Building An Awesome First Gen Mustang For Under $15k

With enough time and money, you can build just about any car. Case in point, the Bugatti Veyron – a million dollar car that costs five times as much to produce, yet is amongst the most sought after vehicles in history. Building a car on a tight budget, however, is a test of skill, patience, and self control. Knowing a lot of parts recyclers and having an eBay account can help too, but it is more about perseverance than anything.

Take for example this ’66 Mustang, found on Pro-Touring.com, initially conceived as a $5,000 budget bucket build, but growing into something so much more.


A few weeks into the project. Photo Credit: Ron Schwaz

Ron Schwarz of Maryland had had enough of the high-end, expensive muscle cars that are all the rage, so he decided to challenge himself by limiting the budget to just $5,000. He has owned several high-priced muscle cars, including a Hemi ‘Cuda, and he also has a ragtag Dodge Power Wagon. As he says, cleaning, owning, and even parking one of those expensive rides can be more of a headache than it’s worth. “I kind of wanted to get back to my roots,” states Schwarz. He started this car back in the winter of 2008, after buying the fastback body from a junkyard for $400.

Schwarz spent another $2,350 getting the car to be a rolling frame, including a $75 Dana 60 rear end with 4.10:1 gears and $900 for wheels off of eBay. The rubber came from some trades, and he recycled every part of the project that he could, as he knew that he wanted a flared G-machine with 280 horsepower minimum. To that end, he bought an LS1 engine on the cheap, along with a Z06 cam, heads, and intake. He sold the original intake off of that engine for $275.

The project initially started out using a two-valve 4.6 liter V8 from a mid-90s Mustang, but the cheap LS1 represented a better bargain in terms of horsepower. It made enough power that on a recent drive, he blew the bottom end out. “That $300 junkyard engine performed amazingly well,” Schwarz says. “I wish I would have sprung for some good rod bolts.” Still, it gives him an excuse to dump an LS3 stroker engine in over the winter.

Ron did not, in fact, make his $5,000 budget. Despite doing all of the fabrication and work himself, his donor car required a lot of attention. For example, one of the doors was too rotted away to save, and the Mustang required an all new frame (that Ron built). The frame he built dropped the car 3.5 inches, so it narrowly scrapes by over most speed bumps. He also splurged on new CCW wheels and big Baer brakes that will detach retinas if you stomp them hard enough. He had the car on the road for about $9,000, but the brakes and wheels put the budget to about $13,500 (give or take a few hundred).

Still, some people will spend that much on a paint job. Speaking of paint, Ron covered the LS1 in Ford Blue. Heresy, some might cry, but in a mutt like this, it is just right. There isn’t anything else out there like it, and if there is, you can almost guarantee that they spent more than Ron did. A sleek, unique Mustang for less than the cost of a Ford Focus. Who says the automotive hobby isn’t recession proof?

About the author

Chris Demorro

Christopher DeMorro is a freelance writer and journalist from Connecticut with two passions in life; writing and anything with an engine.
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