Influences at an early age often leave lasting impressions. As a young lad growing up in the turbulent ’60’s, Dan Woods recalls how his older brother influenced him.
“When my older brother came home from Vietnam, he bought a Highland Green ’68 Mustang fastback,” he remembers. “I loved that car so much that I was determined to have one of my own someday.”
By the mid ’90s, that determination began to manifest itself, and in 1995, Dan started looking for a project to occupy his time. Remembering his brother’s ’68, he logically narrowed his focus down to a ’67 or ’68.
“I was starting to get frustrated when I found a ’68 Mustang coupe that was sitting on a trailer for several years,” he recalls. “I really wanted a fastback, but I thought I could make something nice from this car.” Woods left a note with his contact info, but no one ever called him. Weeks passed and the frustration continued. He decided to stop and knock on the door only to be told the car wasn’t for sale. Ironically, he was at the right place, at the right time, he just didn’t know it. Several weeks later, he received a call from an individual asking if he was looking for a ’68 Mustang. As it turned out, the caller had gone to the bank the day before and happened to ask the cashier if she knew of anyone looking for a ’68 Mustang. She said, “As a matter of fact, I do,” and gave him Dan’s number. It turned out to be the guy’s mother that he had left the number with for the ’68 coupe. When he spoke to the seller, his interest was really sparked by the fact that it was a Highland Green four-speed ’68 fastback, just like his older brother’s.
Dan recalls, “When I went to see the car, it was a total pig.” Apparently one of the previous owners had attempted to fix the ravages of time. However, the sad state of the ’68 didn’t faze him. The body was rough, the 390ci lump barely ran, and the brakes were trashed, but he went ahead and purchased the car. He had it flat-bedded to his house. Along with the car, he also ended up with a truck filled with milk crates, grocery bags, and boxes with parts taken off the car.
Finding this car was really important for him. “At the time, I was going through a very nasty divorce,” he recalls. “I needed something to keep me going. This car kept my brain from turning into oatmeal.” This unfortunate set of circumstances in his personal life helped fuel the drive and desire to do most of the work himself. He parked it in a one-bay garage, which was all the space he had, and immersed himself completely in the project.
He started the restoration by striping the ’68 down to the shell. Dan quickly realized that the floors needed to be replaced. Every dent, ding, and hole had also been filled with body filler. With the body bare, the floor was the first thing he tackled. He removed the old one and borrowed a friend’s MIG welder to perform the installation of the new one, practicing on some scrap pieces before attempting the actual work. The installation proved to be a success, which furthered his enthusiasm. After the floor was in place, the rest of the underside was also completely redone. The front part of the unibody, including the spring towers, also had a lot of rust damage. He didn’t feel comfortable removing and replacing these parts, so he went to the local steel supplier and purchased a couple pieces of 3⁄16 steel. He cut out the rusted areas, made templates, cut and fabricated the pieces, and welded them in. He adds that, “the torque boxes were also rust damaged, so I made new ones using 3⁄16 steel and welded them in too.” The body also had rust in the usual places. The quarter-panels had some rust, but not severe enough that they needed to be replaced. He handformed patch panels cut from 12-gauge sheetmetal and welded them in place. He had to do the same with the doors and fenders. After the sheetmetal work was completed, he stopped working on the Mustang. The car came with a Shelby trunk lid and quarter extensions, so he explains, “I stopped construction on the car because I couldn’t decide whether to make it into a Bullet clone, or go freestyle, and use my imagination.” In the end, imagination won out.
Once all the rough work was done, the final body prep and painting tasks were handed over to Dave Runion in Graterford, Pennsylvania. He laid down the primer, followed by a basecoat/clearcoat layer of Highland Green PPG paint. Once the body was completed, Dan started the laborious task of putting everything back on the car. All those milk crates and grocery bags filled with parts, however, were of little use to him. Most of the hardware had seen better days and needed to be replaced. Dan became a familiar face at Glazier-Nolan Mustang Barn (Souderton, Pennsylvania), where he purchased all his replacements.
The 390ci powerplant that came with the car had also seen better days, so Dan found a suitable replacement in a barn a few miles from his house. For the meager sum of one hundred dollars, he purchased a 428ci block and crank that was perfect for what he had in mind. He enlisted R&W Enterprises, in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, to do all the machine work on the bottom end. They cooked, decked, and bored the block. They also turned the crank 0.010 under and checked it for straightness, and they magnafluxed it for cracks. Internally, he used Cobra Jet rods and 11.5:1 Arias pistons. The bottom end was also balanced. Once the machine work was completed, Dan performed the blueprinting and assembly.
On the top end, Edelbrock aluminum heads and water pump were installed. The heads were port-matched to a Ford 406 tri-power aluminum intake, which was crowned by a trio of Holley two-barrel carburetors. Don Drury Automotive in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, did the bulk of the work on the top end, and was instrumental in picking the right Isky solid-lifter cam. A set of headers from Crites Restorations in Ohio allowed the spent gases to exit via 2-inch primaries with 3.5-inch collectors. Woods used 3-inch pipes and mandrel-bent 45-degree elbows mated to Flowmaster Delta Force single chamber race mufflers for the right exhaust notes.