Pro-touring muscle cars are supposed to handle better than their stock counterparts thanks to brake and suspension upgrades. But this 1965 Ford Mustang takes things to the next level, grabbing the RB26 engine from one of the most respected sports cars of all time, the R34 Nissan GT-R.
The RB26DETT was in production between 1989 and 2002. It’s a 2.6-liter turbo inline-6 that’s just as famous as the GT-R chassis it’s associated with. Of course, the block isn’t exclusive to that Nissan, and the tuning scene used it for all sorts of projects, mainly drift cars from the 240SX/S14/Silvia family.
But there is one notable movie exception, which also inspired this build. Tokyo Drift famously featured a Ford Mustang that had been swapped to an RB26. In June 2021, YouTuber Tj Hunt let the world know that he was recreating that car and had already dropped the engine into a recently purchased 1965 Mustang that looked like a Shelby GT350.
This was a big deal. Early Fast and Furious movie cars are notorious for being all-show. Most aren’t as described on-screen, as most of the budget went into cosmetics. For example, a Supra prop car that recently sold for $550,000 was an automatic with no engine upgrades.
For the most part, the Mustangs used for shooting were powered by common Ford V8 engines. So the numerous fans of the series had no idea what it’s like to install an RB into a classic muscle car. Can it even drive? Well, as it turns out Tj had a few problems along the way.
Tj Hunt is in Tokyo Drift mode
Since revealing his Nissan-swapped Ford project, Tj was also building another Tokyo Drift hero, the VeilSide Mazda RX-7. Between fitting that strange body kit and a bunch of other projects, he only now has time to update the Mustang.
A major and quite unexpected hurdle is created by the wheels. The early Mustangs don’t have a lot of room for rubber. And because the owner didn’t want to “tub” the fenders (cut into them), no available wheel was going to fit this configuration. The solution was a set of custom-made HRE alloys.
These polished little babies look like a combination between the 1980s Datsun 280Z 14-inch alloys and some good-old Weld 5-spokes for the strip. Either way, they’re a perfect match for the character of the JDM Mustang. Another custom part for this car is the Magnaflow exhaust system, which burst out through chrome cutouts in the rear bumper.
The targets for the first day of dyno testing are pretty low, and that’s because the small wheels could only fit 245 rear tires. For context, that’s like a Civic Type R tire. But the RB26 desperately wants to make a lot of power. The wastegates aren’t opening up like they’re supposed to, so the Garrett turbocharger is pushing 21 instead of 16 pounds of boost. And at that point, she’s pushing from 420 to 450 horsepower.
The problem is that the intake manifold apparently wants to send airflow to the turbo, so the wastegates aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. After more than 12 hours of dyno testing, the dyno testing team decides to switch to E85 fuel, probably to reduce the chance of knock. After figuring out the boost problem, the last pull of the night reveals 537 horsepower on race gas with 22 pounds of boost.
What happens in Tokyo Drift
The character of Sean Boswell, your average teenage high schooler (that looked middle-aged), gets in trouble after racing a rich bully with connections. He crashes, gets into trouble and goes to live with his dad in Japan to avoid jail/juvie.
While in Tokyo, he stays out of trouble. The end! Just kidding, he meets army brat Twinkie, who introduces him to the underground drifting scene. Sean hits on Neela, the girlfriend of local big-shot Takashi aka TK. Some Yakuza stuff happens, and Sean has to race Takashi in his father’s restored 1967 Mustang that’s now powered by the engine from a wrecked Silvia.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate how crazy all that sounds? I mean, there’s no Japanese car guy that’s as mean as Takashi, not even the gangsters. And why modify a 60s piece of junk when you’re in the land of 6-cylinder gods?