Jim Smart
August 1, 2001

Step By Step

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P89538_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Rear_Driver_SideP89538_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Front_Driver_SideP89538_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible EngineP89538_large 1966_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Interior

Gary Bowman is an art teacher in more ways than one. Although he teaches art to young people, he also teaches art in another way: he builds some of the best-looking classic Mustangs around So Cal. Just imagine the impression this leaves on the young and old alike.

What fuels Gary's passion for restoring classic Mustangs is doing what most will say is impossible. Gary looks at a worn and battered steed with vision and gets right to work. That's the way it's always been, dating back to his first car. At the tender age of 14, Gary convinced his father to allow him to buy a Ford Model A, adding that building a car is nothing more than building a large model. Both he and his father were involved in that first car project. Gary adds that some of his favorite memories are the times he spent with his father while working on the Model A. The Model A remains with him today, symbolic of the special relationship he and his father shared.

With a long history of car building in his rearview mirror, Gary knows a thing or two about how to do it right--to build a work of art. When he bought this Tahoe Turquoise '66 Mustang GT convertible many years ago, he had a GT coupe and his wife had a GT fastback. With this purchase, it swiftly became GTs all-three. The previous owner slalomed with this car regularly. There was a rollbar, high-back bucket seats, and even a Chevy hoodscoop. Gary defined it in a way we could understand: a "Ricky Racer" Mustang convertible.

When Gary disassembled this GT convertible, he decided to bring it back to its concours-show condition, with a factory finish (a hint of orange peal) and all of the original details die-hard enthusiasts are fond of. We like the persona of a first-generation Mustang GT convertible--those GT stripes in white over the rich Turquoise finish, GT badges and exhaust trumpets, foglamps, and the absence of quarter scoop ornamentation.

Inside, it's everything a Mustang GT should be: a five-dial instrumentation, molded door panels, Pony seat upholstery, a console, carpeted kick panels, and rich woodgrain appointments. Twist the key and let's get going. "Go!" comes from a professionally rebuilt 289 4V small-block V-8 with Autolite 4100 carburetion, a hydraulic camshaft, factory dual exhausts, and a smooth yet aggressive attitude. The 289's torque flows through the C4 Cruise-O-Matic like hot butter through a squeeze bottle. Three Oh axle gears offer us good acceleration away from the light with moderate revs on the open road. When you combine these driveability features with the terrific look of a first-generation Mustang GT convertible, it becomes more than luscious top-down Mustang performance, it becomes a work of art.