’re slim, fit and full of energy, and weekends find them enjoying their ponies at club gatherings, shows, cruise-ins and track events.

Daily driver or trailer queen, the iconic Mustang remains so popular and inspires such loyalty that Revology, a Florida-based, low-volume auto manufacturer, is betting that some folks will buy a brand-new one. Yep, a well-heeled Mustang lover can now buy a handbuilt replica that looks just like an original, but features a 2016 drivetrain, safety and comfort upgrades, and high-tech gadgets that not even Lee Iacocca could imagine five decades ago.

When we ran across Revology’s snazzy prototype convertible–a ride that Car and Driver called “the Singer 911 of Ford Mustangs”–we came away with an idea: Find a couple of old-school, first-gen Mustang owners and turn them loose with the 2016 version. You’re invited to saddle up and ride along.

Mo and Andy Allen

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Make no mistake. The Silver Blue ’66 you see here belongs to Mo, but she graciously lets her husband maintain it. This Jacksonville, Florida, couple has enjoyed the car for 12 years, but their Mustang history began long before that. When Mo was in high school, her first car was a ’66 six-cylinder coupe.

It wasn’t the fastest car in town, but she loved it. She kept it after her marriage to Andy, and that bulletproof notchback rolled up 330,000 miles and created a ton of happy memories over 17 years of daily use.

But as their family grew, so did the hassle of shuttling kids in and out of the cramped back seat. Reluctantly, she decided to let it go. Andy, being a good husband and Mustang fan himself, promised that he would someday buy her another.

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Time flies, but Andy was a man of his word. As his 20th wedding anniversary approached, he decided to surprise Mo with another ’66, and this time he wanted her to enjoy the wind in her hair. “She always wanted a convertible; that’s all she talked about when she had the coupe,” he said. So he tracked down a convertible–one whose years of hard use had abruptly ended with a smashed front end. Despite the carnage, Andy saw the car’s potential and commissioned a shop to restore it from the ground up into a tidy, well-equipped GT. Once the project started, he learned an all-too-common lesson: A rebuild always takes longer and costs more than planned.

Andy had another challenge, too: He was trying to hide stacks of disappearing dollars from his wife. As the months passed, he found himself moving money between accounts to keep the project going. Noticing their dwindling reserves, Mo became alarmed. Finally, she confided to a close neighbor that she was afraid Andy, who traveled frequently on business, might be dropping cash on an out-of-town girlfriend.

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Fortunately for Andy, his neighbor knew about the restoration and alerted him. “I guess me getting Mo a car restored was the furthest thing from her mind,” Andy explained. While he hated to lose the big surprise, he knew it was time to come clean.

Once Mo saw her convertible, she forgot about the “missing” money. The like-new build turned out even better than Andy anticipated, with a 289 engine and dual exhausts, Cruise-O-Matic, air conditioning, and power steering, brakes and top. It became their fun and show car, one they call their Mostang, and they take pride in knowing they brought it back from the dead.

When we asked Andy about the Mustang’s enduring appeal, he replied, “We just love the simplicity of design, the ease of working on them, and the classic look. It never fails that people approach us and tell us a story about when they had a Mustang or someone in their family had a Mustang. It was just that popular.”

Jim Lane’s 1966 Ford Mustang GT

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As a college freshman, Jim fell in love with a ’65 Rangoon Red fastback, but he just couldn’t swing the deal. “That was the day I vowed that I would someday own a first-generation Mustang,” he said. Seventeen years later, still determined to own his dream pony, he joined the Mustang Club of America and started his search. Finally, two decades after his vow, Jim found a ’66 Signal Flare Red GT convertible in upstate New York.

Mechanically it needed work, but the odometer showed 34,312 miles, and a close examination revealed an undamaged, rust-free body. The car also sported matching tags, V8 power, and a four-speed transmission. Jim did the deal and hauled the GT home to Oviedo, Florida, where he and sons Andrew and Dan began a mechanical restoration. When they got the car running, Jim decided that the original paint–which still displayed a decent shine–needed touching up, so he took it to a trusted restoration shop.

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There, Mustang expert Todd Morris crawled all over it, becoming more impressed with each small discovery. “He told me I had an unmolested, very original GT with all the correct date codes on the body panels,” Jim recalled. “The floors had never been repaired. He said it was extremely rare to find one in that shape, and that I should consider a complete and correct restoration.” He gave Todd the go-ahead.

Once he made his decision, Jim, who has been described by those close to him as obsessive, was determined to involve himself in every step of the process. He became a part-time employee at the shop, and his sons helped on the weekends. They began a slow and painstaking disassembly–documenting every step–and were amazed at the car’s originality, including the factory build sheet they found taped to the wiring harness. When they opened the engine, they discovered it had never been touched, so they installed hardened valve seats and resealed it.

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Eighteen months later, the rolling chassis was finished, and Jim returned it to his home garage for the final assembly. “I wanted my Mustang to be the same way it was when the first owner received it,” he said. “So I needed to replicate, not improve, the details and sloppy factory work. No one will ever see that overspray or many of the factory markings, but to me those mistakes are the differences between a new car and a classic car. Hopefully I have preserved what occurred during the third week of July, 1966, when this car rolled down the assembly line at the Metuchen [New Jersey] assembly plant. Because it is a 50-year story worth telling.”

Judging from the many awards this car has won, including an AACA Senior Grand National and MCA Grille Medallion, Jim and his sons’ restoration tells the story well.

Revology’s Reborn 1966 Convertible

Our third Mustang had a much shorter history, for a simple reason: It’s brand new.

Revology Cars is the Orlando, Florida-based maker of Mustang and Shelby replicas that go beyond anything possible when their inspirations were rolling off the line, because Revology mates new Ford-licensed classic Mustang bodies with modern components. The idea, according to the manufacturer, is to improve performance, safety, reliability, comfort and efficiency while preserving the original cars’ intrinsic style and character.

That last part sounds tricky; time for a head-to-head comparison to see if it’s true.

Pony Rides: New and Old

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After our two Mustang experts swarmed over and under Revology’s prototype, we put them behind the wheel. They each enjoyed a 40-minute drive that included twisty roads and highway cruising. Here are their observations:

Andy: I’m impressed with how this car is put together. For a convertible, the gaps are unusually tight and equal distance throughout the car. The hood is perfectly aligned, doors centered and the panel transition level and true. I’m partial to Silver Blue Metallic, and the paint is faultless.

The interior is nearly identical to the original’s Deluxe interior, and the modifications and upgrades are tastefully done and almost completely hidden. I especially like the use of the window cranks to control the power windows. The seat is comfortable, with enough bolstering to keep me in it. With the increased power of the production model, they might want to add a little more. The gas and brake pedal are little close for my feet, but that is the only issue I have with drivability and comfort.

The 5.0-liter engine has plenty of power, but the production version’s increased power is going to give owners big smiles. The electronically controlled transmission shifts so smoothly it’s almost unnoticed. The power gets to the ground, and the car launches with authority. Handling around corners is smooth and with virtually no body roll; accelerating out of corners is real fun. All in all, I enjoyed the look, power and feel of the car. I think Revology understands how important it is to pay attention to the details.

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Jim: You’re literally driving a brand-new V8 Mustang with all the comfort and options you’d expect, but it’s all hidden within a beautiful 1966 classic body. When the hood is closed, you’re looking at a true sleeper. I respect the fact that Dynacorn bodies are used instead of harvesting original salvage bodies. The Revology VIN tag is plainly visible in the engine compartment, so this car is not posing as a 1966 restomod.

The interior is purist, with a proper steering wheel and correct colors and textures. A nice addition is the analog gauges with blue backlighting for easier viewing. The seats are stock Deluxe Pony interior, but power-adjusted; I feel as though I’m sitting in my ’66. Turn the key, the 5.0 jumps to life, and the exhaust note is perfect, loud and throaty but not too extreme. The throttle is very responsive and pins me back in the seat just like a Mustang should.

During our country drive of twisty roads, the car handled perfectly. The rack-and-pinion steering is tight and smooth, and rough roads didn’t matter to the radial tires. The brakes are solid and predictable. Even with the top down, the car has much less road noise than mine thanks to modern sound-deadening materials. At highway cruising speed, the tach is still under 2000 rpm! Overall, the car exceeds my expectations.

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Next we asked Nathan Loucks, Revology’s vehicle integration supervisor, to slide behind the wheel of Jim’s bone-stock ‘66, which rides on factory-spec bias-ply tires. Nathan, who’s logged many miles in the company’s prototype, is a hotrod and classic car enthusiast who spends his days in Revology’s assembly facility, packaging today’s technology into classic Mustang design.

“There are so many details to appreciate in a concours-quality original car,” he says. “The feel of the seats and the steering wheel are just as they should be. Everything is just the way it was when this car left the factory, including the way it drives.

“The skinny bias-ply tires follow every dip and uneven spot in the road. As I took the first turn, the tires were squealing at 30 mph, and Jim and I were giggling like two kids out driving a car they shouldn’t be. It’s an odd experience to drive two cars that look so much alike but display completely different driving manners. Compared to our Mustang’s rack-and-pinion steering and modern front-end geometry, the steering seems slow and the wheels follow in a vague way.

“Jim’s car has disc/drum brakes with no power assist, so braking requires a strong leg. While the car tracked straight under braking, I wouldn’t want to make an emergency stop. Just for comparison, our production car’s disc brake rotors are about an inch smaller than the factory-original Mustang wheels.

“It’s an eye-opening experience to drive such an original car, and I have a great appreciation for the time, effort and detail that goes into a restoration like this. After driving our car and his, it’s amazing to see and feel how far technology has come.”

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