Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1968 Ford Mustang - Memory Maker
Racers are innately competitive, and it's the experience of competition that drives them to pursue greatness and the prizes at stake
Racers are innately competitive, and it's the experience of competition that drives them to pursue greatness and the prizes at stake. What could be better than the thrill of victory you might wonder? How about owning your ride from day one as well?
Mike Barbagallo Sr. purchased the '68 fastback you see here from a local Ford dealer way back when. That's Mike Sr. and his wife, Beverly, and a very young Mike Jr. in the black and white photo (on the next page). The GT model was originally equipped with a 390ci engine and four-speed transmission. Over the years, it served daily driver duties, receiving a new clutch and 3.90 gears along the way. It's first trips to the local dragstrip netted 14.50s with L60 tires and upgraded 3.90 gears.
"They used to have this thing called Buddy Night at Cecil County Dragway (Rising Sun, Maryland) where you could take passengers for a pass down the track," recalls Mike Barbagallo Jr. "My dad took me a couple of times; I guess that's where I got the drag racing thing from."
Eventually, Sr. threw the keys to Mike Jr. on his 16th birthday. Within a week, Mike had received his first ticket from the local law enforcement agency; a spinning tires violation that was evidently a sign of things to come for Mike and his Mustang.
Mike played around with the fastback all through high school, and whittled his hot rod's quarter-mile elapsed times down to mid-to-low 13-second passes with the help of an Offenhauser Port-O-Sonic aluminum intake, hydraulic cam change, and a set of headers. After wheeling the Pony in this condition for several years, Mike eventually decided to restore the car around 1997.
The single-stage factory paint was replaced with a modern clearcoat/basecoat finish in the factory color, and the red C-stripe was again added to the exterior.
The interior had seen better days as well. "Dad used to throw my playpen in the back and scratched the back interior panels up," notes Mike Jr. To fix that and many other issues, Mike had North Point Glass and Trim go through the interior and bring everything back to new.
As the restoration was wrapping up, Mike was getting set to enter into a new relationship with his fiancé, Tracy. The Mustang was destined to be in the wedding in some shape of form, and Mike would rely on the help of nearly a dozen fellow gearheads who worked on getting the car done up to and including the day of the wedding. Luckily, everything worked out, and the newly married couple was able to drive the GT to and from the wedding, though rain kept it from being included in the photo album.
Post restoration, the Mustang was taken to a higher level, moving ever closer to a more drag-oriented level of modification. The 390/four-speed was pulled out, set aside, and subsequently replaced with a 482ci FE backed by a C6 automatic transmission. That combination dropped e.t.'s down from 13s to a scant 11.30 seconds. Mike ran this pump-gas-friendly street combination for a couple of years before pulling that engine and dropping a 454ci powerplant between the fenders. Backed by a C4 automatic, the higher-compression FE required a bit of race fuel to be mixed with the local pump gas, but performance improved with elapsed times now passing in just 10.8 seconds.
After having his first child in 2003, Mark realized the FE was getting pretty expensive, and decided to build a Windsor for it. The new engine was a 418ci Windsor-based air pump that was good for 10.0s on the quarter-mile.
Around 2004, Mike started running in the monthly Street Car Shootout at Cecil County Dragway, and while the Mustang was certainly no slouch, there was a need to go faster. Mike became friends with another Mustang racer at the shootout that was running 9.20s and wanted to buy his engine. Long story short, Mike ended up buying the whole car, swapped the parts he didn't want from his car to the coupe, and sold it off while retaining the stout small-block, transmission, and aluminum center section.