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The poor man's supercar

How I built Shadowfast for next to nothing in cash money

Ghostly image of 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 super car
This page last updated on or about 3-22-11

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BACK to Me and my Shadow supercar

Building a supercar is a formidable task. Especially on a shoe-string budget (and learning by trial and error). But it can be done.

Here's how I did it in the seventies.

First off, I started with a pretty decent car in the power and handling department right off the bat. But this was basically a big stroke of luck on my part, as I knew squat about cars at the time.

I essentially bought a used and abused 1969 Ford Mustang Mach One because the guy currently dating the cheerleader I was crazy over had one. Yikes!

The car had apparently been wrecked and repainted, maybe more than once, as it no longer retained anything of the original Mach One paint and stripes arrangement. The original wheels were gone too, replaced with slotted mags on the back and chromed reverse wheels on the front I believe(?). The passenger side mirror and fancy end tips of the dual exhaust system were missing too.

The exterior was black enamel, the interior a very dirty and scruffy looking original Mach One white. It looked like the previous owner(s) had either had very messy toddlers or kept chickens in the car. YUCK!

But man did that thing have power!

Turned out that although I and many other Mach One buyers weren't aware of it at the time, 1969 Shelby GT-350s were little more than 1969 Mach Ones with a few of the optional features thrown in, and a radical fiberglass front end bolted on.

Of course I didn't know or care who Carol Shelby was at the time-- or Shelby Mustangs either. For my purchase of the Mach One was the very beginning of my own automobile education. And it was as much for impressing a girl as for transportation purposes.

My life as a young geek and my new best friend combined to drive me much deeper into the car world in all sorts of ways after that.

I learned tons more about cars as I did routine maintenance and repair on my Mustang, helped my friends with their cars, and hung out at race tracks and race car builders' garages. I also read car magazines like a maniac. Stuff like Road and Track, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and anything else I could find. I spent much time at a new hot rod parts store which opened up only a few feet from the electrician's shop owned by my best friend's dad. The hot rod shop owner himself maintained a race car which regularly competed at the local drag strip (yep, my home town had one of those too).

It also didn't hurt that my dad was no slouch in the car maintenance and fabrication department himself, being a junkstormer from way back.

If you'd prefer to see all of Shadowfast's technical details in ebook form, Dark Horse: The Official Shadowfast Supercar Technical Reference is now available for any Amazon Kindle or Kindle app.

As my friends and I began competing on car mods we started making the rounds of auto junkyards in the area, learning more that way as well.

So over time I learned the trick of studying up on the equipment of various model cars similar to my own in order to get great deals on high performance parts via junkyards. For example I once was able to acquire all the best parts off the rear suspension of a wrecked 1970 Boss Mustang that way. My 1970 dual headlight caps, heavier duty finned front brake drums, and fiberglass rear corner posts also came from such sources. Maybe my 429 Boss hood scoop too. My much nicer black leather seats came from my best friend's 1971 Boss 351 after he totaled it, I believe.

But I wanted to go much further in customization and performance than was possible with stock parts, even from the best junked out muscle cars available.

So I had to learn how to fabricate my own stuff from scratch for many things.

Luckily I had my dad around to help.

Having virtually no money forced me to get my priorities straight fast. Though I did wander off the path a few times with purchases of things like shiny but maybe largely worthless aluminum valve covers, for the most part I managed to stay pretty disciplined for such a young whipper-snapper. Of course the chronic money shortage helped a lot to keep me on the straight and narrow in my designs, too.

In order to set my priorities I basically considered both the resources likely to be available to me, and what automobile icons I most admired.

The icons list was easy. The Ford GT-40s of the 1966 Lemans. The endurance and speed record-breaking Mustang(s) driven by a crew headed by Mickey Thompson in 1969 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The Bond spy cars of feature films. The Batmobile. The Boss Mustangs of folks I personally knew.

Performance, endurance, and special tricks to boot. Above all I wanted the car to be a real automotive athlete-- not a sparkling show car I'd be afraid to drive or get dirty. Heck, my personal life was simply too rough and tumble for a show car to survive anyway-- even had I wanted such a prissy thing.

I had neither money or time to waste on the project. So cost-effectiveness in both was key.

Maximizing cost-effectiveness meant figuring out my priorities and finding ways to get around certain limitations.

The main three limitations were money, money, and money.

My strategy to overcome these three restrictions? Self-education and training, as much cash replaced by do-it-yourself elbow grease as possible, help from my dad, and aggressive shopping around and junkstorming.

I decided I needed to focus on modifications proven to be of maximum performance value for minimum outlays of money and man-hours, and offering the least risks to my car's existing level of overall reliability. I couldn't take much in the way of substantial downtime. I absolutely had no choice but for the car to be drivable in a practical manner almost every day. It was my one and only vehicle for much of the time I owned it. And even when I also had the VW bug that car itself was sometimes down for maintenance. And let's face it: 95% of what I needed and wanted a car to do could only be provided by Shadow.

I got an idea of the most cost-effective mods mostly from car magazines and my experiences with fellow hot rodders and race tracks.

Over time my mod directions developed like so:

Performing only modest changes to my core drive train (engine and transmission). Basically because they worked pretty darn well already. I did upgrade the distributor, intake and exhaust manifolds and system, add ram air, and improve cooling of both engine and tranny with a dedicated transmission cooler, plus changes to the air flow in the front of the car.

Focusing a lot on net weight reduction of the car. Why? Well, the easiest and cheapest way to have more money is to spend less. Likewise, the easiest and cheapest way for a car to be nimbler and faster is to lug around less weight. Quite a bit of weight was lost by replacement of intake and exhaust manifolds and system with much lighter components. Heavy interior sound insulation was tossed, and the entire interior replaced with much lighter components. Extraneous brackets and other components made obsolete by interior changes and the roll cage were also thrown out. An added advantage to the custom interior was nearly the whole thing (95+%) could be disassembled and removed from the car in a matter of minutes. And yes, I was thinking of race etc. prep here.

Another point of focus was maximum handling improvement. Which basically meant suspension mods. Bigger anti-sway bar in the front, stiffened springs and shocks all around, staggered rear shocks, traction bars, rear anti-sway bar, etc.

A fourth vector was maximum aerodynamic improvement. Front air dam, bigger rear spoiler, hood louvers, removal of extraneous chrome and factory ornamentation, even removal of the factory radio antenna and mounting base on a fender. Heck, opening up all the fake factory scoops on the car had to help significantly too-- even as such also rammed air into the engine and cooled the brakes. I also made sure NOT to add silly things like rear window louvers which would only reduce driver vision and cause unnecessary aerodynamic drag. I do admit though I was tempted, due to the fact everyone around me seemed to think Ford's rear window louvers were 'cool'. And having them may have helped me a little by reducing the furnace-like heat that Shadow would accumulate when parked in full sunlight on hot summer days-- especially the further south in the USA I was at the time. YIKES! His flat black body and all black interior soaked up solar heat like you wouldn't believe. The mechanical water temp gauge for the motor also responded to heat in the passenger compartment where it was situated. One steaming day near the Gulf of Mexico after Shadow had been baking for at least eight hours with all his windows rolled up tight, the water temp gauge inside read at least 230 degrees I believe-- maybe higher. His insides felt like an oven.

Concentration was also made on the matters of safety, security, endurance, stealth, anti-pursuit measures, etc. With changes including overall frame strengthening via roll cage, brake cooling, trans cooling, metallic brake linings, repositioned battery, hood padlocks, real gauges, the CB radio, and so on.

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The result of all this was a gestalt, where the whole was more than merely the sum of its parts. For many of the modifications in one area improved the performance in others at the same time. The weight reduction improved fuel efficiency, acceleration, braking, and cornering performance, above and beyond the suspension and engine mods.

The suspension mods helped minimize nose-diving in braking and nose lift in acceleration, making both those processes much more efficient and reliable.

The faster Shadow flew down the highway, the more his aerodynamics exerted downward force on the car, almost creating a vacuum underneath. You could actually feel the car hunker down like it was being bolted to the road at speeds nearing a hundred mph. This downward pressure meant even better contact between tires and roadway, and so still better acceleration, braking, and cornering. This worked extremely well with only the upper air dam on the car: when the flexible lower dam was also attached, it worked even better.

So keep this gestalt in mind when you run across the perhaps otherwise puzzling descriptions of Shadow outperforming Shelby Mustangs as well as most other cars in various ways. His design was self-reinforcing in many aspects, performance-wise.

Shadow's outstanding gas mileage also helped me financially, at 24 mpg in normal cruise. Yes, it went down drastically with aggressive driving: but even for me most time on the road was pretty casual. Contrast this 24 mpg from a hot rodded 1969 351 Mustang with the 10 mpg in a small two wheel drive 302 mid-seventies truck I later owned. OWW! That truck couldn't get more than 10 mpg no matter what you did to it.

My biggest investment was in good tools. I basically bought a tool only as its need became readily apparent. Plus, I couldn't afford to buy a big fancy collection all at once anyway. Tools were pretty expensive things in the seventies.

Cutting torch purchase document

Above looks to be documentation regarding my torch kit purchase. I've blacked out certain info here that I consider privacy sensitive.

I bought an arc welder and an acetylene torch set up. A pop rivet gun. Etc. For I had much custom work to do.

It helped that my dad worked at a canning factory and could salvage stuff being thrown away due to remodeling, etc. We got hold of some old steam pipes I think and made the roll cage out of those. Old aluminum conduit helped in the construction of the GT-40 style dashboard. Other metal scraps likely played a role in things like the building of the overhead console.

The materials I bought new included things like sturdy plywood for construction of the custom rear interior deck, and thin wood paneling and crushed velvet cloth for the new interrior side pieces I shaped to snap into place among existing structural metal edges in the car (the flexible panels could be installed or removed in seconds, as could the plywood deck: I was known to remove such weight before things like drag races since it was so easy and quick).

The plywood sheets were pretty strong. I'm not sure what thickness I used, but it was maybe half or three-quarters of an inch? I would have went with the thinnest I thought strong enough, due to weight reasons. Basically one piece ran across the car's floor hump from one door to the other behind the two front seats, inclined at around a 60 degree angle from the floor. Right over the hump I cut holes and installed a AM/FM radio and tape player. This panel's top edge met with the bottom of the leading edge of the horizontal panel. The horizontal panel ran all the way back to a relatively thin piece of sheet metal separating the passenger compartment from the foreshortened trunk. It also ran across the entire width of the passenger compartment, where at the sides it met up with the thin wood paneling coated with black crushed velvet. Thick black shag carpeting coated the plywood panels and floorboards.

In the panel separating passenger compartment from trunk I installed my stereo system speakers.

Shadow's passenger compartment was extended in size compared to a factory car, consuming maybe a third of the space normally used by the trunk in other Mustangs of this model. Two people could fairly comfortably lay back there and watch a movie at the drive-in with the two front seats folded forwards. I and others slept back there before. Three could lay in the space in cramped fashion. I think I once had as many as four or five people crammed onto the back shelf while driving, all of them at least sixteen years of age, several maybe 20 or so. Keep in mind these folks couldn't hang their feet over the inclined shelf behind the front seats. The room wasn't there. We were all headed to a forest fire at the time...perhaps our second in months...and considering traveling out west to volunteer fight against a big one we'd seen on the TV news...

There were three different hinged doors cut into the plywood panels. One standalone in the horizontal panel behind the driver's seat. The other two worked together behind the passenger seat with one in the horizontal panel and one in the inclined panel. This two-door opening would reveal Shadow's battery compartment. The space was plenty big enough to hold two batteries and lots more, but I never added a second battery. All three doors had their own wooden handles or knobs buried in the carpeting (yes, the top surfaces of the doors were carpeted too, the same as the horizontal and inclined plywood panels).

The panel door behind the driver's seat opened up to a general purpose storage area. Note these storage spaces in the custom interior were pretty big. And as the entire panels themselves could be easily lifted up and out of the car, you could probably hide two people (one adult of average size or smaller, and one kid) underneath there with no one ever noticing. Of course the kid huddling around the battery would be the less comfortable of the two (both would be squeezed pretty bad). The storage spaces accessed in these various manners were actually a single space, as they were divided in the middle only by the car's driveshaft hump which I believe lacked a bit less than a foot of touching the bottom of the horizontal panel. And on each side the spaces actually stretched into the front end of the car's quarter panel bodywork, underneath the rear scoops and in front of the rear wheel wells.

I'm not sure but I may have been able to apply black shag carpeting to the plywood deck and floorboards from scraps given to me-- or maybe it was a combo of scraps and some bought. I always kept an eye out for such low cost acquisitions in my travels and meetings with various folks.

I also made custom interior panels for the car doors at some point-- and I seem to remember including some hidden or secret access doors or pockets there for contingency purposes.

The soft foam rubber-like insulation I padded the roll cage with was likely bought new. I think it was meant as thermal insulation but it was awful nice as padding too. And even a nice color for Shadow: a dark gray.

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I also had to buy new several large sheets of galvanized steel from which to make Shadow's custom rear spoiler, front air dam, and fender flares. Maybe I got a discount by buying them through the repair shop at dad's factory. I can't recall. But I went for discounts wherever possible.

I actually bought more of this stuff than I needed, because my dad and brother grabbed some for their own projects too I believe, before I could get all my own mods done (forcing me to buy more later). These were four foot by eight foot sheets I think, similar in dimensions to the sizes of plywood panels of the time.

It seems I recall some issue about using the torch or welder with the galvanized stuff-- but the details are hazy.

I tell you what, it was a little scary to cut off my stock fender flares in preparation for creating the larger and more accomodating custom ones. Despite my being fairly experienced by that point. Because frequently you can never really know how well something's going to work until you're well past the point of no return. Yikes!

Keep in mind that on my budget I really couldn't afford very many mistakes at all.

I believe I designed my custom front flares so they'd offer some built-in steel mud flaps behind the tires too. But as those spots aren't visible in the few photos available today I'm going purely on memory here.

Sample strip of the original factory conveyor belt material used to fabricate an air dam for a Mustang super car

Above is what I believe may be a sample of the original factory belt material from which I fabricated the flexible lower air dam on Shadow. My family and I used the material for lots more purposes than supercar air dams. This narrow strip I used to seal the bottom of a door against drafts and pests.

As the lower portion of the air dam had to be tough but flexible, I used a thick rubber conveyor belt discarded by the canning factory. It was practically perfect for this purpose, except for its color. So I had to paint it. And occasionally touch it up as wear took off the paint, especially at the central point. But I was surprised by how rarely such touch ups were needed: the rubber retained its paint quite well.

I believe I used another piece of the same rubber belt (also painted black) to lay atop my GT-40 dashboard which offered a flat surface on top suitable for various temporary storage.

Though it's tough to recall, I believe the dash surfaces containing gauges may have been skinned with an adhesive-backed decal which resembled the turned aluminum metal look seen in the dashes of many Pontiac Trans Am firebirds of the period.

It seems the GT-40 dash was one of the very last mods I made to the car before the end. For I'm sure I'd recall its details better if I'd used it for a substantial period of time. I think I actually tried several different dash mods before settling on the GT-40 design, maybe switching out and back in again the factory dash a time or two in the process. Combine that with little time spent with the final product and you get somewhat scrambled memories on the subject. And as most of my surviving notes are undated, they're of little help on the matter either.

One reason for my many trials and errors with the dash change were the complexities and potential costs involved. For instance, I wanted to use a mix of original Ford gauges, indicator lights, and switches along-side some of the after-market variety. Combining the two in a wholly custom dash for minimal expense in time and money proved to be one of the toughest tasks in the whole project for me. Plus, certain events caused me to to become more concerned about dashboard crash safety too along the way.

The custom dash was skinned everywhere else with the same black crushed velvet cloth seen over much of the custom interior walls, ceiling, and door panels of the car.

The GT-40 style dash was attached to the rest of the car via a framework of small diameter aluminum electrical conduit and strap iron. The overall shape of the dash was formed from a cardboard model treated with fiberglass. Yes, that's right: corrugated cardboard and fiberglass (with just maybe a piece of thin wood paneling and a short wooden stick or two for reinforcement here and there within the fiberglass itself) sitting atop a spidery aluminum conduit metal frame. You can't get much cheaper or more versatile and lightweight than that! Think for a minute how easy-to-work that stuff was. If I'd wanted I could have sculpted something out of the Wizard of Oz in there! Ha, ha.

I believe the dash replacement began partly because the heater core in Shadow busted, and began leaking. To remove the heater core it seemed you pretty much had to rip out the entire front end of the car's interior, which I did. It seems a replacement heater core was going to be pretty expensive, and so I decided to go without one, just attaching a bypass hose to the engine feeds.

So with no heater core what did I need with the extensive heater and defroster related assembly under there? More weight reduction! I thought.

Plus the giant clock in the Mach One dash had never worked since I had the car-- even though I'd tried a bit to change that fact.

So I ended up completely redoing the dash and all its innards. I discovered I did need a blower for some defogging purposes in cold conditions. So I eventually installed a much smaller version of the factory fan and ductwork assembly. Can't recall the details of the system though. It was junkstormed from some completely different source than a Mustang, I believe. Maybe it was an ancient heater blower from an old truck which was much lighter and more compact than Shadow's original gizmo? Or perhaps it was a castoff blower of some sort from equipment at dad's factory? I just can't remember.

There definitely was some inconvenience involved here though. It got pretty cold in winter-time in Shadow, after this mod. Especially since to minimize window fogging I often had to keep the outdoor air vents in the car's kick panels underneath the dash wide open. Yikes! I may also have used a windshield anti-fogging treatment (and a towel) at times. But in general I got by pretty well without the factory heater and defroster.

Note that Shadow as supercar was NOT well suited to running around in ice and snow anyway. His rear end was way too light in weight, his tires too wide, and his engine too powerful. The mid-body battery arrangement even made starting in the cold hard at times. One record-setting winter at college the TV news said the wind chill got down to 60 degrees below zero there. For some reason I wanted or needed to use Shadow and discovered him literally frozen to the asphalt parking lot. Ice ran up from the ground around his tires, and was rock-hard. I had to chop him out with a small hatchet I kept in the trunk. Absolute truth. Then I had to improvise measures to unfreeze the door locks too. Finally I got inside only to discover the ignition wouldn't even click. The battery just had no juice at all under those conditions. Shadow went nowhere that day.

The ancient Volkwagon Beetle I describe in Nowhere to go but up was by comparison to Shadow a winter-time demon. No water-filled radiator to worry about freezing. Engine weight sitting smack over the driving wheels for excellent traction. Itty bitty motor requiring little juice to turn over (I think it had a 6 volt system compared to Shadow's 12 volt). The whole thing so small and light and weakly propelled driver or passengers could open the door and use feet to help steer or brake if needed, or get it unstuck from most strandings via manhandling (Flintstones technology).

I bought a new tachometer, but I believe my other aftermarket gauges I got hold of second-hand. Mechanical gauges for water temp, oil pressure, and an ammeter all came from a junked car I think. They all worked fine. One thing about Shadow was for most of his life after I finished his engine and trans cooling modifications he usually ran pretty cool in normal driving, even on the hottest of summer days. You had to really put him through some sustained heavy lifting to get his temp up. But I eventually managed to so abuse him as to watch the oil pressure plummet to zero and the temp go off the scale (I think beyond 230 or 260 degrees? It's hard to recall exact numbers). But he still ran long enough during such events to get me to a suitable rest stop. On that he never failed me once that I can recall. And even fully recovered on his own from quite a few of these sessions, with little or no help from me, so long as I just stopped and let him not run for a while. I guess his oil just got so hot it took on the consistency of water in such times. And no, he never blew a head gasket either-- despite my never going any deeper in engine mods than the intake manifold, headers, and dual point distributor (or maybe because of my light touch there; many shade tree mechanics actually reduce the power and/or reliability of a motor when they mess with the factory design too much).

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I bought a new Holley carburetor. My best friend bought my headers I think. The headers were the first hot rodding item installed on Shadow, and I believe my friend did it out of his own frustration at having totaled his own Boss 351. Plus he rode around with me a lot and wanted my car to be impressive for that reason too I guess. Installing those headers was pretty rough, as neither my friend or I really knew what we were doing at the time, and hadn't yet compiled many useful tools. I think it took us many hours. Installing those headers I think turned out to be the toughest mod I ever made to Shadow. Re-doing the dash may have rivaled the headers for difficulty and frustration, as I had to make several different attempts to get it right.

I seem to have either gotten my hi-rise aluminum intake manifold used or as a gift: I can't recall exactly. But however I got it it didn't seem like it cost me much at the time. Maybe it was a gift from the hot rod shop owner?

I bought chromed traction bars new from the hot rod shop. At the time I'd been embaressed by some severe rear wheel hop on my car (during extreme braking I believe) and wanted to do something about it. The bars did the trick. I eventually tightened the bars as far as they'd go and kept them there (plus painted them black).

I used standard clothes dryer flexible duct hose for directing the air from the opened rear scoops to the rear brakes. I had to cut holes in the wheel wells for this. It was easy to open the scoops: I just removed little plates from the scoop housings held on by three little nuts I think. The front scoops in the 1970 dual headlight caps were opened the same way. I'm not sure if I had to duct the air for the front brakes with a hose or not, as the scoops were placed pretty close to where they needed to be already, and there was a handy hole in the sheet metal behind the opened front scoops where the air could find its own way. If I did use hoses there though, they had to be smaller in diameter than the hoses used for the rear scoops.

I did buy the nylon mesh for the custom front grill new-- but it was pretty cheap. I didn't use the galavanized steel of the air dam material for the grill, as the grill could be much lighter than that. So I think I used something like scrap tin we had handy around the house to build the new drop-in grill assembly. Probably something similar was done for the new custom fan shroud.

I bought the aluminum flex fan new I believe. And the driving lights below the front bumper and the front signal light replacements to go behind the nylon mesh grill. But none were very expensive.

The transmission fluid cooler was purchased new too. I think I first considered trying to adapt an auto air-conditioning related system for the job, but found a brand new light weight aluminum cooler at a new hot rod dealership for fairly cheap.

I ended up acquiring a succession of tape players for the car(?) The very first may have been an eight-track my best friend brought over from his wrecked Boss 351-- along with his tape collection. I bought new at least two more tape players (cassettes) over the time I owned the car.

I believe I managed to get a Ford AM/FM radio for Shadow for free from somewhere-- maybe my friend's wrecked Boss? Anyway, I think I used it to replace an AM only which existed in the car when I bought it.

The great looking metal louvers in Shadow's hood were cut from the sides of discarded home window air conditioning cases. Maybe from my best friend's dad's electrican's shop, as they also installed home air conditioners I think. I believe I basically cut out holes in the hood for them, pop riveted them in, and then blended them in with fiberglass and/or bondo and paint. I briefly worried about the effect of rain coming in the louvers, but don't recall any ill effect ever stemming from that. Basically when Shadow was parked rain could fall and run into the louvers and through the engine compartment to the ground. I don't think there was much of anything vulnerable to the rain located immediately underneath the louvers.

Shadow's custom ram air arrangement was like-wise junkstormed. I cut the outer ring off the top of my stock air cleaner so that the smaller top only went outwards from center fastener enough to cover the actual replaceable air filter ring itself inside the case. But of course so long as the filter itself was in there it also held the lower portion of the air cleaner assembly down where it was supposed to as well, even though the now missing outer metal ring of the top never again touched the outside walls of the air cleaner casing. A suitably placed hole was cut in the hood underneath where the Boss 429 scoop went. Then I fabricated various sealing measures with rubber bicycle tires of the necessary diameter, maybe one smaller than the other but close-fitting, one tire mounted to the underside of the hood and one to the outer rim of the air cleaner assembly. Some other sealing measures like weather-stripping or silicone sealer may also have been included. I wish I could offer more details on this but I'm going on 30 year old memories alone here.

I've been trying to remember what I did (if anything) to the air cleaner assembly's snorkel. Did I remove it and plug the hole to increase ram pressure? Or did I leave it alone, thereby reducing ram pressure but also insuring Shadow a second source of air, this one somewhat insulated from weather and speed conditions by the engine compartment? I just can't recall. But making the ram arrangement too tight could have backfired if something plugged the scoop, or various other things happened. Maybe I can remember something relevant later, or find a clue in old notes on this point.

I think I'd also added an aluminum heat dissipation plate under the carb, which effectively raised the whole air cleaner assembly higher and closer to the hood. (but something nags at my memory like maybe the plate was already on the car when I bought it? Maybe stock from the factory? Unexpectedly sitting atop the original heavy intake I removed? I'm unsure) It seemed like everything fit very well. I don't recall ever needing to fiddle significantly with that part of the car again afterwards. In fact things fit so well that for drag races I could lift off the entire air cleaner assembly and replace it with just an aluminum velocity stack, and the stack's top lip would fit flush with the hole in the hood under the scoop, with almost the perfect amount of perimeter spacing required to accomodate the shaking of the motor at different RPMs.

(Keep in mind I also added a high rise aluminum intake manifold which made its own contribution to raising the air cleaner assembly)

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Unlike many of the ram air schemes of stock factory cars of that era such as Boss 429s, Shadow's ram air worked 24-7. There was no manual cable pull or anything like that. It was all ram air, all the time. If standing nearby, you could hear the rushing sound of his breathing through the hood scoop while he was running.

One strange thing I noticed during really heavy rainstorms was it seemed when enough water got into the ram air channels Shadow actually had more power at the same RPMs(!) I know it sounds odd, but it seems like I read something about the phenomenon in some car magazines of the time.

I bought the interior wide-angle rear view mirror, passenger side mirror, and CB radio and antenna new too. It seems like I remember being forced to buy a replacement for my driver's side door mirror too at some point. I'd seen the five glass or so wide-angle interior mirror first in a real life stock car racer being built by a famous local mechanic. I love these things! Mine proved to be one of the most vital pieces of equipment in Shadow many times, as it can act sort of like radar, alerting you to much more in your local vicinity than normal mirror arrangements can. Once it showed me a car careening at high speed towards myself and others who were stopped at a red light, giving me just enough warning to jump over a curb to get out of the road. The speeder rammed into everyone else in the group as I watched. All this happened in maybe one second or two. If there was anything I could have done to help everyone else I couldn't think of it. I still to this day don't know anything else I could have done. There were quite a few other incidents of this nature with the wide-angle. So many that practically ever since then I tend to install a wide-angle mirror of some sort onto any car I'm going to be driving a lot.

I also make sure to ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS keep plenty of room between me and the vehicle ahead so I can manuever in case of baaaddd stuff like that red light crash.

That red light crash happened at the very first red light our small town possessed on a lengthy straightaway which came into town from a stretch of maybe 50 miles of mostly straight and lonely country highway existing between us and the nearest big city. In supercar Shadow I could likely have traveled near the entire length at maximum speed, but for the ever-present danger of cars suddenly appearing off of the many dozens of side roads and driveways which attached to it along the way. So it was common for all the locals to travel most of the road at around 50 mph. And many lengths of the road inspired impromptu races of 100 mph or more. So I figure the guy who crashed the red light crowd was no local: he'd been on that looonnng highway with little or no traffic and conducive to high speed for many many miles, when suddenly he crested a hill and maybe 100 yards away was a surprise red light with a dozen cars stopped dead in their tracks below it. This happened after dark too. I think he managed to slow down to fifty or so before he struck the first car.

In the decades since the town has strung up maybe three or four more redlights ahead of that one along that stretch, plus posted plentiful warning signs. It's much safer now. And lots more traffic has slowed down the flow on that long highway, too.

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I think somehow I was able to use the CB antenna for double-duty, for both CB use and AM/FM radio use. This enabled me to remove the standard front fender antenna from the car, and fill in its original mounting holes, improving my aerodynamics and maybe a few other things at once.

However, I seem to remember the AM/FM not working too well whenever the CB antenna was removed from its roof mount-- which was usually the case in casual driving (my CB use being almost exclusively tied to high speed long distance antics). But that was OK as I mostly listened to tapes anyway during such times. Basically I didn't like the look of the CB antenna on top of the car, and so only used it as needed.

Why didn't I like the antenna? Because when I bought it I was seeking maximum functionality and got a pretty big one. I also experimented with it on different spots on the car to gain maximum range with it in all directions. I tested it during a period when I knew several other CB using folks (including Steve) spread all over the countryside. I drove up and parked atop a local hill, then tested my range and directional bias with the help of those I contacted. Turned out the center of the roof was the best spot by far where performance was concerned. So when it was up there my 360 degree directional CB range for both sending and receiving was likely better than the average CB user in a regular automobile. This extra range in every direction gave me a slight edge over some folks using the same technology but not having optimized their local set like me.

But as I ended up often removing the antenna because of its size, that too sometimes caused me a problem, due to me not having the CB available in certain pinches.

I bought the small custom steering wheel new. Though the new wheel was more compact than my original, as well as better padded, I believe partly I bought it to get back a functioning horn again, as my factory wheel rim-blow shorted out on me and going with the custom wheel with its simpler central button push and wiring arrangement seemed easier and more cost-effective than the alternatives. As Shadow always had power steering I didn't need a bigger wheel for leverage. The nice padding also helped in long driving stints. But had my power steering ever gone out on me I would likely have wished for the bigger wheel back-- at least briefly.

I bought the Boss 429 front anti-sway bar brand new from a Ford dealership. Had to special order it. It wasn't hugely expensive though. Maybe 30 bucks or so(?)

Stuff like a cooling can for the gas line was hand-made with a coil of copper tubing inside a metal can with a lid welded on it and a rubber stopper for the filling hole. Such things could be used in drag races. You'd fill it with ice, the gas ran through the tube and got frosty before reaching the carb. I think I meant to make this a permanent fixture on the car eventually, only air-cooled rather than ice, but never got around to it. For one thing I just didn't need more horsepower. With Shadow I actually much more needed the exact opposite: more braking power.

Shadow's brakes ended up being his weakest point. Sure, I beefed them up somewhat with my efforts, replacing smooth front drums with finned ones salvaged from a junkyard maybe (unsure on that point, but my old notes indicate it's possible), plus opening up scoops and ducting cooling air to every wheel like many race cars do. Plus I replaced all his brake linings with metallics, which worked better the hotter they got. And so could scare the crap out of you in cold stops-- when they worked the worst. YIKES! I still today sometimes have scary dreams about making cold stops with those metallic linings.

Funny side note: Circa 2005 cars with anti-lock brakes sometimes seem to me very like Shadow did with his metallics in cold city traffic panic stops. Because it turns out in low speed short distance stops locking up the wheels might actually stop you faster than not. So while today's anti-locks may work terrifically in hot, high speed panic stops much like Shadow's metallics did, they can also scare you pretty good in the opposite condition: low speed cold stops in city traffic. End note.

Of course in really extreme braking events it's conceivable the metallics would have worked better and better as they got hotter and hotter-- until finally the steel hub itself softened from the heat, warped, and a wheel basically exploded off the car at speed. Yikes! Fortunately that particular thing never happened with Shadow. But it may be I came closer than I realized a few times...

Upon further reflection I must add that other modications likely helped Shadow's braking performance too, despite not being directly brake-related. For instance, the downward pressure of Shadow's aerodynamics at high speed had to maximize the contact area between the road and Shadow's tires, thereby optimizing braking effects. The tight suspension also served to maximize contact area as well as optimize weight distribution at virtually all times (minimizing nose-dive and nose-lift during braking and acceleration, respectively). The significant weight reductions overall (but especially in the front), and redistribution of weight with the battery, both reduced the burden on the brakes in general and helped make decelerations more efficient. And lastly, Shadow's tires were wider than usual for his factory model, also contributing to contact area.

There were many times I wished I had disc brakes on Shadow. Power front discs were an option for his model, but his original buyer hadn't gone for them. I spent considerable time pondering possible brake improvements for him, but could never get past the cost, risk, downtime, and difficulty humps of a retrofit, beyond what I did end up doing. Plus, the longer I had him the better I got at driving him expertly, and the better he got at handling and manuevering in general. Throw in what brake improvements I did make, and I sort of reached a comfort level with the car which just made further brake changes seem unreasonably costly for my circumstances-- which were impoverished. Putting myself through college while simply maintaining an average used car would have been plenty difficult enough. But changing the car factor to one involving building a supercar on the side while also having to frequently repair it after various feats of derring-do, was rock-hard. That's one of the reasons I eventually bought a barely driveable 1958 VW bug for a second car. Because at times Shadow would be out of commission due to maintenance or reworking or plain old battle-damage. Or had to be kept out of sight for other reasons.

Then again, I witnessed lots of folks seem to have worse problems with their disc brakes than I did with my drums. Especially concerning the discs getting hot and warping. And not from extreme driving, but just normal stuff(!) So some of my own personal experience seemed to contradict the common wisdom of the time about the robustness and reliability of disc brakes versus drum brakes in general...of course, the flip side is that it's usually MUCH easier and faster to replace pads on disc brakes, than the linings for drums.

Something else I would have liked to have had in Shadow was a racing harness like came standard (to my present understanding) in 1969 Shelby GT-350 Mustangs.

Shadow's not the only car I modified along the way. So some of my mod-work memories of him may be mixed up with those other vehicles. One case in point may regard his seat belt arrangements. If I recall correctly Shadow came from the factory with only a seat belt-- no shoulder belt. And I added a shoulder belt on my own, using black nylon seat belts collected from a defunct car(?). It may be I attached the buckle end for the second set of belts to the same reinforced point the original seat belt connected to in the floorboard. The upper attachment point for the shoulder belt would have had to be improvised by me. I have a vague memory of perhaps doing something improvisational with a spring-loaded seat belt recoiling device-- but at this time I'm not sure what (30 years is a loooonnng time). So anyway, if I performed the mod I'm thinking of here, to use both seat and shoulder belts simultaneously meant I had to buckle each in separately: that I had two different buckles protruding up between the driver's seat and center console. I'm not sure just how readily adjustable the arrangement was.

I may also have built from scratch such a seat belt system for one of my brothers in an ancient pick up truck he owned with no belt system at all, in order to make it safer for him and his growing family. As well as completely rebuilt his entire electrical system, which was shot to hell. Stuff like that jumbled up in my memories can interfere at times with accurate recall of Shadow's own mods.

If you'd prefer to see all of Shadowfast's technical details in ebook form, Dark Horse: The Official Shadowfast Supercar Technical Reference is now available for any Amazon Kindle or Kindle app.

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