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Flat and Fast 1968 Mustang California Special
For the most part, you don’t go about building a cool Mustang street machine, restomod, or any other type of car or truck entirely by yourself. Oh sure, there are many enthusiasts who do a mighty impressive majority of the work themselves, but even they get some sort of a hand somewhere along the way.
For Larry Ashley, that helping hand came by way of the company where he works, which is TMI Products. TMI happens to be a significant presence in the realm of custom interior components for Mustangs, other Ford cars, and numerous other makes and models.
So when Larry began work on his 1968 hardtop that was originally a California Special, TMI was naturally chosen as the supplier for the interior components for his custom Mustang build.
Larry told us that, “I have owned several Mustangs in the past that included everything from a pair of 1966 coupes, a 1967, and this 1968 California Special, a 1996 Mystic Cobra, and the 2005 I also have now. But selling them once they were built and then regretting the sale after the car was gone was the usual course of events. I finally decided I need to build something really different so I would keep it. I started the search and I found this car on Sacramento Craigslist. I only had a few photos from the seller that were sent to me along with his word. And it turns out; his word wasn’t worth a whole lot. The car was bandaged up on every panel and the photos were taken at certain angles to not show all the problems the body had. As for it running, sure it would start and move but that was about it. It wasn’t really a running and driving car.”
Using a seasoned 1968 302 block, RnG Customs built Larry a 347 that uses a Scat forged-steel crank with the requisite 3.40-inch stroke. A set of forged connecting rods and forged flat-top pistons complete the assembly and the block is also home to an Isky hydraulic roller cam. Above is a pair of 1969 351W cast-iron heads with a bit of porting work and a Holley Street Dominator intake on top. Doug Thorley headers, Flowmaster mufflers and a Pertronix distributor handle ignition and exhaust duties, while an Edelbrock E-Street 2 EFI system and a K&N Xstream air cleaner handle the fuel-and-air part of the picture. Larry estimates about 425 horsepower from the combination. Larry also added a pair of Eddie Motorsports black-powder coated billet hood hinges and an Undercover Innovations appearance panel that mounts in front of the radiator between the core support and the grille. Putting the 347’s output to the pavement is a Modern Driveline Tremec 5 speed. A Currie 9-inch rearend with 28-spline axles, a Traction-Lok, and 3.73 gears completes the picture.
He continued: “It took me a few years of saving to even start on this project because of all the problems. I just told myself the deal is done and that I am I going to make a project out of it. I thought about trying to sell it and go with another car. But in the end, I decided to stick with it and so I went full bore and built what I have today. I feel I have something more special because I brought it back almost from the brink of extinction. It was a car that I am sure many would have considered not worth restoring.”
But we are glad he did. A four-year build, there are a few custom tricks incorporated into the classic hardtop body style. And with help from RnG Customs, from Hesperia, California and Johnny’s Auto Color, down the hill from Hesperia in Riverside, Larry shaved the side marker lights and added the decorative line of rivets to the front fenders, doors, and quarter panels. The front grille surround and the front and rear bumpers were powder coated black as well as the Shelby G.T. 350-style front lower valence. Also in back, Larry had RnG alter the Cal Special spoiler on the car by trimming it in the middle, while a TMI Sport XR trunk kit was also added.
As for the finish, Larry had Johnny’s Auto Color do the body and paint work using PPG Black Metallic on the sides and the thoroughly unique OD Green, which Larry described as a flat green that is basically a military color. Asked why he went with these colors, Larry commented that he “wanted to give the car a look never done before on a vintage Mustang.” Being a big fan of green, we happen to like it just fine and it also reminds us of a popular color known as Lime Gold that was available for Mustangs from 1967-1969.
As for the goods that are in place to make it all stick to the road, Larry went with quality components that are well-proven. This includes a Global West front coil-over setup that uses GW’s tubular upper and lower control arms. In back is a pair of Mustangs Plus Grab-a-Trak reverse-eye leaf springs. Viking double-adjustable shocks are also in place all around. Addco front and rear anti-sway bars are also part of the mix with a hefty 1⅛-inch bar in front and a ⅞-inch one in back. Keeping it all going in the desired direction is a Total Control Products manual rack-and-pinion steering setup with an Ididit steering column also in place.
So there you have it. Larry has built a clean classic hardtop that has a little bit of Pro Touring and some good functional Restomod usability baked in. And one of the car’s main purposes is to showcase TMI’s acumen for creating really trick automotive interiors. So on all fronts, the finished build is clearly a resounding success that has a unique look in the world of custom-built vintage Mustangs.
TMI Complete Custom Interiors
We spent a few minutes on the phone with Larry, who is the Director of Marketing for TMI Products, about his car and its gorgeous interior. The short version is that you can order an entire custom interior from TMI for your own Mustang or Ford project car.
“We’ve always known the classic Ford and Mustang market is very important to us and to enthusiasts,” Larry told us. “What you see here inside my Mustang is an ideal example of what we can do for any classic Ford project,” he further elaborated. The foundation is the Pro Series line of seats, which are universal in nature and available in 14 base colors. The contrasting suede is also available in 10 colors. There are also options for outer colors, stitching colors, grommet colors (black, stainless and brass) as well as grommet inserts. It really is the chance to design truly custom seats from a color standpoint. There are also at least a half-dozen seat designs that you choose before going on to color selection. All of this is accessed by clicking on the “Design Your Seats” button found on the TMI products website.
In addition to the seats, TMI also offers everything else you see inside Larry’s Mustang. This includes the door panels, rear-quarter interior panels, rear seat, and waterfall console. “We offer the door panels in any color you want to match whatever seat colors you order,” Larry said. You can order whole panels from TMI or send them the panels you have and they will install the material. Larry told us there are also applications for other Fords besides just Mustangs. This includes Falcon, Fairlane, Galaxie, and Mercury equivalents.
As for the final pieces of the interior puzzle that include the rear seat, steering wheel, and console, TMI has it covered there as well. If you have a rear seat in your car, TMI can recover it to the match the front seats. The steering wheel is one basic design but can be ordered in all leather with flat-black or polished spokes or leather and suede with flat-black or polished spokes. Several colors with any wheel are also available. The console in his car is also offered with fitments for all 1965-1973 Mustangs.