John McComb likes to refer to himself as the “best race driver that no one’s ever heard of,” though fans of Trans Am and sports car racing would likely disagree. A quasi-team driver for Shelby American’s Trans-Am efforts in 1967, John would also race in the series as a privateer before signing with BRE in 1970 and Group 44 in 1972 (with whom he’d earn an SCCA National Championship in 1975). It’s no surprise, then, that the 1967 Mustang fastback John built and is selling at the Owls Head Transportation Museum New England Auto Auction this August is about 50-percent street car and 50-percent race car, equipped with unobtanium speed parts from the golden years of Trans-Am.
John first raced a Shelby-prepared Trans-Am Mustang notchback in June 1966, earning a seventh-place finish at Mid-America Raceway. Seeking a Shelby Trans-Am Mustang of his own, he reached out to friend and Shelby employee Chuck Cantwell, only to learn that all 16 examples had been claimed. A few months later, Ken Miles was killed in a crash at Riverside, and suddenly a Shelby Trans-Am Mustang was available, albeit under tragic circumstances. In his first outing, at Green Valley Raceway in September, John earned his initial Trans-Am win in the car, backed up by a top-five finish at Riverside a week later.
His performance helped Ford win the over two-liter manufacturer’s championship that year, and in 1967 John finished in first place in the SCCA’s Midwest Division, racing both his ’66 Shelby Mustang and a ’67. In Trans-Am, however, it proved to be a challenging season, with four DNFs and only a single top-10 finish, at Bryar Motorsport Park. The 1968 season was better, with an eighth-place finish at War Bonnet Park, a fourth at Bryar and a podium finish at Continental Divide.
John ran a reduced schedule in SCCA competition in 1969, but then signed with Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) for 1970, racing Datsuns instead of Mustangs. It was around this time that he began to envision building a street Mustang of his own, using Trans-Am spare parts to produce a car that was track-capable, yet still docile enough to drive with some regularity on the road. His driving career intervened, and nearly four decades passed before John got serious about building the hot rod Mustang of his dreams.
After sourcing the cleanest ’67 fastback body he could find, John began going through his cache of vintage speed parts, amassed over a racing career that spanned three decades. The engine selected for the build is a 351 Windsor, which John remembers as being procured for the 1970 Trans-Am season, before he signed with BRE. A rule change for the ’70 season permitted automakers to bore, stroke or de-stroke any production engine to meet the 305-cu.in. limit, but John recalls speculation that the displacement would be raised to 350-cu.in. before the rule package was finalized.
Perhaps that was why a 351 Windsor was selected, but the answer has been lost to time, and today the engine has been bored 0.030 over and stroked, fitted with Boss 302 heads, and equipped with a one-off Edelbrock aluminum manifold modified by Howmet Aluminum and topped by a Holley 750 double pumper carburetor. The transmission is a modern Tremec five-speed, the radiator is a cast-off part from a 1967 Trans-Am Mustang, which should prove more than capable of keeping things cool at more sedate velocities, and the vented hood is another recycled Trans-Am part, this time from his number 33 Shelby-built Mustang.
Underneath, John’s ’67 uses spare parts from his ’68 Trans-Am car for the front suspension, including rebuilt vintage Koni shocks. Stock Car Products supplied the 9-inch rear end with 4.30:1 gears and 31-spline axles for durability. Front brakes use circa-1968 Kelsey-Hayes four-piston calipers, grabbing what John remembers as Lincoln rotors, since these were the largest vented rotors available to Ford teams of the day. Out back, the brakes also use Kelsey-Hayes four-piston calipers, this time repurposed from the front brake setup of John’s ’67 Trans-Am car. Those Supertrapp mufflers poking out the sides? They’re vintage pieces as well, required for teams racing at Lime Rock (which maintains the same strict noise-enforcement policy today that it did five decades back).
John tells us the leather seats were liberated from the second row of a 2006 Ford Freestar minivan, and if the next owner is serious about track time, chairs with a bit more lateral support will be a required upgrade. As for the bold metallic orange color, John first spotted it on a 2006 Subaru in Breckenridge, Colorado, and when it came time to paint the Mustang, he asked the shop to match that hue.
The Mustang was completed in roughly 2014, and John admits he hasn’t driven it much since then. “It was more fun to build than it was to drive,” he told us, admitting that his downshifting skills weren’t what they used to be. In recent years a stroke has slowed him down as well, though he’s still active at the Owls Head Transportation Museum as a volunteer.
Ultimately, John’s Mustang represents the vision of an original Trans-Am racer looking to build the ultimate street car. When asked how good the Mustang was, he remarked, “If I were 40 years younger, I could win races in this car,” a glowing endorsement indeed. Prices for restomods sold at auction can be unpredictable, but Owl’s Head predicts the car will hammer in the $65,000 – $90,000 range.
The New England Auto Auction, which supports the Owls Head Transportation Museum, takes place on the museum property in Owls Head, Maine on August 15-18. For additional details, visit OwlsHead.org.