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1969 Ford Mustang SportsRoof - The Next Level

Sriyantha Weerasuria's '69 Ford Mustang Fastback.

By Stephen Kim, Photography by Stephen Kim

Before you even read the first sentence to this story, we know what preconceived notions already crossed your mind. You acknowledged this fastback's undeniable excellence, figured it cost two arms and two legs to build, then resentfully concluded that it's yet another example of rich guys encroaching on our turf. We'll give you the first two, but there's a big difference between wankers who happen to collect expensive cars and real-deal car guys who happen to have a few extra bucks to spend. The former think that a musclecar's hip factor compensates for their engorged midsections and utter lack of hot rodding aptitude. The latter represent what the average greasy-fingers car guy would do if his bank account weren't so average.

That's not to say that we'd all go out and build a $70,000 Pro Touring street machine. However, regardless of whether the money gets spent on the motor, suspension, or paint and body, you'd gladly take your car to the next level if you could. That's what Sriyantha Weerasuria's (S.W. for short) '69 Mustang is all about. It's not that rare. It doesn't have a matching-numbers this or an all-original that. It's not a pretentious exercise in flamboyance, either. And once you get past the stereotypes typically associated with high-dollar buildups, it's clear that this Mustang isn't too different from cars built on more pedestrian budgets. It's just a bit more polished.

Granted, building a car of this caliber requires a sizeable budget, but it's a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of dollars the pseudo-car guys spend on Boss 302s and Shelby GT350s at Barrett-Jackson. The experience of bolting a car together yourself is what this hobby is all about, and that's exactly what S.W. did. It took him over a year to find a suitable rust-free car, and he picked it up for $20,000. Again, that's more than the average person has to spend on a project-but let's face it, no one really wants a raggedy beater. You're just forced to settle for them more often than you'd like. Spending more up front often saves time and money in the long run, which is certainly the case here. By starting with a car that had already been restored, only the doorskins needed to be replaced. The bulk of the bodywork involved closing up the gaps and aligning the panels to perfection. The driprails were shaved for a subtle and tasteful touch.

As with the bodywork, rebuilding the motor was something S.W. wanted to do right the first time, so he enlisted the help of a trained professional. Since the goal was a mild-mannered street motor, he had Port Pros build him a production block-based 351W with forged internals and an Edelbrock top end. At 547 hp it's nothing over the top, but more than enough to dispose of aggressors on the way home from cruise night. Likewise, its hydraulic roller cam has enough lope to rattle the shaker scoop at idle but is tame enough to attenuate bucking and surging at low speed.

With the engine and bodywork complete, S.W. assembled the rest of the car himself with the help of his friend Rick Flores. For someone who's built Camaros in the past, the Mustang presented some unexpected challenges. "It was fun putting this car together, but finding parts for it was very difficult at times," he explains. "It took a very long time for me to get an original dash and tach, and I ended up finding them on eBay. Also, no one makes an aftermarket wiring harness with a stock tach lead, so I had to have it custom-made." Since S.W. didn't plan on wringing the Mustang out on a road course, the stock gauges and dash are meant to preserve the vintage feel of the interior. He says there are too many Pro Touring posers with rollbars and racing buckets, and we have to agree.

Unfortunately, there are no performance numbers to report, which most grassroots enthusiasts will probably snort about. Sure, some track time in the Mustang would be nice, but we can't really blame the guy for using it as a cruiser instead. He's got plenty of other cars to race in, and it would be rash to assume the man's got no skills. S.W. currently owns or has owned 9-second Vipers, 9-second C5 Corvettes, and Ferraris that get pounded on at the road course. His impressive collection of racing trophies would make all but the most experienced racer look foolish. S.W.'s current road car of choice is a race-prepped, 427-powered '01 Z06, which is probably a far superior tool for the task at hand than the Mustang anyway. Maybe we should be thanking him for not defiling a classic in the name of portraying a certain image.

By Stephen Kim
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