Russell Clarke’s 416-cube 1967 Mustang convertible

While New Zealand boasts some mega tough machines, Russell Clark has raised the bar with his awesome 'Stang convertible

Photographers: Split Image

You never know what you’re going to see when you visit Terry Bowden’s Auckland hot rod and race car shop so a super slick and very trick 1967 Ford Mustang convertible shouldn’t be much of a surprise. However, this one demands special attention.

First published in the October 2002 issue of Street Machine

What owner Russell Clark has created in five and a half years is one of the first full-on, up-with-the-play US muscle cars that takes New Zealand to the next level of street machining.

The Auckland builder’s ’Stang reeks personality with a wow factor that sets it apart from the rest and he says it was Street Machine that gave him many of the ideas.

“I’ve bought the magazine since day one,” Russell says, “and that’s what‘s influenced me to do the Mustang like this.” The Gary Myers Mustang was a major influence, particularly as that machine went way beyond the typical restoration job most end up with, but Russell’s interest in all things V8 harks back to his childhood.

“Dad always had V8-powered cars, trucks and boats,” Russell says. “So I knew one day I’d have a V8-powered vehicle of my own.”

Initially he went the path of most, acquiring a neat original with just a couple of rust spots to tidy up and use as a nice street car. Inevitably the tidy up got out of hand.

“The car dictated my life for the last year of its rebuild, I didn’t know what to do at night when it was finished!” Russell laughs.

Russell is a member of New Zealand’s American Muscle Car Club, which is renowned for having concours-quality muscle cars as well as high-horsepower street strip machines among its membership. What Russell did was combine both with his ’Stang an example of superior fit and finish, and a mixture of modern and classic styling.

Basically the plain white convertible, bought from a guy in the pub, was stripped to the last nut and bolt and the body was metal blasted and thoroughly panelbeaten in preparation for the hot Glasurit metallic purple paint. Well, it almost went that smoothly. The first panel beater stuffed Russell around before Kevin Parker got his hands on it, and it then took around two years to choose the colour – worth the wait, we reckon.

Engineering-wise, Terry’s Chassis Shoppe handled the 120mm lowering job using Carrera coil overs in the front and Koni coil overs in the rear. Then Russell added 18-inch Boyd Coddington rims to give the ground-hugging stance extra wow. Huge 300mm Wilwood Ultralite rotors with Wilwood Superlite four-pot calipers take care of the whoaing but some of the real art is in the front end where Terry custom-built chrome-moly suspension.

The next biggest talking point of the sexy ’Stang is the 351 Windsor, stroked to 416 cubes. Internals include Eagle forged H-beam rods, with forged pistons swinging off the stroker crank and a Romac balancer. Combustion is sealed with RPM aluminium heads that work in tune with a Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam.

Oh, yeah, there’s also a nitrous system plumbed in there just in case! Terry Bowden fabricated the three-inch exhaust system from the Hooker Competition headers back utilising Derek Mitchell’s custom mufflers. The system, along with a majority of components, have been coated in a ceramic aluminium coating by Pro Coat.

Originally, the idea was to run an automatic but again Russell’s plans went awry. “I went for a ride in club mate Darren Andrews 509 big-block Camaro with a Richmond five-speed and I was hooked,” he says, and in went a brand new Tremec. This runs through a Centre Force clutch and transfers the power through to the Steelie Gears-prepared Ford nine-inch running 3.5 gears. This ratio is ideal for the five-speed overdrive making the hot small-block purr like a kitten on the freeway.

Another American Muscle Car Club mate, Steve Noyer, who owns a more original example, was most helpful in the final assembly of the car. Well, it was only fair considering Russell built his garage for him. “I reckon that I got the better part of the deal!” Russell laughs.

Once the car was wired it went to In Car Fusion to get a killer sound system installed before Greg Dietsch got out his sewing machine to stich the trick grey leather interior. In fact, four hides of Ebonite Matisse leather were needed to get the job done.

The end result is a shining example of hopefully more to come from the land of the long white cloud. In the meantime Russell says the plan is to drive those huge wheels off it and enjoy hot summers with the top down until his six-year-old son Nathan is ready to take over the Budnick steering wheel and start doing the five-speed shuffle himself.


Every build has its war stories, setbacks that make you want to throw your hands in the air and say, stuff it! Russell’s tale is no different, having survived a panel beater who, if there was any justice in the world, should have his tools applied to him. That was almost enough but it got worse. His flat was knocked over by thieves who took, among other things, all his go-fast goodies for the engine.

Not to be deterred Russell sold his Commodore and his power boat to start the engine build up again. The last laugh goes to Russell though, because he wakes up each morning with one of New Zealand’s top street machines in his garage.


Colour:Glasurit Metallic Purple
Engine:351 Windsor, stroked to 416 cubes
Induction:750 Holley double pumper
Cam:Hydraulic roller
Heads:RPM aluminium
Extra fun:Nitrous
Gearbox:Tremec five-speed
Diff:Nine-inch 3.5:1
Steering:Mitsubishi power steering
Suspension:Coil overs all round
Brakes:Wilwood 330mm rotors, four spot calipers
Trim:Ebonite Matisse leather
Rims:18-inch Boyds
Rubber:295/35 Pirelli rear, 255/40 Hankooks front