The '68 coupe you see on these pages is a project that Gateway Classic Mustang (GCM) has been dreaming of building for years, yet took a scant four months to become reality. The principals of GCM, Jason and Lonnie Childress, have built numerous high-profile Mustangs over the years, including a "new" '68 Mustang for Sammy Hagar (see "The New Red Rocker," Nov. '07 issue); a Bullitt replica Mustang fastback for Chad McQueen, Steve McQueen's son; and more.
From helping out on episodes of Overhaulin' to being profiled on Hot Rod TV, the GCM crew has certainly earned a name for itself as a shop that turns out awesome street cars. While these cars have all seen spirited street driving and even the rare lap at a track day, GCM really wanted to put its efforts into just the opposite-a Mustang that excelled at track duty, but could easily be driven on the street. This means track-prepped suspension, brakes, safety equipment, and more, but full lighting, DOT tires, and other street bits to ensure the car's legal status and safety on the street. With the goal of debuting a new car at the annual Mid America Ford and Shelby Team Nationals last year the GCM crew had but four months to screw together the race-prepped coupe.
Starting with a rough coupe shell that GCM had on hand (from what the company tells us, it was most likely a parts car!) the crew sent it off to Redi-Kleen in Evansville, Indiana, for chemical stripping. What it got back could hardly be called a Mustang, but a call to Larry Brogdin at Dynacorn netted all of the repair panels the GCM crew needed to put Humpty Dumpty back together, including quarters, door shells, fenders, a full floor, a hood, and a taillight panel. GCM's relationship with Dynacorn (it used a reproduction body shell to build McQueen's Bullitt clone) meant it could rely on the quality metal it needed to rebuild the rough coupe. Due to the constrained build time GCM called in a few favors and put friends Bill Bufka, Mike White, Mike Hatcher, and David Childress to work on installing the new Dynacorn panels. While the sparks were flying from the Miller MIG welders, a second crew of friends, Ross Combs, Mike Miller, Mark Vandermeiden, and Grant Rimback spent three days welding up the custom rollcage and tying it into the fresh body metal.
When the dust settled, the race-ready body was passed on to Nick Branson and Lonnie Childress for several hours of block sanding and body prep to ensure the Screaming Yellow DuPont Chromabase basecoat by Colormaster would look smooth as glass once the clear was laid on and wet-sanded. Hotrod Black was used on the hood and taillight panel for a Trans-Am heritage look, while "NASCAR" gray was applied to the interior and chassis. A light gray or white is often used as an interior or chassis color. The light color allows for fast visual inspection of any chassis fatigue/cracks before each track session or in the case of an off track excursion or accident. A dark interior or chassis may hide structural issues, causing more damage or an ill-handling car.
Of course, one of the reasons GCM wanted to build an all-out track monster that could handle street use when called upon was to test its own line of suspension pieces. GCM launched its suspension line with this coupe as its test vehicle and the Mid America track day as its proving grounds. Up front, the coupe was fitted with GCM's Street Performer strut suspension, which utilizes Koni double-adjustable strut cartridges, and a power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering setup utilizing a KRC pump. Out back, a three-link setup with QA1 double adjustable shocks surrounds a built 9-inch with 4.30 gears and 31-spline axles from the 9-inch Factory. Stopping power is provided by Baer brakes-14-inch slotted and drilled rotors up front, 13-inch slotted and drilled rotors out back, and all four corners clamped by six-piston monoblock calipers. Vintage Wheel Works 17-inch V45s wrapped in BFGoodrich R1 tires round out the handling duties.