(Photos by Dave Nutting) – Lately we have been featuring sleepers here on BangShift, so consider this our way of breaking that trend. This car is a sledgehammer, both visually and mechanically. It would be impressive enough to tell you that the car was powered by a 604ci Ford engine, but that would be selling it far too short, because lots of the incredible appeal of this machine are the specifics of that 604ci mountain of aluminum. This is a 604ci Ford hemi is topped with pure, uncut, dreamy Ford unobtanium. The cylinder heads are Alan Root A-441 pieces that car owner Mike Conte scored NOS and unused. The tunnel ram intake that the twin Holley Dominators sit on is another Alan Root piece made of magnesium and it still had the green factory coating on it when Conte came to own it. The glorious noise that this car makes was amplified by the crisp air when we met up with Mike to put this feature together early on a Sunday morning. Shockingly, the twin Dominators were perfectly happy in the 20-degree chill. They were probably just scared of pissing off the rest of the motor.
Before we bowl you over with all the mechanical parts and pieces that make this beat what it is, some back story. Mike came to own this car in 2004. At the time it had a 428 in it and was setup in the traditional pro street format that we see here. The car had been used on the track some and used a four link rear suspension with a wishbone setup. Mike wanted to ditch that for the street because it was noisy and clanky so Jon Sandahl at Tube Chassis Designz took care of that. He also added a new Strange rear end with 4.56 gears and a spool in it.
You may think that the gear ratio is steep and that a spool is bad juju for the street, but the fact that the car has tires on it which stand 33-inches tall and sports and F&B built Ford AOD overdrive transmission, it is plenty happy with all that gear in the back. The Mustang does not suffer the typical bouncing and chirping associated with Pro Street cars sporting a spool and Mike says that is due in large part to the fact that the Hoosier rear tires, all 33×21.5 – inches of them, are radials, not bias-ply. Prior to running the Hoosiers, Mike had another large tires on there that was of bias-ply construction and he said that car would bounce ferociously in the corners, especially at low speed making hard turns.
One thing we should mention to calm the nerves of Mustang purists is that this Mustang was originally an S-Code 390 powered Mach 1. It was not an actual “Boss”. Mike has the Marti report on the car and it states that the car was Grabber Green and had the blacked out hood. The first buyer opted for a C6, whitewalls, A/C, and oddly, no power steering.
While the history of the car is certainly interesting, all the real action is happening in the front between the fenders. When the car had the 428 in it, the front end was just the factory style suspension and clip, but when Conte had the big hemi built, wedging that monster in required some custom surgery and Conte once again sought out the services of Tube Chassis Designz. The guys at the shop cut the shock towers out of the car, added a Heidt’s Mustang II front suspension setup, motorplates, and they also carried the roll cage bars down through the firewall to add stiffness to the front of the car so the big behemoth engine didn’t twist the car up like a Twizzler. The results of that work are nearly seamless, but the fact is, once you start looking a the motor, you kind of lose track of everything else in the known universe.
As we said earlier in the story, this car is powered by a 604ci Ford hemi. The engine is built off of an IDT ULTRA Eliminator block. This is an all-aluminum, 4-bolt main block with huge 4.625 bores. The 4340 steel forged crank has a stroke of 4.5-inches. The rods are 6.8-inch forged H-beams and the cam is a custom roller from Comp that .657 lift on the intake side and .664 on the exhaust. The duration is 280-degrees and 286-degrees respectively. To say that it sounds full house is the understatement of the century. This thing is a rolling bar fight.
The (literal) crown jewels of this combo are the Alan Root A-441 heads and magnesium tunnel ram that has the dual Dominators on top. These are the same heads that Bob Glidden used to absolutely rule Pro Stock from the mid to late 1980s. The heads on this car have been ported and polished and are fitted with 2.3-inch intake valves and 2.0-inch exhaust valves. The engine has 9.6:1 compression and is quite happy to run around on 93-octane. If he can keep his foot out of the loud pedal, the Mustang will knock down about 8-mpg when cruising and frankly, we’re impressed with that.
So one doesn’t just hop onto eBay and get themselves a set of these heads. They were made in very small volumes and although they were sold through Ford Racing the cost was so high that only serious Pro Stock racers, truck pullers, and other racing guys bought them. After a while, they were actually pulled from the Ford Racing catalog and the rumor is that it happened because Ford wanted to protect Bob Glidden’s position in Pro Stock as the dominant car in the late 1980s.
Mike had heard about these heads sitting in a shop about 30 miles from his house. A man named Joe Grotta had them and Joe was a dedicated Ford man himself. Although these heads were not his specifically, he was helping a friend move them. They had never been mounted on an engine and the only thing that had been done was the installation of the rocker studs on one side. These babies were 100% virginal.
Since these heads needed a specific matching intake manifold, Mike then set out to find one of those to complete the setup. His search led him to Joe Cushman in Gray, Maine. Cushman deals in Ford exotica of all shapes and sizes. After he got Joe on the horn, Cushman agreed to let Mike in to see his inventory and do some shopping. After seeing three intakes that would work, he settled on the one you see in the photos. He snapped this particular piece up because it had never been mounted on an engine and was still wearing the DuPont protective coating on the outside to protect the magnesium from oxidation. It will never have an issue now because Mike had it clear coated to maintain the nice luster you see in these photos.
The twin carbs on top of that intake are 750 CFM Dominators, the smallest ones that Holley makes. We asked Conte why he didn’t go bigger and his logic was pretty sound. Essentially, he wanted the car to be well mannered on the street and by starting small he could always go bigger if he wanted. When they dyno’d the engine and it made 700hp and over 700 lb/ft of torque he was more than happy. According to Mike, there is potentially another 40hp available if they really wanted to fine tune it. Fact is, he has so much fun driving it and smoking those massive tires, he’s not really too worried about it. With more carb on top, the engine would be less street friendly, but would be even more impressive on the dyno. Last time we checked, no one actually cruises a dyno, so it is all academic at this point.
We’re going to let the photos and video below do the rest of the talking but this is one of those rare cars that just stops you in your tracks when you see and hear it. It breathes through a couple of Spintech mufflers and the noise is glorious. When it first came rumbling into the parking lot we met Mike in early on that Sunday morning, both Dave Nutting and I laughed like little girls. Even if you are a die hard Pro Touring type or someone not all that into the Pro Street look, you have to admire the fit and finish of this one and the fact that it is Ford from front to back. The 604ci engine is a work of mechanical art that can shred almost four feet of combined contact patch at will and bellow to the heavens while doing it.
Is this car over the top? Hell yeah it is and we’re in love. Mike’s 1969 Mustang is 100% BangShift approved and it is the type of car that reminds us why we love doing this stuff so much. Machines like this make you feel like a kid at car show again, looking at each neat machine with a wide smile and some slobber dripping out of your mouth. This car is proof that Pro Street ain’t dead and it never was.
(Oh yeah…it is for sale, too! – email us if you are interested!)