Ben Hosking
November 12, 2018

Team builds have always seemed like a particularly perilous proposition. Who owns the finished car? Does one party get miffed if they find themselves investing more time or money into the project? Is some kind of timeshare calendar put in place to mark out who gets to drive the car and when? Are tempers frayed when one party rips a big scratch in it?

Apparently there were no such issues at play during (or after) the decade-long father-and-son rebuild of this 1968 Mustang hardtop in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia. When Terry and Adrian Morton look back on the Mercedes Ruby Mica Mustang build, they recall a lot of good times in the shed and a few beers along the way. “There were a few tense father/son moments along the way,” Adrian (the junior of the pair) admits. “But we always made up and had a beer.”

It all began way back in 2003 when Terry decided he wanted to freshen up the hardtop. Originally bought in Melbourne some 16 years ago, the car looked decidedly ’90s in aesthetic, with burgundy paint, chrome factory bumpers, and old-school chrome 12-slot wheels. “I wanted to put a 351 in it instead of the 302 that was in there,” Terry explains. “And there were plenty of holes in the engine bay that I wanted to smooth. It was just going to be a quick tidy-up, but hey, you know how it goes.”

It wasn’t a straight run between outdated Pony and showstopper. Like most amateur builds, the path to glory is a winding road with a few pit stops along the way. For Terry and Adrian’s Mustang, there were also pit stops that weren’t even directly related to the car—like a garage rebuild brought about by a termite attack!

With a brand-new steel shed erected in the backyard, the Mustang had never had it so good. The guys got sucked into what turned out to be a significant “tidy-up,” taking the car to Australia’s biggest horsepower party, the Summernats, and scoring a few street-class trophies, including Third Best Coupe.

While the story could have ended there, some dodgy engine parts precipitated further work, and it’s here that things got a little out of hand for the boys and the ’68. This leads to the car you see gracing these pages—an absolute stunner in an understated wine-hued metallic, complemented by a pastel silver color from Toyota called Purplish Grey that has been used on the stripes, wheels, and in the smooth engine bay.

Lurking between the smoothed and notched shock towers is a Dart-based 451ci Windsor small-block stroker that’s making a prodigious 730 hp at the crank at a roaring 6,900 rpm. Believe us when we say it’s like hell is coming to breakfast when the engine is screaming through the twin 3½-inch exhaust and those 275-series rear tires light up.

This potent combo (backed by a tough C4 automatic) is underpinned by a host of RRS suspension, steering, and braking components. These include a power rack-and-pinion, a twin-piston front and rear disc brake conversion, a coilover front-end conversion, and a hidden brake booster. The hidden booster allowed Terry and Adrian to install a super-smooth second skin over the top of the original firewall—offering a clean look in the bay and some added strength.

Further strengthening occurred under the car, where some custom subframe connectors were installed. “When you look at these things from underneath, there’s really not much keeping them together,” Terry says. It’s probably just as well that the car is stiffer these days when you consider the 620 lb-ft reaching the braced Strange 9-inch under the back end.

The visually understated theme continues inside, where the two-tone paintwork is combined with sumptuous black leather with silver stitching. A pair of 1969 Mach 1 buckets provide comfort up front, while a combination of AutoMeter and VDO gauges keeps the driver well informed. You may have noticed the lack of rollcage, which in Australia means you’re kicked off the track if you run faster than an 11.0-second ET. Adrian says the hardtop has run a 10.7, despite getting off the gas early in a vain attempt at staying under the radar. There are no plans to fit a cage.

A second trip to Summernats in 2016 saw their efforts rewarded, with the Mustang receiving trophies for Top Engine Bay and Second Top Coupe in the street class. Now it’s just a matter of putting a ton of miles on it and enjoying the fruits of their labor...and deciding who gets to drive it first!

Powered by a solid-cammed 451ci Dart monster small-block, the Mustang boasts the brawn to match the beauty. The Toyota Purplish Grey seen in the racing stripes and wheels is carried into the bay, with attention to detail everywhere including the custom-fabbed radiator support and smooth firewall second skin.
19x9½-inch Koya Ispiri wheels fill the rear wheel openings, wrapped in decidedly tired-looking 275-series rubber! The front brake rotors are 13-inch diameter and are clamped by upgraded twin-piston calipers that have been blacked-out for a cleaner look.
Eastside Kustoms stitched together a classy plush black leather interior for the hardtop using Mach 1 buckets, a Boss sports steering wheel, as well as a custom dash pad, fresh carpets, and hints of that Toyota pastel metallic hue.
If Adrian or Terry ever tire of the glorious cacophony from the big-inch small-block, they can always chill out to some tunes from the VDO stereo.
Out back, the trunk has been trimmed in the same black leather as the cabin. Like the rest of the car, the theme is classy understatement.

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Photography by Ben Hosking