It’s the stuff gearhead dreams are made of.
Believe it or not, this battered 1968 Mustang was infamous in the late 1960s and early ‘70s as the ride of choice for a group of rumrunners, street racers, and general hell-raisers in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. It was the kind of car that would make the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee run crying home to its mama.
Thirty-seven years after it last turned a wheel in anger, The Demon is being brought back to life—and the rebirth is being documented in the upcoming film Demon on Wheels. You’ll get the inside scoop on the film and the car right here at OnAllCylinders.
First, some back story.
Mike’s car was a 1968 Mustang nicknamed “The Demon.” It came off the line at Ford’s Metuchen, New Jersey plant as a Highland Green GT with a 390, but it didn’t stay that way for long. You see, Mike Ondish was a Ford master mechanic with a factory connection in the form of Jim Ryan. Ryan was a training instructor and field engineer with Ford and also a dedicated drag racer. He took a liking to the young Ondish, and the pair parked the Mustang in a corner of the Ford plant and planned out some modifications.
The idea was to turn the Mustang into a (sort of) street-legal Trans Am racer. Mike and Jim gathered up a bunch of parts for the Mustang’s 390 FE engine, including a Shelby dual quad intake, warmed-over 428 Police Interceptor heads, an Isky 505 cam, and Jahn’s popup pistons that netted a ridiculous 14:1 compression ratio. Needless to say, fuel was either 260 Sunoco or alcohol.
Once the Mustang was finished, Mike and his buddies chased death on the back roads, tempting heaven and raising hell. At one point, Mike was wanted by the law in two counties for racing and rum-running through sleepy Catskill mountain hamlets. The Mustang has the bullet holes to prove it.
Perhaps sensing that his luck was about to run out, Mike put The Demon away in 1975 and settled down to a quiet life in Margaretville, New York as the owner of a repair and restoration shop specializing in early Fords.
But as any die-hard enthusiast will attest, it’s one thing to put a car away—it’s another to get that car out of your system. Buried in the back of his shop under years of dust and debris, the Mustang tugged at Mike for the next three decades. In 2010, he decided the time had come to bring The Demon back to life.
When Mike’s friends and neighbors got wind of his plan, they pledged their help. Even Mike’s former nemesis, retired State Trooper Glen George, decided to lend a hand. Good thing, too—the Mustang was a shadow of its former self. The 428 didn’t run, the body had seen better days, and the interior was a wreck. That didn’t deter Mike; he put body and soul into transforming the car into a modern-day version of its 1960s self.
That’s where documentary filmmakers Christina Eliopoulos, George Wieser, and Josh Levin come in. After hearing about Mike, his exploits, and his plans to bring the Mustang back to life, they know it’s movie gold: a story not about a car, but about one man’s determination to not just preserve a legend, but to make it even greater.
Demon on Wheels is currently in production with a scheduled release date of Spring 2013. In the meantime, we have a little video to give you a taste of what Mike, his friends, and The Demon are all about. We’ll be following up with tech stories, parts lists, and more video trailers, so check back with us for updates on Mike and The Demon.