Jim Smart
January 1, 2008

There's no one else on earth quite like John Murphy. He's been through some tough times, yet he greets each day with abundant wit. John has always prided himself on being able to do just about anything. If he doesn't understand how something is done, he teaches himself how to do it better than anyone else.

John has dabbled in classic Mustangs for most of his life, always examining the details. Lately, he's focused on radiators and fuel tanks, discovering that U.S. Steel was a supplier of galvanized sheetmetal for early Mustang fuel tanks. At a glance, John can tell if the radiator in a Mustang is correct based on tank, bracket design, and alphanumeric identification.

So imagine John's enthusiasm when he bought this unmolested Springtime Yellow '66 convertible 21 years ago. Not only was it an original California car, but everything was there, including the Thermactor emission control system. It also came with an unusual aftermarket accessory: the Towne Top Detachable Hardtop.

The sales literature described the distinctive fiberglass top as a "Safe, easy, distinctive, practical hardtop made of rugged fiberglass, ensuring protection from winter hazards of falling ice or branches. Clear, undistorted rear vision-a rear window made of safety glass." It also said, "Three minutes on or off," implying easy installation. John knows that it isn't always easy and requires two people.

It took John several years to locate Roy Moss, the founder of Dory Development Corporation of Salem, New York. The company made these limited-production hardtops for Mustang and Corvair convertibles. Production of the Mustang top began on April 24, 1964, right after the car's April 17 introduction. Priced at $28, the Towne Tops were offered in two colors, Raven Black and Sand Beige, with an optional dome light. It's unknown how many were produced, but serial numbering began at #1000, and John's is #1153. Only three are known to exist today.

Dory Development Corporation is still in business and under Roy's direction. Roy gave John the Towne Top information in this article, along with the nut driver that came with the tops for installation and removal.

When John bought the car, it was unrestored, but it had everything that mattered to an authentic restoration. What excited him was the absence of rust. In Central Illinois, a rust-free vintage automobile is anything but common. What's more, the car was loaded from the factory with options: 289 with Cruise-O-Matic, Interior Dcor Group, power brakes and steering, air conditioning, power top, Rally-Pac, console, Visibility Group, and Styled Steel wheels.

When John started the restoration in earnest, he relied on some of the best Mustang Club of America judges in the country, with each making a valuable contribution to his efforts. After loading the car on a rotisserie he built himself, John rolled the car over to get a good look at the primer, paint, and the absence of corrosion. Underneath, the car was perfect.

When John conducts his restorations, he compartmentalizes. While working the body, the matching-number 289 was rebuilt, getting its bores punched 0.030-inch oversize, decks leveled, line-bore checked and honed, and heads reworked. The original California emissions Autolite 2100 two-barrel carburetor and the single-point distributor were rebuilt. Overhauling the Thermactor air pump emissions system wasn't easy. There was the matter of parts, which were hard to find. The C4 Cruise-O-Matic and 8-inch 2.80:1 rearend were also rebuilt and pressed back into service.

Inside, John retained the Mustang's original black vinyl Dcor Group interior. Aside from fresh upholstery, he didn't change anything. His friend Mark Patrick pitched in to help with the interior, and Kenny Crow worked the body and laid down paint.

John is proud to admit he kept the use of reproduction parts to a minimum. The Styled Steel wheels are the originals. He wanted the genuine feel, sound, and smell of original equipment. John's convertible has the tight, solid feel of a low-mileage original, even though it isn't low mileage. He wouldn't have it any other way.

Editor's note: Anyone with a Towne Top is invited to contact John Murphy at jjmurphy@insightbb.com or 217/971-7183.