Mike Ladnier of Corona, California, is working on a unique 1964-½ Mustang project. Not only is this a rare car to begin with, but it was the third sold in the state of California and the eighth sold in the US on the release date of April 17th, 1964. The original owner: Dave Ladnier, Mike’s father.
“I am hated by the Mustang purists for cutting up and improving the car that my dad was the original owner of,” Mike told us. While the Mustang purists may not be a fan of what Mike is doing, we sure are. He is taking his own car and making it into what he wants it to be, how is that different from doing a stock restoration? Neither are original, so what does it matter?
“The car is going to serve a few functions,” Mike continued, “part time drag car, car show and cruise vehicle, and street car.” Originally a 289 cubic-inch, four-barrel carbureted, four-speed car, the drivetrain is going to see some significant change. The biggest body and suspension modifications are a custom Mustang II front clip that was fabricated by Howard Kaye, owner of Chubby Chassis, custom engine bay sheet-metal work by RJ fabrication, and custom four-link rear suspension and full roll cage by Jason Carlin, owner of Carlin fabrication. Besides the future paintwork, everything else is being done by Mike.
Mike has already machined and built a small-block Ford motor for his project that will be fueled by FAST fuel injection and later feature a large turbo. Mike does plan on keeping the 4-speed transmission, but changing to a V-gate shifter. He’s already added Wilwood disc brakes all around with a Wilwood master cylinder and Wilwood clutch and brake assembly. The dash has also been improved with a full set of Auto Meter Phantom gauges. Other improvements include an Ididit steering column, Aldan coilovers, and Champion 15-inch Speed series drag rims.
“My dad originally gave me the car when I was 18,” Mike detailed. “I was just going to rehab it and make a fun street car out of it.” He had more interest in the Fox-Body Mustangs at the time and didn’t start on this until his late 20s. Around that same time though, family and other obligations put it on the back burner again until he was in his late 30s. “I mainly was wanting a hot rod or racecar that I didn’t have to worry about smog like I had to with my Fox-Body cars,” Mike explained.
Being the first car Mike’s father Dave bought with his own money when he got out of high school, it has more meaning to Mike than any other Mustang could. Mike has always worked on his dad’s cars with him, so it makes Dave proud to see Mike working on a car that he had purchased brand new.
“I don’t plan on ever selling the mustang,” Mike told us. “I will hand it down to my son one day, and that’s why I feel that it doesn’t matter if I cut up a car that has some rare value. It isn’t being sold so it isn’t worth anything monetary wise, it just has sentimental value!”
As far as completing the car, Mike is almost there and just has some odds and ends to get finished up. Even being this close to finishing, it’s hard to say how long the rest of the process will take with all of the setbacks and slowdowns he has experienced on this project.
“You figure I have been off and on with this project for two decades now,” Mike told us. “Damn, did I just say that?” Optimistically, he is thinking he can finish things up in two years. This is definitely a build we’ll keep an eye on and can’t wait to see it completed.
What do you think of Mike’s Mustang project – is he improving on a classic? Let us know in the comments below, and if you have a project of your own that you’ve been slaving away at, share it with us! Send us an email and yours could be the next project featured in “What Are You Working On?”.