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The Mathers/Cooper/Hoffman Car

The following information and pictures were provided by Dale Mathers

This Mustang is a very early 1965 A-code Fastback with the original 289 engine, auto trans and p/steering.  It was a one owner Mustang sold brand new in Modesto California and I purchased it through a friend  in September 1996 who lives in Modesto and paid US$5,000 for it.  I fitted the car while in the US with some brand new styled steel wheels and purchased a complete trim kit and shipped it back to NZ.  Once back in my Coastline Automotive workshop I did the necessary repairs to make the car driveable, and got it registered  warranted. 

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I drove the car for approximately 2 months and advertised it in Auto Trader at the end of 1995 for $16,000.  As there were no takers, I decided to make it into a classic racecar.  This Mustang would be the first classic racecar I would build from the ground up, so, hence it was a learning curve.  I still wanted the car to be road legal, so over the next 10 months, the I undertook the following work: install a new MANZ spec roll cage, fit convertible torque boxes, Wilwood front brakes,  Falcon rear disc brakes, a 9 inch diff, Shelby R-model dash, Shelby hood scoop, R-model front valance and R-model Perspex rear window, a 4-speed top loader and Hurst shifter, a pair of race seats and full harness seat belts, aluminum drop tank with a fuel cell, and 16x8 torque thrust D wheels.  I was helped at the time by Richard Summerall who was working for me full time. 

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Once the construction work was completed, Richard and myself prepared the body work and painted it. The engine was left dead standard except for a 4 barrell Holley and headers, but other than this was in unknown condition.  Once the car was painted we set about fully assembling it with all the new parts.  It had a complete brand new interior along with all new weather stripping and all the bolts, etc were anodised. 

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By August 1997 I had the car completely finished and all its certification had been upgraded to suit the modifications I had done.  The car looked stunning on the road and even had the side exit exhaust system as was fitted to the original Shelby R models, and the personalised number plate SHELBE.  

The first event I used the car for was a local Tauranga Ford Musclecar Club run and Barbecue held at the Te Puna Tavern.  This was its first public outing.  Taupo's Rick Cooper was there and indicated to me that he would like to purchase the car. As it was brand new and I had only just finished it, I wasn't too keen to sell, but, I gave him an indication of what I thought I would take for it.  He then left for the US hoping to maybe purchase something similar.  

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At the end of August 1997 I took the Mustang to Taupo for the Annual Corvette Car Club Track Day.  This was the first time the car had been used on the racetrack and after approximately 20 laps the engine expired. Back in my workshop I set about repairing it.  By this time Cooper was back from the US and came into my workshop to see the engine removed.  He gave me a cheque for $45,000 for the Mustang with NO engine, - a record price at this time! - and towed it back to his house  where it sat for several months.  

A one-off engine by Dave Mills at Road & Track Performance, Pukekohe, was then built for the car.  It was a 377 cubic inch 351 Windsor with an SVO block and Brodix alloy cylinder heads making about 500 hp.  The car was then towed back to my workshop where we had to modify the shock towers to fit this engine in.  A custom-made set of headers was fabricated by Geoff Nicholson and the front suspension and various other items had to be upgraded for the bigger engine.  Rick's first meeting in this car was the Easter weekend National race meeting at Taupo in April 1998 where his first time out in the Super GT class he qualified the car 4th on the grid and was a top 10 finisher in every race.

He decided  after this event that he would enter the Targa Rally which was to be held in October 1998.  This rally was still new to New Zealand and this was only the 4th year it had been run.  The car was then modified in my workshop to make it suitable for this 2,500km 5-day endurance event. It received a full 6 page write-up and centre page fold-out in the November 1998 Classic Car magazine.  Due to Cooper's sideways power-on driving style, not many people believed he would finish.  However the car not only finished but won its Historic's Class outright, finished ahead of the first placed winner in the Classic's class and finished 8th overall out of a field of 89 cars.  All 7 cars that finished ahead of him were 1990 and newer. With its classic look and brutish sounding engine, it was a crowd pleaser wherever it went. 

After the 98 Targa Rally the car came back to my workshop to have power steering fitted and to repair the over-ride traction bars that had been ripped out of the floor, due to the torque of the engine.  It was then sent to Road & Track Performance, Pukekohe to have a more suitable clutch fitted.  Unfortunately this was still not satisfactory and at a local Taupo Car Club event in May 1998 the car had problems with the clutch. A temporary repair was done on the clutch and the car was left sitting in the back shed of his Cooper's Tauranga kiwifruit orchard. 

By this time, Philip Hoffman who had already purchased my blue racecar (Ref # 13 on this site), had read the article in the Classic Car Magazine about this racecar.  He rang me up and quizzed me about the difference between the two cars, and I told him that this one had a very expensive $35,000 engine in it. I also said Cooper may be interested in selling it.  

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In March 1999 Hoffman purchased the car off Cooper for $50,000.  Hoffman then set about doing some repairs and upgrades including a Tilton triple plate clutch and 6-pot front brake calipers along with some appearance detailing. He raced the car at various Manfeild and Taupo Classic / National Race meetings.  In February 2001 he towed the car to the PDL Classic at Ruapuna in Christchurch but after only 6 laps in practice the engine ran a bearing.  Once back in Pahiatua he removed the engine and had Dave Mills re-build it.  Once the engine was back in the car, he raced it at a Manfeild Club Day where it blew the front driveshaft universal at high speed and almost smashed the gearbox off the back of the engine. This was then repaired but now having his blue racecar back fitted with its bigger race engine, he did not use this white again for the rest of the year.  

Around April 2002 the car was sold to Darryl Narain of Wellington.  Daryl - an accomplished racer in a Sierra Cosworth - decided to do the 2002 Targa Rally.  The car then went to "The Toy Shop" in Wellington where under the guidance of Peter Box was prepared for the Targa Rally.  This was a very successful event for Darryl and another great finish for this Mustang,  coming 2nd in the Historic's Class, 1st in this Historic's group and winning the prize for the first Ford home. Not bad for an event where 40% of the field doesn't finish!  

The car is still owned by Darryl Narain, and as of Dec 2002 has not been used since the Targa 2002 Rally.