Paul Faessler’s 1965 Mustang: The Best Kind of Swiss Army Knife

Four decades ago, the 1965 Mustang you see here looked a whole lot different. It belonged to a friend of Paul Faessler’s, and operated as a ride share machine, bringing them both back and forth to college, along with Paul’s 1974 Mach 1 (he still owns that one).

Paul Faessler’s 1965 Mustang after its win at Watkins Glen.

After the car completed its college kid carpool duties, the original owner decided to start building the car with a 351 Windsor, a 4-speed transmission, and improved suspension, but he lost all interest in completing the build upon finding rust in the rear frame rails. Lucky for Paul, who was in the market for a car he could build, race and show, the ’65 was a perfect fit.

He brought the Mustang home in 1982, and has spent the last 37 years perfecting it, winning championships, and making memories with his son, Brian. But this car hasn’t always been a road racing champion . . .

Where It All Began

Paul graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He attributes his love of racing and performance to being intrigued by the nuts and bolts of cars, and also the friends he surrounded himself with throughout his school years. According to Paul, Ford was not hiring upon his graduation, so he took a job at General Motors as a tooling engineer in the Camaro and Firebird plant in Cincinnati, Ohio. He soon realized that corporate life was not his style and quit his job at GM to begin performing Mustang restorations out of his home garage. Three years later, he moved to a location in which his company – Paul’s Automotive Engineering – continues to operate. Originally, Paul explains that the company focused on concours Shelby, Cobra, and Mustang restorations, but after 25 years and 200+ National Gold awards, he made the switch to phase out of restoration and focus on Mustang performance and road race builds.

In the beginning of its time with Paul, the 1965 Mustang was used on the drag strip.

“After drag racing it for a few years, we did a complete restoration,” Paul explains. “We continued to drag race it and show it until 1987 when one of my customers (who we were prepping an ’86 Mustang for road course) talked me into bringing my car out and that’s when I was hooked on sports car racing.”

For a while, the 1965 Mustang was powered by a 351 Windsor, but come the mid-90’s, Paul built a naturally-aspirated 408 aluminum block, and installed a cage around the original white upholstery.

Paul Meets NASA

Paul competed in open track until about 2004, when he became interested in the National Auto Sport Association (NASA)’s American Iron class. With quite a few track and race Mustang builds under his belt at Paul’s Automotive Engineering, Paul decided to turn the 1965 Mustang into a fully gutted and built race car. With his ’65 already exceeding its power to weight ratio for NASA’s AI class, Paul decided to prepare the car to compete in the American Iron Extreme class instead, and he’s been there ever since.

In 2008, Paul designed his own short-long-arm suspension for the car, along with a single mid-mounted turbo system, leading him to win his first NASA AIX National Championship the same year. After a short hiatus to assist on his son’s race program, Paul jumped back into the driver’s seat in 2016, and took home the AIX National Championship at Watkins Glen.

We asked Paul if there were any good stories behind this car that he cared to share with us, to which he responded, “after 37 years, there are many,” but shared one of his favorites.

Paul's son, Brian, wheels the 1965 Mustang to yet another championship win!

Just last year, at the final race at Mid-Ohio, Paul was in the lead spot when he encountered a mechanical issue, causing him to wreck the 1965 Mustang. The left side suspension was broken, the one-piece front-end broke into 15 pieces, and the chassis was mangled, among other damage. The car was brought home, taken apart, and spent five days on Blue Ash Auto Body’s frame bench in Cincinatti. Afterward, the team had five days to completely rebuild the 1965 Mustang and finish the body work and paint. They managed to meet their deadline, loaded up the car, and drove to Austin, Texas, for the National Championship race at the Circuit of the Americas. The car returned the favor by running flawlessly.

“I didn’t touch a single thing on the car the whole week,” Paul told us.

Meanwhile, Paul’s son Brian’s 2015 Super Unlimited car was facing a minor electrical issue, so with 15 minutes left before the Championship race, Paul made a big decision.

“I let him jump in and drive my car,” he said. “He started last because of the driver change, but he ended up winning the AIX National Championship, resetting the AIX track record in the process.”

Previously during the season, Paul had won five of six races, and both of the Time Trial (TTU) races he entered into, so the championship race was a fitting close to the season. This win marked the car’s 3rdNational Championship, and the 12thfor the PAE team.

“I really like that over the 37 years that I have owned the car, it has been successful in everything that I’ve done with it,” he told us. “It was the fastest DOT tire drag car at the first Fun Ford race weekend in Indy in about 1987, has had multiple car show wins, and now three NASA National Championships.”

Pop the Hood

While the 1965 Mustang came from the factory with a 289 cubic inch engine, it is now powered by a 427 Windsor with a compression ratio of 9.5:1 and a dry sump oiling system. The engine was built by Tim Rovekamp at Paul’s Automotive Engineering’s in-house machine shop in Cincinatti, Ohio. The powerplant was equipped with a K1 forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods, and custom Wiseco pistons, as well as a custom grind COMP Cams camshaft, and Ferrea valvetrain. Paul also chose Trick Flow Twisted Wedge R cylinder heads and topped the engine with an Edelbrock Windsor Jr. intake manifold with a Kinsler throttle body. A Weldon pump and regulator and 83-pound injectors handle fuel delivery.

But the real star of the show is the single TiAL WR400 76mm turbocharger with matching wastegate and blow-off valve, producing between 7 and 10 psi of boost. According to Paul, the Mustang puts down 735 horsepower to the rear wheels at 7 psi. The exhaust system and headers were built in-house at PAE, save for the TiAL single turbo muffler. An air-to-water intercooler with 3-inch piping and a 4-inch downpipe was installed to keep the combination running cool.

FAST Classic EFI is the engine management of choice in the Mustang, and the combination was tuned by Paul’s Automotive Engineering’s Mike Wilson and Greg Zach.

Paul rows through the gears of a G-Force GF4A 4-speed transmission with a Tilton clutch and Long shifter. A 3.5-inch aluminum driveshaft from Dyno Tech was installed with a PAE safety loop.

The custom-built rear suspension cradle.

The rearend holds a 2017 Mustang Super 8.8-inch outfitted with Ford 3.15 gears and G-Force/Ford Performance S550 IRS axles.

The combination works on the track thanks to a PAE designed and built short-long-arm front suspension and a 2017 Ford GT350 independent rear suspension in a custom PAE-built cradle, with PAE-designed and built height adjustability. Koni 2812 coilover shocks were chosen both front and rear with custom-built rear lower control arms to allow for a coilover rear suspension. The sway bars are Speedway Engineering splined bars with PAE arms. Steering power is handled via an Appleton power steering rack.

Because Paul and Brian race together, the cars were designed and built so that everything under each of them would be interchangeable.

Forgeline GA3R wheels (18×12 front/18×13 rear) are wrapped in Hoosier slick rubber (305/680 S100 front, 310/710 S100 rear), which are brought to a halt by 15-inch 4-piston caliper Brembo race brakes with Hawk brake pads all around.

Not Your Average Mustang

The body is an obvious testament to the fact that this ’65 is not your average Mustang. While it still wears a coat of Caspian Blue, as it did when it rolled through Ford’s doors, it was repainted by PAE following a lengthy modification list. Steel rear flairs, hand-built by Paul, along with a custom PAE-built front end were added, along with a carbon fiber hood and GOODAero spoiler. An AJ Hartman Aero rear diffuser was added, but the 1965 Mustang retains its original steel roof, quarters, frame rails, firewall, floor, and more. According to Paul, only the decklid and front end are composed of carbon fiber.

Inside, PAE equipped the 1965 Mustang with a roll cage, and a Sparco harness (and driver’s suit), PAE-built seat, and Bell helmet keep Paul safe on-track. An AIM dash feeds Paul the important information.

With somewhere between 700 and 800 horsepower, and 650 torque at the rear wheels, the Mustang has completed a lap time of 1:25.0 at the Mid-Ohio Pro course – an impressive feat.

As far as changes to come, Paul says that there are no major changes to be made except for continual development. After all, why fix something that isn’t broken?

Paul with his 1965 Mustang beside his son Brian and his 2017 GT350.

About the author

Stephanie Davies-Bardekoff

Stephanie Davies got her start in automotive media while studying at Rutgers University and eventually landed at Roush Performance outside of Detroit, where she now resides. She writes for various automotive outlets, works with rescue dogs, enjoys driving her Roush-charged Coyote-swapped 1992 Fox body Mustang race car, and is convinced that absolutely nothing in the world beats a sunny weekend at the track.
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