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Kurt Russman's 1968 Ford Mustang is a flashback to an era when blue jeans were considered a vital piece of safety gear and a race team's "hauler" was simply a car trailer behind a farm truck. His Mustang doesn't have a pedigree, nor is it an attempt at a clone, but rather a well-used track car in traditional packaging.
"My goal was to feel like a Trans-Am style car would have felt 30 or 40 years ago as a privateer racer," said Kurt. "And at the end of the day [of driving] , I feel like I got my ass kicked as they did too."
The original plan was to build a road course and time-attack car, but his friends encouraged him to try autocross. He has a slightly different setup for when he goes road course racing, "I have a set of Hoosier slicks at home. That way, at least I can look cool when I'm racing," he said.
Russman's Mustang was competing in the Grand Champion competition at Holley's Ford Festival 2021.
He initially picked up the Mustang as a running car but discovered more rust than anticipated. He's replaced a fender, door, trunk pan, and floor pans. "I don't get paid by the hour once I'm off of work, so my time is free," laughs Kurt.
The Mustang was built in in his home garage, and without precise tools. Where he didn't have something, he improvised. He cut the front frame rails off to replace the firewall. "I took a lot of measurements. Then used precise shims on my jack stands…you know, linoleum kitchen flooring, because that's what I had laying around!"
Under the Mustang's hood sits a 331ci stroker Windsor V8 with a Scat-sourced rotating assembly.
Kurt used the Boss 302 Chassis Modifications book to build the car as it highlights tons of techniques to beef up the chassis of a first-generation Mustang, addressing common breaking points. For instance, the front upper control arms are moved down 1in, and the lower arm mounts are reinforced.
Kurt built everything on the car, except for the machine work on the engine. He started with a 302 block and added a Scat stroker rotating assembly, and then topped it with a heaping helping of swap-meet parts that include GT40 heads, an aluminum intake, and a Holley 650 carburetor. At 331 cubic inches, he estimates around 400 flywheel horsepower. There is just enough power to make a fun road course car without being overpowered for the autocross.
Kurt shot the Mustang's Wimbledon White paint in his home garage. "I didn't want to spend a bunch in paint then bury it in a gravel pit," he said. The interior of the Mustang is an all-business affair, with racing buckets and a do-it-yourself roll cage kit that he welded up. The 2.5-inch exhaust uses Flowmaster mufflers and exits before the rear wheels.
A Top-Loader 4-speed transmission backs the Windsor-based 331 cubic inch V8. The Ford 8.8 rear axle with 3.73 gears and a limited slip differential was raided from a 1994 Cobra.
The Mustang features many hand-me-down parts. When Kurt was 18, he totaled a 1970 Galaxie with a 3-speed. He kept some items from the Galaxie, including the shift lever, which he bent to fit in the Mustang, "Yeah, just eye-balled it to avoid the steering wheel, and it fits like a glove," said Kurt.
The Mustang doesn't have a full roll cage, and with things like the later-model GT40 heads, he technically doesn't qualify for vintage races, but that wasn't the overall intent. "I just wanted to know what it felt like to race a car in 1970. Get out of (the car) with swollen forearms and sore hands," said Kurt
The Mustang rides on Cragar "Soft 8" wheels that measure 17x9. 255/30R17 tires are up front, while 275/40R17 tires are at the back.