Jim Smart
August 1, 2005

Twenty years ago, the institution we hold dear was mostly centered around restoring classic Mustangs to stock, factory-original condition. Even modifying a six-cylinder or a standard V-8 hardtop was considered sacrilegious. Originality was the order of the day.

What a difference 20 years can make. Today, we're comfortable with modifying just about any kind of Mustang-even the Bosses and Shelbys-as long as the modifications are tasteful. This movement has become known as restomod. We first stuck our toes in the restomod waters in the early '90s by doing subtle modifications to commonplace six-cylinder and small V-8 hardtops. We ramped up quickly from there, fitting all kinds of classic Mustangs with fuel-injected 5.0L small-blocks, five-speeds, 16-inch wheels, throaty exhaust systems, fiberglass bolt-ons, high-rise intake manifolds, hot ignition systems, and more.

Michael Barron's '68 Mustang hardtop raises the restomod benchmark with exciting and tasteful modifications that thrust it outside the box. It sets an exciting new standard for us to reach for. Michael began his quest for excellence with a humble, well-worn, '68 289-2V hardtop.

Between the shock towers is a 428ci FE-series big-block that makes this Dark Moss Green hardtop a bonifide rocketship. Michael opted for a civilized big-block long on torque. We're talking a smooth idle, which is important to the drive and ready to deliver power as the need warrants. Don Woodard of Sunny Slope Automotive practiced his handiwork on this 428, punching the bores .030-inch oversize, with a balance and blueprint job for good measure. Scott Fast of T&S Precision Automotive keeps the 428 in proper tune.

With a big 428 underhood, it's easy to assume there's a hefty C6 slushbox or cast-iron Top Loader four-speed in the tunnel-a logical assumption for a big-block Mustang. However, Michael has raised the benchmark here as well. Behind the 428 is a Tremec TKO five-speed for good cruiseability and durability. It stands up to the twist, is lighter than a C6 or Top Loader, and offers improved fuel consumption at cruise. The overdrive feature enables Michael to have 3.50:1 gears in his Currie Traction-Lok 9-inch. Drop it down into second or third gear, and the 428 comes alive in short order.

Because Michael understands the concept of responsible power management, he has opted for 14-inch Baer Claw discs in front, with 13-inch Baers in the rear. A Total Control coilover shock system in front, coupled with five-leaf springs in back makes driving with precision second nature.

You've got to love the '67 Shelby fiberglass all over this car. It gives the front end a Jaws persona, with a mouthy grille and twin-set headlights. Shelby quarter-scoops complement the muscle Mustang demeanor. The rear decklid rounds out the package. Those 428 Cobra Jet badges tease us to what's inside. We like the glistening DuPont finish that was applied by The Mustang Shop in Tempe, Arizona. Cragar SS 17-inch wheels give Michael's hardtop a retro look without being retro in function. Kumho tires hold the road nicely.

Where this Mustang really shines is inside. Check out the LeCarra bucket seats clad in real leather. If you like the craftsmanship, call 1st Upholstery & Tops in Scottsdale, Arizona. That's a LeCarra steering wheel-decidedly different than we are used to seeing in a Mustang-wrapped in leather with billet spokes and a striking hub. Billet armrests such as we see in street rods are an exciting new twist for classic Mustangs. The custom center console wrapped in rich leather functions nicely and looks terrific. Courtesy lights in the console illuminate the floor area for front and rear occupants. Mid-dash is a CD/DVD/GPS system. The CD player gives Michael good cruising sound. For long trips, the DVD system brings video entertainment to the classic Mustang drive. The GPS (Global Positioning System) enables Michael to be found with the touch of a button. Just imagine, all these features inside a car that was originally equipped with just an AM radio.

When we asked Michael what inspired him to build this Mustang, he told us he didn't start out to build such a striking restomod; it took on a life of its own in the process. He said, "It's the driveability, dependability, and the sex appeal of the '60s styling that makes this car what it is." We can sum it up by saying it just kicks it.