Ron Cherry: Care and custody of a ’65 Mustang
June 29, 2018
While Cal McKitrick has possession of a '65 Mustang, it is not his car. It belongs to his step-son, Chris Forster. It's Chris' pride and joy, a car he had long wanted. However, Chris has been working outside of the United States for some time and Cal has care and custody of the car, which he doesn't mind.
The first Ford Chris owned wasn't quite what he wanted. His mother and Cal gave him a stock Ford Maverick with an anemic in-line 6-cylinder engine.
"We bought it as a surprise for a 16 year-old kid," Cal said. "He said, 'I wouldn't be caught dead in that,' and stormed off. His mother was upset, but I told her to give him a little time and it would become his car. In a couple of hours, he came back and said, 'Well, if it's my car, I might as well take it out for a drive.' It was okay, then."
After graduation, Chris went into the Navy. One day in 1991, he spotted a '65 Mustang for sale.
"He'd always liked the styling," Cal said. "So he bought it. It was nothing great, just an old '65 Mustang with a 289 cubic inch engine. It was a little rough, but it drove."
Chris liked it a lot more than the Maverick and he used it as his main transportation while stationed at Moffett Field Naval Air Station. In 1993, he had it repainted inexpensively without doing any body restoration. Then he replaced the seat covers with red and white Mustang-emblem embossed ones. However, when he was deployed overseas, he committed the Mustang to Cal's care and custody.
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A father & son project
Since having a car just sit for long periods of time without being started is not good for it, during the next 15 years Cal would drive the car occasionally.
"Chris would stop by and we'd talk about what needed to be done on the Mustang," Cal said.
But then the carburetor started leaking and the Mustang was parked.
"When Chris retired from the Navy about five years ago," Cal said. "He got a good job with Northrop Grumman that paid enough to do the work."
So Cal decided to nudge him to start on it.
"For a surprise, in December of 2016, my step-father did a little work and got the car running again," Chris said, "which inspired me to finally have the car restored."
In April of 2017, he contacted Tom Lucas of FE Specialties in Auburn.
"We worked out a plan to turn the car into what I had been dreaming of for several years," Chris said.
FE Specialities redid all the mechanics and electrical of the Mustang. They replaced the tired 289 engine with a 331 cubic inch stroker (302 block, bored, with a longer stroke crankshaft) with a Quick Fuel 4bbl carb and a serpentine belt drive that pumped out 407 horsepower.
"It's stealthy performance because it's unexpected," Chris said. "A small block with modest displacement that makes big-inch horsepower and torque."
FE beefed up the trans and suspension to handle the power, including putting in a new Ford 9" rearend. Upgrades to the suspensions included QA1 adjustable shocks and a stabilizing bar, dropping the ride two inches lower. For stopping, they went with Wilwood four-wheel discs with Chip Foose Black Legend 17 inch rims.
Inside, FE customized the dash, changing the gauges to digitals, and put in a Kenwood AM/FM/Bluetooth system with quality speakers.
"Now the car runs and handles great," Chris said. "It's a bit hard to listen to the stereo with that engine humming away, but it's worth it."
Although the car came with under-dash air conditioning, it was not installed when Chris bought it, so FE put it on and went completely through the system.
It's what's on the inside that counts
Although the mechanical aspects of the Mustang were better than new, the body and paint were showing a lot of wear.
"I wish people could see underneath the car, how pretty it looks," Cal said. "Chris was talking about getting a show-car paint job. I told him he didn't want that. He wanted a good quality paint job so that he could still drive it without worrying it might get a chip in the paint. Show-car paint jobs are for cars you don't drive."
For now, new paint will have to wait. Chris is working overseas and Cal again has care and custody of the Mustang.
"What I think is good about the car is that it's a sleeper with an average old Mustang body," Cal said. "Some guys put on some fancy wheels and tires and leave the running gear alone, while this one was done right."
He takes it out regularly, just to keep everything running right, of course. However, one item on the car he doesn't use: the stereo.
"I've tried to make it play music, but it's way beyond me," he said. "Besides, it's hard to hear above the engine."
When Chris returns, he will return the Mustang to him, safe and sound. Until the next time he is asked to handle its care and custody.
Ron Cherry's new book, "The St. Christopher Murders," is out now and he will be doing a book signing and answering questions about all his writing this Sunday, July 1, from 2 'til 4 p.m. at Booktown Books at 107 Bank St. in Grass Valley. "The St. Christopher Murders" is a Fourth of July mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle at Amazon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com for more of his writing.