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FEB 15, 2018 | AL ROGERS


1969 Mustang (1)

Editor’s Note: With the almost instant success of the fifth-generation Mustang after bringing the famed Pony Car’s classic design cues back to the modern muscle car marketplace, there’s been countless attempts by overzealous Mustang builders to crossbreed the old with the new. All too often, we’ve seen those attempts miss the mark. That’s until a loyal Mustang Monthly subscriber from Minnesota reached out to photojournalist Al Rogers with a picture and description of a flawless execution of his conceptual design. So here’s the story of this one-of-a-kind Gulfstream Aqua 1969 Mustang Mach1 that just so happens to be built on a 2013 Mustang GT platform.

FOLEY, Minn. - Several years back, Mustang enthusiast and avid car collector Tom Welle bought a non-running ’69 Mustang Mach 1 with plans to use it as a foundation to build a Shelby Mustang clone for his only granddaughter. Not long after purchasing the 1969 Mach 1, the idea crossed his mind to crossbreed the third-generation pony car with a newer-model platform. His plan, take the body shell of the ’69 Mach 1 and drop it onto a newer-model Mustang platform. The idea of having the sculptured iconic look of the ’69 Mustang Fastback paired up with the performance, power, handling, durability, reliability and creature comforts of the newer Mustang was enticing.

Over the years, Tom Welle had become friends with award-winning car builder Barry Dohrmann, owner of Dohrmann Custom Automotive in Foley, Minnesota. Dohrmann is a talented out-of-the-box creator with a vision to build one-of-a-kind hand-fabricated automobiles.

When Welle decided to put a modern drivetrain in the ’69 Mustang he first considered the crate engine option. After adding up the price of the engine, processor, transmission and shipping cost to get it all delivered to Minnesota, Welle was hit with a severe case of sticker shock. He immediately shifted gears, choosing to watch the used-car auctions for a wrecked 2011 or newer Mustang with a running coyote V-8 engine and fully operating drivetrain. After making numerous bids and striking out on several Mustang GT’s, he came across a wrecked 2013 Mustang GT equipped with the Coyote 5.0L V-8 and a five-speed manual overdrive transmission. It was listed with a salvage title – but with one catch: “No guarantee the engine would run.”

The insurance company holding the title initially threw out a ridiculous price for the wrecked 2013 Mustang GT and, after some haggling, the two parties agreed to an acceptable price for the car. Welle chose to roll the dice and purchase the car not knowing if the Coyote engine was in running order or not.

While going back and forth with the seller, several pictures were provided that seemed to show the 2013 had sustained extensive damage to the driver’s-side fender and shock-tower area. The sheet metal looked distorted and like it had been pushed into the engine.

After making the purchase, Welle had the 2013 Mustang GT shipped to Dohrmann Custom Automotive. When it arrived, owner Barry Dohrmann was blown away with how intact the car looked. The Mustang had actually taken a minor hit to the driver’s-side front fender and door. For some unknown reason, the Jaws of Life were used to cut away the door and peel back the roof panel in the area above the door opening. The driver’s-side wheel and tire were damaged, yet the suspension and engine bay looked intact with no visible signs of damage. Acting on a hunch, Dohrmann picked up the driver’s-side floor mat and found the car’s keys. He installed a freshly charged battery, attached the cables, then hit the ignition and stood back – only to hear the roar of a nicely running Coyote V-8.

He then started scanning the interior and locked his eyes on the instrument cluster. The three illuminated digits totally caught Dohrmann off-guard: The odometer indicated this wrecked 2013 Mustang GT had only logged 204 miles since new. So he picked up the phone, called Welle (who was vacationing in Arizona) and gave him the low-down before congratulating him on the fantastic Mustang GT he’d bought. Dohrmann went on to say that he though this will make an exceptional donor car for Welle’s ’69 Mustang build. Just thinking out loud, he then asked, “Would you consider dropping the ’69 body on this 2013 Mustang GT chassis?” Welle’s response was, “Can you do it?” And without hesitation Dohrmann replied, “I’m certain we can make it happen – and we’ll do it right!”

A plan was drawn up by Barry Dohrmann to take the body panels from the ‘69 Mustang Fastback and integrate them into the 2013 Mustang GT platform. Welle looked the plan over and agreed to go for it. The Shelby clone build idea was now a thing of the past.

This ’69 Mustang Fastback build required quite a bit of ingenuity to allow the exterior body panels to properly fit onto the 2013 Mustang platform. But only one structural change was required. The left- and right-side rocker panels were given an additional 1½ inches of depth to cover the bottom of the newer car’s undercarriage. It was done more for aesthetics than anything else. The fabrication, welding and surface preparation work on the rocker panels turned out to be labor-intense – easily the single most labor-intensive part of the build.

During a mock up to see how the build was coming together, a major issue surfaced. The front and rear tires were making direct contact with the wheel lips on the body panels. Welle and Dohrmann were left with two options: One, widen the fenders and quarter panels; or Two, narrow the width of the front and rear suspension. From Day One, Welle wanted to keep the ’69 body looking original. Altering it was out of the question. After carefully measuring the rear suspension dimensions, Welle and Dohrmann decided to narrow it by cutting the housing and installing shorter axles.

The front suspension was narrowed by using adjustable struts. They were moved inward to the desired width, then forward 1¾ inches to allow the tires to fit the fender openings similar to an original factory look on a ’69.

Tom Welle is over 6 feet tall. To give him enough leg- and head-room, the driver’s-side seat reinforcement bracing was lowered 2 inches. When attempting to get in and out of the driver’s seat, Tom’s head narrowly missed the door header. Lowering the seat position 2 inches made a huge difference for ease of entry and exit from the car.

While trying to install the floor console, Dohrmann could not get it to align properly with the repositioned seat and instrument panel. It was obvious the height level was much different than the factory original position. So he cut away 2 inches of material from each side of the console and gave it a clean factory style look. Remarkably, the instrument panel fit nicely onto the cowl and firewall panel without any significant modifications.

Per owner Tom Welle, the most challenging part of the ’69 Mustang Fastback build was the operation of the power windows. The 2013 Mustang power window regulator is cable driven while the ’69 used a tooth-and-gear type system. By shortening the amount of cable travel and fine-tuning its operation, a fully functional power window system was integrated into the older style ’69 Mustang Fastback door shell and header. Making the door glass slide into position while slightly compressing the window seal was a tedious process.

The finished product is simply world class and truly showcases the iconic design of the ’69 Mustang Fastback. All functional items were added to the car from the 2013 except the power mirrors and rear window defroster. The ’69 Mustang has a balanced exterior look, with the 2013 tire and wheel combination filling the wheel openings to perfection.

When you can pair up a 1969 Mustang Fastback with a 2013 Mustang GT and make it still look factory, then leverage the performance and technical advancements of today’s modern pony car, you’ve done something truly one-of-kind. Tom Welle, with the help of Barry’s “Dohrmann Custom Automotive” has truly created the “Perfect Pairing” with their ’13-turned-’69 Mustang Fastback creation.

When I asked Welle if he’d do another project like this again, he said, “Barry and I have discussed the possibility of doing something together with an independent model Mustang”. My reply was simply, “Give me a call when you start, so that I can keep my friends at Mustang Monthly and FordPerformance.com on top of it from start to finish!”

In the meantime, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.