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Pony up for your own custom-built pony car

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LAS VEGAS -- For baby boomers starved for pony cars of their carefree youth, here's a chance to turn back the clock.

Sure, you could buy a used 1965 Ford Mustang convertible. But now there's a way to own an almost new one. All you have to do is build it, part by part.

Ford Motor unveiled the first approved reproduction body shell for the original Mustang convertible here recently at the nation's biggest aftermarket parts trade show, commonly called SEMA. The body structure, hood, fenders and trunk lid are being produced by Dynacorn International through a licensing deal.

With those critical components in hand, making a nearly new car becomes merely a task of rounding up thousands of parts, from the gas cap to the grille emblem, for a Mustang and figuring out how they all fit together.

"The primary market is going to be the baby boom generation who may have owned one or always wanted to own one -- people who want the thrill back from when they were teenagers," says Dennis Mondrach, Ford's restoration licensing manager.

The first-generation Mustang, which went on sale in April 1964, has proved to be one of the most collected cars of all time. More than 1.2 million first-generation 1964, 1965 and 1966 Mustangs were churned out by Ford before the first redesign for the 1967 model year. About 174,000 of the originals were convertibles.

The new body shell for the original Mustangs joins versions already available from Camarillo, Calif.-based Dynacorn for the 1967 convertible and 1967-68 and 1969-70 fastback Mustangs.

With the first-generation Mustang a prized classic, even the most rusted, dented bodies remain valuable. Rather than trying to put such a basket case back into running shape, restorers can take a shortcut with the new bodies, which feature modern welding and rust-proofing.

The body's not cheap, though, at about $15,000. Estimates vary on how much building a fully new Mustang would cost -- using remanufactured parts would be a lot cheaper than new parts, for example -- but experts say about $65,000 to $70,000 should do it. Virtually every part of an old Mustang still can be found for sale through stores or over the Internet.

Prospective builders also have to consider whether they want the car to exactly duplicate the original, or whether they want to update it with modern components such as a smoother, more powerful and cleaner engine from today.

Ford doesn't even license the old 260-cubic-inch or 289 cu.-in. V-8s, although plenty are available elsewhere. But it does have a 302-cubic-inch V-8 available for the Mustang, Mondrach says.

Boomers thinking of idling away their empty nest hours tinkering on a do-it-yourself 'Stang should think twice, says the maker of the new Mustang bodies.

"We don't recommend they try to do it themselves in their garages," says Jim Christina, vice-president of Dynacorn. "Go ahead and spend the money. Don't scrimp on what is most important, which is having someone who knows what they are doing put it together."

One professional builder, far from being a boomer, is Race Safro, 18, of Albuquerque. At this year's SEMA, he showed off a 1967 Mustang he created from scratch with his dad, Jay.

He says he was able to track down all the original parts except four -- the ashtray cover, clutch and brake pedal covers and the glove compartment hatch. But he found suppliers for them at the show.

He doesn't work from plans, although he says they have a vintage 1967 Mustang parked nearby for reference. It's the 13th car he's built since age 13. It took 2,500 hours to craft the latest Mustang.

Safro hopes the car, modeled on the Mustang in the Nicholas Cage action movie Gone in 60 Seconds, will be a prototype for others who might want to order one from him. Price: About $200,000. "The market is mainly overseas," he says, including oil-rich nations in the Middle East.

Another builder using bodies from Dynacorn, George Huisman of Classic Design Concepts in Wixom, Mich., says the 1967 Mustang that was ordered from him for a past SEMA show took a team of seven about three months.

"When they are done it's a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work," Huisman says.

-- USA Today

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2012 E9

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