TOP-DOWN CRUISIN’

A NEW ZEALAND ER’ S FATHER’ S DAY GIFT CON­VERT­IBLE

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When Chris Slee left his New Zealand home for the States in 2008, he brought his fam­ily…and his love of Amer­i­can cars. But just as his fam­ily’s ge­neal­ogy traces back across the Pa­cific, so does Slee’s pas­sion for Amer­i­can car cul­ture.

Grow­ing up in New Zealand, Slee re­calls that his father, Ron, owned vin­tage Amer­i­can cars. He says, “We couldn’t af­ford any­thing ‘ex­otic’ like a Mus­tang, but I re­mem­ber cars like ’60s Im­palas.” Ron Slee al­ways had a soft spot for Amer­i­can cars, and his son, Chris, in­her­ited it.

The ju­nior Slee now runs Kiwi Clas­sics and Cus­toms in Franklin, Ten­nessee. Even though he re­sides 8,000 miles away from his father, their love of au­to­mo­tive Amer­i­cana ties them to­gether. Dur­ing a visit to the United States when younger Slee came across a 1965 Mus­tang in Michi­gan, father and son de­cided to take a road trip to pick up the car and tour Detroit’s her­itage. Once back in Ten­nessee, Chris planned to re­build the car and send it to New Zealand for his father to en­joy.

Af­ter driv­ing the car back to Ten­nessee, Chris and his crew at Kiwi Clas­sics and Cus­toms got to work. The project snow­balled from a ba­sic restora­tion to a larger project be­cause of a com­mon rea­son: rust.

Once dis­as­sem­bled, Slee found more of the metal cancer than he an­tic­i­pated. How­ever, Slee re­mained prag­matic. “The floors were re­ally rusty. But, if a panel is ‘a lit­tle’ rusty or ‘a lot’ rusty, the work is the same to re­place it.”

One of the hall­marks of Slee’s work is per­form­ing sub­tle sheet­metal mod­i­fi­ca­tions to his cus­tomers’ cars—and his dad’s ’65 con­vert­ible is no ex­cep­tion. None of the fea­tures stand out, but rather up­date and en­hance his sub­ject’s clas­sic shape. As­tute en­thu­si­asts will no­tice the raised front wheel arch (1 inch higher than stock), tucked-in bumpers, and pre­cise fender gaps. Slee also ex­tended the rocker panel sheet­metal to fill in the gap to the pinch weld. The re­sult is a smooth rocker panel that tucks up cleanly un­der the car. Slee also re­worked the rear fender pinch welds to match the tidi­ness of the rocker treat­ment.

One of the most note­wor­thy coach­work cus­tomiza­tions is in­cor­po­rat­ing 1967 Mus­tang hood­scoops and turn sig­nal in­di­ca­tors into the 1965 hood. Slee is proud of the re­sult, and adds,

“It’s one of the first things Mus­tang peo­ple no­tice about the car.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Slee had to re­strain him­self from mak­ing more ex­ten­sive sheet­metal and pow­er­train al­ter­ations. In New Zealand, mod­i­fied ve­hi­cles are sub­ject to a strict “com­pli­anc­ing ” process.

All col­li­sion re­pairs and other mod­i­fi­ca­tions are sub­ject to in­spec­tion by

a cer­ti­fied au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer, who vouches for the safety of ev­ery ve­hi­cle that’s mod­i­fied be­yond its orig­i­nal equip­ment. Slee ex­plains, “A lot of what some peo­ple do here in the States would never fly over in New Zealand. So, I couldn’t re­ally cut up the body and add a big-horse­power en­gine with­out run­ning afoul of a New Zealand com­pli­ance in­spec­tor.”

With the met­al­work done, Slee turned his at­ten­tion to the paint. “We had a blue color in mind, but not the typ­i­cal dark blue of­ten seen on these cars. We took some Ma­trix paint col­ors and started mix­ing, and added pearls and metal flakes of var­i­ous sizes. It took thir­teen tries, but we found some­thing we liked.” Kiwi Clas­sics and Cus­toms’ in-house pain­ter, Barry Ban­nis­ter, fogged the cus­tom color over the Mus­tang ’s smoothed panels. Ban­nis­ter even painted the un­der­body with a tinted Rap­tor coat­ing to pro­tect the floors from rock chips.

Sus­pen­sion mod­i­fi­ca­tions were also kept sim­ple to please New Zealand’s com­pli­ance in­spec­tors. The front was treated to a “Shelby drop” kit, while Sum­mit Rac­ing 1-inch-drop rear springs were in­stalled to level the ride. An up­graded Borge­son steer­ing box tight­ened up the steer­ing feel, while Slee painted a set of stock-style four-pis­ton front calipers in body color to brighten up the brak­ing equip­ment.

The front discs and rear drums were in­stalled be­hind US Mags mea­sur­ing 17x7 and 17x8 front and rear, re­spec­tively. Slee or­dered the wheels with tex­tured gray cen­ters and

di­a­mond-cut lips, and then wrapped them in Hankook P235/45R17 rub­ber up front and P245/45R17 rub­ber in the rear.

The cus­tom touches con­tin­ued with the in­te­rior, and specif­i­cally to the dash­board. “I didn’t like how the bezels for the Vin­tage Air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem hung be­low the dash, so I in­cor­po­rated them into the dash­board.” Slee also re­lo­cated the con­trols to the cen­ter of the dash in a space for­merly oc­cu­pied by the ash tray. “Most peo­ple don’t no­tice that I moved it un­less I point it out.”

Slee turned to TMI Prod­ucts for their in­te­rior ex­per­tise, in­clud­ing com­plete low-back bucket seats, a full con­sole, dash­pad, and full-length door panels. The rich, tan leather con­trasts nicely with the bright blue paint and match­ing TMI cloth con­vert­ible top.

The Mus­tang ’s orig­i­nal straight-six en­gine and three-speed transmission were chucked in fa­vor of a 5.0L/five-speed com­bi­na­tion snatched from a 1995 Mus­tang GT. When asked about any en­gine work, Slee replies, “We weren’t plan­ning on it, but when swap­ping to a proper oil pan for the ’65, I made the mis­take of check­ing the main bear­ings.” The in­spec­tion re­sulted in a com­plete re­build from Grooms En­gines in Nashville, Ten­nessee. Slee topped the fresh­ened short­block with a set of Flo-Tek alu­minum heads, a Sum­mit Rac­ing Stage 1 in­take, and a Quick Fuel 600-cfm car­bu­re­tor. A CFR front en­gine ac­ces­sory drive kit, valve cov­ers, and air cleaner com­plete the un­der­hood aes­thet­ics.

To clean up the en­gine bay, Slee filled a lot of the holes, hid the air con­di­tion­ing hoses and wiring har­nesses, and fab­ri­cated a cus­tom ra­di­a­tor cover panel em­bla­zoned with the Māori war­rior—a sym­bol of New Zealand cul­ture, and used in the Kiwi Clas­sics and Cus­toms logo.

Slee al­ways keeps the needs of his cus­tomers in the fore­front of his mind, and as such this Mus­tang re­tains three ped­als. “Even though my father is 80 years old, he in­sisted on driv­ing a stick shift.” The afore­men­tioned 1995 Mus­tang five-speed gear­box re­ceived a new coun­ter­shaft clus­ter, fresh clutch, and stock shifter to make his dad’s driv­ing chores as easy as possible. Torque from the Tre­mec box is sent to an 8-inch rearend with 2.80:1 gears and an open dif­fer­en­tial. “The one-tire fryer is ac­tu­ally a safety mea­sure. If my dad spins the tires, the dif­fer­en­tial keeps it from go­ing side­ways.” Flowtech head­ers and a Sum­mit Rac­ing ex­haust kit make sure Ron Slee’s neigh­bors in New Zealand know when he’s com­ing or go­ing.

Ron Slee’s Mus­tang is a per­fect ex­am­ple that one doesn’t need to go over­board to build a fab­u­lous car. It’s the lit­tle things that com­plete the pack­age. By the time you read this, the blue beauty you see be­fore you will be on an 8,000-mile journey to Auck­land, New Zealand, where Slee’s father will ig­nite ge­neal­ogy and gaso­line ev­ery time he turns the key.

When Chris Slee wanted to build his 80-year-old father an Amer­i­can car to drive in New Zealand, the ob­vi­ous choice was a clas­sic Mus­tang con­vert­ible.

Slee in­cor­po­rated the Vin­tage Air vents into the metal dash­board and re­lo­cated the con­trols to the cen­ter for a sub­tle, in­te­grated look.

A luxurious TMI Prod­ucts in­te­rior com­ple­ments the bright blue paint on this 1965 Mus­tang. Full door panels and com­plete seats up­date the look.

A 5.0L/five-speed sourced from a 1995 Mus­tang GT fills the en­gine bay. A Quick Fuel car­bu­re­tor, Flo-Tek alu­minum heads, and a Sum­mit Rac­ing in­take man­i­fold en­hance mo­ti­va­tion.

Ron Slee (left) and his son and car builder, Chris Slee (right), take a selfie dur­ing their Michi­gan-to-Ten­nessee road trip in front of the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way Hall of Fame.

Kiwi Clas­sics and Cus­toms’ Barry Ban­nis­ter sprayed the tinted Rap­tor liner on the un­der­side of the Mus­tang to make sure this car sur­vives any sur­face it drives in New Zealand.

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