The car just refused to look green on camera, and we weren't happy campers. Our extensive organic database of photography tricks notwithstanding, this dark green '68 Mustang insisted on looking black. In the meantime, as Johnny's indentured servants for the day, car owner Kevin McAnally and your author were clamoring in oppressive 102 Texas heat on an endless expanse of skin-searing blacktop. Compounding the problem, a blanket of storm clouds suddenly rolled in and choked out the sunlight. We were having a fit, but being the defiant servants that we are, we secretly welcomed the overcast skies and the thermal shelter they provided. So much for being a team player, but this is a car that can stand on its own without the help of bright pigmentation.
Dark colored cars are to car magazine editors what al-Qaida is to the CIA, but such discrimination is really quite silly since readers know a nice car when they see one. Color be damned. Granted, it doesn't pop off the page like Hugger Orange or Ferrari Red, but its dark coat of BASF Glasurit Polo Green Metallic appropriately suits this Mustang's subdued persona. While it certainly incorporates some elements of the Pro-Touring motif, it's not a pretentious exercise in boastfully showcasing the latest trends. Modern Auto Meter gauges, for instance, are housed in the original instrument cluster instead of a fancy-schmancy aftermarket piece. A custom-machined "Ford" logo on the Grant GT steering wheel adds some retro flair to an item that's anything but retro. Moreover, there is no A/C, the manual crank windows have yet to be electrified, and the closest thing to entertainment the factory AM radio provides are the daily diatribes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Yikes. Even the seats are stock, upholstered in vinyl of course, and the pedals are also restored factory pieces. It's as if the feuding factions of Pro-Touring practitioners and period-correct junkies have finally reached a truce, and we dig it. The theme percolates to the exterior as well. The Mustang sits on blacked-out FR500 wheels instead of humungo slugs of flashy billet. For functionality purposes, they're sized at 18x8 inches up front and 18x9 out back wrapped in 245/40 and 275/40 BFGoodrich meats.
To achieve a proper stance without tire rub, Kevin rolled up the wheel lips and fabbed a set of custom billet spacers that raise the front shocks higher up on their towers. Frivolous sheetmetal clutter has been eradicated by shaving the emblems and lettering on the fenders, and removing the side reflectors on the quarter panels. While most of the exterior tweaks are subtle, the twin-nostril hood lends a tremendous visual presence. Perhaps the reason why Kevin has been a bit restrained in giving his Mustang a full-on Pro-Touring makeover is that it's been in his family since day one. His father was the car's original owner, and handed Kevin the keys when he got his driver's license. Like most kids with a hot ride, he didn't waste any time hopping it up. "I immediately started to modify the car by dropping in a new motor, swapping out the wheels and tires, and adding a fresh coat of paint," he says. "Once the original C4 auto trans failed, I converted the car to a four-speed stick, and that same day, the factory 8-inch rear end blew up. After replacing it with a 31-spline 9-inch, it provided years of trouble-free enjoyment." Stage One of the project now complete, Kevin lost interest in the car for a few years, but his temporary state of apathy didn't last long. "It was the early '90s when I read a magazine article outlining the installation of a big brake kit on Hal Baer's '69 Mustang fastback," he explains. "It inspired me to transform my car into a g-Machine, and I started collecting parts to make it happen." This time around, no nut was left unturned. He completely disassembled the car, and shipped it over to Mohr Restorations (North Richland Hills, Texas). Since the car had a total of three coats of paint, it was media blasted down to bare metal on a rotisserie. Once stripped, all of the chassis seams were welded for additional rigidity.
With the Mustang back from the paint shop, Kevin got to work installing the pile of parts that had been gathering in his garage. The flaccid '60s chassis was fortified with a set of Global West subframe connectors. The front coils and rear leaf springs are also from Global West, but since the car still sat too high for Kevin's tastes, he cut a full coil off the fronts and re-arched the leafs. Koni shocks at each corner manage the increase in spring rate, while Stambar adjustable sway bars front and rear keep body lean in check. Negative g's come courtesy of Baer two-piston calipers squeezing cross-drilled 13-inch rotors up front, and there are 12-inch discs in the rear. Kevin re-upholstered the seats himself, but he plans on upgrading them to aftermarket perches with more lateral support. That's not a bad idea since the poor guy was flopping around all over the place while we fired off our cornering shots.
Like the rest of the car, the engine combination is one of useful pragmatism, not useless overkill. The 302 small-block has been bored 0.030-over and fitted with 11.0:1 TRW forged pistons. They reciprocate via stock connecting rods with upgraded SPS bolts and a stock crankshaft, which are plenty stout for this moderate rpm application. For smooth operation and long engine life, the rotating assembly has been internally balanced. On the top end, out-of-the-box Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum heads are fed by a Vic Jr. intake manifold and a Quick Fuel 650-cfm carburetor. A mild Crower solid-roller cam, which maintains excellent idle quality and low-rpm drivability, bumps the 2.02/1.60-inch valves open with the help of COMP Cams 1.6:1 rocker arms. What the motor may lack in cubic inches and cubic dollars, it makes up for with a Zex perimeter-plate nitrous system, adjustable from 100 to 300 hp. Lighting the fire is an MSD ignition system, and cylinder pressure escapes through a set of JBA headers, Dr. Gas collectors, and Flowmaster 2.5-inch mufflers.
As coveted fastbacks become even more scarce and more expensive, it's no surprise that more enthusiasts are building Mustang coupes. And why not? They're cheap, plentiful, lightweight-and from '67 on up-feature more commodious engine bays and brawnier, manlier styling. There's no shortage of parts, and for not much dough, you can build a killer street machine. Enough of the rambling, the proof is in the sheetmetal. Kevin put his car together for a total investment of $27,000. Sure, twice the cash could build you a fastback, but would you have twice the fun? Probably not.
After spending 10 tedious years restoring his Mustang from the ground up, Kevin is making sure that he rewards himself for his efforts. He takes it out for a long drive at least two or three times a week as long as it's not too hot outside. The Top Loader and 3.89:1 ring-and-pinion set yield more engine buzz on the freeway than he cares for, so an overdrive tranny is next on the hit list.
While it's true that Kevin scored a nicer hand-me-down car than most, it's quite amazing that he had the sense to hang on to it for all these years. How many people can say that they still own their first hot rod? Over the years, he's earned a degree, gotten married, raised two kids, and bought a house, but his Mustang has been there through it all. "Needless to say, my father is real proud of the car and what I did to it," he says. We'd have to agree.
BY THE NUMBERS
Kevin McAnally * Lewisville, TX
'68 Ford Mustang * Total cost to build: $27,000
| Engine || |
| Type: || 302 Ford small-block bored to 306 ci |
| Block: || Stock |
| Oiling: || Stock with Canton oil pan |
| Rotating Assembly: || Stock crank and rods with TRW forged pistons |
| Cylinder Heads: || Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum |
| Camshaft: || Crower solid roller, 244 @ 0.050, .540 lift, 110 LSA |
| Valvetrain: || Crower springs, COMP Cams 1.6:1 roller rockers |
| Induction: || Edelbrock Vic Jr. intake, Quick Fuel 650-cfm carb, Zex nitrous kit |
| Built By: || Kevin McAnally |
| Drivetrain || |
| Transmission: || Top Loader four-speed, Centerforce clutch, Hurst shifter |
| Rear Axle: || Ford 9" rear end, 31-spline axles, 3.89:1 gears, Traction-Lok differential |
| Chassis || |
| Front Suspension: || Global West springs, Koni shocks, Stambar sway bar |
| Rear Suspension: || Global West leafs, Koni shocks, Stambar sway bar |
| Brakes: || Baer 13" discs, front; Baer 12"discs, rear |
| Wheels & Tires || |
| Wheels: || Ford FR500 18x8 (5.42-inch backspace w/ .25-inch spacer), front; 18x9 (5.94-inch backspace), rear |
| Tires: || 245/40-18 BFGoodrich G-Force KD, front; 275/40-18, rear |