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1968 Mustang Fastback - Beating The Odds
Although This Mustang Needed A Huge Amount Of Work To Put It Right, The End Result Was Spectacular. It Truly Represents A Case Of...
Buying a car is always an interesting experience. Sometimes it goes well and you get more than you first thought. Other times, it doesn't go so well and you end up with a car that needs much work. The latter is what befell Dr. Don Campbell.
Don picked up a '68 Mustang fastback with the intention of turning it into a Shelby-style restified ride. Knowing that to complete such a project would require a considerable amount of time and effort, our man decided to trust the car's transformation to Allan Shepley at Mustang Central in Byron, Georgia. Allan has been a Mustang nut for just about forever, having started with a '71 Boss 351 back in 1977.
"I used to build cars at my dad's shop as a hobby," says Allan. "Then, after working a regular job for a number of years, I decided to venture out on my own, buying wrecked Mustangs-mainly Fox-body cars, and parting them out or fixing them up. In 1995, the friend I was sourcing a lot of the cars from decided to sell his business. His son wasn't interested and I didn't want to see the business go under. His name was John Ballew and he had about 375 Mustangs on his property, including a lot of older stuff. I bought the land, the building, the cars, and that was how Mustang Central was formed."
As the years have passed, business has remained steady and Allan has decided to focus more of his attention on classic Mustangs. "About 65 percent of our business is now building and working on restomods."
So, getting back to our cover car, Allan had agreed to take on Don's project. Armed with truck and trailer, he went over to his residence to pick it up. "When I first laid eyes on it, the car didn't look bad," recalled Allan, "but when I got it back to the shop and we started tearing it apart, that's when the Mustang started revealing its true colors."
Basically, it was a mess. "Somebody had done a real hack-job putting it together," he said. "Once the interior and everything was out of it, we noticed that it had double floorpans and trunk floors. Instead of doing floor replacement properly by cutting out the old floor completely and installing the replacements, new floors had been placed over the old. It was something else."
Making matters worse was the taillight panel. "Like the floors, this had been botched as well, with a new skin placed over the original," Allan said. "We had to cut it out anyway to replace it with a Shelby taillight panel, but still, it was quite amazing to see the extent of the so-called repairs that had been done to this car. Ultimately, we ended up replacing about 50 percent of the sheetmetal in this fastback."
As bad as the car might have been, and the fact that it turned into a full restoration and modified build, it actually wasn't the worst Allan has seen. "Over the years, we've had all kinds of cars come in here," he said. "I've seen Mustangs with cardboard and chicken wire in the rocker panels, stop signs in the floor and one with a leaking cowl panel that had three or four tubes of silicon glued in to try and stop the water."
Of course, once the car had been stripped, it was time to call Don and tell him the condition it was in. "When I called him, he took it pretty well," said Allan. "He was pretty calm. He understood the situation and he wanted to make sure that this time the car was done right."
So with Don's blessing, Allan and crew got back to work at Mustang Central. Stripped to bare metal, and with the last vestiges of the previous body work removed, the '68 was now ready for the transformation into a cool cruiser with a Shelby twist.
When it came time to paint it, the choice was made to use a color that would stand out, and what could be more fitting for a bruiser like this than red? And as we all know (especially insurance companies, it seems), red cars are faster-right? The actual hue chosen was Classic Porsche Guards Red. Sikkens base and clear was used to spray on the new color and once the Shelby hood, trunk lid, and scoops were installed on the car, along with the fiberglass snout and tail panel, the '68 was really starting to look the business.
Cool paint is one thing, but a classic Ford like this is no good if it doesn't have a decent drivetrain to back up its racy looks. A lot of folks seem to go the 302 route in these cars, but Allan decided to try something different. "We had this 351 Windsor motor from a '94 F-150, which we used as the foundation. We bored it 0.030 over, but kept the stock crank and rods." Linked to these rods was a set of TRW pistons, but with forced induction in mind, the compression was kept at a relatively low 8.5:1. A pair of Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum heads were added, along with a Comp Cams bumpstick and 1.6:1 roller rockers.
Because Don wanted a car that had plenty of go and that he could drive anywhere on a whim, tractability was of paramount importance, so Allan installed fuel injection. "It runs a Trick Flow upper and lower intake and 42 lb/hr injectors, along with a 70mm throttle body," he said. "We installed a Vortech supercharger on the car, along with BBK 15/8-inch headers and 21/2-inch exhaust with DynoMax mufflers."
Combined with a Tremec TKO-500 five-speed manual gearbox and a built 9-inch diff with Auburn soft locker, 3.70 gears, and 31-spline Strange axles, the car "hooks pretty good"-no doubt a pair of CalTracs bars on the rear springs help out. Other stuff we'll mention (before we run out of space) are the Mustang II front suspension clip (sourced from Rod & Custom Motorsports), the four-wheel disc brake conversion, and 17-inch Vintage Wheel Works 10-spoke '68-style Shelby rims shod in modern high-performance rubber.
Although the car is clearly a fully tricked-out restomod, Allan and Don wanted to make sure it captured the essence of a '68 Shelby. "On the outside, you'll notice that we've tried to keep it more or less stock looking," said Allan. "There are no fender flares or rocker panel extensions and even though the wheels are 17s, they look like they belong on the car."
The same goes for the interior. Yes, you can find a set of Auto Meter gauges mounted in the instrument cluster and a Kenwood sound system, but the overall effect of these additions is subtle. "We've tried to keep it looking like a classic Mustang," Allan said, which explains the Sebring wood-rimmed steering wheel and the classic shade of black chosen for the upholstery, along with a Shelby rollbar.
Modern safety also comes into play, so you'll find a Lokar handbrake between the seats as well as three-point belts to keep occupants in place. "This car is a blast to drive," said Allan. "It took us about 9 months to complete the project, and after that we kept it for a while and drove it to make sure everything was fine and there were no issues. We took [the '68] to shows and it was very well received. We won a number of awards with the car, so when the time came to give it back to Don, he already had a fistful of trophies and awards in the trunk."
So Don gets a hot car and a bunch of awards in one shot. Not a bad deal, considering what he and Allan started out with.
Dr. Don Campbell's '68 Mustang fastback