Go to Google maps right now and search CA-35. California Highway 35, better known as Skyline Boulevard, is a wickedly twisty road loaded with complex corners, elevation changes, and on clear days, breathtakingly beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It spans 56 miles, running roughly north to south along the western ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Why the geography lesson? This stretch of road, one of California's scenic highways, is the fix for bikers and drivers who can't shake an addiction to lateral g's. Like any good 12-stepper, we readily admit our addiction, and Ray Banks was our pusherman last summer when we drove up the coast to photograph his car, a '65 Mustang that has devastating good looks and performance to back them up. He took us for a wild ride along a section of Skyline Boulevard that's left us in withdrawal ever since.
Ray lured us in with an innocent proposal of "just going for a drive," but things deteriorated quickly when the sleepy suburban streets of his neighborhood didn't satiate the appetite. "I know this stretch of road, if you've got the time," Ray offered coyly, as he pointed the Mustang toward the mountains. The traffic was light on Skyline and the day was perfect. In no time at all, Ray was exploring the upper end of his engine's powerband, and we drank in the sound of the solid roller 382-inch stroked Windsor at 7,000 rpm. Ray really did his homework with the engine-getting the right combination of displacement, cam, and cylinder heads, because it makes power everywhere. Equally beguiling were the Mustang's suspension and braking systems. The car corners better than any Mustang ever should, and the brakes could stop a car twice its size with just as much ease. Ray, who's an active member of at least four open-track car clubs, including his local Shelby American Automobile Club, piloted his car with the kind of effortless skill and deftness one gains after years of racing.
Interestingly, Ray originally bought the car to do a basic restoration. But, like on our drive that afternoon, he changed course and ventured down a path radically different from the safe and sleepy cruiser he was going to build. A mechanical engineer (synonymous with automotive junkie) by trade, Ray realized he'd never be satisfied with just a cruiser. He scrapped the resto plans and got to building a serious road race car. The end result is what you see here-a well thought out and superbly built car that Ray did himself, save for the paint and bodywork, over a five-year stretch at home in his garage. The trade-off is it is mostly a track-only weapon, geared for accelerating out of the corners at Laguna Seca and Sears Point rather than blasting down the freeway, and as such, the car spends 60 percent of its time at the racetrack now. But that still leaves 40 percent of the time for street driving, and Ray lives really close to Skyline Boulevard. He has the means and opportunity to get his fix anytime he likes.