"What number car is this?" He laughs. "You mean right now, owned cars? I have seven, no wait, let me see. . . ." Denton Miller looks to his thinking spot and tries and fails to add them all up on his fingers. Right before he goes for his toes, he gives up.
He shifts from one foot to another as he stands with us at the mouth of a labyrinth of small machine shops pumping a greasy metal dust into the salt air. Car number something-something is a '65 Mustang standing in stark contrast to the grit and unpolished flavor of the San Diego shipyards. It's clean, it's buffed, it draws you like a gnat to a bug zapper.
Denton is not a pro car builder, he's just a guy who got in way over his head from the start. Sink or swim. He blames it on a coworker who had the car sitting for seven years right in front of him without lifting a wrench to fix it up. "It was just a shell, and after I bought the thing, I received boxes of Mustang parts for the next three days and spread them out across the garage floor." Denton smiles, but in the weird, troubled way.
Ever the resourceful hunter/gatherer, Denton would strike out on his own when he got stuck. Eventually he found his way to Hilltop Classics in Escondido, California, and a local expert known simply as Julie. She quickly grew tired of Denton showing up at the shop with parts in his hand saying, "What is this for?" So one day she dropped by his house and crawled around telling him what went where.
"I had to totally assemble the car just to see what was missing, what was good or bad, and how everything fit," Denton said. "It was all jacked up with chrome rims, and it looked suspiciously like the body had been hit." While Julie was under the car, she found the "new" floors had been laid over the old ones. Then there was the trunk and quarter-panel Bondo, and the headlight buckets didn't fit because of botched welds. The roof and rear valence are the two original panels left.
Denton reassembled the 289 so he could drive it to Hilltop when he needed something to be welded. "Once in a while, I had to get on my goggles and drive it to Julie's shop without the windshield. The Bondo stuff would fly in my eyes from the sanding. I was a ticket waiting to happen, but I kept making it back home."
With the body hammered back into shape, Denton thought about the color. "It was going to be red, then white with a blue stripe, then blue with a white stripe, then the Hertz colors, then at the last minute I saw a Blue Pearl Acura NSX in a showroom and thought, yup that's it, that's the color."
During the trip to the paint shop, Denton saw a Shelby on the freeway and chased it down in hopes of finding more parts. That was when he was introduced to Paradise Wheels in San Marcos, California. Owner Craig Conley had recently purchased the rights to remake the original Paxton superchargers from the '60s. He even had a stash of NOS blower belts for applications like Denton's. "I had broken an exhaust bolt off in the head, and the Edelbrock heads were only a couple hundred dollars more, so I bought a pair," Denton said. The larger combustion chamber on the Edelbrock heads dropped the compression ratio a couple of points, and since Denton had just met a guy who makes vintage supercharger setups, the inevitable occurred.