Jim Smart
June 6, 2006
Contributers: Dennis Del Grosso Photos By: Dennis Del Grosso

Once upon a time, there was a generation of idealistic young people who believed they could change the world-and did. We're not sure who came up with the description first, but demographers, sociologists, and journalists have all affectionately called this generation of Americans "baby boomers." It started with boatloads, trainloads, and planeloads of freedom-winning Americans coming home from the Pacific and Europe 60 years ago, ready to experience passion, romance, and love for the first time in four years. They were very productive-a word boomers understand perfectly. In 1946, Americans gave birth to 3,470,000 babies. The following year, that number grew to 3,910,000. In the years to follow, there were an even greater annual number of births leading up to 1964, forming a generation that would ultimately change all the rules.

Baby boomers have been trendsetters, shakers, and movers because we think differently than the generation that raised us. We're young at heart,inspiring a youth movement that has been going strong since the Mustang was introduced in 1964. At 42 to 60 years old, we're different than our parents were at these ages. Forget the retirement plan, rocking chair, motor home, Metamucil, the Scooter Store, and shuffleboard at the old folk's home. Are you kiddin'-we aim to continue partying like its 1999 for as long as God and our hearts will let us.

Dennis Del Grosso and his wife, Shirley, are stereotypical baby boomers. But 50-something today isn't like 50 some 40 years ago. Fifty is the new 40, with plenty of fuel left in reserves for youthful pursuits. The Del Grossos are not going to be mossbacks who sit and watch the world go by in the years ahead. Instead, they're going to approach life with the top down and the throttle wide open.

Dennis lives his professional life on the edge as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It's a far cry from the transmission technician he was when he met Shirley in 1973. This means not much has ever slipped past him-including this Emerald Green Metallic '67 Mustang roadster. We call it a roadster because it wasn't a convertible to begin with. It was a bread-and-butter hardtop with a 289-4V V-8, Select-Shift automatic, 3.00 gears, and a Los Angeles address. It was a platform on which to build a dream. As romantic as this may sound, this isn't what Dennis found when he bought the car in 1996. "The car was in such bad condition that I would only drive it three miles to my house with an escort," he says. The floors were gone and the chassis was marginal at best.

Despite its California roots, the San Jose-born hardtop was worse for wear when Dennis got started on it in South Florida. It was painted Vintage Burgundy virtually everywhere, all over the chrome, aluminum trim, and more. Beneath the Burgundy topcoat were layers of other paint jobs. The original 289 was gone, replaced by a well-worn 302. Dennis feared the front suspension might go south on the drive home. Because the car was in such horrid condition, it was an excellent candidate for restomod-a cool family project for the Del Grossos.

There's a lot of talk these days about family values. Real family values involve spending time together doing things everyone enjoys. Dennis had this in mind when he decided to tackle this striking restomod.

Dennis and Shirley met through a mutual, passionate interest in automobiles a long time ago. They fell in love and bore two sons-Wayne, 22, and Ken, 20. Because the Del Grossos are a close family, involving everyone in this car project was easy. Dennis was able to get everyone on board with a vision of what he wanted the car to be. Color would be Shirley's decision. The desire for power is something Dennis shared with his sons.

They found a complete engine and driveline from a retired Florida Highway Patrol '92 Mustang LX. Because Dennis understood the fierce reliability of Ford's 5.0L High Output small-block, he knew the bottom end could take a supercharger's pounding. He looked to the professionalism of John Anton, a local high school auto shop teacher, to get the rebuild done. John tossed the stock connecting rods and replaced them with Eagle forged steel I-beam rods. He then precision balanced the bottom end and fitted it with forged pistons. John was confident in the factory nodular iron crankshaft, which is why this engine didn't become a 331 or 347.

The Del Grosso team looked to Holley for inspiration with SysteMAX II heads and induction. Paxton provided a Novi supercharger. Ford Racing Performance parts set them up with much of the rest, including 30-lb/hr injectors, a 70mm throttle body, engine electronics, and the rest. The result has been a power package the Del Grossos can live with and enjoy. Behind the supercharged 5.0 is a Tremec World-Class T5 and a 3.55 8.8-inch Traction-Lok from that same highway-patrol car. These elements give Dennis the same kind of cohesion the State of Florida enjoyed for many years because this stuff just doesn't wear out.

Rod & Custom Motorsports set Dennis up with a complete Mustang II front suspension and steering system that would enable him to turn on a dime. Rack-and-pinion steering is an integral benefit of Rod & Custom's front end package. Eleven-inch disc brakes at all four corners fit nicely inside American Racing 15x7-inch Torq-Thrust wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich Radial T/As.

Dennis looked to Driver's Seat Investments for a convertible conversion package that enabled him to turn the forgotten hardtop into a convertible born for the Florida sun. It wouldn't be easy, and it involved not only removing the roof section, but also reinforcing the underbody. Dennis and his family tackled all of it themselves without benefit of a body shop.

Inside the '67, the Del Grossos applied their talents, doing all of the upholstery work themselves. Those are '92 Mustang front bucket seats clad in custom Del Grosso upholstery, with a rear seat to match. We like the Dakota Digital instrument cluster lighted in rich blue and the Grant steering wheel splined into an Ididit steering column. This affords the Del Grossos another creature comfort in its tilt-wheel design.

You've got to hand it to this family. Their efforts began with a post-war kiss a generation ago that led to a hippy-era romance 25 years later and has evolved into the striking statement plied across these pages. The Del Grosso's Mustang project is a powerful statement rooted in the love a family has for one another, from baby boomers who indeed changed all the rules.

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