368ci Windsor-powered 1967 Ford Mustang fastback

What do you do when you can’t find a black Mustang? Buy an orange one and start looking for any excuse to repaint it

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

HE RIDES a black Harley. He drives a black Camaro ZL1 and his tow-car is a black Dodge Ram. So what on earth possessed Ross Pontonio to buy an orange Mustang? “I used to go down looking around at the cars up for auction, and I saw this orange fastback and just fell in love with it. I don’t know why; I mean, orange is not my favourite colour!” Ross had passed up a black fastback 18 months earlier, but something about the orange 289 ’Stang grabbed him. “I was hell-bent on getting it.”

First published in the July 2021 issue of Street Machine

Get it he did, but alongside his black Ram and Camaro, the Mustang’s orange paint was an eyeful. There were no plans to dip the fastback in a fresh coat of black when it landed at Ross’s place, though. “I drove it around for five-and-a-half years in the orange. It definitely stood out. You couldn’t go anywhere without being asked, ‘What colour orange is it?’”

Despite sticking with the colour, Ross did make some other changes, most notably under the bonnet, where a 347ci V8 now rumbled. “The 289 was too sluggish,” he said. “I’m not saying it was unreliable, but it didn’t feel great on the road. You’d put your foot into it and it would pick up – eventually. The 347 fixed that.”

Then, washing the bright orange Mustang one Sunday, Ross noticed a spot of rust, so he headed to KB Prestige & Restoration in Moorabbin. “It was just going to be a bit of a clean-up of the rust in the door, and it ended up being a full-blown spray job,” Ross says. “The resto done prior was a little shoddy. Underneath the paintwork, it wasn’t great; it wasn’t a top-end restoration.”

Ross was secretly glad. Now was his chance. “I knew I was going to end up with a black Mustang at some point,” he admits. “I did contemplate getting that little bit of rust fixed and getting it blended in, but you know what? I’ve always wanted black.” The orange was doomed. “I was warned that if you go black it’s going to take a lot of work, it’s got to be absolutely super straight and it’s hard to keep clean, but I’m prepared to do all that – I just love black.”

There was another pressing issue, though. The 347 had dropped oil pressure and it was more than a pump – it was a cracked block. “I thought, ‘Well, okay, not only am I going to do a respray, I’m also going to do a motor upgrade,’” said Ross. “It all happened at the same time – lost oil pressure; found out I had a bit of rust in the door.”

Key to the new build was Ross’s son, Riccardo, who works in the motor industry and is a Drag Challenge regular in his VK Commodore (SM, Mar ’20). “He project-managed the whole thing,” Ross explained. “He has an eye for what goes with what, what works and what doesn’t. He has a talent for that sort of thing.”

It was Ricc who’d recommended KB Prestige & Restoration for the body and paint, so Ross turned to Ricc for an engine builder, which saw Adicted Performance responsible for the new powerplant. There were two main goals for the new engine set-up: driveability and (gulp) an 11.0-second timeslip.

“I’ve got tickets for 11.6 and 11.7 with the 347, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to be right down at 11-flat or maybe 10?’” Ross says. “I wasn’t prepared to go 400-plus cubes money-wise, so with Ricc sussing out what was possible, I dropped a level and thought, ‘Okay, I’ll go the Dart block, do a bit more to the heads and see if I can nudge 11 seconds.’”

True to the plan, a Dart block now underpins a 368ci Windsor, with its strong bottom end filled with with Scat crank and conrods and SRP forged pistons, while up top are Edelbrock ported heads and a port-matched manifold. The lumpy Comp cam brings a mean burble as the Quick Fuel 650 delivers the juice, with the dyno sheet now reading 511hp. An upgraded C9 three-speed auto and nine-inch rear do the rest. “The 347 was good, but now it’s instant!” Ross enthuses. “You put your foot in it and you’re frying the tyres!”

An electric power steering set-up makes it easier to rumble around town, which the new engine package manages with ease. “I don’t believe you have to be a purist to enjoy a car,” Ross asserts. “I mean if you want it to go, it’s got to go. If you want it to steer, it’s got to steer properly, and you want a few creature comforts, I think, to make it more enjoyable.”

Part of that was ensuring the Mustang could sit in traffic without running hot, Ross not needing to keep an eye on the temp gauge in the Dakota Digital instrument pack he’s added. There’s also a new TCE shifter, but Ross has kept the wood-rimmed steering wheel that was on the car when he bought it, while the cream-coloured standard seats, hoodlining and carpet remain, too. Was Ross tempted to go black inside as well as out? “Even for me, that would be too much,” he admits.

Ross wasn’t sure if the Street Pro wheels that worked so well with the orange would match the new paint, though, but they set the tone perfectly for the smooth blend of black and chrome throughout. Side on, the chrome window surrounds have been maintained, but the rest of the details have been removed or painted black. At the rear, the chrome badging and brightwork surrounds of those classic triple tail-lights gleam against the dark paintwork.

The exhaust tips, bumpers and mirrors are chrome, too, yet up front there’s a blacked-out grille and ‘Eleanor’ bonnet hiding the engine bay – which is also blacked out apart from the two chrome braces. “I’ll probably black those, too,” laughs Ross.

While he tends to change cars every few years, the fastback isn’t going anywhere apart from the quarter-mile to chase that timeslip. “Depending on what I get down the quarter, there might be a little nitrous happening down the track,” he says. “I would love to have a timeslip showing 10s – I’ll frame it!”

Regardless of the ET, the real hero for Ross is that reflective black paintwork. “It’s an absolute mirror, such a classy black. I’m rapt.” To his joy, too, no one asks what colour it is anymore – it’s definitely black.


Paint:Glasurit Straight Black 
Brand:368ci Ford Windsor
Induction: Quick Fuel 650cfm
Heads:Edelbrook E-Street, ported 
Camshaft: Comp Cams 245/245 
Conrods: Scat 
Crank: Scat 
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: Holley mechanical fuel pump
Cooling: Custom radiator, twin Spal thermo fans
Exhaust: Ceramic-coated 1¾in Pacemaker headers into twin 3.0in system, diff dumpers 
Ignition: MSD
Gearbox: C9 
Converter: TCE 4200rpm
Diff:Strange 9in, 31-spline axles, 3.5:1 gears
Front: Standard, lowered 2in
Rear: Standard, lowered 3in, CalTracs anti-roll bars
Brakes: Wilwood 330mm discs with twin-piston calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Street Pro II 15×8 (f & r) 
Rubber:Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 185/60/15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street SS 255/60/15 (r)

George Lyras at KB Prestige & Restoration; Danko Knezevic at Adicted Performance; Pat at Empire Auto Electrics for wiring the car; Ash at Sunset Shine Detailing