1965 Mustang Packs A Punch With Unlikely Engine Combination

There are moments in our history when a man and the machine he created become forever connected. For instance, think of Carroll Shelby and the Cobra. When an individual invests thousands of hours of labor, hard-earned cash, sweat, blood, frustration, and passion into a car, the lines between the man and the machine blur, merging into one. This is the story of how Tommy Wright and his 1965 Mustang dubbed, Quicksilver, became bound for eternity.

Now, Wright is not in the same league as Shelby. He hasn’t triumphed at Le Mans or founded an automobile empire. However, Tommy is a southern gentleman from Loretto, Tennessee, whose heart beats for Fords and who possesses an unwavering passion for crafting immaculate custom builds. It was the fusion of this passion and vision that set him on a journey. He took a 1965 Mustang and seamlessly integrated a 2003 Terminator Cobra engine beneath the hood. Thus, Quicksilver came into existence.

1965 Mustang

The first clue, and it is the coolest Easter egg on this car, that this 1965 Ford Mustang might be different from the rest, is the wicked looking Cobra logo on the left side of the grille. It is subtle and appears factory.

A Prize Worth Winning

The way this car became a part of Tommy’s life is a story in itself. During the late ’90s, there was a radio station in Tennessee called WLX. Tommy’s wife, Lisa Wright, participated in a contest where she accurately identified the artist and song that played on the radio at a specific time. The grand prize for the radio contest was a Poppy Red 1965 Ford Mustang, equipped with an inline six-cylinder engine and boasting a mere 22,000 miles on the odometer. Lisa’s keen ear and extensive knowledge of country music propelled her into the finals, where the ultimate winner would be drawn from a pool of names at Steve Williams Ford.

Being present was a prerequisite for claiming the prize, and on the day of the pivotal drawing, Tommy had intended to embark on a hunting trip. Lisa, however, confidently stated, “I’m going to win that car.” Though Tommy was genuinely eager to set off on his hunting excursion, he made a last-minute decision to accompany his wife to the Ford dealership and witness the unfolding events. The contest’s mechanics involved a reverse drawing, wherein names were plucked from the hat in succession. The individual whose name remained at the end would be declared the Mustang’s owner. As the final name was pulled and announced — “Lisa Wright!” — it marked the victorious culmination of their journey. Lisa and Tommy then drove their newly acquired, gently used 1965 Mustang back home.

1965 Mustang

The Terminator-swapped 1965 Mustang has a personalized plate to match its nickname, Quicksilver.

The Unknown Future

The 1965 Mustang found its rightful home with the Wright family, who are staunch Ford enthusiasts. The Wright’s automotive allegiance is undeniably Ford-centric, extending across their entire range of vehicles — from trucks and SUVs to sports cars. Lisa and Tommy, over the span of several years, relished the six-cylinder Mustang just as they acquired it. They delighted in cruising around town and taking care of various errands in this cherished vehicle.

Subsequently, Tommy acquired a silver SVT tenth-anniversary 2003 SVT Cobra, boasting the formidable supercharged Terminator engine. The instant he pressed his right foot down on the accelerator, an adoration for this car was ignited within him. It was during this time that an idea began to take root in his mind: What if he could source the same engine and seamlessly transplant it into his beloved 1965 Mustang?

1965 Mustang

There was no kit for swapping a Terminator engine into a 1965 Mustang when Tommy started this project. Everything had to be fabricated.

Tommy started the search for an engine. After some time, he found a 2003 Terminator powerplant in California with just 32,000 miles on it. A guy in California was planning on putting it into a Lincoln but ran into some financial troubles before he could finish the project. Tommy wired $8,500 for the engine and a week later a crate showed up with a sweet Four-Valve Ford modular motor, with a supercharger bolted to the top.

With both the car and the engine in tow, Tommy headed over to his friend Wayne Allen’s workshop, where the ’65 awaited its turn in the spotlight. A brief interlude ensued before the project could kick off in earnest. During this interim period, Tommy paid regular visits to Allen’s shop, dedicating time each month to manually rotate the engine, ensuring its mechanical vitality and staying connected to the heart of the undertaking.

The SVT badge on the glove box is another indicator of something sinister under the hood of this 1965 Mustang.

Allen and Wright eventually found the time to make substantial progress on the project, dedicating their weekends to the endeavor. “I would say my buddy Wayne has probably invested around 4,000 hours in this car,” Tommy reveals. The task at hand wasn’t simplified by a quick-internet-order-bolt-in-kit for effortlessly integrating a supercharged mod motor into a 1965 Mustang. Allen and Wright had to tackle the challenge head-on and devise their own solutions.

Greg Blade at G & S Fabrications installed a Mustang II front suspension with coilovers and removed the stock shock towers. Blade welded in a bracket to retain the use of the stock transmission mount and also welded in custom engine mounts. To help ease the engine bay into the engine bay, the factory front radiator support was redesigned from a weld on unit to a bolton.

1965 Mustang

Yes, this car has three pedals and still rocks the T-56 manual transmission that was mated to the original Terminator engine.

Shifting Focus

With the engine successfully in place, the focus shifted to the task of wiring everything. Once again, no ready-made kit existed to simplify this intricate process. A custom harness had to be crafted for the car. This undertaking brought forth the expected trials and challenges of harmonizing a modern engine, complete with its computerized components, within the confines of an older analog chassis.

The process encountered a hiccup when dealing with the anti-theft system, causing a bit of frustration. However, persistence paid off, and the new engine eventually roared to life. To ensure optimal performance, DBR High Performance in Spring Hill, Tennessee, undertook the task of dyno tuning the car. With a 2.65-inch upper pulley on the supercharger, the outcome was an impressive 465 horsepower. All of that in a 3,000-pound car.

A set of 245 tires can barely handle the immense power coming off the Terminator engine in the lightweight 1965 chassis. Tommy stated that if he were to start the project over, he would have mini-tubbed the rear end to fit a pair of 315 series tires on it.

With the drivetrain dialed in it was time to concentrate on the rest of the build. A Ford 9-inch, Ididit steering column, Autometer gauges, 13-inch Wilwood Engineering Brakes, American Racing Torque thrust wheels were all installed. Tommy then kept the theme by going with a pair of fully powered 2003 Cobra front seats into the car. All of the wiring was tucked. A Vintage Air system was installed. The ECU to run the modular motor was hidden under the dash. A custom heat exchanger was installed to the front of the car with a modified Shelby lower valance to keep the supercharger cool.

An OPTIMA Redtop battery was relocated to the trunk to help with weight distribution, to make room under the hood for the big mod motor and to clean things up in the engine compartment.

With the mechanical components working together, it was time to concentrate on body and paint. But in 2009, before they could get to that part of the project, they took the car with just black primer and no windows to Bowling Green for the NMRA World Finals. At the time nobody in Kentucky had seen a car like Tommy’s and he won the Under Construction Builders Class. The car won a trophy at the first car show it ever entered. This was an early indicator of things to come.

The silver paint is actually a Toyota color called Quicksilver FK, which is where the inspiration for the name of the car came from. Not only is Tommy a Ford guy (all his vehicles are Fords) he is also a guy who owns all silver Fords.

Allen and Wright delved into the meticulous task of perfecting the car’s body, aiming for flawless results. “Wayne invested over 80 hours solely into refining the fitment of the cowl hood, ensuring it was show-ready,” Tommy remarks. “The car’s paintwork was executed by Ryan Green at Green Auto Body in Greenhill, Alabama. Ryan’s mastery with a paint gun is truly remarkable.”

After a seven-year labor of love, Quicksilver finally reached its completion. Once the finishing touches, including paint, intricate detailing, and final components, were all in place, it was time to make a significant impact on the show circuit in 2012. At this juncture, Tommy’s son, Drew, aged 19, had inherited his father’s fervor for automobiles, with a special affinity for Mustangs. Drew played an integral role in the Quicksilver journey, joining his father at various meets, ensuring the car sparkled under the spotlight, and offering unwavering support to Tommy during the shows.

The big heat exchanger in the center of the front bumper with the SVT logo is the big giveaway this Mustang is no longer using the original inline six.

Winning And Winning Again

In 2012, Quicksilver picked up a lot of trophies. At the Beach Bend NMRA Ford Nationals, it snagged Platinum Class Champion, First Place Event Winner, Best of Show, Platinum Special Recognition, and International Show Car Association Pick of the Show. Then it scored the coveted “Goodguys Award Winner” sticker on the windshield at the Goodguys Seventh Nashville Nationals. In 2014, at the Keller Festival Car Show in Mussel Shoals, it won Best of Show. In 2016, at the Mod Nationals at Memphis International Raceway, Quicksilver won Best of Show, Best Interior, Best Body and Paint, and also won the ‘64-’70 class. As it went from show to show picking up trophies, one of the awards it won was a set of new custom headlamps from Bullseye Custom Autos.

Bullseye Custom Autos created these custom SVT headlamps specifically for Quicksilver.

Following Quicksilver’s impressive reign as a dominant force in the car show scene for a solid four years, its appearances at shows gradually became less frequent. Wright’s attention was diverted toward modifying his own 2003 Cobra, amping up the boost to achieve a remarkable 800 horsepower on E85 fuel. Meanwhile, his son Drew embarked on his own journey of automotive enhancement, installing a Whipple supercharger on his 2018 Mustang GT, which churns out an impressive 748 horsepower running 8 pounds of boost. In Tommy’s own words, “That Coyote motor is no joke!”

As the 2022 World Finals approached, Drew began a persuasive campaign to encourage his father to bring Quicksilver back to its original showground. Initially uncertain, Tommy eventually succumbed to his son’s enthusiasm. This decision proved fortuitous, as they entered the show and clinched the Best Paint award at the 2022 World Finals. Remarkably, this victory occurred exactly ten years after their Best of Show triumph at the same event, showcasing the enduring prowess of Quicksilver’s ten-year-old paint job. This triumphant return to the very stage where it all began was a fitting tribute to the car’s enduring legacy and the passion of the father-son duo who brought it to life.

Drew (left) and Tommy (right) bookend the massive trophies earned by Quicksilver over the years.

Wright has an incredible connection with his Terminator-swapped 1965 Mustang. This man and this machine will be forever intertwined. Wright has said when he dies, Quicksilver will go to his son, Drew. “But I did tell him, toss a spare set of keys in my coffin with me,” Wright says. “I’m gonna want to drive that car where I’m going.”

About the author

Rob Krider

Rob Krider will race absolutely anything. He is a multi-national champion racing driver and is also the author of the novel, Cadet Blues.
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