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This 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback Will Never Be “Done”
Relentless Refinement: One Man’s Quest to Create the Perfect Mustang
Most folks realize that their cars, while complete, will always be works in progress. Whether it’s a restored original made even more original over the years or a cool custom benefitting from a regular series of upgrades, most enthusiast cars are an exercise in relentless refinement until the day they are sold. Richard Bakan knows all about the process, working to upgrade his 1968 Mustang fastback, beginning the day he found it, back in 1994. He purchased the car from a local body shop that had taken it as payment from a customer. Significant items like the heads, intake, and carb were either in the back, the trunk, or missing, and no one would describe the car as being in good shape. But Richard had a plan. He is a cabinetmaker and owns his own business in Sarasota, Florida, and he felt he had the talent and persistence to bring what was once a beautiful car back to its former glory. The car was delivered to his brother-in-law, Bill Lucas’s home and for the next six months, the pair worked together, stripping it to bare metal, repairing rusted areas, then priming it and painting it, all in Bill’s garage. The rejuvenated ride became Richard’s daily driver, quite often arriving at his cabinet shop with kitchen plans and patterns hanging out of the trunk. It always made a good impression on customers since everyone has a story to tell about their favorite Mustang.
In the second year, Richard found a used power steering system and Granada disc brake conversion. With a little work, the Pony now turned sharper and stopped quicker. A little more time elapsed and when additional rust developed around the year 2000, Richard replaced the floor pans and the cowl vent pans. It was also time for a set of ’70 Mustang front seats and a ’68 Mustang rear seat, re upholstered in black vinyl and red inserts by Kelly’s Upholstery in Sarasota. The bright shade of Milano Red also appeared around this time, sprayed by the experts at Eldridge Body Shop in Sarasota. The pretty new car transitioned into a weekend cruiser and an occasional show car rolling on its 17x8 Foose Legend wheels. But the transformation continues. A short two years later saw a new Dakota Digital instrument package and in 2005, the next major change occurred.
Richard bought a salvaged 1994 Mustang GT and used many of the donor car’s parts to upgrade his ’68, beginning with the rebuilt T5 transmission and 8.8 Traction-Lok rear with 3.73 gears and disc brakes. He eliminated the original coils and converted the 8.8 to leaf springs. The upgrades were a marvelous improvement, lasting a full five years before Richard felt the urge to tear into the Mustang again. In 2010, in what was becoming routine, (and with the help of good friend Pat Keene) another clean sweep occurred, with a long list of upgrades beginning with a Heidts front end kit with coilovers, tubular A-arms, power rack and pinion, and disc brakes. He also added their 4-link with Panhard bar, coilovers, and subframe connectors. The rear end was narrowed 2.25 inches and fitted with Moser axles. Once the autocross-level suspension was complete, it was time to revisit motive power and Richard hit one out of the park.
The engine work began by rebuilding a 1987 302 V-8, bored to 347ci. After Napa Auto did the machine work and Roehr’s Machine Shop balanced the rotating assembly, Richard took over the break room on the second floor of his business, using his forklift when it was time to move the engine either in or out. A hot rodder’s dream sheet of aftermarket parts filled the block, while a Weiand 174 mini-blower pumps the top end full of boost. The estimated 550 horsepower is multiplied by the T-5 five-speed manual, equipped with a hydraulic clutch from American Powertrain and Centerforce dual friction clutch discs. On the car’s first outing to the Saturday Test and Tune at Bradenton Motorsports Park, the available torque clearly overwhelmed the Falken street tires, spinning the wheels in first through third, and most of fourth. Although the 103 mph trap speed was quite impressive, drag radials will be a big help at the next outing.
While the list of upgrades so far might have been enough work to keep a fairly good-sized team at your local customizing shop busy, Richard was not showing any signs of slowing down. Lots of additional details were added to the beautiful black and red interior, beginning with a custom dash accented with a small chrome diamond plate pattern of his own design.
About the time you think that the car is complete and nothing else could possibly be added, Richard says future plans include electric windows, electric door locks, and a G-Force T-5 transmission. No doubt, there will even be a few more personal touches, all part of the relentless refinement process still going strong after a decade.