Rod Short
February 16, 2011

Unlike the baby your wife brings home from the hospital, the old Mustang that's your pride and joy never grows up and moves away from home. Sure, you can baby it all you want, but eventually risking it in daily driving on the street and only taking it to car shows can get lame. That's the dilemma that Lee Buckner of Powhatan, Virginia, faced with his '68 GT fastback. Fortunately for him, however, he's found a new outlet that's giving him lots of new kicks for his old Pony car.

"My dad always liked cars, so when I graduated from college in 1987, I went looking for a project car," Lee said when asked about the history of his car. "The seller wanted $1,600, but I showed up with $500 less and still came home with it. It was rough, but somewhat driveable. It had to sit for a while until I had the money to get the car back together."

Even so, bringing the car back to life was a bigger job than he had first anticipated. The former owner, who was an electrician by trade, had rewired the car in a somewhat different manner than the factory intended, so Lee was going to have to redo a lot of things. With money being an issue, the only way he would be able to afford the project was to do most everything himself. Undaunted, he jumped right in.

"I had more time than money back then, so nearly every spare moment was spent doing something related to the car," Lee said. "The car gave me the opportunity to learn everything from scratch. I bought a welder and learned how to weld on this car. I struggled to learn how to paint and discovered that you can't get a show-quality job with a $30 spray gun. I learned how to do interior work. It was doubly hard trying to work on something that you didn't want to mess up the first time, but I got it done. With the exception of the engine, I've turned every screw on that car and I'm proud of that."

Barry McKesson rebuilt the little 289 block into a serious 349ci dynamo with the help of a stroker kit. The bottom end uses a Scat forged crank with matching H-beam rods that pump the heck out of the eight lightweight Venolia pistons. Pro Comp heads with 2.05-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves work with a Doug Herbert solid lifter cam to properly fill the combustion chambers. Up top is an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold with a modified Holley 750-cfm carburetor. Behind that engine combination, the factory automatic was swapped out in favor of a four-speed Top Loader transmission with a Lakewood bellhousing that connects to an Auburn locker differential with either 3.25 or 3.55 rear gears.

Once done, Lee showed the car a lot and took it to numerous cruise-ins until other things inevitably got into the way. That meant the car sat dormant for a number of years. Eventually, the memories of how much that car meant to him began calling as he began thinking of heading in a new direction. When his wife, Robin, a muscle car enthusiast in her own right, signed them both up for a road racing event, the next chapter of Lee's affair with this Mustang began.

"I had always been a big fan of road racing," Lee said. "Growing up, one of my favorite things to watch was Trans-Am. I never really was into Formula 1 or NASCAR and the Mustang was never particularly fast on the dragstrip, so I eventually got involved in NASA (National Auto Sport Association) with its High Performance Driving Events. Today, I run in their HPDE-2 run group within the Mid-Atlantic division."

To improve the handling, Lee runs the car with Total Control upper/lower tubular control arms and strut rods with '73 model front spindles. A larger front antisway bar, high-rate front/rear springs, and adjustable KYB shocks help Lee maintain the largest possible contact patch between the BFGoodrich tires and the track. To help him get to the corners faster, Wilwood disc brakes with GT slotted rotors and lightweight calipers are used, along with Hawk TC-60 friction pads. Former NASCAR Sportsman driver Bret Hamilton put together a rollbar that provides greater chassis rigidity along while providing improved driver safety as well.

"Some people say that I should take it back home and put it in the garage because it's too nice to have at the track," Lee said, "but I want to drive it. It's street legal, but not necessarily traffic-friendly, in that it doesn't like idling low or sitting at stoplights. My thinking now is that I'll continue up through the NASA ranks until I get my competition license and then I'll go vintage racing."

Sounds to us like this old Pony has a lot of fun still before it!

The Details
Lee Buckner's '68 Mustang GT Fastback

Engine
289-based 349ci stroker, built by Barry McKesson
4.040-inch bore
3.40-inch stroke
Venolia pistons
Scat forged crankshaft
Scat forged H-beam connecting rods
ProComp cylinder heads, 2.05/1.60 valves
Doug Herbert solid flat tappet camshaft
Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold
Holley 750-cfm carburetor

Exhaust
Hedman long-tube headers
3-inch exhaust pipe
Flowmaster mufflers

Transmission
Top Loader four-speed transmission
Lakewood bellhousing
Ram Automotive clutch and flywheel

Rearend
Original 9-inch housing, nodular iron center
Ford 31-spline A/FX axles
Auburn differential
3.25 or 3.55 gears (depending on the track)

Suspension
Front: Total Control Products tubular upper and lower control arms and strut rods, '73 spindles, larger antisway bar, Mustangs Plus 750 coil springs, KYB adjustable shocks
Rear: Mustangs Plus 5 1/2 leaf springs, KYB adjustable shocks

Brakes
Front: Wilwood slotted 12-inch discs, four-piston calipers, Hawk TC-60 pads
Rear: Wilwood slotted 12-inch discs, four-piston calipers, Hawk TC-60 pads

Wheels
Front: Vintage Wheel Works V45, 16x8
Rear: Vintage Wheel Works V45, 16x8

Tires
Front: BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDWS P245/50R16
Rear: BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDWS P245/50R16

Interior
Original Mustang GT, racing seats, five-point belts, custom rollbar built by Bret Hamilton

Exterior
Factory black, Gold Le Mans-style stripes, custom lower front valance