Mil­lenial Mustang

Jon Dar­byshire’s Archer 520FX 1969 Fast­back Melds the Best of Old and New

Hot Rod - - Contents - Phillip Thomas Grant Cox

In re­cent times, the busi­ness coupe has changed. Trav­el­ing sales­men de­fined the body style while stuff­ing their wares in stripped-down, rear-seat­less coupes. The lack of op­tions and seats meant that the cars were thrifty and traded pas­sen­gers for in­ven­tory. Prac­ti­cal­ity was the key, al­low­ing for the spread of con­sumer cul­ture in Amer­ica be­fore the ad­vent of de­part­mentstore cat­a­logs and the im­pend­ing in­ter­net takeover. By the 1960s, the busi­ness coupe body style fell out of fa­vor as vans, carry-alls (the proto-SUV), and pick­ups be­came more prolific for cross-coun­try ef­forts. So then, what’s a mod­ern busi­ness coupe?

For jet-set­ting en­trepreneurs, four wheels can be an es­cape from the world, even if they’re a lit­tle slower than a pair of wings. More and more, we’re see­ing the busi­ness coupe evolve from what own­ers needed

(like a fleet ve­hi­cle), to what fu­els child­hood mem­o­ries and pas­sions. Eschew­ing the sar­dine-can ex­pe­ri­ences of air­lines, there’s been a return to pur­pose­ful cus­toms that seek to im­press you more as they storm the high­way than in the rolling field of a lo­cal car show.

“I’m a long­time mustang lover,” said Jon Dar­byshire, the owner of this cross-pol­li­nat­ing 1969 Ford Mustang fast­back, known as the Archer 520FX. “One of the ear­li­est mem­o­ries that I had of hav­ing a car was the Mustang coupe that I pur­chased and worked on with my grand­fa­ther. It wasn’t any­thing special, but it’s what I had while learn­ing to work on cars. When he was alive, he was a hard-work­ing, blue-col­lar guy. He taught me and my brother how to work on cars. Even if I had just a lit­tle money, he’d help throw on chrome valve cov­ers or put a car­bu­re­tor kit in—lit­tle things like that.”

Jon even­tu­ally went on to start his own soft­ware com­pany in the 1990s, car­ry­ing his grand­fa­ther’s name. As time went on, his son, Dy­lan, also picked up an early Mustang, and the two be­gan to build it in much the same vein as his own. This is when Bobby, Karen, and Bruce Schu­macher (of Vin­tage Fabri­ca­tions in In­de­pen­dence, Mis­souri) en­tered the pic­ture.

“Dur­ing World of Wheels, Jon had walked up to our booth and started talking to my wife and son. At first, it didn’t stand out enough for him to say any­thing to me. You know, you talk to a lot of peo­ple,” Bobby told us. “But at 8:30 the next morn­ing, Jon pulls up in the drive­way of the shop!” Jon had brought his son’s Mustang up to fin­ish a few odds and ends in the mo­tor and in­te­rior, and it didn’t take long for the two to be­gin dis­cussing the real mo­tive: Jon’s own plans for a 1969 Mustang. The idea was to build a su­per­car wrapped in unique, vin­tage steel. To Jon, the idea of an­other Fer­rari or Lam­borgh­ini rolling around wasn’t enough, though he looked to the high-end su­per­car fac­to­ries for what truly made them dif­fer­ent than more plebian trans­porta­tion.

Any time parts are mixed across eras and mod­els, get­ting the fixed lines and shapes (such as the 2010 head­lamps and grille) to in­te­grate so that the melt­ing pot pours out a smooth, well-pro­por­tioned de­sign takes a care­ful eye. “When we started this project, I went with a guy out of Cal­i­for­nia, but he just couldn’t get the look right. He left too much of the 1969 Mustang look to the nose,” Bobby said. “Luck­ily, I was at World of Wheels. Ja­son Slover from Pete and Jake’s said, ‘Well, why don’t you have Larry Erick­son do it? He de­signed the ’05 Mustang, CadZZil­lla, and Aluma Coupe for Boyd.’” Larry’s hot rod­ding ca­reer might’ve been launched in Cal­i­for­nia, but his work started fur­ther back than that as the de­signer of the 1992 Cadil­lac Seville and El­do­rado be­fore even­tu­ally land­ing with Ford Mo­tor Com­pany to de­sign the 2005–2009 Mustang.

He con­tin­ued: “We go up to him and tell him the idea, it’s the Mustang Ford should have done. And he got kind of ex­cited, and he goes, ‘I’m not lim­ited to pro­duc­tion stuff, I can do stuff we couldn’t do back then.’ That’s where Larry led us. Every body line, every seam was thought about like it was

done at the fac­tory.”

“Be­ing a cor­po­rate guy, I made a Pow­erPoint [laughs] with dif­fer­ent pieces of dif­fer­ent cars and Mus­tangs that I re­ally liked,” Jon told us. “Then Larry started do­ing a num­ber of mod­els for us, show­ing what it would look like with two dif­fer­ent front ends.”


You’d be for­given for think­ing this was a fas­cia swap at first glance, but in re­al­ity, it’s a 5,000hour tour de force of body­work. With every square inch in sheet­metal, the nose was hand­fab­ri­cated with Larry’s de­sign at the helm.

To do this, the in­no­cent 1969 Mustang fast­back fell un­der Vin­tage Fabri­ca­tions’ team to bow the front fen­der open­ing 2 inches up and 3 inches out to ac­com­mo­date the one-off 18x10-inch Boze Wheels shod in 285mmwide Miche­lin Pi­lot Su­per Sports. The nose was stretched ahead of the front wheel­wells, while the hood was pulled tighter against the wind­shield. At Jon’s de­sire to re­pro­duce a short run of 520FXs, the nearly 900 pieces of sheet­metal were dig­i­tized and turned into CAD files for plasma-cut­ting to recre­ate the hand-fabbed met­al­work in the Archer 520FX.

“I wish you could have seen it built, one fen­der at a time and get­ting it per­fect be­fore you do the other side,” Jon said. “They’re like artists—there are so many curves, bends, and lines, and your time weld­ing on a piece of metal to make it flow. That took a lot of time.”

The rear quar­ters were pushed out 2 inches for the 20x12-inch Boze hoops and mas­sive 345mm-wide Miche­lin rollers. The quar­ters’ brake ducts were even made func­tional for the Baer brakes. The rock­ers were dropped 2 inches be­fore turn­ing at­ten­tion to the rear of the Archer 520FX, which re­tains the tra­di­tional styling cues from the ’69 while sharp­en­ing the edges and adding an ad­just-

able spoiler. The shot­gun ex­haust is flanked by a pair of blades that mimic the up­rights of a dif­fuser.

Things were still con­tentious as the front end be­came re­al­ity. “We tore it apart a lit­tle bit and changed some of the things he saw on the side of the car, in the lines, that Larry just didn’t feel fit to­gether. We didn’t want it to feel bolted-on, we wanted this to feel more in­te­grated,” Jon em­pha­sized. “Larry went down the car with a fine eye for a day with tape lines to make the front-end and fend­ers feel like they were com­ing around with­out look­ing bulky. The car looked amaz­ing when it came out of metal, but those lit­tle changes added a lot.”

Larry used later 2010–2014 Mustang head­lamps with 2015 Mercedes SL550 driv­ing lamps in­side the cus­tom, laser-cut grille. The curb­side glance from up front draws into ques­tion which era the fast­back pro­file be­hind it is from. Any time you med­dle with the fa­cial fea­tures of an icon, it’s po­lar­iz­ing, but Jon’s vi­sion, Larry’s ex­e­cu­tion, and Bobby’s fab­ri­ca­tors pulled the look to­gether be­fore Car­ren­der Col­li­sion sprayed Archer 520FX in Rhodium Sil­ver with Platin­sil­ber Pearl strips (from the Porsche 918 and Boxster, re­spec­tively), with Eric Camp­bell hand­pin­strip­ing the de­tails.


If you’re spend­ing hun­dreds of miles at a time in a ma­chine, its cock­pit needs to be fit for the job at hand. To­day, cus­tom in­te­ri­ors are more than an ex­er­cise in ex­otic ma­te­ri­als, wild stitch­ing, and the sheer num­ber of one-off bits; the tac­tile feel of the in­ter­faces mean about as much as the com­fort in the seats. Jon surfed Fer­rari deal­er­ships and pored over pho­tos of the new Ford GT su­per­car. “At the time, I owned an As­ton Martin; what I re­ally en­joyed about that car was the feel of the in­te­rior. It felt like a cock­pit,” he said. “We were go­ing to pull the switches from a mod­ern Fer­rari, but then Bobby came back and said, ‘We’ll just make them cus­tom; we’ll make them fit the car.’”

“He sent me pic­tures of switches from Lam­borgh­i­nis, even those start but­tons, that’s where all the touchy-feely stuff came from be­cause he wanted the in­side of the car to feel like the out­side of the car,” Bobby said. “When he picked up the car, the only thing he found wrong was that the A/C con­trols still said ‘Vin­tage Air’ on them, so we had that ma­chined out. It’s OK to make a cus­tom car, but he wanted to make it look fac­tory.”

Vin­tage Fabri­ca­tions kept the fac­tory eye- brow dash con­tours, but from there, ev­ery­thing was re­tooled half-a-cen­tury newer with sub­tle, ma­chined touches around the Clas­sic In­stru­ments gauges, switch gear, starter but­ton, door pan­els, and cen­ter con­sole (pulled from a late-model Mercedes). Ron Wright of Vin­tage Fabri­ca­tions fol­lowed through in wiring the mod­ern lux­ury touches, like the Pioneer head unit, ac­cent light­ing, and Vin­tage Air HVAC.


The an­swer here was sim­ple: “He de­cided he wanted the best-of-the-best chas­sis, so we went to Road­ster Shop,” Bobby said. A fully in­de­pen­dent Road­ster Shop Elite Series chas­sis was the foun­da­tion for this mus­cu­lar

su­per­car, ca­pa­ble of han­dling the thrust of Kaase’s 520ci re­ac­tor, thanks to Penkse dou­ble-ad­justable shocks.

“If you drive a nicely re­stored Mustang, the front end still sways a lit­tle bit; you hit the brakes, some­times the car will push left or right,” Jon said. “What’s dif­fer­ent about this is that you can get on it and it flat-out ac­cel­er­ates. It takes off, you hit the brakes, and it stays in its lane. It’s more like a lux­ury sports car. You turn the steer­ing wheel just a lit­tle bit and it re­acts. The sus­pen­sion is re­ally tight, but not rough.”

The un­der­side of the Archer 520FX re­flects its in­tent. You won’t find pol­ished chrome and candy paint; it’s all busi­ness with only select hard­ware, like the chunky RS bil­let con­trol arms and 3-inch stain­less-steel ex­haust, stand­ing out with their nat­u­ral fin­ishes.


With the look, feel, and foun­da­tion of the Archer 520FX car­ry­ing the mod­ern su­per­car touches Jon wanted, it was time to give them a pow­er­house that’d surely send their dime-a-dozen, flat-plane-crank V8s and V12s pack­ing. “I kept telling Bob that I wanted this to be a com­bi­na­tion of lux­ury meets NASCAR,” he joked.

In do­ing so, Bobby called up Jon Kaase Rac­ing En­gines for the in­di­vid­ual-throt­tle­body-fed, 520ci Boss en­gine. With a 4.390x4.300 bore and stroke, the Ford Per­for­mance block was stuffed with a Lu­nati ro­tat­ing assem­bly and Di­a­mond pis­tons. The mild 10:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio and hy­draulic-roller Comp camshaft make for a street-friendly pack­age that’s ca­pa­ble of belt­ing out nearly 800 whp through a Bowler Trans­mis­sions 4L80E with Compu-Shift pad­dles be­hind the steer­ing wheel. Italy will for­ever be known for its shriek­ing V12s, but the 520ci Kaase mill rat­tles the teeth of those high-strung hel­lions with bru­tal torque and the un­mis­tak­able ch­est-drum­ming of a big-cube V8, which is the ef­fect Jon and Bobby wanted.


“The whole ex­pe­ri­ence of build­ing the car with Vin­tage Fabri­ca­tions re­minded me of work­ing in the garage with my grand­fa­ther on Sun­days. With a brother, we’d fight af­ter church on whose car he’d work on first. We didn’t have great cars, they were al­ways break­ing down, but they were also as cool as we could make them,” Jon said. “We’d al­ways talk while look­ing in the mag­a­zines for the cool things you could do, and this car has all that cool stuff we al­ways talked about, plus a whole lot more that we never knew about back then! Archer is a fam­ily name. The com­pany that I founded, Archer Tech­nolo­gies, was named af­ter my grand­fa­ther. We sold that com­pany and started a foun­da­tion. It means some­thing to our fam­ily to call it ‘Archer.’ The FX was gleamed from Larry and Bobby, be­cause when Ford first de­signed its cars, they were called ‘Fu­ture Ex­per­i­men­tal’ or FX. And, of course, the 520 is the 520ci Kaase mo­tor!”

02 01 01] Flush han­dles and func­tional vents—noth­ing was left un­touched. The rear quar­ters were pushed out 2 inches for the mas­sive 20x12 Boze wheels. 02] The Archer 520FX’s nose is en­tirely sheet­metal, de­spite it shar­ing fea­tures with the plas­tic...

01 02 01] The Kaase-built 520ci mill churns 761 hp and 731 lb-ft at the wheels through a Bowler Trans­mis­sions 4L80E. 02] Flush han­dles and func­tional vents—noth­ing was left un­touched. The rear quar­ters were pushed out 2 inches for the mas­sive 20x12...

01 02 01] Tak­ing cues from a va­ri­ety of mod­ern su­per- and lux­ury cars, Jon and Bobby worked on the crafts­man­ship of dash rather than go­ing to the ex­treme in ex­otic ma­te­ri­als and styling. 02] The Road­ster Shop Elites Series chas­sis and sus­pen­sion...

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