Jeff Ford
September 1, 2000
Photos By: Tom Rounds

There is a certain misconception that a car from California is going to be rust-free. In many respects, this may be true. But what if the car is the ultimate sun worshipper's vehicle-a convertible? What happens when the sun beckons and the beach calls? Well, as any red-faced Sol searcher will tell you, you must go and obey. Perhaps that's what happened to the Highland Green GT convertible owned by Bobbie and Gary Richart of Harrison, Arkansas.

"In 1993 a fellow club member learned about this car in California, bought it, and had it shipped to Arkansas," Gary said. "I first saw the car in the spring of '94 at a shop in Missouri, where some transmission work had been done on it. My favorite color is green, and the Highland Green color sold me-I had to have the car." Boy, does that sound familiar.

"The car was a basket case," Gary said. "The rear floorpans were rusted through. The front of the car was damaged, right up to the radiator, and the quarters and inner fenders were damaged and rusty. One fender had body cancer and one door was damaged." Still, Gary-like so many of us-could see the final product.

The car was right for restoration because of the drop-top and the wealth of optional equipment, not to mention the GT Group. Though the convertible doesn't pack the vaulted 428 or 390 4V, it does have the free-winding 302 4V and C4 automatic. These options are backed with the sprint-worthy 3.25 limited-slip rear axle. From there, amenities are all in the right places in the convertible, with power disc brakes, power steering, air conditioning, and saddle Deluxe interior. Surprisingly, the car didn't come with a console, and Gary saw fit not to add one. Cool. Gary likes to see nothing added, nothing taken away-at least in some areas.

While the car was being restored, Gary wanted to "add" to the engine, though. The 302 4V was a good engine in its day, but it was not a barn burner. So to that end, Gary added a roller cam and rockers under the stock valve covers. The heads were port-matched to the exhaust and the intake to give the engine a bit more air in and out. The entire engine looks stock, but performance is something more than "its old self." The body paint also saw an update to the more modern DuPont Centari enamel, sprayed by Mark Willey. Mark also performed the bodywork that is the basis for what makes a great paint job.

Since completion, the car has seen the highways-though only to Mustang Club of America shows. After Gary finished the last detail, he was torn. For nearly two years, he fretted about whether the car was to be trailered or driven. Since the Richarts don't own a trailer, the answer was driven. We're glad of that. To have a convertible and not feel the wind in your hair seems a shame. The bigger shame is that a trailer would keep others from seein' green.