Note: additional photos at the bottom of the post
What is about Mustang funny cars? Not too long ago, with the help of several Vintage-Nitro readers, I explored and solved the Mystery of the Competition + Mustang, which I believe is the original flip-top Mustang funny car. Going through my photo archives, I have discovered another mysterious Mustang flopper. Hopefully a reader will step forward to provide the story behind the strange case of the North Brothers Mustang.
In the fall of 1967, I was relaxing after a day of High School when one of my friends came over with some tantalizing news: “My brother was just up at North Brothers Ford. They’re building a flip-top funny car in the service area!”
I was skeptical. North Brothers was the local Ford dealership in Garden City, Michigan. If someone asked you to name a high-performance Ford dealership in the lower Detroit area, you would probably think of Spitler-Demmer Ford or Stark Hickey Ford — both of which had their names plastered on local race cars. North Brothers sold muscle cars, of course. Heck in 1967, even the Rambler dealerships sold muscle cars. But North Brothers didn’t typically delve too deeply into racing, especially at the funny car level.
Are they really building a Funny Car at North Brothers?
Still, we had to check this story out. None of my friends could drive, but at the time, North Brothers was less than a mile away. (Since then, the dealership, which is still active, moved a mile or so west of the location they used in 1967.) Heading out the door for the hike to Ford road, I grabbed my trusty Kodak Instamatic 104, in case there was indeed a funny car at the dealership.
It was a crisp, fall day, and it only took twenty or so minutes to walk to the dealership. The service bay doors were open because of the nice weather, and sure enough, there was a primered, notch-back Mustang flopper sitting silently inside one of the bays.
The car was obviously still under construction, with a roller chassis and a bare-block between the chassis rails. Still, it was an honest to goodness, flip-top Mustang. There was no indication of the owner or builder.
It was apparently a slow day at the dealership. There were a few cars in for service, but there weren’t any mechanics working on them. The service manager was behind a counter, reading a newspaper. He just shook his head when I asked him if he knew anything about the fiberglass Mustang. I didn’t believe he was telling the truth then and I still doubt it today.
Remember, there were only a handful of flip-top funny cars in 1967, so a Mustang flopper was something quite out of the ordinary. If you spent your days scheduling oil changes and tune-ups, don’t you think the appearance of a flip-top Mustang might just pique your interest? My guess is he didn’t want a bunch of kids hanging around, so he denied any knowledge of the Mustang.
So what became of this Mustang Funny Car?
That was the end of the story. A couple of days afterward, several of us walked back to North Brothers again, hoping to see some progress on the flopper. There was no sign of the car anywhere. Almost 44 years after that sighting at North Brothers, I still don’t who was building the Mustang or what became of it.
Right about now some of you are jumping up, saying “I know. I know. It’s Paul Stefansky’s Boss Hoss Mustang!” And you would be wrong. Or at least partially wrong.
Not Stefansky’s Boss Hoss; chassis does not match
Stefansky is a good guess, because the body of the Stefansky and Hatton car and the shell of the North Brothers Mustang are virtual clones. Stefansky ran a rare notch-back Mustang, rather than the more common fast-back. Both Stefansky and partner Paul Hatton have links to Garden City, Michigan, which matches the North Brothers location. But there is a major problem. The chassis is all wrong.
These photos were taken in September or October of 1967. I also have photos of the brand new Boss Hoss at the 1968 Detroit Autorama — taken three or four months afterward. Stefansky’s Boss Hoss is riding on either a Logghe Chassis or a close facsimile of one. In contrast, the chassis on the North Brothers’ Mustang looks like a welding shop special.
A Logghe chassis was state of the art in ’67 and consisted of consistent diameter top and bottom round tubing with “ladder frame” uprights. This car appears to have large square rails on top, with lower rails of smaller diameter round tubing. The front couple of feet of the chassis morph into thinner diameter round tubing to support the suspension. This is definitely not a Logghe-style design. In addition, Stefansky’s car featured a full roll cage, while the North Brothers car appears to have a dragster-style loop behind the driver.
So while the body shell on Stefansky’s funny car and the North Brothers Mustang are carbon copies, the chassis rails are decidedly different.
Let the guessing begin
I can think of three scenarios about the car in the photos.
The first is that this car has nothing to do with Stefansky and Hatton. The body shell probably came out of the same mold, but that is the only similarity between the two cars. Perhaps the car raced locally and did not achieve much success. Maybe it was never finished. Maybe if you peek under a tarp inside a barn somewhere in South-Eastern Michigan, you’ll find a decaying fiberglass shell riding draped over some rusty chassis rails.
The second scenario is that Stefansky and Hatton built the car with this chassis, then decided to switch to a Logghe model before the car was finished. Maybe they actually ran the car and discovered the chassis did not run straight. Maybe some other racer talked them into switching to a L0gghe chassis. Maybe rule changes made this chassis, without a full roll cage, illegal. Whatever, it is possible that between the time I took these photos and the debut of the Boss Hoss at Autorama, Stefansky switched to a Logghe style chassis.
The final scenario is that someone got a good start on a homemade funny car, but couldn’t complete it. They might have lost interest, got married, got divorced, lost their job, run out of money, got drafted; there are a thousand reasons while someone would sell a race car before it is complete. Perhaps this car was put up for sale and Stefansky or Hatton decided the body shell would be perfect for the Ford funny car they were building. So they bought just the body and adapted it to a Logghe style chassis.
After 44 years, I still don’t know who built this funny car
After 44 years, I still know next to nothing about this mysterious fiberglass Mustang. Hopefully, somewhere in cyberspace a reader remembers this car and can tell us what became of it. I would love to hear from you!