Friday, July 13, 2007

1965 M1stang Convertible - A New Tale For An Old Horse

A Two-Seater Mustang For The 21st Century

By Joe Greeves

When you look at the Mustang convertible in these photos, you notice there's something different but you can't quite put your finger on it. The problem is compounded because there are no people in the picture to give it scale. This small, two-seat roadster is not what it appears. The M1stang is actually a combination of reproduction '65 Mustang sheetmetal married to a late-model Mazda Miata chassis. Now before you write angry letters to the editor asking him if the title of the magazine has been changed to Mustang Hybrid and Fords, let us explain.

Bill Carnes of St. Augustine, Florida, has been a lifelong fan of the Blue Oval. His automotive-bodywork credentials began with repairing Cobras (originals, not replicas) that were damaged during their trans-Atlantic voyage from England. As a career bodyman, Carnes has restored dozens of cars over the years, with first-year Mustangs being one of his favorites. While Ford says itproduced more than 417,000 cars in that amazing first year, they willprobably not comment on the number remaining. Rust-prevention techniques were not nearly as sophisticated in the early '60s as they are today, and many of those cars, if not lost forever, require major bodywork to restore them. Restoring strength to the unibody not only demands technical expertise, but also lots of time and money. When you're done, you have a very expensive car with 40-year-old technology.

In his attempt to create a happy ending for this story, Carnes explored ways of creating the best of both worlds. Several aftermarket companies reproduce vintage-Ford sheetmetal, so the exterior rebuild was possible. Combining the classic tin with a modern Mazda Miata chassis was the real stroke of genius. Amazingly, the scale of both cars is close. After the Miata sheetmetal was removed, Carnes trimmed the Mustang fenders and doors on the edges where the changes wouldn't be noticed. The steel trunk is full-size and the hood is fiberglass. There are no alterations to the chassis, and the conversion process is so vehicle-friendly that no fluids need to be drained from the car or sensors disconnected. Only the battery is removed for safety.

The finished conversion has all the style of the original '65 with all the agility, reliability, and creature comforts of a modern Miata, such as air-conditioning, airbags, four-wheel disc brakes, and a fully independent suspension. The transformation is so nicely crafted that after reviewing the package, Carnes was awarded user status from Ford, with full authorization to build the cars. With a perfected vehicle and Ford's blessings, all he needed was money to proceed.

Enter John Schoeller, a former computer graphics technician, now retired and returning to his first love, restoring cars and antique motorcycles. His dream for decades has been to build a personal car of his own. He saw the ads for the M1stang and it was love at first sight. Before long, he and Carnes were partners, and now they produce a car about every four weeks, beginning with a new demo for Carnes and this Poppy Red dream car for Schoeller.

The cars are being built in St. Augustine (Carnes) or Englishtown, New Jersey (Schoeller). The price for the M1stang conversion is $12,999 installed on your Miata. All Miatas built since 1990 will work, but the team recommends '94 and later because of the increased engine size (1.6L to 1.8L), along with larger disk brakes and a stronger rearend. Cars from '94 through '97 are probably the best buys and can be purchased somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000, depending on condition. Mileage does not seem to adversely affect the cars. Carnes' has 160,000 miles on his white and blue demo car and just completed a 6,500-mile trip across the United States with his daughter. The car had no problems, used no oil, and is untouched mechanically except for a timing belt.

What is the car like to drive? Schoeller and his wife, Debbie (as enthusiastic about the car as her husband), drive their M1stang everywhere and especially love to participate in Mustang shows. On countless occasions, Mustang owners have approached Schoeller, intrigued by the look of the car, and often say how they would love to add a set of those rollbars to their convertibles. Schoeller pauses for a moment, smiles, then says, "Wouldn't that make it difficult for you to get into your back seat?" Usually there is a long pause while the Mustang owner takes a second glance at the two-seat roadster, and then the barrage of questions begins. Find the answers to your questions at

The Details
'65 M1stang
Owner: John Schoeller, Englishtown, NJ

1.8L inline four-cylinder
Dual overhead cam
16 valves/four valves per cylinder
3.27-inch bore, 3.35-inch stroke
Multipoint fuel injection
Jackson Racing supercharger
Approx. 180 hp

Five-speed manual
4.30 gears

Dual-tip GT system

Front: Independent double-wishbone, racing springs, sway bar
Rear: Independent double-wishbone, racing springs, sway bar

Front: Stock 10-inch disc
Rear: Stock 9.9-inch disc
Power assist with ABS

Front: Stock Miata seven-spoke aluminum, 14x6
Rear: Stock Miata seven-spoke aluminum, 14x6

Front: Coker Classic red stripe, P185/60R14
Rear: Coker Classic red stripe, P185/60R14

Stock Miata black cloth, air conditioning, power windows, factory AM/FM cassette stereo, driver and passenger airbags, full instrumentation, intermittent wipers, console, chrome dress-up items, chrome rollbar

'65 Mustang sheetmetal panels, custom fitted and welded to Mazda Miata substructureDuPont red basecoat/clearcoat paint by Stacon Collision, St. Augustine, FL