Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
February 10, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy of Gillis Performance Restorations

It doesn't matter if it is your house, your toolbox, or even your car. Generally speaking, if you have something nice, there's someone out there that wants to take those nice things away from you and make them theirs (or sell them for quick cash for drugs). Whatever the reasoning, the number one thing we've always been told, drilled into our heads from a young age, is to lock it or lose it. Keeping your vehicle, garage, toolbox, or whatever locked means the contents of said items remain yours. The problem for us classic Ford owners, however, is that even though we can lock our trunks and the doors to keep the baddies out of our rides, the engine bay is easy pickings due to the external hood latch and release mechanism. In under a minute, some low-life could be making off with your battery, carburetor, or other expensive parts, leaving you stranded and steaming mad.

There are several schools of thought on keeping your hood locked and your engine bay safe. We've seen everything from your basic bicycle chain lock to cabinet locks mounted in the hood to prevent the latch from moving. At one point, an aftermarket company offered an armored cable release kit that you could install with a key that was locked from under your dash, but that product is no longer available. When we visited Gillis Performance Restorations recently to photograph a product installation on the company's resident 1968 Mustang coupe project, we witnessed yet another option for those who have some fabrication skills and a welder—the use of a stock Ford F-150/Bronco hood latch with integral cable release. With a little bit of work to your hood and your latch assembly, this rugged OE setup could easily be utilized to keep the hood secured, yet easily be opened from the passenger compartment like any modern car. Check out the work involved in these photos.

1. For the internal cable release hood latch, you’ll need to find an original latch and support from a ’73-’79 F-series truck or ’78-’79 Bronco. The latch assembly and support easily unbolts if you find one in a salvage yard, but your best bet is to score one online. Don’t worry if the cable is bad; the cable is available from several sources. The rare piece to find is the locking cable, though, that uses the Ford ignition key!
2. This setup is being installed on a ’67 Mustang. However, the latch can really be fitted to anything with a little planning and fabrication. Here the latch and support are being test fit. You can see the support is too tall and will require trimming.
3. Brian Gillis of Gillis Performance Restorations (GPR) drilled the spot welds from the support bracket and vertical support so that they can be repositioned in the right location for the Mustang. The vertical bracket required some notching to change the end of the support as well. Everything is clamped into place to ensure it is in the proper location for welding.
4. The newly shortened and repositioned vertical support is now fully welded to the support bracket. You can also see the line Brian made with a marker where the bracket needs to be trimmed to mount flush with the top of the radiator core support.
5. Brian temporarily fitted a grille to the car so that he could fabricate a new secondary latch release lever. The original truck lever would have ended up behind the grille. With a section of strap steel the same thickness of the original lever, Brian fabricated a release that just tucked nicely between the hood and the top of the grille.
6. While the grille was still in place, Brian welded up a few grille retaining brackets to secure the grille to the hood latch support. He made two horizontal straps to go between the grille and the top of the latch support and this two-piece bracket that will be bolted between the vertical support and the grille.
7. The final installation of the grille bracket is designed to use the stock grille corral and horse mounting studs to secure the grille to the bracket.
8. While the ’65-’66, and the ’69 and up Mustang feature the hood latch at the grille area, the ’67-’68 had it reversed with the latch mounted to the hood, as shown here on GPR’s in-house ’68 project coupe. This whole area will need to be converted to accept a hood latch catch bar for the newly installed latch at the grille area.
9. Brian begins by cutting away the original latch area on the new reproduction hood the ’67 fastback is getting. Trimming it back this far will allow the new area to look factory versus just welding a “box” in place where the hood latch catch bar will go. The cut out area measures 121⁄2 inches by 25⁄8 inches.
10. Brian uses 3⁄8-inch brake line tubing to provide a radius for the metal being welded together. The tubing will also offer strength for the mounting of the hood latch catch bar. The front strip of sheetmetal is cut to 121⁄2 inches by 11⁄4 inches while the rear piece measures out to 12½ inches by 17⁄8 inches.
11. Shown once again on GPR’s ’68 Mustang coupe project, this is the standard hood latch catch bar and bracket that you’d find on a ’67-’68 Mustang. Brian needs the oval shaped opening to fabricate the same setup on the modified hood.
12. Brian measured and cut the oval section needed from the stock ’67 bracket and also drilled a hole and welded a nut to the back side of the stamping to accept the hood latch catch bar he still has to fabricate.
13. Using the installed hood latch assembly as a guide, Brian welds the section of the ’67 bracket into place in the hood. The brake line tubing directly behind the nut welded in previously required notching to clear as the section was welded into place.
14. At this point, the hood latch and hood opening are roughly aligned and everything has taken shape. Now Brian simply needs to box in the remaining structure on the hood’s underside and make it look factory. The hood comes off and is transferred to a workbench for easier fabrication.
15. Brian painstakingly cuts and tack welds sections of sheetmetal into place until the new hood opening takes its final shape. Once all of the metal has been tacked in with the MIG welder, Brian takes several more passes, moving around to prevent warping the panels with too much heat, until all seams are fully welded.
16. After welding, Brian dresses the hood modification by grinding the welds down with a 50-grit disc on a 3-inch angle grinder. He follows those steps with an 80-grit disc on a DA sander. The hood is now ready for traditional paint prep and painting.
17. To fabricate the hood latch catch bar for the new hood opening, Brian tried to use the stock ’67 bar, but the swaged ends were backwards. A little bit of head scratching and rummaging through the spare parts bin netted this custom bar fabricated from a section of the ’67 bar and a section from a ’69 Mustang bar.
18. One final check was made to ensure the latch, hood latch catch bar, the secondary catch, and the secondary catch release handle all fit together and functioned as originally designed.
19. All that’s left to do is route and install the release cable to the inside of the vehicle. While the installation actually routes from the dash to the latch, we are following the routing from the latch to the dash in these last few photos. Here, the cable is connected to the latch assembly just before the cable cover is reinstalled.
20. From the hood latch assembly, the cable routes to the driver’s front fender where Brian has drilled a hole in the inner fender just above the headlight bucket with a step-bit, and then installed a grommet to secure the cable in the hole.
21. The cable is then routed rearward to the cowl side panel (clamps will secure the cable under the fender to prevent it rubbing on the suspension or tire) where a second hole is drilled for the same size grommet to allow the release cable to pass through.
22. Lastly, the hood release cable housing end with integral bracket is secured to the bottom of the ’67’s dash structure.