Words & Photos: Mike Ryan
As one of the most popular cars of all time, the Ford Mustang has also been one of the most popular in terms of modification and customisation. That desire to personalise started with the original ‘pony car’ from 1964 and can still be seen in today’s version, with a healthy aftermarket industry offering all sorts of add-ons and upgrades for those that want to make their Mustang more their own.
The custom Mustang convertible seen here, created by Trevor Parkes and his team at Parkes Body Works in Victoria, has carried a few names since its transformation began. ‘Swings Both Ways’ and ‘Purple Pain’ have been mentioned in jest, but with those scissor doors making this car look like a winged predator, maybe ‘Flying Purple People Eater’ would be more appropriate!
Regardless of the label you want to attach to it, a closer look at this Mustang shows that, with skilled personnel, access to the latest equipment and a lot of determination, Mustang customisation can go a long way beyond fresh wheels and some bolt-on parts.
Parkes Body Works was established in 1963 by Trevor’s father, Tom, who had been in the auto body repair business since 1951. Trevor joined the business in 1965 and the father-son pairing expanded operations throughout the 1970s and ’80s.
Located in Oakleigh in suburban Melbourne, Parkes Body Works was a pioneer in bringing sophisticated body alignment and painting systems to the Australian smash repair industry, with this modern approach leading not only to extensive customer satisfaction, but also government and industry recognition, both locally and internationally.
The business has numerous trade accreditations, while Trevor’s expertise has seen him invited to speak at international industry conferences and contribute to trade journals on body repair.
Given that level of expertise and experience, along with that of this team, Trevor had all the equipment needed to transform this Mustang into something truly unique.
From Italian to American
While this isn’t Trevor’s first major custom job, it’s his first on a Mustang. He’s done various modification and customisation jobs for Parkes Body Works’ customers in the past, but what you see here is Trevor’s own car and serves as a showcase for the talents of Parkes Body Workown car and is a showcase for the talents of Parkes Body Works' employees.
But, given Trevor’s an Alfa Romeo aficionado from way back, it begs the question of why he chose a Mustang for this personal project.
“The Mustang is stylish, easy to work on, relatively easy to get parts for, has a sexiness to it and appeals to all generations,” Trevor explained.
“Most people would look to modifying a fastback or a notchback. But we were feeling creative and we thought, ‘Why don’t we do this with a Mustang convertible?’”
Obviously, picking a convertible as the base for this project added a level of complexity, not least of which was the impact on the soft top’s structural integrity if the modifications got too ambitious.
So, with the commitment to use a Mustang convertible, sourcing a good base vehicle became the priority. Trevor’s international network of contacts in the body repair and car finder industries led him to a unit in Canada.
A two-owner 1969 model, with a 302 V8, four-speed manual and Deluxe interior, the car met the requirements Trevor had in mind, so was bought and shipped to Australia in 1996, but serious work on the project didn’t commence until nearly two decades later.
While still recognisably a Mustang convertible, some serious modification has been done to this car, and it should be noted that all the body work was done in steel, not fibreglass.
But, before the oxy torch or reciprocating saw was fired up, this project started with the wheels, which are U.S. Mags 'Rambler' alloys in 18 x 8-inch at the front and 18 x 9.5-inch at the rear.
“The boots control the stance,” Trevor explained. “And the stance is very important when you’re trying to focus on body lines.”
So, with the wheels sorted, the metalwork mods started with the front guards, which have had the separate headlight moulds welded in to create one seamless unit, while the wheel arches were rolled and vents incorporated into the trailing edge.
New lower sill garnishes were next, taken from multiple vehicles and incorporating a line that extends into the rear quarters.
Those rear quarters are where things got interesting on this project, as all new metal was worked in to create a widebody effect. Flared out by 2 inches on each side, the wider rear quarters not only eliminated the need to tub the rear arches, but also enhanced the convertible’s stance. Lower rear quarter panel extensions were hand-made to suit, along with extensions atop the quarters to match a period Shelby Mustang boot lid spoiler.
The beaver panel and rear bumper were cut and stretched to suit, and like the front guards, these all-new metal sections at the rear were also welded together, creating a seamless flow from the widened quarters. Enhancing the look is a ‘tuck fit’ treatment of the rear bumper into that new metal.
Trevor recalls that work on this section of the car was a challenge, but nowhere near as challenging as the doors.
Bricks and Spoons
The scissor doors on this ’69 Mustang are its party piece, and like many other elements, were thought out well in advance. Turning those thoughts into reality was far from easy, though.
It’s worth noting that the doors pivot off a single hinge and can open ‘up’ in the scissor/butterfly style, as well as ‘out’ in the conventional horizontal style, hence the ‘Swings Both Ways’ nickname.
“Getting the doors balanced and getting them to fit was very difficult,” Trevor recalled. “Because the doors are so heavy, it sometimes took three men to fit them.”
Obviously, all that weight hanging off one hinge meant the door pillars needed major reinforcement, followed by testing to ensure they’d would work with the extra kit Trevor wanted to add - like central locking - without affecting body rigidity.
“You’ve got to fit the door fully loaded with everything in it,” Trevor added. “You can’t just fit a bare door shell.”
Adding the glass, central locking, inner trims and so on opened up the potential for damage during each door’s fitting, so Trevor and his team came up with a clever solution.
“We got some bricks, broke them up to get the same weight and added them into the door cavity instead, rather than fully assemble the door and have to pull it apart again.”
Getting the doors to fit correctly was a major job and Trevor laughs ruefully when recalling it.
Less challenging, but equally time consuming, were the handles for those doors.
Trevor had originally envisioned the handles being set into scalloped recesses, but these didn’t work aesthetically; “We did a few experiments and had a few failures - it just didn’t suit the line of the car.”
Seeking an alternative, the Parkes team eventually settled on spoon-type handles from Kindig It Design in the US, with whom Trevor had an existing association.
These handles are flush fit and come with a template surround to mount in the door metal, but getting all the connecting rods that open the latches to line up did take time.
A Bit of This and a Bit of That
Beyond the obvious, there are some non-factory elements on this creation that eagle-eyed Mustang aficionados may have already spotted, like the external mirrors.
“I wanted mirrors with a bullet shape that lent itself to the curve of the door and also had indicators for safety,” Trevor explained.
“I dispatched some of my guys to go around shopping centre car parks and have a look at mirrors.”
Ultimately, a set of mirrors from a VW Golf Mk5 (2004-09 era) proved to be the best fit.
Those same creative guys suggested adding vents to the bonnet, too, and these were taken from the front guards of a Kia Optima. Sitting aft of these is a Mach 1 Mustang-style faux bonnet scoop.
The tail lights with sequential indicators are 1968 Shelby Mustang-spec, as is the backing plate they’re mounted to, but this needed to be cut and spliced to match the reworking of the rear end’s metal.
The sill extensions were sourced from a Holden Astra station wagon, but cut in two, with the front halves reversed to best suit the Mustang’s lines.
Vents in the front guards were taken from an F-150 Raptor and the vents in the rear guards came from a 2010-model Mustang.
“Car customisers are great thieves – they call it market research,” Trevor laughed.
Purple – from the Top Down
You don’t see purple cars often these days, and purple Mustangs are even rarer, so it was a bold choice to go with this colour. Its inspiration came from, of all things, a Bentley.
“When I was at Pebble Beach, I saw a Bentley convertible with a purple top and fell in love with it,” Trevor said. “Purple’s a regal colour and it looks lovely.”
Conversing with the Bentley’s owner, Trevor found the hood material came from a company in South Carolina. They provide a sample swatch in this lavender shade, which was to Trevor’s liking, so it was chosen for the Mustang’s new convertible top. It was instrumental in the choice of paint, too.
“I was looking at more of a Magenta originally, but the pundits here said, ‘Not masculine enough’,” Trevor laughed, leading to the richer, almost plum-like shade shown here.
These photos are a little misleading, though, as the overcast conditions in which they were taken makes the paint look duller than it is. Under strong sunlight, the purple is much more vibrant.
DNA paints provided the tinters, which Parkes Body Works’ painters applied in a painstaking process over eight layers, including clearcoat, that was stripped back and done all over again if it wasn’t up to standard.
DNA called the shade ‘Purple Rain,’ but the time taken to ensure it was perfectly applied to this Mustang led Trevor’s painters to rename it ‘Purple Pain’!
Under and Inside
While a lot of work has been put into this Mustang’s body and paint – where Parkes Body Works has the most expertise - the drivetrain, mechanicals and interior are much closer to factory spec.
The 302 V8 this car was purchased with remains, but has been rebuilt and dressed up with various chrome parts, while silicone hoses and plug leads in purple continue the exterior colour theme.
An Aussie Desert Cooler radiator provides more effective cooling, while extractors have been fitted and matched to a set of Kindig It Design exhaust cut-outs. When activated, these bypass valves ensure a much meatier exhaust note, even from a humble 302.
The four-speed manual transmission is unchanged, but power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering was added during the car’s right-hand drive conversion.
Disc brakes were fitted to the rear wheels in place of the factory drums, while hand-made scoops were added under the front spoiler to cool the front discs. The suspension had all new bushes fitted and now sits two inches lower than standard, ensuring those larger wheels and tyres nicely fill the wheel arches.
Flawless RHD conversion aside, this Mustang’s factory Deluxe interior is largely unchanged. A multi-colour shifter knob, cassette deck stereo and some auxiliary gauges are noticeable deviations from stock, but more noticeable are the purple lower door trims, purple carpets and purple embroidered floor mats, which were sourced from the US. The purple seat belts were made locally to ADR standards.
Completed in early 2019, one of this car’s first public outings was at that year’s Mustang Nationals in Melbourne, where JUST CARS encountered it and spoke to Trevor about its creation and abundance of custom features.
It caught the attention of plenty who attended that event, as well as the eye of the Nationals’ judges, who awarded it ‘Best Presented Mustang’. It also led to more customer work for American-made cars coming in to Parkes Body Works.
Obviously, chances to display this car have been limited in the past two years under COVID-19, but more shows are planned in the future.
If you’re at a car show in Melbourne, keep an eye out for this Mustang. Granted, it’s hard to miss, but if you do get a chance to see it, give it a good look over. You’ll be both amazed and impressed by what’s gone into it.
Parkes Body Works
A VACC accredited body repairer, Parkes Body Works does all major and minor smash repair work and painting, as well as select modification and custom work on old and new cars.
With extensive, state-of-the-art facilities and a lifetime guarantee on all workmanship, Parkes Body Works is located in 71 Westminster Street, Oakleigh, Victoria.
For more details, call (03) 9563 2222 or go to: parkesbodyworks.com