I’m not big on American cars. When I was a kid, I didn’t dream about muscle cars or NASCAR. A Lamborghini Miura or Dino Ferrari was much more exciting to me. Look, I get the appeal of big block brute force. But for my money, I just prefer European design. It’s classier and more refined, with better attention to subtle detail, in my not so humble opinion. I’m just more impressed by overall handling, performance and styling than I am by foot to the floor, go fast turn left stuff.
So, it takes something pretty damn special to get me excited about a car born in Detroit. And Steve Strope’s “Martini Mustang” is pretty damn special.
The idea behind this car started as a “what if?” What if Martini Racing had sponsored a European road rally Mustang in 1966? (The official name of this car is the T-5R Martini Mustang. Back in the day, Mustangs for export were called T-5s. And Steve says this would probably have been a Shelby-made R model, so that’s how they got T-5R.)
The car wears the European livery surprisingly well. But it’s a lot more than four colors that look great together. Steve carries the livery through to the interior, with the white paint and matching blue upholstery. He’s used factory AC Cobra pedals and adapted a 427 Cobra accelerator pedal. The steering wheel is a vintage Prototipo like you would have seen on a 904 or a 906. There’s even a vintage flashlight in the glove box.
That’s all great, but I was blown away by what was under the hood. Instead of just dropping in some monster crate engine, Steve found an incredibly rare, all-aluminum Ford Indy 4-cam engine and had Ed Pink convert it to electronic fuel injection. The EFI is by Holley and is all new, but Steve did his best to make it match the vintage valve covers. He fired up the engine for me and threw some revs into it. At 4,000 rpms, it sounded way bigger than 300 cubic inches. Steve says it makes about 425hp and winds out to 9,000, which must sound like the end of the world.
And it’s one of the cleanest-looking engines I have ever seen. The aluminum welds are works of art and there’s not a single belt coming off the front. The throttle linkage alone is a masterpiece.
The Martini Mustang’s style is strongly influenced by technology and look of the mid-1960s, but you vintage perfectionists may be quick to point out that the car is far from “period correct.” You’re right, now shut up, because you’re missing the point. Sure, the rims are 17″ and not 14″, but Steve had them fabricated from scratch, designed to look like four-spoke Indy car wheels from the era. He put more thought and effort into those rims than most guys put in to their entire cars. And even though they’re 17s, they work visually. The suspension and brakes are beefy and completely modern as well, with brakes by Wilwood and custom suspension by Detroit Speed.
What makes this car so great is not its vintage-correctness, but that so much attention and thought was paid to its every detail. Like they say, the devil’s in the details. And Steve’s breathed on everything from the livery-matching front grille to the Euro spec tail lights. An amazing paint job or a powerful engine are always welcome, but when you put together all of the little finesse touches, that’s when a car adds up to being a greater sum than all of its parts. It’s an incredible idea with flawless execution.
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