Don’t let that roof-mounted tent throw you off. Drew McCullough’s 1967 Mustang coupe is a full-fledged hot rod. He’s tweaked every aspect of it, including the engine, transmission, and suspension, to create an amazing performance car.
What’s even more amazing is the journey that Drew, his wife Mia, and their son Turner are taking with the Mustang, both literally and figuratively. That journey involves two “wake up call” events, a whole lot of courage, and the support of hot rodding communities all around the country.
A few years back, Drew was working for a contracting company, doing a job at a customer’s house. He noticed the Mustang sitting in the garage. It was covered in a pile of debris and had four flat tires. Despite the car’s dismal condition, Drew remembers thinking to himself, “Someday I’ll have something like that.”
Drew started his own contracting company, and in May, 2019, he got another job with that customer. He noticed the Mustang was gone and asked about it. The customer told him the car was at the shop getting the fuel tank, fuel pump, and water pump replaced, and the carb rebuilt, in preparation for being sold.
“We worked something out,” Drew told me, “so that he got some work done and I got the car.”
Drew drove the Ford about 6000 miles that first year. When COVID hit in early 2020, Drew decided to do some hot rodding. The Mustang’s body and engine were in good shape. But the C4 automatic was slipping, the four wheel drum brakes were horrible, and the interior needed work. Drew moved the Mustang into his dad’s garage and went to work.
He started with the interior. When he pulled out the old carpet he saw that the floor pans needed to be replaced in the front. Then he installed new carpet and reupholstered the front seats. To make sure Turner could ride along safely, Drew made brackets in the rear for Turner’s car seat. (The interior photo is courtesy of Tyler Sherard.)
The Mustang’s 289 was equipped with a Comp Cam, Weiand intake manifold, and a Holley 650 Street Avenger carburetor. A set of Hedman mid-length headers fed into a dual exhaust. A stock-style distributor was fitted with a PerTronix electronic ignition kit.
That C4 was trashed and a Ford T5 5-speed manual transmission was mounted on a reworked crossmember. The 8” rear end was fitted with 3.55 gears on a Dura Grip Positraction differential from Yukon Gear and Axle.
The drum brakes were replaced with discs on all four wheels. Drew’s got 17” Scott Drake Legendary LW80 wheels and BFGoodrich G-Force Sport Comp 2 tires at all four corners. The Mustang’s got 7” wheels and 235/45/17 tires up front and 8” wheels with 255/45/17 tires in the rear. All of Drew’s wheels have 4.5” backspacing.
Drew took full advantage of the COVID slow down, upgrading the Mustang in about three weeks. And he did it all himself, except for rebuilding the transmission and rear end. A friend rebuilt those components for him, but Drew took them out, and reinstalled them.
Towards the end of last summer, Drew, Mia, and Turner hopped in the Mustang for their first big road trip together, a 1,500 mile trip to Montana. That turned out to be the first wake up call. Drew regretted not fully enjoying the trip because he was worried about work.
“I felt the obligation and the need to come back to work,” he said, “so we didn’t see as much as we wanted to see. I’m really mad at myself for that. The work would still be there. It was one of those things – you felt so obligated and the stress and the pressure to get back to work.”
The family got back to Washington and Drew went back to work, and that’s when the second, much more serious, wake up call happened. Here’s what Drew wrote in an Instagram post:
“I fell off a ladder shattering my T12 vertebrae, and fracturing my right hip. I had emergency surgery the same day because my back was so unstable. They said if my bones would have moved a half an inch more in any direction I could’ve been dead or paralyzed.”
After the surgery, Drew started three months of recovery and therapy. He had to use a walker for two months, and continued to wear a brace to keep his torso straight for an additional month. Eventually he was able to work remotely as a project manager, which he is still doing.
But Drew and Mia knew they didn’t want to go back to life the way it was. As he wrote on Instagram, “Thinking about my life and how I always put work before fun and making memories, my wife and I decided to go on adventures.”
Really, really big adventures.
“My wife has been trying to convince me to do something like this for as long as we’ve been together,” Drew said. “Planting the seeds. Over the years it kind of grew on me. At that turning point, it really hit me as to how short life really is. And having a job where I could work from home and not be tied down was the other big thing. Everything just kind of fell into place.”
When their apartment lease ended, Drew and Mia sold their other vehicle, their beds, couches, TVs, Xbox. What they didn’t sell, they donated.
And then Drew, Mia, Tuner, and their dog Akeena hit the road. Their only agenda was to go wherever they wanted to go.
First they went south to Los Angeles. There they met in-person with the Mustang friends they’d met through Instagram. From L.A. they went to San Diego, then to Las Vegas to visit Drew’s sister and to stop at the Scott Drake facility to hang out with Drew’s buddy who works there.
They drove through a blizzard in Arizona. Stayed in San Antonio for a week. Corpus Christi and a night on Mustang Island. New Orleans, Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and then north to explore the Southeast.
They stayed in Georgia. North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Little Rock, and Jackson, Mississippi; which is where Drew was when we talked.
If that sounds like a lot of driving… it is. Since they left Vancouver, Washington on December 23rd, the McCulloughs have driven over 14,000 miles.
I asked Drew what it was like driving a 54 year-old car for all those miles and in some extreme weather.
“It’s been great,” he replied. “We drove it on the sand on the beaches at Mustang Island and Daytona Beach. We drove it in ice, snow, and wet. We don’t have any issues with it. I think a lot of it has to do with the upgrades I made on it. Good tires, brakes, limited slip rear, manual transmission, and all the weight in the car. It does really well.”
And the hot rodding hasn’t stopped just because they’re on the road.
The suspension got completely reworked with Aldan American components at a friend of a friend’s shop in Orlando. The Mustang now has coilovers with Shelby dropped spindles in the front, and new 5 leaf rear springs with adjustable shocks in the back. Drew loves the results. He’s now able to fine tune the suspension for the load and the ride as needed.
The ignition is about to get an upgrade as well. When we spoke, Drew was getting ready to install a Progression bluetooth distributor. (I didn’t even know such a thing existed.) The bluetooth capability will allow him to adjust the timing, and lock down the ignition, using his cell phone. Pretty cool.
One other modification, albeit not a typical hot rod modification, that gets a lot of attention is the Smittybilt Overlander Gen 2 roof-mounted tent that the McCulloughs live out of. Mounted on Yakima gutter mounted crossbars, it has a built-in floor and is slightly longer than a full size bed. Drew, Mia, and Turner fit inside pretty easily, with even a little extra room for their stuff.
And speaking of Turner, he’s loving the trip, the tent, and the Mustang. “He loves the car,” Drew said. “Every time he gets out of his car seat, he heads straight to the steering wheel and reaches for the shifter.”
I asked Drew what they’re planning next. “We’re planning on doing this as long as we can,” he said. “Our goal is to never stop traveling and see as much as we can.”
In the immediate future, the McCulloughs are heading back east to check out the Carolinas. Then north to Pennsylvania for the Carlisle Ford Nationals in June. They want to go to Canada and Alaska, and even want to ship the car to Europe and drive around there. “What cooler way to do that,” Drew said, “than driving a classic Mustang?”
Drew did point out, however, that “it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s kind of scary but the outcome has been just incredible. We’ve seen so much cool stuff.”
There are other people who live on the road full-time, but not many of them are driving a classic Mustang. “We get lots of looks,” Drew said about that. “Some good. Some very confused. But we’re loving it.”
The car community has played a huge role in the McCulloughs adventuring. And Drew says it’s one of the best things that’s happened to him. “Before I got the Mustang,” he said, “I only had SUVs or trucks because I was in construction. Finding local clubs and connecting with people over cars has been incredible. We’ve met so many people because of this car.”
I loved what Drew said about hot rodders: “Car people are really good people. And the car people who aren’t really good people – they’re not really car people.”
Their Mustang and their trip are impressive, but what’s most impressive is that Drew and Mia decided to take control of their lives at an early age. They heard the same messages we all did about career, home, money, and possessions. But they chose to live life differently and they really appreciate what they have right now.
“We’re super grateful for everything we have,” Drew told me. “We have all we need. We have each other. We have a dry place to sleep. We have food and money coming in for what we need.”
Drew and Mia chose their own way, and they hope to inspire others to do the same. Links to their online accounts are shown below.
“We’re trying to chronicle our journey,” Drew said. “One of our biggest goals is to inspire other people to see the light. Not everyone is going to have a near death experience and get that wake up call, so maybe we can inspire them to wake up on their own.”
It’s not about driving around the world in a 1967 Mustang. It’s about realizing that you’re in control of your life, and living it the way you want to. No matter what way that is.
Photos courtesy of Drew McCullough and Tyler Sherard
Click here to see more photos of AdventureStang
You can follow Drew, Mia, Turner, and Akeena at:
Tyler Sherard is on Instagram at @snappersociety