There are a number of things about old cars that draw us to them. Certainly their outward appearance is much different than anything we see in the newer car market. The use of polished and carefully shaped metals definitely catches our eyes, but sometimes it's a seat-of-the-pants feel, a smell, or a sound that takes us back to a different time. For John Lardear of Wilmington, Delaware, his newly acquired Mustang "just didn't sound right," and that was something he would quickly take care of.
Backing up a bit, John, who owns The Car Clinic in Wilmington, was looking to get back into a muscle car. Having previously worked at Pontiac and Chevy dealerships, John was "corrupted," and had a number of other muscle car makes before coming across this '68 Mustang fastback.
"I've never had a Mustang and started looking around for one once the kids grew up. It's real easy to up the horsepower with them." That search led to a local advertisement for a Mustang, and John enlisted the help of employee, Joe DiLeonardo, to take a look at it as it was near his home.
"He immediately called me and told me to get over there as soon as possible," John recalled. John gave the seller a sizeable and non-refundable deposit and came back the next day to take his new chariot home. After further inspection, the Mustang had solid floors and there were no big dents to hammer out. The fastback had previously received a stock 302 replacement engine at some point, and when combined with the automatic gearbox, made for an uneventful drive.
"Every winter, I would work on customizing the car, one thing at a time, with my long-time friend, Ron Stephens," John noted. The first thing he changed was the transmission, opting for a Tremec T-5 five-speed manual gearbox—John converted the car to a cable linkage.
"It wasn't fast enough, and it didn't sound right to me," John told us. "There's an unmistakable sound to solid lifters." With that revelation, John and the aforementioned DiLeonardo swapped out the heads and valvetrain for a pair of Dart cylinder heads and a solid flat-tappet camshaft and lifters.
Another round of winter modifications included stuffing the open 8-inch rearend with a Detroit Locker and 3.80 gears. As the engine wore an assortment of induction equipment, John finally settled for the unique look of Weber IDF carburetors.
"We have a couple of customers that have Webers on their cars, and I really liked the way it looks. Too many cars at car shows have single four-barrels. It gets a lot of attention." The Weber induction would cause a hood clearance issue, and John remedied that with the addition of a Boss 429 hoodscoop and by opening the hood beneath the scoop to allow the tops of the Webers access to the fresh incoming air.
In addition to a number of performance upgrades (We really like the clamp-less coolant hoses and hidden wiring), John also saw to repainting the Mustang in its original Presidential Blue, along with a single center accent stripe in Silver. The interior has likewise been refurbished, and John equipped the fastback with '70 model high-back bucket seats for a distinctive look that also hides the four-point rollbar. John's son, Tony, saw to it that the Mustang had sufficient indoor entertainment, installing a CD player. John told us that you can't really hear it over the loud exhaust, but like any youth with a radio, we're sure it'll crank pretty loudly.
The hopped up 302 (now 310 ci) has propelled the Pony to a best quarter-mile elapsed time of 12.89 seconds at 112 mph, but he's been looking at stepping up to a Windsor block and stroking it to 427 ci.
"Every winter I do something to it," John told us. Perhaps it doesn't have the right sound anymore. We're pretty sure John knows how to fix that.
John Lardear's '68 Mustang Fastback
Ford 302, 310 ci
Forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods
Forged aluminum pistons
Dart Pro 1 aluminum cylinder heads, 2.02-intake/1.6-inch exhaust valves
Scorpion 1.6:1 aluminum roller rockers
Comp Cams Magnum solid flat-tappet camshaft PN 31-334-4, 236/236 at 0.050, 0.528/0.528-inch valve lift, 110-degree LSA
Weber aluminum intake manifold
Weber IDF carburetors
Pertronix distributor with Second Strike box and Flamethrower coil
10.5:1 compression ratio
Hedman long-tube headers with 3-inch collectors
Aluminized steel 2½-inch exhaust
Flowmaster 40-series mufflers
Tremec T-5 five-speed manual
Centerforce Dual Friction clutch
Detroit Locker differential
Richmond 3.80 gears
Front: Stock powdercoated double A-arm with coils and shocks, Shelby negative camber wedge kit, Speed Direct power rack-and-pinion steering
Rear: Stock leaf spring, Shelby Underride traction bars
Front: Stainless Steel Brakes Corp disc, cast-iron four-piston calipers, 11-inch rotors
Rear: Stainless Steel Brakes Corp disc, aluminum single-piston calipers, 11.25-inch rotors
Front: Ford Racing Performance Parts Bullitt-style, 17x8, chrome plated
Rear: Ford Racing Performance Parts Bullitt-style, 17x8, chrome plated
Front: Kumho Ecsta SPT, P245/45ZR17
Rear: Kumho Ecsta SPT, 255/50ZR17
Restored factory vinyl upholstery by The Car Clinic (Wilmington, DE), '70 Mustang high-back bucket seats, Moto-Lita steering wheel, Auto Meter air/fuel wideband gauges, Pioneer Super Tuner II stereo with 6½-inch kick panel speakers and 6x9-inch rear speakers, four-point rollbar, VDO column-mounted tachometer
Basecoat/clearcoat Presidential Blue with Silver stripe by the owner and Hi-Tec Auto Body (Wilmington, DE), Mustangs Unlimited fiberglass Boss 429 hoodscoop, HID headlights