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Oct 18, 2011
Lakeland, FL

Gift Horse
For his wedding anniversary, Lew Mesta scored a modernized ’66 Mustang
By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of Rebel Kustom Paint

If you want the secret to a long-lasting marriage, you might want to consult with Pat and Lew Mesta. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year, so they know how to keep the romance alive. When we met them at Mustang Week 2015, we got an idea how they have kept that magic in the relationship. It must be true love, because Pat had this car built for her husband as an anniversary present.

At that moment, we asked if she was willing to give spousal advice. Seriously, most of us would be thrilled with a surprise party attended by all our friends. However, Pat set out to surprise Lew with the Mustang of his dreams.

“Mustang Fever hit Lew when we bought our first car as newlyweds in 1964… a 1965 Mustang coupe. Lew has had a new Mustang for most of our married life,” Pat Mesta explained. “As we approached our 50th anniversary, I wanted to surprise Lew with something special. I picked Dennis Steppe of Rebel Kustom Paint because Dennis had done an excellent job of painting her 2008 Black Mustang Yellow with ghost Real Fire.”

As you can see, the Mustang love runs in the family. Pat loves her Mustangs too, so she hatched a plan to find a solid Mustang body and start the build. However, her original plan didn’t quite work out, as Lew found out what she was up to. Naturally, he wasn’t upset to learn about the car, and it offered him the chance to help make his dream come true.

“Dennis began looking for a body for the project in the spring of 2013. Before a solid body was found, Lew discovered an email and the surprise was sprung. The timing was perfect though. Lew and Dennis got to work together from the beginning and made all the decisions on equipment and designs to create Lew’s dream car,” Pat said. “It has been a two-year adventure, which has ended in a high-performance ’66 GT350-H (Tribute) Mustang with a Coyote engine. We are not only planning to show the car, but also travel out to the West Coast in the car next year.”

“I was totally surprised,” Lew added. “I accidentaly saw an email from Dennis to Pat. After questioning Pat about it, the cat was out of the bag! Probably a good thing since Pat would not have had the information to make additional decisions for me.”

Dennis stripped the ’66 Mustang coupe body down to the sheetmetal and worked it back up into the condition you see it today. One the outside it is a coupe version of the famed Hertz Shelby, complete with gold stripes over black paint. It rolls on classic Magnum 500s, but it’s definitely not a classic underneath.

“I wanted to have a car with a classic appearance but with modern brakes, ignition, and fuel injection,” Lew said. “I had a ’65 fastback and didn't enjoy the difficulties of starting and driving the ‘classic’ original mechanics. I wanted a classic looking car with all the modern car conveniences.”

The aforementioned Ford Performance Parts’ Coyote crate engine is one of those conveniences. Initially, Lew and Dennis had considered swapping in a low-mileage mod motor. However, after considering the challenge and cost of finding a suitable donor, they opted to go with the latest in Mustang engine technology.

Dennis wired it up with the companion Control Pack wiring and PCM from FRPP. Fed by a custom fuel system anchored by an Aeromotive fuel pump and barking out through a custom exhaust built by Dennis, the combination put down put down 336 horsepower and 314 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a 4R70W auto and out to a Strange 9-inch rear.

You can watch it run on the dyno right here…


Fitting that powertrain into a vintage Mustang required some front suspension mods, but let’s face it, that kind of performance is too much for the stock suspension in a vintage Mustang. To facilitate the engine swap and sharpen the car’s handling, Dennis selected a full suspension from Total Cost Involved. In front this setup lowers the stance and sharpens the handling of Lew’s ’66. Out back the TCI system supplants the stock leaf springs with a far more capable setup that includes a torque arm, coilovers, and a rear sway bar.

Put it all together and Lew’s anniversary present is thoroughly modern vintage, and a car that not only puts a smile on his face but turns heads wherever it goes.

“This was such a fun build, I could see it in my head the whole time, but when it was finished I think I was a little shocked as to how well everything just looked. All together—after all the builds I have done—this one is very special to me because of the whole story behind it,” Dennis said. “I feel honored that they would allow me build it for them. I’m just so happy to have Lew and Pat happy with Lew’s dream car. I just hope it’s everything he every wanted and then some. I know we are proud of it at RKP.”

We liked the car so much that we selected it for the SVTPerformance.com Editor’s Choice award at Mustang Week 2015. It truly is a beautiful car, but Lew and Pat plan to do more than display it at car shows.

“My bucket list includes driving this car from North Carolina to the West Coast...” Lew added. “Perhaps on an MCA cruise. Receiving the Mustang Week award from SVTPerformance was such a great honor. The award is still sitting on our mantel! I can hardly believe that our dreams and plans were recognized in this manner!”

For more on Lew’s amazing anniversary present, you can check out his car’s build thread.


Shortly after arriving at the Mustang Week 2015 car show we were urged to come check out a ’66 Mustang with a Coyote swap. When we arrived we found the anniversary present the Pat Mesta commissioned for her husband, Lew. This ’66 Mustang is a Hertz Shelby tribute with a completely modern drivetrain and suspension.


Apparently some people weren’t quite sure what engine is powering Lew’s ’66 Mustang. Of course, it is one of Ford Performance Racing Parts’ Coyote crate engines that receives its marching orders from the companion FPRP Control Pack wiring and PCM setup. To clear up any future confusion, Dennis created a color-keyed engine cover emblazoned with “Coyote 5.0.”


Inside, this ’66 Mustang sports a completely restified interior highlighted by black upholstery from TMI Products. In the dash is a Dakota VHX setup that features both digital and analog gauges, while the tunes come from a Custom Auto Sound system.


One of those little custom touches that really make’s Lew’s GT350-H-style coupe special are the flush-mount LED side marker lights that blend right into the black paint.


Lew and his wife, Pat, are thrilled with his anniversary present and they hope to drive the ’66 Mustang from their home in North Carolina to the West Coast. “We like the way it looks. It's fun to drive!” Lew said. “And, we do plan to drive it often... It won't be a garage princess!”


You know your wife loves you when she commissions the build of a Coyote-powered ’66 Mustang as you anniversary gift. Of course, if you are celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss, the gift should be pretty special.

The Mod List
Block: Stock Coyote Aluminum
Crankshaft: Forged steel
Rods: Forged steel
Pistons: Hypereutectic aluminum
Camshafts: Stock DOHC w/ TiVCT
Cylinder Heads: Four-Valve aluminum
Intake: Stock composite
Fuel System: Aeromotive Stealth in-tank pump w/ Aeromotive regulator, braided fuel lines, stock fuel rails, and stock injectors
Exhaust: Stock exhaust manifolds modified by Rebel Kustom w/ Rebel Kustom mid-pipe, DynoMax SuperTurbo mufflers and Pypes tips
Transmission: Phoenix Trans 4R70W w/ CompuShift controller
Rearend: Strange/TCI 9-inch w/ 3.50 gears and Strange axles
Engine Management: Ford Performance Racing Parts Control Pack PCM
Ignition: Stock coil-on plug
Front Suspension
K-member: Total Cost Involved
A-arms: TCI
Shocks: TCI adjustable coilovers
Springs: TCI
Brakes: Wilwood disc
Wheels: 17-inch Magnum 500
Tires: Sumitomo HTRZ
Rear Suspension
Shocks: TCI adjustable coilovers
Springs: TCI
Brakes: Wilwood disc
Wheels: 17-inch Magnum 500
Tires: Sumitomo HTRZ

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