Master Builder

From houses to pow­er­houses: Mike Devo­rak built a badass Pro Street Mus­tang over the course of 26 years

Mustang Monthly - - CONTENTS -

From houses to pow­er­houses, Mike Devo­rak built a badass Pro Street Mus­tang over the course of 26 years

It’s gen­er­ally agreed upon that we’re all born with our own unique, in­nate set of traits and abil­i­ties— those in­her­ent men­tal or phys­i­cal at­tributes that help shape our lives and de­ter­mine our var­ied con­tri­bu­tions to the world around us. One such in­born talent—one that your au­thor sadly lacks—re­veals it­self as a nat­u­ral knack for build­ing stuff. Stuff like houses. Or cars. Or maybe both.

Mike Devo­rak is a Cal­i­for­nian who makes his liv­ing as a gen­eral con­trac­tor, hav­ing spent most of his work­ing life cus­tom-craft­ing new homes from the ground up. He seemed to come by that com­pli­cated wood­work­ing skill quite nat­u­rally. But he’s also one of those gifted hob­by­ists ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing out a project car build from start to fin­ish, as proven by this Pro Streetish 1966 Mus­tang 2+2 that, aside from up­hol­stery, trans­mis­sion, and paint, is ba­si­cally a prod­uct of his own two hands (with the fre­quent help of his brother, Rick). With­out any prior for­mal au­to­mo­tive train­ing or pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence to pre­pare Mike for the task, he sim­ply cast off any doubts and got down to it.

And he per­se­vered, be­cause the build took a while to com­plete—about 26 years, a span that Mike says in­cluded mov­ing be­tween no less than fif­teen dif­fer­ent res­i­dences and rais­ing five sons. He sim­ply la­bored away on the project “at his leisure” as time

and fi­nances per­mit­ted, learn­ing as he went.

It be­gan in 1981 when 16-year-old Mike bought a worn but solid fast­back from his dad for the princely sum of $2,600 (paid over nine monthly in­stall­ments). When we asked about its orig­i­nal pow­er­train, Mike some­what sheep­ishly ad­mit­ted that this Mus­tang had been a fac­tory 289 Hi-Po with four-speed. If he’d known then what he knows now, he might not have been so quick to pretty much tear it down to a bare Uni­body just a cou­ple years later to be­gin its “many mod­i­fi­ca­tions.”

Many in­deed, and ul­ti­mately based around an Art Mor­ri­son 2x3 tube chas­sis, fur­ther stiff­ened with a 10-point cage. Adapt­ing a Mus­tang ’s Uni­body to such a full-perime­ter frame re­quired that Mike learn the di­verse met­al­work­ing/ fab­ri­cat­ing/weld­ing skills nec­es­sary to shape and fit a new alu­minum floor­pan, tranny tun­nel, as well as the roomy rear tubs re­quired to even­tu­ally house gar­gan­tuan 20x18 Bil­let Spe­cial­ties wheels and Mickey Thomp­son 31x18R20 rub­ber. A rad­i­cally short­ened

9-inch hous­ing is filled with a Mark Wil­liams cen­ter­sec­tion, De­troit Locker, and Moser 35-spline axles tucked in be­tween, lo­cated by a fourlink setup. Up front, things pivot on tubu­lar up­per and lower A-arms from Scott’s Hotrods, while steer­ing is by way of a Flam­ing River rack-and-pin­ion.

You don’t build a chas­sis

like that and then go all limp-wristed un­der the hood. Around 2005, Mike turned to Ford Rac­ing for a short-block assem­bly that now dis­places 418 cubes. Built to­gether with his friend Matt Bal­danado, the bored and stroked Wind­sor is prob­a­bly al­most dou­ble its orig­i­nal height, thanks to a beer keg–sized Mooney­ham 6-71 blower and BDS EFI, com­plete with bug­catcher. De­spite look­ing full-race, Mike as­sures us the 700-ish horse­power mill is quite streetable, thanks in part to a sane hy­draulic roller cam and a Gear Ven­dors overdrive tucked be­tween the car’s C6 au­to­matic and its truck-ish 5.40:1 ringand-pin­ion (the ef­fect of which is also tamed by those tall rear skins).

While all this mo­ti­va­tional hard­ware screams “com­pe­ti­tion,” much of the quar­ter­century build time can be at­trib­uted to painstak­ingly sweat­ing the (taste­ful) de­tails on the fast­back’s ex­te­rior and in­te­rior. Among the body’s many tweaks are welded-in front and rear valances and rocker pan­els, a com­pletely re­worked front clip, stretched wheel­wells, a cut-and-tucked front bumper, LED tail­lights, and shaved roof rails and door han­dles. Craft­ing the re­verse-hinged hood with its home­made guides and hinges and its mas­sive, pre­cisely shaped and flanged cutout to clear the su­per­charger su­per­struc­ture added un­told hours to the project. Yet, all this body surgery came to­gether with­out los­ing the orig­i­nal lines and char­ac­ter of a ’66 2+2.

Of course, the same can’t be said about the cock­pit, where you’ll find

Though in­flu­enced by the Pro Street trends of the 1980s, Mike still man­aged to keep up with chang­ing au­to­mo­tive “fash­ion” over his Mus­tang ’s lengthy build pro­gram. Those rear hoops are 20 inches tall and al­most as wide at 18 inches, while the fronts are 18x5 1/2.

no re­sem­blance what­so­ever to its fac­tory ori­gins.

Af­ter do­ing all the cabin tin­work—in­clud­ing carv­ing out that nicely de­tailed alu­minum in­stru­ment panel—Mike even­tu­ally as­signed up­hol­stery duty to JB Cus­tom In­te­ri­ors in Camarillo, Cal­i­for­nia, where yards of Mercedes-sourced leather were cut and stitched into place through­out.

Like­wise, fi­nal body prep and paint were out­sourced to the pros at Palmer’s Cus­tom Paint & Body in Moor­park, Cal­i­for­nia, where that un­der­stated combo of Min­eral Grey with black stripes was shot over ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the bumpers.

Not long af­ter com­ple­tion, an au­dio com­pany rep spot­ted Mike’s ride, and soon it was front and cen­ter in that

com­pany’s 2009 SEMA Show booth. Since then, it’s been shown a few times but pri­mar­ily serves in a week­end cruiser role, when­ever Mike gets time away from fram­ing and con­tract­ing house builds. Hav­ing de­ter­mined that he likes work­ing with metal at least as much as wood, Mike seems itchy to start an­other au­to­mo­tive project soon. For his sake, and ours, we hope that one won’t take an­other quar­ter­century to com­plete.

De­spite look­ing like some­thing out of a ’60s rail drag­ster, Mike re­ports that the skyscrap­ing Wind­sor is right at home on the street, ca­pa­ble of send­ing around 700 horses down­stream through a C6 auto and Gear Ven­dors overdrive. The lat­ter helps nor­mal­ize the Mus­tang’s 5.40:1 axle ra­tio.

Back-in-the-day pho­tos of Mike’s quar­ter-cen­tu­ry­long build on his awe­some Pro Street Mus­tang.

Shel­tered by a 10-point cage, the in­te­rior cen­ters around Pro Car buck­ets on ei­ther side of a cus­tom con­sole that face Mike’s own al­loy in­stru­ment panel fit­ted with Au­toMeter Phan­tom gauges and a cen­tral ICE/GPS head unit.

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