Nitrous-fed all-steel 1967 Ford Mustang GT500E

Nitrous-fed all-steel 1967 Ford Mustang GT500E

Once bitten nitrous-fed all-steel Eleanor 1967 Ford Mustang GT500E. Kelvin Taylor wanted Matamata Panelworks to build him a tough pickup. He’s not quite sure how he ended up with an all-steel Eleanor clone, but you’ll never catch him complaining about it! Words: Connal Grace. Photos: Adam Croy.


It’s all Malcolm’s fault!” laughs Kelvin Taylor, when asked how this stunning example of an all-steel Eleanor came about. The Malcolm he is referring to is none other than Malcolm Sankey, proprietor of Matamata Panelworks, a business with a reputation for world-class metalwork the likes of which you will see over the next few pages.

With Matamata Panelworks, Malcolm has done what few custom shops have been able to: turn high-level custom car production into a feasible business. The custom cars in question are predominantly Mustangs like this, with varying degrees of exterior modification, although all are subject to an extensive mechanical makeover in pursuit of supreme driving characteristics.

As you may have guessed by the opening line to this story, none of that was of any concern to Kelvin when he first set foot in the workshop. Sure, he knew of Matamata Panelworks’ work, and, with dreams of turning his 1950 Ford F1 into a 1000hp streeter, he hardly needed his Mustang-mad son-in- law, Andrew, to twist his arm to make the trip to Matamata to meet the team.

“We took the F1 to Matamata late in 2014,” Kelvin remembers. “Malcolm had a gold Mustang sitting there that I thought was pretty neat. Then he took me to the next room, which had Fraser [McKenzie]’s blue Eleanor in it.”

That was all it took to convince Kelvin to shelve the F1 project temporarily and get in on the Matamata Mustang action.

Kelvin and Malcolm sat down to discuss a build plan and what Kelvin wanted from the car. With the plan in place, a base Mustang was sourced from the States. It was essentially a bare shell, albeit one in pretty good condition — with the amount of modification it was set to receive, the fewer repairs required the better.

By mid 2015, the shell had arrived in the Matamata Panelworks workshop and the team, headed by master craftsman June, tucked straight into it. The floorpan was customized with a raised transmission tunnel, welded-in chassis connectors, and integrated driveshaft hoops, providing sufficient structural integrity to maximize the handling prowess of the full RRS-sourced underpinnings. These include RRS front coilover uprights with power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, while the rear has gained adjustable coilovers, a three-link with torque arm, and a Watt’s link set-up to hold it all together.

Tim Barwell at The Krysler Shop provided one of his signature rear ends. The Strange Engineering nine-inch diff housing is filled with a Strange Engineering Pro Series nodular-iron gear case, forged aluminium large-bearing pinion support, Eaton Truetrac LSD, 1350 chromoly yoke, Motive Gear 3.7:1 crown wheel and pinion, and Strange Engineering 31-spline alloy axles, combining in a package that will hold up to 427 cubes of grunt and Kelvin’s leaden right foot.

As is the norm with Matamata builds, the immense amount of work that you don’t see underneath is more than matched by the extraordinary work on the exterior — most of which will also go over the heads of casual observers. Sure, the customhandcrafted headlight buckets, front bumper, side skirts, and rear valance are obvious, but that really is just the tip of the metalworking iceberg.

Those 18 months of full-time work were not spent idly, and it’d be easier to list the unmodified panels on the car than those that have been tweaked — the tops of the rear quarters are all that are left as the factory intended. Among the metal modifications, the windscreen surrounds have been extended to flush-mount the screens, the Shelby tail-light panel has been reworked to curve outwards, and the boot lid has been modified to match. Of course, that’s just a fraction of what’s been done, with Malcolm saying that somewhere in the region of 2500 hours were spent on just the fabrication and bodywork — and, no, that doesn’t include the time spent on upholstery, paint, and finishing.

By mid 2015, the shell had arrived in the Matamata Panelworks workshop and the team, headed by master craftsman June, tucked straight into it. The floorpan was customized with a raised transmission tunnel, welded-in chassis connectors, and integrated driveshaft hoops, providing sufficient structural integrity to maximize the handling prowess of the full RRS-sourced underpinnings. These include RRS front coilover uprights with power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, while the rear has gained adjustable coilovers, a three-link with torque arm, and a Watt’s link set-up to hold it all together.

Tim Barwell at The Krysler Shop provided one of his signature rear ends. The Strange Engineering nineinch diff housing is filled with a Strange Engineering Pro Series nodular-iron gear case, forged aluminium large-bearing pinion support, Eaton Truetrac LSD, 1350 chromoly yoke, Motive Gear 3.7:1 crown wheel and pinion, and Strange Engineering 31-spline alloy axles, combining in a package that will hold up to 427 cubes of grunt and Kelvin’s leaden right foot.

As is the norm with Matamata builds, the immense amount of work that you don’t see underneath is more than matched by the extraordinary work on the exterior — most of which will also go over the heads of casual observers. Sure, the customhandcrafted headlight buckets, front bumper, side skirts, and rear valance are obvious, but that really is just the tip of the metalworking iceberg.

Those 18 months of full-time work were not spent idly, and it’d be easier to list the unmodified panels on the car than those that have been tweaked — the tops of the rear quarters are all that are left as the factory intended. Among the metal modifications, the windscreen surrounds have been extended to flush-mount the screens, the Shelby tail-light panel has been reworked to curve outwards, and the boot lid has been modified to match. Of course, that’s just a fraction of what’s been done, with Malcolm saying that somewhere in the region of 2500 hours were spent on just the fabrication and bodywork — and, no, that doesn’t include the time spent on upholstery, paint, and finishing.

Lift the expertly extended and customized bonnet, and it is clear that the detailing extends beyond what is visible. The Roush 427 R crate engine has been detailed and polished to perfection, and it looks far too simple to be a nitrous-breathing monster pumping out in excess of 600hp. Despite the big cubes, it really is the star of the engine bay, with everything that isn’t conducive to making power, or ease of servicing, having been relocated out of sight. This includes all wiring not required by the engine having been routed under the inner guards, along with the myriad AN fittings, braided hose, and hard lines supplied by GSS Performance.

Of course, as you can see, the 427 isn’t all that’s worth a mention. How about that incredible metalwork in the form of the smoothed underbonnet and firewall, and the huge panel crafted specifically to hide the unsightly radiator area from view? Made from two sheets of steel, the custom rolled and swaged panel is easily removed with push-button clips when necessary.

Like every Matamata Panelworks car, the Mustang has been built to be driven, and serviceability is paramount. That’s why such items as the brake and clutch hydraulic reservoirs have not been relocated under the dashboard — a simple task in the grand scheme of this build, but one that was not necessary — while the brake booster and master cylinders have.

There is an additional reason for that, and it is simply to do with room. Much has been hidden on the firewall beneath the dashboard, and it’s very cluttered, although even this has been laid out as efficiently as possible. A great deal of thought has gone into making everything work, which is why the MSD 6AL ignition box has been mounted to benefit from a little 12V computer fan — to prevent this most vital of components from overheating. It’s joined by the ducting required for the Vintage Air air conditioning — after all, for a car to be driven, it’s got to be drivable. With an interior this nice, Kelvin will not need much excuse to do so.

“The upholstery’s gotta be 110 per cent, or I’m taking it back!” Kelvin told Malcolm.

Suffice to say that the upholstery definitely wasn’t taken back to Trev and the team at Auto Interior Specialists Ltd. Supple black nappa leather covers almost every interior surface and goes some length towards disguising the fact that the entire dash and centre console are custom hand-formed out of sheet metal. From the custom centre console sprouts a custom-fabricated shifter for the Tremec TKO 600 five-speed, which bears a tantalizing red button on the top. This is for the nitrous, and must act like a red flag to a bull every time Kelvin hops in.

A seriously advanced Parrot head unit ticked all the boxes, providing Bluetooth capability, an output for the parking cameras, and full GPS tracking and remote access. With full Infinity audio, the Mustang is perfectly endowed for the long-haul road trips when Kelvin might tire of the exhaust note. A full suite of Dakota Digital gauges keeps the old-school spirit alive and well, while integrating perfectly with the updated dash fascia. Because the Mustang has been built to be driven balls-out, a custom heads-up display has also been worked into the dash top.

Malcolm mentioned that it was a real mission to position the projector at the correct angle to display information without distortion, but it functions perfectly from its position in the centre between the two dash humps. The devil really is in the detail, and we don’t envy Paul and the team at Onsite Auto Electrical their task in wiring the whole thing.

Quality pervades this car, from the inside out. You read earlier about the 2500 hours poured into the bodywork. It was only when the Mustang reached a stage at which Kelvin and the Matamata team were happy with it that work on the finishing touches commenced. In typical Matamata fashion, the team prepared innumerable colour swatches, finally arriving at a colour combination that Kelvin liked and that worked with the Mustang’s steroidally muscled curves. Custom PPG Volcano Red and Gunmetal Grey hues were mixed and applied in the Matamata Panelworks paint department, with racing stripes inspired by a late-model Shelby GT500, while Barclay Engravers was tasked with creating custom Shelby-inspired badges.

The Shelby influences flow through to the central aero-style fuel-filler cap, the GT500-style LED tail lights, and the 17x8-inch and 17x11-inch American Racing VN427 wheels — inspired by original Shelby Cobra wheels, and the only real choice for a GT500E, replica or not. These are wrapped in 255/40ZR17 and 315/35ZR17 Nitto NT555 tyres, optimizing grip and comfort. Since Kelvin has countless twisting back-country roads at his disposal, that’s for the best.

Throughout the build — which took only 18 months from the time the car entered the Matamata workshop — Kelvin would call in every two weeks or so to check up on progress. Despite the extraordinarily short time in which the project was completed, the standard is such that Malcolm does not hesitate to call it Matamata Panelworks’ best car yet. In fact, the quality is so impressive that Malcolm has decided to bite the bullet and, with Kelvin’s blessing, will ship the Mustang to Australia to be put on show at Meguiar’s MotorEx, set to be held at Sydney Olympic Park over July 22 and 23.

“It’s time to see how we go against the Aussies,” Malcolm explains.

While the car is nowhere near as in-your-face as many Australian builds at this level, it’s important to note that it doesn’t need to be. Quality-wise, it’s right up there with the best.

Despite the incredible turnaround, it couldn’t have been finished soon enough for Kelvin. Don’t mistake his eagerness for impatience, though. His passion for the Matamata team’s custom work and second-to-none workmanship is understandable when you consider that he observed first-hand a transformation from bare shell to complete work of art. Now that Kelvin’s been bitten, and Matamata Panelworks influence is flowing through his veins, we know for a fact that this won’t be the last collaboration between Kelvin Taylor and Matamata Panelworks that we see on these pages.


IT’S EASIER TO LIST THE UNMODIFIED PANELS THAN THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN TWEAKED

THE RED BUTTON IS FOR THE NITROUS, AND IS TO KELVIN WHAT A RED FLAG IS TO A BULL!


Breathe out The trick exhaust system comprises twin 2½-inch exhausts, Coby mufflers, and a pair of electric cut-outs with four solenoids. This enables Kelvin, with just the flick of a switch, to choose between running a fully mufflered system and an open and extremely aggressive exhaust. We have it on good authority that the rear mufflers are very rarely used!


Forward badged Some of the details of this build will go over the heads of all but the keenest car geeks, and that includes the custom badges created by Barclay Engravers specifically for this car. The ‘Shelby GT500E Super Snake’ badges adorn the grille and both fenders, and the fender badges have been designed so that the snake faces forwards on each side of the car.


TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 1967 FORD MUSTANG (GT500E)

ENGINE: 427ci small block Ford, Roush 427 R crate engine, Windsor iron block, 9½-inch deck height, four-bolt mains, steel crankshaft, H-beam steel rods, forged aluminium pistons, Roush aluminium heads, hydraulic roller camshaft, Roush dual-plane intake manifold, Holley carburettor, NOS nitrous port injection, two AEM electric fuel pumps, custom fuel cell, Speedflow fittings, Speedflow braided hoses, MSD 6AL ignition, computer fan ignition cooling set-up, Roush headers, custom 2½- inch exhaust, electronic exhaust cut-outs, four exhaust solenoids, Coby mufflers, alloy radiator, two 12-inch thermo fans

DRIVELINE: Tremec TKO 600 five-speed manual, Quick Time bellhousing, McLeod flywheel, McLeod single-plate clutch, Strange Engineering nine-inch diff housing, three-inch heavy-wall axle tubes, billet latemodel large-bearing diff ends, RRS diff brackets, Strange Engineering Pro Series nodular-iron gear case, forged aluminium large-bearing pinion support, Eaton Truetrac LSD, 1350 chromoly yoke, Motive Gear 3.7:1 crown wheel and pinion, Strange Engineering 31-spline alloy axles, custom three-inch driveshaft

SUSPENSION: RRS front and rear coilovers, RRS sway bars, RRS three-link rear, RRS power rack-and-pinion steering

BRAKES: RRS under-dash brake booster, RRS reverse swing-mount pedal box, Brembo sixpiston front calipers, Brembo four-piston rear calipers, 345mm slotted two-piece brake discs, cupro-nickel brake lines

WHEELS/TYRES: 17x8-inch and 17x11- inch American Racing VN427 Shelby Cobra wheels, 235/40ZR17 Nitto NT555 front tyres, 315/35ZR17 Nitto NT555 rear tyres

EXTERIOR: Custom badging, custom front valance, custom firewall, custom radiator cover panel, custom side skirts, custom beaver panel, modified boot lid, custom rear valance, custom windscreen surrounds, Ringbrothers billet bonnet hinges, modified Ringbrothers billet door handles, LED headlights, LED tail lights, custom PPG Volcano Red and Gunmetal Grey paint

CHASSIS: Custom chassis connectors, custom tower braces, raised transmission tunnel, custom driveshaft hoops

INTERIOR: BA Falcon front bucket seats, ‘webbing grabber’ seat belts, nappa leather upholstery, custom shifter, Dakota Digital dash gauges, Auto Meter console gauges, custom shifter, custom dash, custom centre console, custom door cards, custom pillar trim, custom hood lining, custom firewall mounting brackets, Vintage Air air conditioning, Parrot head unit, front and rear parking cameras, GPS tracker

PERFORMANCE: Over 600hp (before nitrous)


KELVIN TAYLOR

AGE: 21 …

OCCUPATION: Director

PREVIOUSLY OWNED CARS: Chevs, Fords, lots of motorbikes

DREAM CAR: I’m looking at it — or a 1950 Ford F1 with 1000hp

WHY THE MUSTANG? Because of Malcolm — it’s all his fault!

BUILD TIME: 18 months

LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: Two years

KELVIN THANKS: Malcolm, June, and the team at Matamata Panelworks; Trev and the team at Auto Interior Specialists Ltd


 


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