The Mustang was the right car at the right time
Hello fellow enthusiasts,
I know what you’re thinking, oh great another story about a Mustang. A dime a dozen at the car show, just like a Model A or Camaro. We’ve seen them before and there’s nothing more to see and I suppose for some people that’s true, but we all have our preferences and interests. Which is why attending shows is so important, every car has a story behind it and every owner likes to share it.
Most of you grew up during the muscle car era of Detroit, so you recall seeing a Mustang on every street corner and parking lot, which is true. Over 1.9 million units were built between 1964 and 1968. With over 10 million built to date, you can’t deny the appeal of this American icon. The Mustang was the right car at the right time. Styling and performance that the baby boomers wanted. Gone are the huge land yachts, no more fins and massive chrome bumpers, the American car culture was changing. Everybody has a story about a Mustang whether they bought one new or had a family member that owned one. The automotive icon has touched the hearts and imagination of car enthusiasts nationwide since it’s inception.
In March of 1985 I purchased this 1968 Mustang with 62,711 miles from the original owner in Essex. I was a senior in high school at the time and my friends were all driving VW Rabbits, Volare’s, and Delta 88’s. I remember looking at a 1959 Oldsmobile Super 88, baby blue, with a missing head, quite the car, but my dad talked me out of it in favor of the Mustang. I think it was largely because he owned a Mustang while in the service back in ‘67. Little did I know that this decision would lead to a lifetime hobby. I have the original build sheet from the car which was taped to the wiring harness under the dash. This is the birth certificate and lists all of the options that the assembly line workers would add to the vehicle as it rolled down the line. My Mustang was born with a black vinyl top, white wall tires, hub caps, am radio, 3 speed transmission, and a 200 cubic inch six cylinder engine. The color was Sunlite Gold. Pretty sparse on the option list, especially since Ford offered over 40 options for the consumer.
For the next year and a half, I used the Mustang back and forth to work and cruising around town, plus a few trips down to Saratoga for summer concert events with friends. Every Thursday night you could find me at Thunder Road watching the Lamells’ race their two Mustangs, they were one of the few who carried the blue oval. Like any teenage car guy you need to modify and make the car your own. One of the first things I did was purchase a set of gold nugget rims. I didn’t want to keep chasing down the hub caps, every time I spun the tires, managing only wheel hop. The fat tires put an end to this antic, the increased traction was dominate over the 110 horsepower. So it was off to the salvage yard with a friend and his station wagon to locate a 302 V8. We found one out of a van and loaded it in the back of his Volare and off we went. The engine needed a rebuild so I spent the next few years putting the engine together. I ported and polished the heads, installed a performance camshaft, plasma rings, high volume oil pump, Offenhauser intake with Edelbrock 4 barrel carb. I didn’t want to deal with headers so I located a set of 289 hipo exhaust manifolds. These manifolds bolt right up and provide unrestricted flow. I soon set off for college leaving the 302 in my bedroom, serving as my bedside stand for the next few years.
Four more years would pass before the 302 found its new home. In 2000 the 302 was finally mated, to a toploader, 4 speed transmission. I removed the little engine that could, detailed the engine compartment and installed the V8. I had driven close to 50,000 miles with the six cylinder and three speed and now had mixed emotions about the swap. No longer a teenager, the rational side of me was coming out. Should I keep the car original? Well, the first turn of the key with the 302 quickly erased any of that nonsense. Just the sound of the dual exhaust made it all worth while. I enjoyed the new power and 4 speed, it was a new car for me. The feeling of wide open throttle in second gear is awesome, the little Mustang moves! The only down fall was the lack of overdrive, which many cars from the sixties needed. In 2006, I installed a Borg-Warner T-5 transmission out of a late model Mustang. The fifth gear was basically an overdrive and made driving the interstate comfortable.
Summer of 1986 I decided to replace the battery apron because of rust. I pulled off the fenders and front end sheet metal and soon realized that I was in over my head. I didn’t have a welder or the knowledge to tackle it. One of the good things about our hobby is the resources and experiences of fellow enthusiasts. A knowledgeable Mustanger provided me with the guidance and welding help that I needed. I made cardboard templates of the patch panels and had a local metal shop cut and bend them up for me. Back in 1986 there was a lack of reproduction sheet metal, not like today where everything is available. I ended up replacing the front frame rail, torque box and battery apron, this helped to restore the unibody strength. With the welding done and body panels back on, it was time for a new coat of enamel Sunlite Gold paint. The paint job came out ok for a teenager’ ability with no experience, plus it was painted in my parents garage. Enamel paint over spray everywhere!
Now fast forward to 1996, I had been driving the Mustang for another 20,000 miles, still with the 200 cubic inch. I had made many trips back and forth to college in southern New Hampshire plus Connecticut for work. The 302 still sat in the corner of my bedroom, but not for long. I located a V8 rear axle and front spindles to make a drivetrain upgrade. Ford had two different suspension set-ups for the Mustang, six cylinder cars had a four lug pattern with 9 inch drum brakes, whereas V8 setups had the traditional 5 lug pattern and 10 inch drum brakes. I was use to brake fade on hot summer days with the 9 inch brakes, an unsettling feeling in traffic and I don’t miss that at all. Another benefit to the V8 set up is the number of after market upgrades available.
By now it’s been 25 years since the garage enamel paint job. It was dull, tired and worn out. I was in a parking lot one day just getting out of the car when I heard a couple talking about my Mustang. “Yeah, nice car but it needs a shine” I stepped back and looked at the old girl and concluded the same. Now 2011, I stripped off the Sunlite Gold enamel and started an exterior restoration replacing a door and rear quarter. It was repainted with a modern urethane metallic gold, from the 2009 Ford lineup. The color is a little more brighter than the original but it still pays homage to its roots. Hopefully this paint will be as durable as the enamel.
My future plans for the Mustang include power disc brakes, I think it is a wise upgrade from the 10 inch drums. The Mustang will continue to be my daily summer driver in a world of throw away cars. I hope to accumulate many more miles and memories through out my travels. Just another Mustang, too many yes, but now you know how this little Stang is a part of my life. It’s not how much they are worth or how well they shine but the story behind the steering wheel. When you ask a long time owner about their vehicle it will always include memories.
Drive on…..David Stone