RYAN MATTHEWS June 23, 2022 All Feature Vehicles
Every parent wants their children to have a better life than they had; it’s a natural, unselfish drive that spontaneously happens once you bring a child into the world. Twenty-two years ago, that’s the feeling that overcame Rob Taylor. Now, two decades and two years later, Robby Taylor of El Cajon, California, has some pretty big automotive shoes to fill.
Long before Robby was even a glint in anyone’s eye, his father was well on his way to becoming one of Southern California’s most talented and influential custom painters. The elder Taylor was deeply immersed in the SoCal street scene of the ’70s and ’80s. Rob’s signature ride was a bad-ass ’65 Mustang coupe that could go as good if not better than it showed. The basic black coupe was a regular invitee on the ISCA and CSH show circuits. Known as One Trick Pony, it was a prime example of the ideal combination of speed and beauty. Every year, Rob would strip down and repaint his car to keep the look fresh. One time it was flamed, the next scallops, the next graphics. It became the ultimate calling card for his shop, Kustom Auto Graphics.
At Carlsbad Raceway, the local track in San Diego County, One Trick Pony could lay down some pretty fast times. The built Ford small-block went through a number of intake systems, but it was the dual Holley 600s on an Offenhauser tunnel ram projecting through the hood that created the biggest buzz. This was also a formidable street combination with 4.56:1 gears inside a chrome-plated 9-inch rearend. In other words, Rob didn’t lose many street races mainly because he received few challenges.
Life has a way of balancing the scales. Over time, Kustom Auto Graphics grew to be a 12-15-hour a day, six days a week business. The comings and goings of rods, customs, lowriders and the crazy days of mini-trucking left little time to cruise, show and race. The Mustang was parked for a while. A while turned into a year, then two. In the meantime, Rob met a woman who changed his entire life. Karen and Rob were married some time later. Priorities continued to shift as the Mustang remained in limbo. Finally, faced with shop space issues, Rob decided to put the car in long-term storage.
When Robby was born a year later, followed by daughter Megan two years after that, and with business booming, Rob’s car show, drag race and cruising days were way in the past. He had no regrets; however, Karen could see that there was a little something missing. Rob was a car guy and she encouraged him to bring One Trick Pony back to life. Rob performed a full revitalization of the ’Stang with a fresh paint job, rebuilt engine and updated interior and audio system.
The car was ready for its debut. However, there was a small problem, things had changed and not for the better. Carlsbad Raceway had closed, the cruising spots were now filled by mini-trucks and import tuner car enthusiasts, and both ISCA and CSH no longer held custom car, rod and motorcycles shows on the West Coast. He, once again, had one of the “bitchinest cars in the valley,” but nowhere to take it.
After appearing on magazine covers and making it to several local shows, One Trick Pony was again relegated to the garage, spending most of its time under a cover. Rob decided it was time to let go. An acquaintance from the church his family attended had often inquired about buying the car, and now Rob was ready to take him up on his offer. The deal was done. This time regret soon followed.
When a car guy has a son, there’s hope but no guarantee that the automotive gene will be passed along. At first it was hard to tell. However, the older Robby got, the more of a car guy he became. The first signs were drawings, than came model building and eventually he was working alongside dad at the shop. At the transformative age of 13, talk turned to the all-important driver’s license just three years away.
With Robby growing into a full-blown car geek, he didn’t lean toward the import space or go through the off-road truck phase. He skipped those distractions and decided to go with old school performance, just like dad. Now Rob’s seller’s regret really set in.
At this point, One Trick Pony had been out of the Taylors’ control for several years. This, however, did not deter Rob from making numerous earnest attempts to reacquire his old steed. The motivation was clear: to create a father/son project with a VIN that was like an old friend. Each and every attempt came up empty. This left Rob with one option, to find a donor Mustang coupe and begin the process all over again. This turned out to be, surprisingly, a far more enjoyable option.
Father and son went in search of a project Mustang. Specific requirements were a priority: only a ’65 coupe would do, no fastback or convertible models. Numbers-matching did not matter. A manual transmission model was preferred, even if it started life as a base six-cylinder with a three-speed. Since there were 500,000 Mustang coupes that rolled off Ford’s assembly line in 1965, locating several to choose from was not an issue. However, no sooner did the hunt began, than the car literally came to them.
An old client of Rob’s had a ’65 coupe in his backyard and was looking to sell it. The timing couldn’t have been better. “It was basically a running car with a 302 in it, but it had been sitting for years. It had a pretty rough interior and some rust issues. In other words, it was a perfect starter car.” Rob explained.
Work started on multiple fronts. With the help of Jessie Mendez Auto Body, also in El Cajon, the body was stripped of what little trim there was and the rust was repaired. The hood was replaced with a Shelby GT-350 reproduction with functional hood scoop. The body was sanded down to bare metal and all imperfections were hammered out.
While this was happening, the interior was gutted from ratty headliner to rotted carpet. A new dash was installed with factory gauges. The stock bucket seats and rear bench were covered in black and gray leather.
Because they weren’t concerned with having a numbers-matching car, the 302 engine was pulled and sent to C.A.R. Automotive of El Cajon to be freshened up. The idea was to keep it old school; so, the block was punched .30-over and fitted with a solid steel crank, 10.1 TRW pistons and a Comp Cams solid lifter setup. The heads were ported and polished and seated with angle-cut values. An MSD ignition was added. An Edelbrock Torker manifold and Holley 750 four-barrel carburetor handle the intake with Thorley headers leading to an Ed Hansen custom exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers.
A Ford Toploader four-speed transmission was installed with a Ford Performance clutch, the same used in the Shelby GT-350, and mated to a Hurst shifter. A balanced driveshaft was installed with a driveline loop. The Ford 8.5-inch Trac Lock rearend was fitted with a 3.89 Richmond gears. Lakewood traction bars were added to keep the Mustang moving forward.
The front suspension was spiffed with Eibach springs and KYB shocks. The brakes were upgraded from the 10-drums to a Master Power disc conversion. The final touch was getting the vintage tire and wheel combination. American Racing Torque-Thrusts were the logical choice, with 15x7s on the rear and specially made 15x4s up front. Tire selection was BFGoodrich 215/60-15 rear and Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R guiding the front.
With all of the mechanicals completed, Rob and Robby prepped the body for paint. Two-stage PPG Black was carefully applied. Next, Rob did what he does best, the custom treatment. Nothing looks better on black than hot rod flames. White to yellow to red licks were laid and sprayed. The entire car was cut and buffed. The final saber brushwork was added to finish the exterior effects.
In the end, One Trick Pony created the inspiration for One Hot Pony. The latest Mustang in the Taylor corral may not have the street-racing prowess of its cohort from the past, but it’s more drivable. And drive it does. Robby is a regular at local cruise nights and show and shine events. The son now follows in his father’s footsteps.
The circle has been completed; the car guy gene successfully passed from one generation to the next. This is exactly what the automotive enthusiast scene needs in order to survive. In the decades to come, perhaps it will be Robby who has the opportunity to offer the same muscle car passion to his children. But, one word of advice: Robby, don’t sell your Mustang. Keep it, build one with you son and cruise side by side.
The father-and-son Mustang project began when Robby was just 14 years old. It was “learn by doing” as the car was gutted and bodywork was necessary. Once the rust and dust had been cleared out, Robby (with guidance from father Rob) sprayed the primer. Once the black was applied, Rob layed out the flames. Three years later, the car was ready for its high school debut.
These vintage photos show Rob’s original Mustang coupe in just a few of its variations throughout the 25-plus years he owned it. It was a street/strip/show car that inspired him and son Robby to build the current versions. The Taylor car guy legacy lives on.