BACK IN THE SADDLE

MORE THAN A DECADE AFTER DEBUTING HIS FIRST SHOW-QUALITY MUSTANG, MICHAEL SANDE IS AT THE REINS OF ANOTHER SENSATIONAL PONY CAR

STORY GLENN TORRENS PHOTOS SIMON DAVIDSON

MANY street machiners will relate to the idea of picking up a spanner, grinder or welder as something to look forward to once the day’s work is done. Sydney’s Michael Sande certainly does: “Some people look at building a car as hard work, but for me it’s terrific free time,” he says. “You get out there into the shed, put some music on and get into the groove.”

A house builder during the day, Michael has lately spent his post-work hours building this splendid Mustang. It’s actually his second high-calibre ’Stang build. “I had a purple ’65 coupe, minitubbed with polished Simmons rims,” he says. “That was more than 10 years ago. I had it at Summernats; it won 2nd Top Coupe, and a couple of other trophies elsewhere.”

Michael would probably have been happy to keep showing the car and gradually let it loose on the streets, but someone else had other ideas. “There was bloke who wanted to buy it; he kept hounding me!” Michael explains. “He was: ‘I want your car! I want your car!’ I told him it wasn’t for sale, as I didn’t want to sell it.

But in the end I thought: ‘The money would be nice for my house; I can get another car later,’ because I was building a house for myself at the time.”

Two years later, with his house completed, Michael was ready to build another Mustang. “I found one online in the States,” he says. “I had a shipping company bring it in; I simply collected it from a holding yard and took it home. It was a standard survivor car, turquoise with a 289. It was in fair condition – I could have got it registered – and originally, I thought I might restore it. Then I thought: ‘Nah, I’ll build it the way I want.’”

After discussing Michael’s plans, Mick at Old Skool Smash & Restoration in Smithfield, NSW began the Mustang’s metal mods, which entailed a front suspension change (to right-hand drive using a Heidts front crossmember, plus the removal of the Mustang’s original spring towers) and a set of wheel tubs under the rear. For most people, that’d be a good, enthusiastic start to a project!

“Then I got busy again with work and family stuff,” Michael says.

“So I ended up leaving it for about three years. I got stuck into it again for about a year – body work, high-fill. Then it sat around again until I worked out where I wanted to go with the interior.”

After nearly a decade of stop-start effort, work on the car got serious – and consistent – at the beginning of 2015. “I wanted to finish it for this year’s MotorEx; that was the target,” Michael says. “I’ve owned the car for 10 years, but realistically, it was a five-year build.” That’s a far more relaxed pace than his Mustang of a decade ago – it took just 12 months! “Yeah, that was flat-out, day and night!” he recalls.

Michael put the Muzzy on a rotisserie for the hours of grinding, linishing and everything else required to achieve an undercarriage that was good-looking enough for Old Skool Mick to apply the PPG Grigio Mistral paint.

“It’s painted on the underside, just like on top,” Michael says.

“The panel beater turned down the task of doing the underside.

He told me: ‘If you want it looking like that, you do it!’ So he made me do all the [smoothing] work at home. I’d finish work and hang out with my kids, and after they went to bed, I’d go out to the shed until the early hours of the morning.”

Was it worth the effort? Michael laughs nervously. “I drove it just once and heard rocks chipping and I was thinking to myself: ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t be doing this!’ To be honest, I’m trying to find someone who will put a coating underneath the whole car.”

Michael was keen to replace the original 1960s seats with more contemporary pews, as a foundation for an upgraded interior.

ORIGINALLY, I WAS GOING TO RESTORE IT. THEN I THOUGHT: ‘NAH, I’LL BUILD IT THE WAY I WANT’

“It was one of those situations where I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for,” he says. “I went to a European specialist wrecking yard and said: ‘I’m looking for some seats to suit my Mustang,’ and the bloke said: ‘Nah, we don’t do Mustangs.’ So I explained that I was looking for something else that might work and look good. He let me look around and I eventually found these seats from a Peugeot.”

One-piece door glass was made to replace the usual flipper windows. “You can buy one-piece glass for other models, but not for my model,” Michael explains. “A few people reckoned it wouldn’t work, but with a bit of mucking around with the winder mechanisms – we used ’67 parts in the doors and relocated some holes – we made it happen.”

Michael wanted plenty of power for his new project, too: “My old Muzzy had a 302 but this time around I went for a 351.”

The engine was put together by a bloke called Giovanni. “He’s a guru; he understands high-tech and high-tolerance. He’s one of these blokes who can do anything and everything. I think of him as a bit of a MacGyver!” says Michael, referring to the fix-anything 1980s TV action hero. The 351 Windsor engines have a taller, wider block than the 302, which can sometimes affect fitment in narrow engine bays – but there were no such dramas here with the modified spring towers and fabricated extractors.

It’s early days for the engine, with Michael aiming to keep the car clean and tidy for Summernats 29. “In all, I’ve only done about two hours of driving just to get it tuned,” he says. “I want to keep it looking fresh for Summernats and then I’ll begin driving it. I’m looking forward to that!” s

IT’S PAINTED ON THE UNDERSIDE. I DROVE IT AND HEARD ROCKS CHIPPING AND I WAS THINKING: ‘OH NO, I SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS’

MICHAEL SANDE 1965 FORD MUSTANG

Colour: PPG Grigio Mistral

MOTOR

Engine: Ford Windsor 351 Induction: DC&O quad throttlebodies on cast manifold, EMS 8860 computer Heads: Dart 2 iron, Manley valves Pistons: SRP Crank: Harrop 383ci forged stroker Rods: Eagle H-beam Exhaust: Fabricated headers and exhaust by Garth at Rusty’s Rod & Custom

GEARS

Gearbox: Al’s Race Glides C4 auto, manualised Shifter: B&M Magnum Converter: 3000rpm Diff: 9in, 3.5:1 gears

BENEATH

Springs: Heidts coilovers (f & r); Heidts front A-arm conversion crossmember Brakes: Wilwood discs and calipers (f & r)

ROLLING STOCK

Wheels: Showwheels Vista 5; 18in (f); 19in (r) Tyres: Falken 215/40ZR18 (f), Pirelli 305/30ZR19 (r)

THANKS

My family for their patience and understanding; Garth, Rusty’s Rod & Custom; Mick, Old Skool Smash & Restoration; Giovanni; Matt and Van, Deluxe Auto Trim; John and Joe, JS Auto Electrics; the two Petes, EMS