Admit it. You get a little frustrated when a young enthusiast starts talking about his “build,” and it’s a modern car with a few bolt-ons and a set of wheels. Sure, we all have to start somewhere, and having a project car has become easier with the bolt-on friendly nature of today’s cars. Jim Voorhees definitely went old school on his 1969 Mustang project and it absolutely qualifies as a full build.
My 1969 Mustang dream car was built the old-school way — without a catalog. — Jim Voorhees
“My 1969 Mustang dream car was built the old-school way — without a catalog. All original parts were either modified or parts were used from another car,” Jim Voorhees told us. “There are 25 or more body mods to this car. I started with a rust-free body from Oklahoma that had rear end damage; it was the perfect candidate to build my dream car, a Mustang fastback, and with a chopped top, tubbed and to be driven everywhere I went.”
Over the course of two years he created the Mustang seen here as a subtly different restomod that was built to hit the road. Jim definitely put the car to use, putting over 50,000 miles on the clock since he completed the project back in 2006, including a road trip from Minnesota to the 50th Anniversary Mustang celebration in Charlotte, North Carolina, back in 2014. His history in the Mustang world dates back much further.
Where It Began
“I bought my first Ford at the age of 16. I was in high school in 1960. As a teenager in the late ’50s and early ’60s I always liked cars that were modified, the old-school way; you modified the original parts or replaced it with something from another car,” Jim explained. “During that timeframe, there were many chopped-top cars that I liked. Also, in the late ’60s the NASCAR influence I liked with the Talladegas and Super Birds with their long noses and smooth front ends.”
The thought of building a modified, old-school Mustang was always in the back of my mind… — Jim Voorhees
So you can see how Jim formed some of his ideas for the project you see here, which he has dubbed “Chop1.” This car was not his first Mustang, however. He scored a vintage ’Stang when they were still relatively new.
“In 1973 I bought my first Mustang, it was a 1967 Fastback,” he explained. “Over the next 25 years I owned many Mustangs and was a Mustang ‘purist,’ but the thought of building a modified, old-school Mustang was always in the back of my mind. I drew the original concept up over 20 years ago. The big challenge was to find a useable Mustang to modify. I found the perfect body in a salvage yard in Westville, Oklahoma.”
While the car built from that body has been around for quite a while, it was at the 2016 Street Machine Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota, that we really took notice of it. At first, the thought was, “That’s a nice car.” Then we noticed the Chop1 graphics and vanity plates. Then it clicked. Yes. The top is chopped, but as we spoke with Jim about the car, we learned there was a lot more to it and we knew we had to capture the car and share his story.
New Lease On Life
“It was a rust-free ’69 GT body that had rear-end damage. I never felt that I ‘cut up’ a good car. I just gave an abused car a new life. The second challenge was the top chop. I wanted a smooth look and not the ‘chopped’ look. I took many measurement and looked at different windshields but things didn’t feel right until Sam Betin, a man I worked with, said, ‘Why don’t you lay the windshield back like the street rodders do?’ The rest is history.”
History indeed, but turning the project concept into reality required more than just some inspiration. This level of custom work necessitates a high level of knowledge and wherewithal.
“I have a machining background,” Jim explained. “I spent my last 30 working years for IBM as a toolmaker and tool designer, so all of the hands-on work on the car came pretty easy. I am proud to say my car is an ‘old-school build,’ and was not built out of a catalog.”
No catalog or kit was used for the litany of custom modifications on the Chop1 ’69 Mustang – creativity and fabrication skills transformed the classic Mustang into a subtle sleeper that still stands out.
“The original rear frame rails were moved inboard 3 7/8-inch to align with the front subframe, then tied together to form a mini frame,” he said. “We added inner rockers to stiffen the body, which also served as a platform to attach a Competition Engineering six-point roll cage. Rob Wilczek of Little Falls, Minnesota, did all the metalwork.”
Chop1 1969 Mustang Mods
Block: Ford F4T roller block
Crankshaft: Stock Ford
Rods: Stock Ford
Pistons: Stock Ford
Camshaft: Stock Ford 5.0 HO
Cylinder Heads: Stock Ford E7T
Exhaust: Tri-Y headers w/ Cherry Bomb mufflers and turndowns
Springs: 620 in-lb
Brakes: Stock w/ drilled and slotted rotors
Wheels: American Racing Torque Thrust 2, 7×17-inch
Tires: Nitto Motivo, 215/50ZR-17
Springs: Reverse-eye leaf
Brakes: 1969 Thunderbird, 2 ½ x11-inch drum
Wheels: American Racing Torque Thrust 2, 11×17-inch
Tires: Nitto Motivo, 315/35ZR-17
“Chop1 has been the most people-friendly car that I have ever owned. I have met and talked to people of all ages from grade school kids to retired people. You cannot imagine the look of a grade school boy when you ask him if he wants to sit in the car while his parents take his picture,” Jim said. “It is enjoyable to see people walk by the car and then do a double-take and then the hand motions start, explaining the top chop etc. Fun to hear people say ‘I saw that car in another town or show’ or ‘That’s a ’69 Mustang,’ like maybe they had one or rode in one in high school. Chop1 seems to appeal to everyone, even the bike people.”
I am proud to say I have driven Chop1 over 50,000 miles in the last 11 years. — Jim Voorhees
While you have to respect the talent and effort that went into creating this memorable machine, we have an even greater appreciation for Jim’s commitment to enjoying the car. This is no trailered show queen. It is quite the opposite, in fact. He drives Chop1 all over the place and enjoys every minute.
“I am proud to say I have driven Chop1 over 50,000 miles in the last 11 years and have been through many states. The thrill of total strangers giving you the ‘thumbs- up’ and taking your picture going down the road is very rewarding,” Jim said. “Even fun to drive to the local grocery store and having a lady loading her minivan say, ‘Nice Mustang.’ A gas stop isn’t a 5-minute deal because somebody will want to talk about cars or Mustangs. I made sure I drove Chop1 back to the salvage where I bought it to show the owner the finished product.”
Talk about coming full circle with a project! Nicely done, Jim. Keep on keeping on.