License to Thrill Doing things differently has been hard-coded in Jim and Mike Ring’s DNA and it is with that in mind that Ringbrothers undertook...
License to Thrill
Doing things differently has been hard-coded in Jim and Mike Ring’s DNA and it is with that in mind that Ringbrothers undertook one of its most ambitious and challenging projects ever – the all carbon fiber 1965 widebody Mustang Fastback known as Espionage. The Bond-worthy car made its worldwide debut in the BASF booth at the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, surrounded by some of the most creative and interesting cars the automotive world has to offer.
Espionage is arguably the most extensive project that Mike and Jim Ring have ever undertaken. It is ostensibly a 1965 Ford Mustang, but what makes this particular pony car special is that its entire body and a vast majority of its chassis are made from carbon fiber. The use of carbon has shaved an incredible amount of weight and added a degree of chassis stiffness that a standard Mustang could only dream of. Espionage represents the pinnacle of Ringbrothers obsession with highly technical materials, an obsession that has always separated the builder from its contemporaries.
Espionage was commissioned by a Russian businessman who had seen some of the Rings’ work on the internet. He enjoyed their style but had nothing particular in mind for a build. They suggested the idea of a carbon fiber Mustang to him, and he agreed. They began work soon after. The first step in the build was to build the entire car in steel. They did all the work on the design, etc., in steel up until it was ready for paint. From the steel body they created all the molds and tooling for the wide carbon body and then sent everything to Milwaukee, WI to Gemini Technology Systems who took care of all the carbon production for the Ringbrothers. The entire process, from idea to finished carbon body took several years and a fair amount of money.
One of the more interesting aspects of this project is the interchangeability of the carbon parts with factory steel parts. All of the door hardware from a 1965 Mustang, for example, will bolt up to one of the Ringbrothers carbon doors and function properly. There are also many benefits of using carbon fiber over steel. Mike and Jim piled all of the carbon parts from Espionage onto a scale and came up with approximately 180 lb – a massive weight savings over steel. The other benefit is less easily measured is that of torsional rigidity. The Mustang’s factory unibody has never exactly been the last word in stiffness, and while the aftermarket has stepped up with ways to dial out the floppiness, they are still essentially bandage fixes on an intrinsically flawed system.
The stripes on the exterior of Espionage were designed with the assistance of Ringbrothers-built 1965 SPLITR Mustang owner Michael Schmalz Jr., and features subtle tones of BASF Glasurit black and dark green, aptly named “Spy Green” with a relatively minimal amount of the carbon weave showing. From the front and rear, the differences between Espionage and a normal-bodied car are more apparent. The front end receives a custom air dam and splitter and the rear gets a unique tucked appearance.
With the body sorted, the next step was powering the Mustang. A Chevrolet LS7 engine was chosen for several reasons. First and foremost, the LS engine is small; unbelievably so in fact. The alternative from Ford, the venerable Coyote motor, is both more expensive and physically much larger while having a significantly smaller displacement. While we’re on cost, extracting 1,000 reliable horsepower from an LS engine is relatively simple and cheap, with the blueprint having been pretty much sorted out. Getting that much power out of a Coyote engine is certainly possible, but it’s decidedly more expensive and the Coyote is a less robust engine with its complicated DOHC layout. Lastly, finding mechanics to service an LS engine overseas is relatively easy and parts availability is good.
“Espionage’s owner doesn’t care about anything but driving. He doesn’t want to put the car in shows or anything like that. He wants to take it out and he wants to drive the hell out of it in all kinds of weather. Minimizing downtime was a serious consideration when planning the build, and that’s why we went with the LS7,” said Jim Ring.
Sitting atop the LS7 is a big black Whipple blower and the rest of the engine is spec’d and built by the crew at Wegner Motorsports. The LS7’s considerable power is sent rearward through a six-speed Tremec transmission that has been fettled by Bowler Performance Transmissions and is kept running smoothly by Royal Purple manual transmission fluid. From there it’s a custom carbon driveshaft from QA1 and a Ford nine inch rear end by Detroit Speed. Exhaust is expelled through headers with two inch primaries that were custom designed and built by Ringbrothers and into a fully custom exhaust system with Flowmaster Supper 44 Mufflers.
In order to maximize the benefits received from all that fancy carbon fiber, it was necessary to fit Espionage with a serious suspension that will make use of all the added stiffness. To that end, the Rings engaged the services of Detroit Speed Engineering. The DSE Aluma-Frame system is used on Espionage to not only make the installation of the LS7 a simple drop-in affair, but it also adds an incredible amount of adjustability to the Mustang’s front end. The QuadraLink system tames the rear end, even with 1,000hp being sent to the wheels. The QuadraLink is composed of a four link setup and uses a panhard bar to locate the rear axle laterally. Specially tuned JRi shocks live at every corner and are fully adjustable. Braking duties are handled by Baer Brakes and a set of its six-pot calipers and 14 inch rotors at all four corners. Espionage’s wheels come from HRE Wheels in Vista, California and are wrapped in Nitto Invo rubber sized at 295/35/18ZR in the front and 345/30/19ZR in the rear.
The interior of Espionage compliments the exterior with a simple cabin. Espionage’s interior is driver-focused and features seats by Recaro and a centrally mounted Racepak digital dash. The inside is kept comfortable with A/C by Vintage Air and lacks a stereo system, but who needs music when you have a high-revving 427 cubic inch pushrod V8 roaring away.
There is no doubt that Espionage represents another high water mark in the world of custom cars — Ringbrothers has a way of raising the bar with every new project. It seems increasingly likely that the average quality of Mustangs will jump way up in the coming months and years thanks to the work that Mike and Jim Ring have done with Espionage. Ringbrothers has always been on the forefront of what is possible with American cars and no matter what they do, everyone always ends up being surprised and amazed.
Photos Courtesy of RINGBROTHERS