From Scrapyard To Scrappy – Kenny Barnett’s 1970 Ford Mustang

There is an open debate if a car could ever fully lack potential in the eyes of a gear head, but when there are two trees emerging out of a partially rusted chassis with a missing front end, doubts are raised. These doubts grow exponentially when you figure in the cost to build a vehicle that has sat exposed to the elements since 1977. Kenny Barnett saw something else though, he envisioned a way to continue racing competitively in the ChampCar Endurance Series with a new key element.

Barnett is no stranger to racing and has paraded his personal 1966 and 1969 Mustangs in various vintage racing circles. He recently decided to get more seat time by joining the ChampCar Endurance Series. One problem continued to plague his racing team though: fuel capacity. The 1966 Mustang Coupe was limited to an 18-gallon fuel cell by the rulebook, which meant the car couldn’t make it to the driver swap time before having to refuel. This created a huge disadvantage to staying ahead of the pack.

That old Fastback has been there forever, that’s the one we should bring back to life. Kenny Barnett

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A forgotten car received a second chance at life with the vision of Kenny Barnett, Ronnie Killion, and Alan Henrich.

Being friends with someone that owns a salvage yard has its perks. One such perk is getting the pick of the litter. Barnett has been friends with Dean and Kathy McDaniel of McDaniel Salvage and Wrecker since he was 15 years old. When Dean found out about Barnett’s recent ambitions, he simply told him to go get whichever car he wanted. After stumbling through the field of cars, a vehicle that never sparked an interest in his mind ignited a wildfire of ideas with one key element: a larger fuel tank.

The 1970 Ford Mustang came with a 20-gallon fuel tank, which by ChampCar rules meant he was allowed to run a 22-gallon fuel cell. The tank size difference could make or break a race, and the chance was not worth taking on the 1966’s measly 18-gallon fuel supply. Besides, Barnett and his friends have always found building cars to be a fun and challenging way to spend their retirement.

Since the project had already formulated itself into his head, Barnett started chopping down the trees sprouting from the empty engine bay and trunk area. He then retrieved his tractor with a frontend loader to place the Mustang carcass onto a roll back tow truck. A one-mile journey and the chassis was at Barnett’s shop being placed on a rotisserie to start the build.

 

Barnett and the cars’ other owners, Ronnie Killion and Alan Henrich, knew they would have to attack the chassis first to build a competitive race car. They spent days stitch welding the body for support. The only new parts they purchased were a one-piece floor pan and a rear quarter panel, both ordered from Summit Racing. The rest were acquired from his good friend Dean who supplied parts from the yard.

Barnett is a man of resourcefulness and was finding various ways to shave costs and eliminate wait times. “We needed some patch material for the wheel wells, but couldn’t find any flat sheet metal locally. So, we made a trip to the McDaniels place and found a crashed 16-foot stock trailer. We were able to cut out the metal we needed to create these pieces,” says Barnett. “When we wanted to lower the center of gravity and the seat posture, we found some red iron to create a base.”

While crate engines provide a basic drop in and go platform, this wasn’t the route Barnett intended to take. He decided to replicate the engine setup he uses in his other Mustangs. A 302 cubic-inch engine with flat top pistons was sourced and a four-barrel carburetor was mounted on top. A Ford Toploader transmission was mated to the engine and a mechanical clutch was used instead of a hydraulic unit.

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A tried and true performance setup. 

Building a podium finishing car requires the use of proper suspension. In this case, the team relied on the expertise of Shaun Burgess at Street or Track. Street or Track supplied a complete front coilover suspension that utilized custom race-valved Bilstein shocks. It also supplied tubular arms and its newest item: billet drop spindles. The billet drop spindles are more than a way to shine up the front suspension, it provides the ability to run massive 17×11-inch wheels, or in the case of this build, a 315 series tire. This is achieved by clearing the upper ball joint and fitting the suspension inside the wheel hoop.

 

The car was nearing completion, but one of the first races was quickly approaching. With only two weeks left before the first event Barnett and his cohorts worked continually before loading it up and heading south to Harris Hill Raceway in San Marcos, Texas. Where they lacked in testing, they made up for in effort and ingenuity. They managed to not only make it to Harris Hill, but also to a first place finish.

 

When asked about a build sheet, Barnett replied “We don’t have a build sheet!” This is because Barnett and his friends have skill sets that can make things happen, rather than a catalog and a credit card. So, next time you’re staring at the vintage car, remember the potential that Barnett saw in the team car, now nicknamed “Scrappy”

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A 2005-2008 Mustang grill adorns the front of the finished 1970 Mustang.

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About the author

James Elkins

Born into a household of motorsport lovers, James learned that wrenching takes priority over broken skin and damaged nerves. Passions include fixing previous owners’ mistakes, writing, and driving.
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