by Ron Bramlett
While at an Arizona SAAC
(Shelby American Automobile Club) track event at Phoenix international Raceway, Ben J.
Smith, the original designer and chief engineer of the 1957-1959 Ford Retractables, Jim
Smart (the editor of Mustangs and Fords magazine), and I were standing in the pits
checking out a couple of Corvette roadsters. Both Corvettes had full roll cages in them
and they gave me an idea. How about building a Mustang roadster by cutting the top off a
1965 coupe and using the Mustang Retractable under body strengthening kit? The area behind
the seats would have to have a cover made for it because there wasn't anything like it
available, but that would be no problem. Both Ben and Jim liked the idea and offered to
help me with the project. Ben said he would be glad to help design the cover and Jim said
that it would definitely be a feature car for the magazine.
A couple of months later, after finishing the Mustang
Retractable project, I decided to go ahead with the roadster
project. When I started telling my friends and business
acquaintances what was happening, they all thought it was
a fantastic idea. It would, hopefully, open up a new market for people to build a
Mustang that hadn't considered building one before.
I get asked a lot about how we came up with the Ronster
Name. As the project progressed, it was always referred to as Ron's Roadster. One day, as
several of us were talking, the question of a personalized license plate came up and
someone stated that Ron's Roadster wouldn't fit on the plate. The next thing you know,
Ron's Roadster became the Ronster, which could fit on a license plate, the name stuck!
So work began. George and I installed the Chassis Strengthing Kit to a 1965
"C" code Mustang Coupe shell that I bought from the local scrap yard. (It was
ready to be crushed in the next couple of days!) A few days later, Ben flew in from
Phoenix and he and I designed the tonneau cover for the rear seat area. Jim helped me pick
a color by showing the narrowed down list and painted test panels to other car enthusiast
at the Petersen Publications offices. The hands down winner, he declared, was 1995 Ford
Metallic Sapphire Blue. Why? Because it changed color depending on the light that hit it!
In the bright sun, it is a dark, metallic blue. In the shade, it is a striking purple! And
everybody thought it was a cool color! (we're showing our age with that "cool"
After the tonneau cover had been built onto the car, a mold
was made so that we could produce as many tonneau covers as we wanted. Then, we broke the
original tonneau cover off the car and fitted one that had been made from the mold. We had
taken great care to leave all of the trunk area intact so that there would be a usable
trunk and no weakening in that area. Then we shipped the Ronster off to Kevin Sittner at
Precision Body and Paint in Lodi, California for the paint and body work. If you have seen
the Ronster in person, you know what a great job he did!
After the paint and body work was done, we brought the
Ronster back to Mustangs Plus and fitted and planned for all
the little things. You know. Like the 1,000 watt CD stereo
system, the 5.0 Fuel Injected Mortorsport engine, the Art Carr AOD (automatic over drive)
transmission, the Stainless Steel 4 wheel disc brake system, etc. Then it was back to
Kevin at Precision for the remainder of the building and final paint work on the Ronster.
As the project wound to
completion, we found ourselves
looking at the ever closer deadline approaching for the photo
shoot for Mustangs and Fords magazine. Kevin and Bill from
Precision Automotive were literally working night and day
finishing this work of art. In fact, we were up until 6:00 a.m.
putting on the finishing touches the night before we were to
leave for Los Angeles where the photo shoot was scheduled to take place.
The Ronster uses Mustangs Plus
5 leaf reverse eye springs and 1" lowering blocks in the rear, and Mustangs Plus 620
front coils (which lower the front about 1") with 1/4" Mustangs Plus
polyurethane insulator pads in the front. The upper control arms have also been lowered
1". The combination of the 17x8 American Racing wheels, and removal of about 150
pounds (door and quarter windows and regulators, steel deck lid, roof) from the chassis,
sets the ride height on the Ronster at 24-3/4", about 2" below factory spec of
27". The 17x8's fit like a dream with no clearance problems whatsoever.
I wanted to make the Ronster
kit not only affordable, but
something that would inspire the creativity in everyone who
ever wanted a resto-mod of their own. At this point, plans are
for the Ronster kit to include: the chassis strengthening kit; the tonneau cover; and a
laser cut plate to fill the gap created in the windshield frame when the top is cut off.
If things go as planned, this kit should retail in the $1200 to $1500 range. You can go
wild with your own ideas about fiberglass, engines, wheels, stereos, and the like. Each
Ronster will come with a numbered dash plaque, and will be registered nationally at
I look forward to seeing the wide variety of results all of you will come up
with starting with just the basics. Who knows? Maybe, one day, we'll be able to have a
Ronsters only show at the store!
Although this project has
taken longer then we expected to complete, it will be well worth the wait. We'd love for
you to stop by our show room in Stockton, CA and see the Ronster in person. In addition to
the Ronster, we generally have our '65 fastback track car, the hardtop retractable, as
well as other vintage Mustangs that we've worked on through the years.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
A lot of people and companies have helped make the Ronster a reality by helping us select
and obtain the
parts needed to complete this project. A special "Thank You" goes out to the
following people and companies.
Ben J. Smith - Designer of the Classic Strengthening Kit and
helping design the Ronster tonneau cover.
Jim Smart - Editor of Petersen Publications' Mustangs and
Fords Magazine for his help in attaining parts and information for the Ronster project.
Kevin Sittner - Owner of Precision Automotive. Kevin's skills in paint and body,
fabrication, and mechanics is most
Bill Evans - Kevin's right hand man at Precision Automotive.
His excellent fabrication skills, innovative ideas and eye for
detail made The Ronster a true work of art.
George C. Galoosis Sr. - For all his help and advise in
fabricating and building so many of the little things.
American Racing Wheels - 17" x 8" wheels, P.N. 205-7804.
America's Tire Co. - Mounting and balancing with that "special care" needed with
such nice wheels and tires.
Ford Motorsport - Specially built aluminum head, fuel injected 5.0 and electric fuel pump.
Art Carr Enterprises - AOD transmission, torque converter, and transmission cooler.
Grant Industries - Billet steering wheel.
BF Goodrich - P245 x 45 x 17" Comp T\A tires.
Rolling Sounds - Stereo fabrication and installation.
Zapco - Amps, speakers, and stereo.
Dakota Digital - 6 gauge instrument cluster.
Dr. Gas - Dr. Gas Synchronizing Cross Over Exhaust System and Spin Trap Mufflers.
K&N Engineering - Filter Charger fuel injection air cleaner kit
Rock Valley - Retro-fitting Motorsport fuel pump for fuel
injection use into stock fuel tank.
Stainless Steel Brake Corporation - Front and rear stainless
steel disc brake system.
Scatt Enterprises - procure seats and brackets.
JBA - Stainless steel shorty headers.
Pro Blast - For blasting away years of original dirt and grime
from all original parts refinished for the project.
Wellbuilt Manufacturing - Designing and building of 4 core "High Efficiency"
Finished out with gray velour Pony Interior
door panels and
handles, gray velour Scat Procar seats, a Dakota Digital
instrument cluster, custom aluminum dash panel, and a 1995 Ford Metallic Sapphire Blue
paint job, this Ronster makes for a very smooth looking RestoMod.
Notice the adjustable proportioning valve located just below the shifter bezel to allow
fine tuning of the brake system on the fly.
The basic Ronster pieces will be available as a kit. What will
yours look like?
Ben J. Smith works on the tonneau cover for
the rear seat
section of the Ronster. It was made right on the car, then a
mold was made from it.
Here is the finished product. The tonneau
conceals the rear seating area making the Ronster a true two seat roadster.
Kevin Sittner of Precision Machine and
Maintenance, in Lodi
California, preps the dash panel in preparation for the installation of the custom
aluminum dash plate and Dakota Digital instrument cluster.
With the project nearing completion, we
trailered the Ronster
to L.A. for a photo shoot for the September '97 issue of
Mustangs and Fords.
The cowl induction hood and fiberglass front apron with spoiler are a nice compliment to
the body lines created by the tonneau cover.
"Now let's see, we thought we left the
car right here. Where do you suppose it got off to?" (Either that, or they're setting
up for a very, very long distance shot!)
The 17"x 8" American Racing
Wheels, fiberglass cowl hood, tonneau cover, & side skirts make a good looking