Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1968 Ford Mustang - Double Life
Built for show, Dan Woods’ trailer queen is right at home as a drag queen
Influences at an early age often leave lasting impressions. As a young lad growing up in the turbulent ’60’s, Dan Woods recalls how his older brother influenced him.
“When my older brother came home from Vietnam, he bought a Highland Green ’68 Mustang fastback,” he remembers. “I loved that car so much that I was determined to have one of my own someday.”
By the mid ’90s, that determination began to manifest itself, and in 1995, Dan started looking for a project to occupy his time. Remembering his brother’s ’68, he logically narrowed his focus down to a ’67 or ’68.
“I was starting to get frustrated when I found a ’68 Mustang coupe that was sitting on a trailer for several years,” he recalls. “I really wanted a fastback, but I thought I could make something nice from this car.” Woods left a note with his contact info, but no one ever called him. Weeks passed and the frustration continued. He decided to stop and knock on the door only to be told the car wasn’t for sale. Ironically, he was at the right place, at the right time, he just didn’t know it. Several weeks later, he received a call from an individual asking if he was looking for a ’68 Mustang. As it turned out, the caller had gone to the bank the day before and happened to ask the cashier if she knew of anyone looking for a ’68 Mustang. She said, “As a matter of fact, I do,” and gave him Dan’s number. It turned out to be the guy’s mother that he had left the number with for the ’68 coupe. When he spoke to the seller, his interest was really sparked by the fact that it was a Highland Green four-speed ’68 fastback, just like his older brother’s.
Dan recalls, “When I went to see the car, it was a total pig.” Apparently one of the previous owners had attempted to fix the ravages of time. However, the sad state of the ’68 didn’t faze him. The body was rough, the 390ci lump barely ran, and the brakes were trashed, but he went ahead and purchased the car. He had it flat-bedded to his house. Along with the car, he also ended up with a truck filled with milk crates, grocery bags, and boxes with parts taken off the car.
Finding this car was really important for him. “At the time, I was going through a very nasty divorce,” he recalls. “I needed something to keep me going. This car kept my brain from turning into oatmeal.” This unfortunate set of circumstances in his personal life helped fuel the drive and desire to do most of the work himself. He parked it in a one-bay garage, which was all the space he had, and immersed himself completely in the project.
He started the restoration by striping the ’68 down to the shell. Dan quickly realized that the floors needed to be replaced. Every dent, ding, and hole had also been filled with body filler. With the body bare, the floor was the first thing he tackled. He removed the old one and borrowed a friend’s MIG welder to perform the installation of the new one, practicing on some scrap pieces before attempting the actual work. The installation proved to be a success, which furthered his enthusiasm. After the floor was in place, the rest of the underside was also completely redone. The front part of the unibody, including the spring towers, also had a lot of rust damage. He didn’t feel comfortable removing and replacing these parts, so he went to the local steel supplier and purchased a couple pieces of 3⁄16 steel. He cut out the rusted areas, made templates, cut and fabricated the pieces, and welded them in. He adds that, “the torque boxes were also rust damaged, so I made new ones using 3⁄16 steel and welded them in too.” The body also had rust in the usual places. The quarter-panels had some rust, but not severe enough that they needed to be replaced. He handformed patch panels cut from 12-gauge sheetmetal and welded them in place. He had to do the same with the doors and fenders. After the sheetmetal work was completed, he stopped working on the Mustang. The car came with a Shelby trunk lid and quarter extensions, so he explains, “I stopped construction on the car because I couldn’t decide whether to make it into a Bullet clone, or go freestyle, and use my imagination.” In the end, imagination won out.
Once all the rough work was done, the final body prep and painting tasks were handed over to Dave Runion in Graterford, Pennsylvania. He laid down the primer, followed by a basecoat/clearcoat layer of Highland Green PPG paint. Once the body was completed, Dan started the laborious task of putting everything back on the car. All those milk crates and grocery bags filled with parts, however, were of little use to him. Most of the hardware had seen better days and needed to be replaced. Dan became a familiar face at Glazier-Nolan Mustang Barn (Souderton, Pennsylvania), where he purchased all his replacements.
The 390ci powerplant that came with the car had also seen better days, so Dan found a suitable replacement in a barn a few miles from his house. For the meager sum of one hundred dollars, he purchased a 428ci block and crank that was perfect for what he had in mind. He enlisted R&W Enterprises, in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, to do all the machine work on the bottom end. They cooked, decked, and bored the block. They also turned the crank 0.010 under and checked it for straightness, and they magnafluxed it for cracks. Internally, he used Cobra Jet rods and 11.5:1 Arias pistons. The bottom end was also balanced. Once the machine work was completed, Dan performed the blueprinting and assembly.
On the top end, Edelbrock aluminum heads and water pump were installed. The heads were port-matched to a Ford 406 tri-power aluminum intake, which was crowned by a trio of Holley two-barrel carburetors. Don Drury Automotive in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, did the bulk of the work on the top end, and was instrumental in picking the right Isky solid-lifter cam. A set of headers from Crites Restorations in Ohio allowed the spent gases to exit via 2-inch primaries with 3.5-inch collectors. Woods used 3-inch pipes and mandrel-bent 45-degree elbows mated to Flowmaster Delta Force single chamber race mufflers for the right exhaust notes.
The Top Loader four-speed was also tossed into the junk pile. In its place, a Tremec TKO five-speed assumed the shifting duties, while a custom aluminum 3.5-inch driveshaft from Hartman Driveline Co. in Reading, Pennsylvania, transferred the power to the Ford 9-inch rear. Dan and good friend, Dave Holzer, of H&H Racing rebuilt the rear using a Richmond Gear 4.11:1 ring-and-pinion set with a traction lock, and Moser Engineering axles. The last custom touch came with the addition of the 5-inch front, and 8.5-inch rear Weld Wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich Drag Radials.
With safety in mind, he also installed an eight-point rollbar purchased from S&W Race cars in Spring City, Pennsylvania, while Mikes Upholstery (Limerick, Pennsylvania) sewed the cloth onto the JAZ racing seats. Dan also replaced the tired carpet and refurbished every part in the interior. He also figured that if he started showing the car, judges would want to see inside the trunk, so he covered the trunk floor and sides.
“I made covers that fit over the tail panel, and covered them with the same cloth used in the cabin. I made a mirror-finish stainless plate that separates the trunk from the cabin, and then made a red vinyl running horse for the center of it,” he explains. “I guess you could say, I did it my way,” Dan proudly notes. “I did most of the work myself. Everything on this car was stripped, primed, and repainted with very little farmed out, except for the machine work to the engine, and the actual paintwork.”
In May of 1998, exactly three years after he started the rebuild of the GT, he was able to drive it to his first cruise night. The car turned a lot of heads and drew quite a large crowd.
Photo GalleryView Photo Gallery
You might think at this point, mission accomplished, car is done, end of story! Well, not quite. Dan spent the next few years going to cruise nights, indoor and outdoor car shows, and any other event that was car-related. In the process, he racked up numerous Best of Show, and Best Mustang trophies. However, he candidly admits, “I won over 50 awards; after 12 years of car shows and cruise nights, I grew tired of the same thing over and over again and got bored with the whole street scene.”
That all changed when he was at a car show at Maple Grove Raceway with his new bride, Amanda. That night, the 422 All Stars Nostalgia Super Stocks had a race there. In attendance were Dink Bishop and Fred Henderson, two individuals that Dan had met many years prior. They filled him in on the race series while he soaked up the excitement. He recalls telling his wife, “The car shows and cruise nights we go to are a bunch of crap. This is a real cruise night right here!”
With full encouragement from his wife, Dan decided to go racing with the GT. This was an easier task for him because much of the work was already done. The 428ci engine was solid, so only a few changes were made. Hudson Performance (Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania) was instrumental in helping him replace the 406 Tri-power setup with an Edelbrock Victor 427 intake and a reworked 750 cfm Holley carburetor. The Tremec was also swapped. In its place, a worked C-4 automatic transmission built by Ron Edwards of Performance Transmissions (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) now shifted the ’68. Weld Draglite wheels and Hoosier ET street DOT slicks at the back, along with Weld ProStars, also with Hoosier ET street DOT slicks at the front gave the car a nostalgic look.
Looking back, he recalls, “I registered for Pinks All Out in May 2010 at Maple Grove Raceway. Because of the lack of time after making all these changes, the car was never tested, so I was going into this race cold. The last time I raced was in September 1975.” The first run was an 11.72 and the second an 11.69. Saturday was the big day, and he ran an 11.63, which was followed by an 11.61. Somewhat disappointed, he adds, “The last run was on Pinks creator, Rich Christensen’s arm drop. We have the video of this run. As soon as his shoulders moved, the front of the Mustang was in the air. He thought I jumped, but he was told I didn’t. We didn’t make the all-out 16, but we were close to it though.” Dan completed the 2010 season in 16th place running with the 422 All Stars.
He made numerous changes during the off-season, which included an engine overhaul, refinements to the suspension, the addition of Hoosier drag tires at all four corners, and improvements to the 9-inch rear. Graphics were also a requirement when racing with the 422 All Stars, so Dan had Brian Hirthler at 4Star Lettering in Green Lane, Pennsylvania, do the artwork. While all of this was taking place, Dan was also in the process of recovering from prostate cancer surgery. 2011 saw a repeat of the previous year. He finished 16th in points. In 2012, however, additional changes were made to improve consistency and he ended up seventh in points with a 10.95 pass as a personal best.
With the entire show scene behind him, racing has become his focus. Dan’s wife, Amanda, likes to say that, “His trailer queen has now become a drag queen.”
Dan and Amanda Woods’ ’68 Mustang GT
Ford production 428ci big-block (462ci total)
Mahle connecting rods
Scat forged-steel crankshaft
Mahle forged pistons
Erson camshaft, 0.595-inch lift, 0.295 duration at 0.050
Edelbrock aluminum heads, port matched, Ferrea 2.150-inch intake/1.660-inch exhaust valves, PBM Performance products springs
Dove roller rocker arms and shafts
Edelbrock Victor 427 aluminum intake
Holley 750-cfm Double Pumper HP four-barrel (modified)
MSD Pro-Billet distributor
11.5:1 compression ratio
Ford C4 three-speed automatic, Built by Ron Edwards, Lancaster, PA
Winters Sidewinder shifter
5,200-rpm stall converter
Ford 9-inch, built by Dave Holzer of H&H Racing, Boyertown, PA
Richmond 4:11 gears
Hooker Super Competition headers, (modified)
Front: Calvert Racing 90/10 shocks and strut rod bearings, Moog coils
Rear: Calvert Racing adjustable shocks, Ed Quay Race Cars ladder bar
Front: Stock Ford disc brakes
Rear: Stock Ford drum
Front: Weld Pro Star, 15X4, 2.5-inch offset
Rear: Weld Draglite, 15X8, 4-inch offset
Front: Hoosier Drag, 26x4.5-15
Rear: Hoosier Drag, 28x10-15
Stock Ford interior, Jaz front racing seats, Auto Meter gauges, RCI five-way racing harness, eight-point rollbar
PPG basecoat/clearcoat Highland Green, applied by Dave Runion, Street Visions (Graterford, PA); hoodpins; tri-bar headlamps; Boss 429 hoodscoop