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Custom Mustang combines old with the new

November 01, 2004|by JEFF MELNYCHUK/Wheelbase CommunicationsM

If you want to know how to change an engine and a set of wheels, ask a mechanic.

If you want to know how to cram a lifetime of experience designing and hammering out some of the most incredible custom cars in the world between four tires and two bumpers of a clapped-out Mustang, ask Troy Trepanier.

It's a question that came from Internet auction giant Ebay Motors when it wanted to show what could be built with the parts and pieces - and an entire car, actually - bought through its popular online service.

It's an abnormal way for Trepanier, who runs Rad Rides by Troy, to work, but challenges are what the custom hot-rod business is all about. The biggest had to do with a calendar.

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Where Trepanier would normally turn out just one or two vehicles a year with his small staff of craftsmen, young and old, Ebay Motors needed its rad ride ready in just four months, fresh for an unveiling at the 2003 Specialty Equipment Market Assn. (SEMA) show held in Las Vegas, Nev., the largest gathering of aftermarket parts and accessories in North America.

A welder by trade, Trepanier, with the help of his father Jack, has made a name for himself turning out heavenly works of automotive art that go by names such as Switchback and Chicayne. Now you can add the Fastforward Fastback to the list.

The idea was to take a vintage Ford Mustang, in this case a '68, and modernize it with styling cues from the new 2005 Mustang . . . which draws from the old Mustang.

As confusing as it all sounds the end product is anything but.

Of course, the beauty of the modifications, most of which are done on the fly without an illustration to guide the way, is that they're transparent. You can't tell what they are, which is entirely the point.

"I don't draw much. A welding rod is my pen."

At Trepanier's shop, each and every project begins with a complete vehicle tear down and a thorough inspection.

"You can only see so much when it's together."

Subsequently, two piles of parts begin taking shape: a small pile of the stuff that stays and, in this case, a much larger pile of the stuff that goes.

Most of the body panels were discarded in favor of fresh, rust-free metal, including most of the car from the windshield forward and, actually, from the windshield back.

"This car has no clue what it's in for," Trepanier said during the early stages of destruction/construction.

Key to every rad ride that rolls out of Trepanier's Manteno, Ill., shop, and the reason Ebay Motors teamed up with Troy and his father Jack, is rather simple. He's one of the best.

Trepanier's perspective is a bit different, with a result that just happens to match what Ebay is looking for.

"We have the ability to take other people's money and turn it into art."

And the more you've got, the more unique and more impressive the art gets.

In this case, the math adds up fast, but gets Ebay Motors the rad ride of a lifetime, on time.

The car's bumpers were cut and moved inward, the sharp lower edges of the quarter panels were rolled under to smooth out the look and the roof's side scoops were reworked to look like those from a new Mustang. In addition to completely modern running gear, Trepanier's crew fashioned a modernized interior, complete with big stereo and custom console and door panels. The whole thing rolls on enormous Billet Specialties wheels. Under the hood is a supercharged engine that looks like it was molded in place, well, largely because it was. Under-the-hood packaging is where any Rad Ride by Troy stands out.

Once built, the car was paraded around the country for 12 months, to be auctioned off on Ebay (with the proceeds heading to charity) during the 2004 SEMA show. The auction began Oct. 25 and ends Nov. 4 with the highest bidder taking home this trophy.

Of course, Ebay is quick to give Trepanier and his staff all the credit.

"(Troy) really was the leader . . . we deferred to his judgement, " said Drew Lieberman of Ebay Motors.

Duplicating this exact effort on a Mustang driven straight into Trepanier's shop would drain the college fund to the tune of $125,000. But, if you're fanatical about cars and attention to detail, the final result is worth every penny, certainly for Ebay Motors.

"It shows that we're enthusiasts too."

Jeff Melnychuk is Wheelbase Communications' managing editor. He can be reached on the Web at www.wheelbase.ws/mailbag.html.

Copyright 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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