Jim Smart
July 1, 2000

Step By Step

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P121030_large 1965_Ford_Mustang_Convertible Front_Driver_SideP121050_large 1965_Ford_Mustang_Convertible Rear_Passenger_SideP121051_large 1965_Ford_Mustang_Convertible InteriorP121053_large 1965_Ford_Mustang_Convertible EngineP121054_large 1965_Ford_Mustang_Convertible HeadlightP121055_large 1965_Ford_Mustang_Convertible Emblem

A dry breeze rustles through the trees around Gary Bowman's Southern California home. The sun is warm on my face. Today is a day I'm happy to be alive and far from the pressures of Los Angeles. My wife, Barbara, watches patiently as I burn classic Mustang images onto Fuji 35mm film. There's a country kind of hush. A horse whinnies nearby. The aroma of country living teases the olfactory nerves and excites the senses. Gary lives almost 50 miles outside Los Angeles, deep in agriculture country up the coast--;away from the roar of the city. Here he handcrafts some of the nicest Mustangs you'll ever see. Gary doesn't restore Mustangs for a living, but rather as a hobby for special friends and family. Professionally, Gary is a teacher. Listen closely and you can learn a lot from this man.

This is a Concours-restored '65 Mustang convertible clad in Vintage Burgundy. We're not even sure if a red convertible can outdo the visual charisma of a burgundy drop-top with the Interior Decor Group option in white vinyl. This car excites and captures our imagination. When the car rolled into Gary's shop, it needed a full-scale restoration. So he stripped the car down to a bare shell, worked the steel, eliminated the rust, and gave a tired classic a new life.

If you've never restored a Mustang, then it's impossible to appreciate what goes into such an effort. To do it right, it takes months--sometimes years. When you bring home a car such as this one, you can't wait to get started. It's all you can think about in the shower and during dinner. Then comes the hard part--disassembling, cataloging parts, and taking extra care not to damage irreplaceable parts. It's the victory of finding that elusive broadcast sheet underneath the carpet. It's discovering a book of matches from 1965 behind a kick panel.

Thoughts always turn to what the car is going to be like when it's finished. Daydreaming consists of that first drive, accelerating, and listening to a fresh 289 channeling the ponies through a crisp C4 or Top Loader four-speed. Then the course of work snaps you back to reality. There's a long way to go. You have a body to massage, parts to order, elusive pieces to find, and wrenching with a buddy on a Saturday afternoon.

Restoring a Mustang is mostly baby steps that lead up to a finished product that will never be finished. There will always be something to do on the road to perfecting a show car. Each workday on a restoration is part of a phase--stripping the paint down to the bare steel, working the metal, filling the imperfections, blocking and sanding, and watching the paint go on by the hand of a seasoned professional. Once the paint has been applied and the color sanded and buffed, then it's time for the assembly--the most exciting part of a restoration.