Tom Wilson
November 2, 2012

"The decklid was tack-welded to the car and I figured out what pieces I had to add to it to fit the hole, pretty much. With the decklid tacked on, we mocked in spray foam and Bondo to the rear-quarter extensions. We did just one that way, then Doug shaved that to show how it should look. Then I built it out of scratch from sheetmetal." In case you've never tried to coax an exact shape out of sheet steel, we'll pause here to reflect on the skill and effort required to cut, bend, weld, grind, and surface-finish a shape as complex as a fender cap. "I had to modify the lower part of the quarters to fit the '68 valance. The exhaust holes were enlarged--they're all new from the middle to the exhaust, it's all scratch built." As if that wasn't enough, the spare tirewell hung too low--the sheetmetal wouldn't cover it--so John raised the trunk floor 6 inches. Talk about back halving a car…

At this point, there was no hood, no way to open the trunk lid, nor any taillights, or much where the front grille should be. In front, John trimmed a '69 plastic grille to suit, discovering to his delight that the '69 foglight openings and the '11 foglights mated perfectly. It was about the only easy break in the entire transformation. The front lower valance is a '69 part as well, again trimmed and re-purposed to fit the '68 fenders, which were cut off low in front of the front tires. Curiously, a '68 front bumper fit better than a '69--a fact easy to confirm because Doug has so many old parts laying around.

"So on May 25, I trailered it back to Colorado to my own shop out in the country on some guy's farm." Job one was getting the trunk lid to operate with '11 hinges and a '68 latch while laying at an odd angle. The inner structure ended up being mainly "from scratch" as John is want to say, but in the end the '11 electric latch release was incorporated and the hinges swung at an odd angle so the lid would clear the taller rear window. By some lucky stroke, the '11 trunk gasket fit the new opening, too. By any estimation, the rear decklid was a pain. Because the lid was tack-welded shut, John had to crawl inside to see the latch and hinges, and there was plenty of tack-welding done inside the closed trunk as he moved the hinges. The issue was the lid would open but hit the rear window. "It was frustrating. I wanted to throw the decklid across the shop, but then I realized I'd be the one who'd have to fix it." "By end of September, I had the car in final gray primer. At the last minute I made the rocker panels from scratch. I didn't want to put the 2011 plastic rocker moldings back on."

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"The corn harvest was about to start, so I took the car back to Lincoln. I talked to Dan Holmes, a painter with Doug, and had the painting lined up in time to leave for Las Vegas. Doug was worried about the taillights, so the last four days at my shop I didn't go home or shower. I stopped shaving. Those four days, I put probably 80 hours of work in on the taillights."

Doug and Dan did most of the final sanding and prepping. Originally some sort of gloss red, like a new Ford candy red, was the plan. But when the final primer-sealer went on, Doug and John decided it looked interesting as-is. "It's not a normal car, so why have normal paint?" was the thought. Plenty of time was spent on the black accent paint, plus the bumpers were experimentally treated to a phony chrome look, then black paint, and ultimately "body color" primer-sealer. There was no plan to follow a historic Ford color pattern, John and Doug were simply trying for what looked best. By early October the bolt-on engine parts arrived--John fell asleep on the creeper while installing the headers--and the Basssani exhaust was hand-crafted to fit the altered rear trunk pan. This was another period where John was weekly driving the 1,000-mile round trip between Colorado and Nebraska to take care of both the farm and the Mustang.

With time running out and John busy on the farm, Doug handled the interior. He fit the brushed-aluminum panels where the rear-quarter interior panels had to be modified for the revised quarter-window placement, plus the overhead "console," and the red accents on the steering wheel and shifter. Help from Doug's brother, Kevin Kielian at Auto Kraft Upholstery, was necessary to trim the interior panels. Other help came from John's brother, Will Heermann. An electrical engineer, Will scienced out mating the halogen headlights with the existing HID wiring harness, plus he made a 110-volt harness so the lights would work in the SEMA show booth. As you can see, this was no bolt-on project.