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.
With chassis, handling, and braking duties checked off the build list it was time for Jason and Lonnie to tackle the drivetrain. Knowing their track-based coupe needed to haul the mail as well as look show-car ready, they called upon Roush Competition Engines to build GCM a 368ci small-block with enough horsepower to do stupid things with your right foot. The 548hp engine is based off of a Dart block and stuffed with billet hardware from Eagle swinging Wiseco coated pistons and topped with CNC-ported AFR 205 cylinder heads, which is cooled by an aluminum Be Cool radiator. A road-race-prepped TKO-600 from American Powertrain backs the Roush mill with a Quicktime SFI bellhousing and a Modern Driveline hydraulic-release bearing situated between the two. A chrome-moly driveshaft from Fast Shafts connects the engine's output to the aforementioned 9-inch out back. Finally, a set of Ford Powertrain Applications long-tube headers route the exhaust fumes rearward.
Inside, GCM wired the car with American Autowire's updated Mustang chassis harness, filled the dash with Auto Meter gauges, and hooked up the MSD 6AL-2 and MSD ignition coil to the Roush powerplant. An Optima yellow top absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery provides the starting power. Davis Technologies digital traction control was also utilized to maximize traction both on the track and during street use. While race car spartan, the interior does feature a pair of Scat Procar Xtreme bucket seats and Team Tech five-point restraints to hold the driver and passenger in place during track use and spirited street driving.
Leading up to the reveal in Tulsa last year, many a late night was spent getting the coupe "just right" for its debut. Burning the midnight oil right up until the Mustang was pushed into the GCM hauler was the only way the coupe would make it to Tulsa on time, but we've been guilty of the same problem with our projects as well and understand those last-minute thrashes are part of the build process. Once unloaded, the coupe was sorted out and track tested by Vince LaViolette, who is the R&D "hot shoe" for Shelby American. The Screaming Yellow coupe proved its mettle that day, running track session after track session with nary a hiccup. Even more recently the coupe performed admirably in Optima's Ultimate Street Car Challenge, which happened right after last year's SEMA show, where it placed Seventh overall in a field of 57 cars. Truly, GCM has built a car to dominate the track or handle any street use it may see between track days.
Gateway Classic Mustang's '68 Mustang Coupe Track Car
Roush Competition Engines 368ci small-block
Dart iron block
11:1 compression ratio
Eagle 4340 billet steel crankshaft
Eagle 4340 billet H-beam connecting rods
Wiseco coated pistons
Airflow Research 205cc CNC-ported aluminum heads
2.08-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust valves
Comp Cams solid roller cam, 0.621/0.627 lift, 254/260 duration at 0.050-inch
Jesel Sportsman 1.6:1 roller rockers
Holley HP 830cfm race carburetor
Edelbrock Victor intake
MSD Pro Billet distributor
MSD 6AL-2 ignition
Be Cool aluminum radiator
Royal Purple synthetic oil
548 hp at 6,900 rpm
461 lb-ft torque at 5,600 rpm
Road-race-prepped by American Powertrain
Quicktime SFI bellhousing
Modern Driveline hydraulic release bearing
9-inch Factory 9-inch rear
Aluminum center section
Fast Shaft chrome-moly driveshaft
Ford Powertrain Applications long-tube headers
Gateway Performance Suspension strut kit, Koni double-adjustable struts, power rack-and-pinion steering
Gateway Performance Suspension 3-Link, Watt's link, QA1 double-adjustable shocks, Eibach coilover springs
Front: Baer Brakes disc, 14-inch cross-drilled and slotted rotor, six-piston caliper
Rear: Baer Brakes disc, 13-inch cross-drilled and slotted rotor, six-piston caliper
Vintage Wheel Works V45, gray center, 17x8
Vintage Wheel Works V45, gray center, 17x9.5
Front: BFGoodrich R1 competition radial, P245/45R17
Rear: BFGoodrich R1 competition radial, P275/40R17
Painted light gray, Scat Procar Xtreme bucket seats, Team Tech five-point harnesses, Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges, 1 5/8-inch DOM steel tube custom rollcage
DuPont Chromabase basecoat/clearcoat in Ford Screaming Yellow, Hotrod satin black painted hood and taillight panel, Gateway Classic Mustangs quarter scoops, Dynacorn fiberglass hood and front valance, Dynacorn replacement sheetmetal
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