Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
December 17, 2010
Photos By: Courtesy Clearbrook-Gonvick High School

Every school needs creative teachers like Ross Faldet. With budgets tight for his Advanced Industrial Technology classes, Ross figured out a way to raise money for shop equipment and other needs while providing a hands-on teaching experience at the same time. Two years ago, Faldet convinced his school, Clearbrook-Gonvick High School in Clearbrook, Minnesota, to purchase a '69 Mustang hardtop for a class project. Working during their 45-minute classes, the students restored the hardtop, tackling everything from bodywork and paint to the engine and transmission builds. Last September, the completed car was raffled, with proceeds going toward shop needs and funds to purchase the next project.

Even better, the project provided students with the opportunity to get involved with a classic car.

"The students love older Mustangs," Ross told us. "One kid got so fired up that he went out and bought a '68 Mustang so he and his dad could restore it."

For Ross, the '69 Mustang was his sixth "teacher's aide" over the past 15 years that involved a vintage car restoration. It's the second Mustang, and he's also employed a Cougar, realizing that popular cars help when it comes to selling raffle tickets. Ross explains, "I tell the students that we won't be successful unless we can sell tickets to other students, as well as to their parents and grandparents. The Mustang is an American classic with popularity among all age groups. It's also a great car for students to learn from because it's easy to work on and parts are readily available."

Purchased in October 2008, the '69 Mustang came from a Fargo, North Dakota, police officer whose restoration intentions fell by the wayside. According to Ross, the sheetmetal was surprisingly good but the car needed a total make-over. Originally green, the hardtop had been repainted in what Ross describes as "smear yellow."

During the first year, the Advanced Industrial Technology students disassembled the Mustang and stripped it to bare metal before welding in a few needed replacement sheetmetal panels. They also planned the project, selected the paint color and stripe scheme, and ordered parts needed to complete the restoration. They decided to replace the original six-cylinder with a 351 Windsor, so they took a field trip to Northwest Technical College to learn how to bore cylinders and machine the block.

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Although a few students were lost to graduation, the second year class handled the majority of the rebuild. They assembled the 351, rebuilt the C4 transmission, put together a locking rearend, reupholstered the seats, installed a new headliner and carpet, rebuilt the dash with digital instruments, reassembled the body before priming and painting, rebuilt the steering and suspension, and installed a disc brake conversion and stainless steel exhaust.

Student Josh Vorderbruggen was a senior during the first year. Now an engineering student at the University of North Dakota, Josh says the Mustang helped prepare him for his college classes. "It was a great experience taking the Mustang apart and learning how everything goes together," he says.

Students in Faldet's Advanced Industrial Technology classes worked on the car on a daily basis, with additional "part-time" students helping out during study hall and evenings. Nearly 60 students participated in the Mustang's restoration, either as part of Faldet's class or part-time.

"The automotive industry is a big employer in our country," says Faldet as he explains why he wants students to be more involved in auto projects. "The goal is to give each student exposure to different areas of auto repair and restoration, like mechanics, maintenance, collision repair, upholstery, electronics, welding, and machining. It's troubling to me that fundamental education-welding, carpentry, etc.-is being totally replaced by college education classes. I feel strongly that the students need the fundamentals as well."

With the car completed, students began selling $20 raffle tickets for a chance to win the Mustang, with the raffle conducted through the Gonvick Jubilee Committee for a drawing during Gonvick's Pumpkin Days Vintage Car Show on September 25. "The project was financially self-supporting," says Ross. "Even though a lot of the value was 'driven away' by the new owner, the parts and supplies were used by students for two years and contributed to their education. Because we don't have an automotive program at the school, we relied heavily on area businesses for tools, equipment, facilities, and expertise. This project would not have been possible without the generosity of numerous people in our community, including everyone who purchased a raffle ticket."

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Clearbrook- Gonvick High School Project Mustang

Body: '69 Mustang hardtop stripped, repaired, and refinished in Silver with Black stripes. Custom grille. Undercoated with POR 15

Interior: New black upholstery, headliner, and carpet. Includes Dakota Digital gauges and Custom Autosound USA radio, Grant steering wheel

Engine: 351 Windsor with Edelbrock RPM Performer package (aluminum heads and intake, 750-cfm carb), roller rocker arms, March Performance serpentine belt conversion, MSD electronic ignition, Hedman headers

Cooling: Edelbrock aluminum water pump, three-row radiator

Transmission: Rebuilt C4 automatic with B&M Shift Improvement kit, deep pan, and Hammer shifter

Rearend: Rebuilt 8-inch with 2.79 gears in Powertrax no-slip locking differential

Steering/Suspension: 1-inch drop front end, new control arms, urethane bushings, 1-inch sway bar, 17-inch chrome Bullitt wheels

Brakes: Stainless steel front disc brake conversion, stainless steel lines

Exhaust: Pypes stainless steel dual exhaust with chrome tips