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.
Who: Ray Banks
What: '65 Ford Mustang
Where: Cupertino, California, home of Apple Computer
Engine: The foundation for this road race terror is a Ford SVO circle track block. Gromm Racing in San Jose, California, did a full race-prep job, and what started life as a 351 Windsor-style block now measures in at a stout 382 ci. It's full of top-shelf stuff, too. The Scat crank has been gun-drilled and weighs only 42 pounds. JE-dished pistons were valve-clearanced and yield a 10:1 compression ratio, and Carrillo rods hold the two together. Rings are by Total Seal, and bearings are by King. The cam is a solid roller piece from Comp and specs out at a raucous-sounding 267/257 degrees duration at 0.050 inch and 0.665/ 0.664-inch lift. The details for the cylinder heads are even cooler. Starting with unassembled AFR 205 heads, Ray pocket-ported the bowls and added a Ferrea 2.08 titanium intake and Manley 1.60 stainless exhaust valves. He sourced a set of Comp springs and Ferrea 10-degree titanium retainers and keepers. That weight-saving combination, plus a set of Norris 1.6:1 stainless roller rockers, allows this big-inch small-block to rev like a 302, and it shrieks to its power peak-568 hp at 7,300 rpm. Torque is an equally impressive 510 lb-ft at 4,700 rpm.
Induction: Ray port-matched an Edelbrock Victor Jr. single-plane intake to his heads and topped it off with a Holley HP 750 double-pumper carburetor. He plumbed in a Magna Fuel Quickstar 275 fuel pump and keeps the Fuel Safe cell full of 100-octane.
Exhaust: Those are a pair of 1 3/4-inch Hooker Super Competition headers. Their 3-inch collectors transition to a full 2 1/2-inch exhaust system with a Dr. Gas cross-pipe and Flowmaster 30-series mufflers.
Ignition: An MSD Blaster coil and distributor light off the charge.
Transmission: At the time these pictures were taken, Ray was rowing through a Top Loader. He's since upgraded to a full road-race Jerico four-speed. It's attached to a McLeod scattershield that houses a Ram 13-pound aluminum flywheel and a Ram clutch and pressure plate assembly. The Jerico's dog ring gear engagement allows for clutchless up- and downshifts. That means the clutch gets used half as often.
Rearend: There's a Currie 9-inch out back equipped with a 9+ centersection and a 31-spline Detroit Truetrac limited-slip differential carrying 3.50:1 gears.
Suspension: Ray set up the car for road course and canyon carving duties with Global West front upper and lower A-arms and adjustable strut rods, Koni adjustable shocks, and Pro Motorsports variable-rate springs. The Stam front sway bar diameter measures a beefy 1 inch. A pair of Cobra Automotive rear leaf springs reside out back and are augmented with Koni shocks and a rear shackle slider kit. Ray replaced all the squishy rubber bushings with hard-core spherical bearings.
Chassis: Precise handling demands a tight chassis, and to that end, Ray stitch-welded the entire unibody. The Monte Carlo bar and export brace take the slop out of the shock towers, and an Autopower six-point rollcage eliminates any possibility of chassis flex.
Brakes: Twelve-inch Baer Sport front brakes are a giant step up from even the best setup available from Ford at the time, and Ray backed them up with 10-inch rear discs from a '99 Explorer. As if that weren't cool enough, Ray borrowed from the NASCAR road course setup manual and installed fans and air ducts to cool the backsides of both front rotors.
Wheels/Tires: On the street, Ray runs on sticky Toyo RA-1, sized 245/45R16 front and rear. At the racetrack, a set of even stickier Hoosier R compound tires gets the nod. Either way, they're mounted on a set of Vintage Wheel Works 45-series wheels.
Paint/Body: Other than the Mustangs Plus 3-inch cowl fiberglass hood, all the sheetmetal on Ray's car is original. "Cutting up a vintage car is stupid!" he exclaims. The bodywork was farmed out to Testa's Auto Body in San Jose to spray the Ivy Green PPG Acrylic Enamel.
Interior: Ray made the dash in the stock shape for a full set of Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges. He chucked the stock seats in favor of a pair of Sparco racing buckets and Sparco six-point harnesses. He also plumbed a Safecraft fire suppression system throughout the car, including under the hood in case something goes drastically wrong.