Strolling the isles of a car show is often an enlightening experience from one vehicle to the next. The thrill is in discovering a car that just stands out in a crowd. Steve Frediani of Claremont, California, owns just such a car. His jaw-dropping '66 Mustang has enough custom accessories and supercharged power to knock the socks off almost any show machine. The complete package is impressive enough, and revolves around the engine swap using a '96 Lincoln Mark VII modular engine.
Steve's father originally purchased the Mustang new, and when Steve entered high school several years later, the car was passed down to him. Like most teenagers, Steve turned a few wrenches until he lost interest and set the project aside. The Mustang sat neglected for the next 20 years, until one day Steve's father told him that he would never finish the car. This challenge motivated Steve to begin the rebuild process. The first thing he did was strip the entire body and then have it primered to protect the original metal. Several years prior, Steve began experimenting with street rods, which gave him the idea for the Mustang's front suspension upgrade. At the time, Steve wasn't aware of any front-end kits, so he had Chisholm Suspension custom build a crossmember with upper A-arm supports that deleted the shock towers. In place of the original bulky front end, Chisholm installed tubular control arms to work with coilover shocks and a rack-and-pinion steering.
With the shock towers out of the way, it was clear that an old-school small-block Ford would be dwarfed inside the cavernous engine bay. One of Steve's friends suggested the new modular 4.6L Ford engine, which sent Steve on a quest until he found a '96 Lincoln Mark VII modular motor and AOD-E transmission. When the monstrous mod motor sat next to the Mustang in Steve's garage, it became evident that the firewall would need to be moved back 2 inches to make everything fit along with modified motor mounts and changes to the oil pan to clear the rack-and-pinion. Plus, the radiator core support had to be enlarged to fit a matching '96 Lincoln radiator, fan, and shroud. As soon as the major engine bay modifications were out of the way, Steve enlisted Advanced Engineering West's Mark Sanchez to modify the Lincoln engine with Mustang four-valve Cobra cylinder heads, a Kenny Bell supercharger, a Cobra throttle-body, and a custom EEC VII computer program to make it all work.
Next, Steve had Currie Enterprises build a 9-inch rearend and outfit it with a limited slip, 3.71:1 gears, and disc brakes. When bolted under the car, the rearend is held in place by a Global West Stage III suspension package. As soon as the Mustang was mobile, Steve put in a call to Gene Winfield to help out with the bodywork and paint. The rearend features a full-width taillight design while the rear bumper has been frenched to the rear quarter-panels to provide a smooth, flowing look. When the rear bodywork was finished, Steve and Gene moved onto the front of the car and custom-fabricated a new grille. The inner headlight surroundings had to be cut back to allow for a full-length grille opening that creates an even visual flow with the frenched front bumper. By the time the body looked good enough for paint, the two decided to go with one of Gene's custom-mixed pearl paint jobs. This called for several gallons of PPG orange, pearl, and white to cover the entire car. Gene applied the scallops and then blended them together by recessing them into the side panels.
When the paint was dry, Steve took his Mustang directly to Mike Ambrose where a complete leather interior wraps around two Glide Engineering bucket seats, the back seat, and a custom center console. The dashpad made way for a complete color match while Steve custom-fabricated his own instrument cluster, shifter knob, and accessory plates.
The road to show-car stardom has been a long one for Steve Frediani, but if you ask him about the amount of time he's spent designing, fabricating, and polishing, he'll tell you it's all worth it. One look at Steve's vintage modular Mustang is enough to make anyone appreciate the style of the '60s while embracing the technology of today.
Car Craft Q&A
Car Craft: Steve, your Mustang looks very contemporary, but we can't help noticing that it also has a certain custom vibe-what's the deal?
Steve Frediani: I grew up reading the car magazines of the '60s and building model cars, so when it came time to do the Mustang, I wanted to make it the way I would have done it back then if I could have. Tom Daniels had done some drawings for Rod & Custom of custom touches to the then-new Mustang. I really liked his ideas, so I incorporated some of them along with my own
CC: But obviously you didn't want a full-on retro car either, right?
SF: Right. Even though the custom trends of that time were cool, I wanted the car to drive well. After the shock towers were gone, we had a lot more engine-bay space, and that's when we started looking at the 4.6 engine to update the drivetrain while keeping it all Ford.
CC: What was it like working with a custom car icon like Gene Winfield?
SF: That was the best part of the project. He was my custom car hero as a kid and was great to work with. I'd go to his shop after work and we'd hang out until nearly midnight working on the car. I really wanted one of his signature custom candy-blend paint jobs, and he created exactly what I asked for. He's like a mad scientist with paint-it's unbelievable.
CC: Now that the car your dad bought new is fully transformed, what does he think of it?
SF: He loves it. I learned everything from him; I was helping with his '29 Model A when I was 2, and we still go to car events together when we can.
Car: '66 Mustang
Owner: Steve Frediani
Engine: '96 Ford Lincoln Mark VII engine, 4.6L (281ci) DOHC, four-bolt main cylinder block, custom-fabricated 7-quart oil pan, polished Kenny Bell supercharger, '96 Mustang four-valve Cobra cylinder heads, Cobra throttle-body, stock valve covers machined, smoothed, and chromed, EDIS coil packs, EEC-IV ECM Ford computer, matching '96 Lincoln wiring harness
Drivetrain: '96 AODE automatic overdrive transmission and converter, Lokar shifter, aluminum driveshaft, Currie 9-inch rearend, limited slip, 3.71:1 gears, complete housing smoothed and chromed, entire undercarriage filled and smoothed
Chassis: Global West Stage III rear suspension kit including tuned leaf springs, shackle kit, gas shocks, subframe connectors, aluminum bushings, 9-inch rear disc brakes, custom transmission mount, Chisholm custom front suspension, custom front crossmember, tubular chrome A-arms, Aldan coilover chrome shocks, '96 Lincoln 4.6L power steering pump, '84 Dodge Omni rack-and-pinion, polished power steering reservoir, 11-inch front disc brakes, Baer four-wheel disc brake master cylinder
Wheels: Budnik Mercury 17x7 with P215/50R17 Toyo Proxes tires front; Budnik Mercury 17x8 with P245/50R17 Toyo Proxes tires rear
Body: '66 Mustang Coupe, custom mix of several PPG Orange, Gold Pearl, and Pearl White paint, bodywork, graphics, and paint by Gene Winfield, side moldings and emblems removed, filled antenna, custom grille opening in cowl, shaved driprails, frenched license plate opening and bumpers, custom six-bar grille fabricated from 11/42x2-inch steel bar, custom 900-LED rear taillight, '61 Ford parking lights, and California Mustang weatherstripping
Interior: Custom design by Mike Ambrose, Glide engineering front bucket seats, custom rear seat design and center console, creamy ivory leather, matching door panels, headliner beige wool, Mercedes beige wool carpet, Dakota Digital gauges, power windows, Lokar emergency brake handle, all dash, shifter, door, and glovebox accessories plates are custom-machined, ididit tilt steering column, Budnik "Mercury" steering wheel