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J. Staute was atypical in many ways for a circa 1972 college student. His entrepreneurial stints went far beyond those of other such young men of the time. Partly this was due to the influence of Staute's best friend Steve, a thrill-seeker of the first magnitude, himself born into a small business-owning family. By early adulthood Staute had witnessed first-hand the heady euphoria which can be generated by risk-taking, seen the extra freedom which can come from self-employment, and been strongly affected by the popular media and folklore of the times, which tended to glorify personal independence.
Steve and Staute entered into an informal automotive competition while still in high school. Despite his poverty, Staute managed to acquire a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach One. Or what was left of one anyway. He got it cheap because it'd been declared totaled by an insurance company after a horrendous accident.
Staute lucked out in several ways here. One, the drivetrain in this model just happened to be among the best and highest performance for its size and weight ever built by Ford.
It would take Staute a while to fully realize his good fortune in the drive train arrangement. Luckily he only improved these particular items in the car, rather than replacing them with some other, less reliable but more hyped combination of the era.
Staute enlisted the help of his father and brother to rebuild the car, only better. Vastly better. Where Steve's ambitions lay in quarter-mile dragsters, Staute's were more aligned with Le Mans racing and the Batmobile, with a little of Bond's Q-cars thrown in for good measure.
After many months of work, the result was christened Shadowfast. The original 1969 Mustang was practically unrecognizable, with great gobs of body customization everywhere.
This pony car also got many other potent improvements in terms of performance which were much less obvious to the naked eye.
However, Staute didn't stop at simply building a fast and maneuverable car. In keeping with the 'outlaw' mindset of he and his young friends of the time, Staute added other, more extreme features to stymie pursuits and cope with other contingencies.
But to realize the full potential of a super car, the driver himself must undergo extra training. With the help and encouragement of his friends Staute regularly practiced death-defying maneuvers and high speed runs with the Mustang, emulating some things seen on TV and in chase films. Detailed instruction for such exercises was easily found in various auto magazines of the times. All this practice didn't come without mistakes though. Steve's brother flipped two different cars on their tops at times, and was badly mangled in another wreck. Steve himself totaled a couple cars and crashed a few others. Staute too lost control in two cases, doing some damage to Shadowfast: apparently simply not wearing seat belts caused one event-- a mistake Staute never repeated. Another time he accidentally tore off one side of the air dam in an off-road trek. But Staute and his circle mostly lucked out, considering the risks they took. His wider circle of local peers fared far worse in the auto arena-- as hot rodding and racing was a popular regional pastime, for which many eventually paid with their lives or physical mobility.
Staute and friends often raced one another, as well as others of their ilk, and many times eluded both local police and state troopers.
In many ways you could say this was an age of innocence and naivete for Staute. He was lucky to have survived it at all.