For many Ford fans, the Mustang is the pinnacle performance car. They came with the classic go-fast recipe of big engines and light weight. But as the industry has moved to Pro Touring, it's been hard for the Mustang to follow. What was an OK suspension 40 years ago is archaic today. And unlike a double A-arm front suspension, the shock tower construction of the Mustang's front suspension is not the easiest to modify for better handling. That was all the motivation that Lonny and Jason Childress needed to build a Mustang that could dish it out to competitors on a road course.
The brothers are the driving force behind Gateway Classic Mustang and Gateway Performance Suspension. Not too long ago, they developed several suspension, brake, and steering kits for early Mustangs. Then they decided to build a car for the company that could demonstrate the performance potential that these cars have, and to help further refine their products. Behind their shop, they had several desolate parts cars, and they chose one of these, a '68 Mustang coupe, as the starting point for their new project. They wanted to build the Mustang like a modern-day road-race car but stay true to the classic cues of a vintage Pony car. They wanted the sheetmetal to remain stock-no radiusing the wheel openings or flaring them out to gain more tire clearance. The interior would retain the factory appearing dash instead of an aluminum panel screwed to the rollcage. From the outside, this car would look like a mean street car with a few stickers on it. On the inside, it would be all business, but still be recognizable as a Mustang.
It was a good plan. And to top it off, they had a TV show offer to feature the car if they could get it done within a four-month window. The brothers set the team at Gateway Classic Mustang to work, thrashing to meet the deadline. The rusty hulk was freed from its resting place and dropped off at Redi-Clean for a chemical dip. What came out of the dip was a decent roof, rocker panels, inner structure, and that was about it. The rest of the sheetmetal was gone or needed to be gone.
The next call was to Dynacorn for all-new sheetmetal for the car, as well as a fiberglass hood. The crew at Gateway Classic Mustang went to work welding in replacement floors and quarters, and shaping the new fenders and doors so that everything fit well. After the metalwork was complete, they moved on to body filler and block sanding. This was going to be a race car that happened to be street legal, but as a calling card for the company, they also wanted the body to look good. A more aggressive look was achieved with the Dynacorn fiberglass hood that features a '67 GT500-style hoodscoop. Gateway Classic Mustang quarter scoops are molded into the body right behind the doors, and a race-inspired front valence was grafted in that features a large opening for increased airflow to the radiator.
Partway through the build, the TV show got cancelled. This would allow them to back off if they wanted to, but their original deadline also coincided with the Mid-America Shelby meet in Tulsa. They decided that this would be the perfect show to debut the car, and a good way to kick off the event season. They kept the team at full throttle to finish the project.
Thanks to a whole lot of Dynacorn...
Thanks to a whole lot of Dynacorn sheetmetal and countless man-hours by the team at Gateway Classic Mustang, you would never guess that this car was a rusty reject sitting in a field. A few subtle enhancements set it apart from any other '68 Mustang.
Lonny and Jason didn't want to mess around when it came to the powertrain. They did for their car what they do for many of their customers: They worked with Roush to find one of their performance crate engines that would come ready to install. For this project, a 548hp 368ci small-block was selected. They opted for a carbureted mill so their customers could more easily relate to the car. Most of their customers don't want to deal with fuel injection, but they are pretty astute at tuning carburetors. To back up the potent small-block, they used a Tremec TKO five-speed transmission kit, shifter, mount, crossmember, pilot bearing, miscellaneous wiring, and driveshaft. The transmission included a custom-modified tailshaft to minimize the modifications needed for floorboard clearance. An SFI-certified Quick Time bellhousing mounts the Tremec transmission to the motor. The car is primarily used on the track, so a Tilton clutch system was used instead of more street-friendly components. This also worked well with the Tilton pedal assembly, making everything from the clutch pedal to the disc from one company for optimum compatibility. The final piece of the drivetrain was a rear axle from the 9-Inch Factory. The housing was filled with 31-spline axles, a Detroit Truetrac, and 4.30 gears.
Next, the suspension, steering, and brakes came together. In front, a Gateway Performance Suspension Street Extreme coilover strut system replaced the upper A-arm, coil spring, and shock setup. The system uses a brand-new spindle that mounts to the original balljoint on the lower control arm. The system attaches to the factory shock tower. A coilover shock is then used for precise control and tuning of the front suspension performance. This system also provides ride height adjustment and it comes with 14-inch brake rotors and Baer six-piston calipers. With a modern performance front suspension now on the car, the factory steering system was the weak link. Gateway mounted its rack-and-pinion conversion kit, which replaces all of the original steering with performance rack, KRC pump, hoses, and everything else needed.
The interior is a dead giveaway...
The interior is a dead giveaway that this is a race car first. But even with the sea of race gadgets, a Year One dash insert gives the interior a resemblance to its street car brothers while holding Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges to monitor just about every variable in the car.
The rear suspension is a very unique system offered by Gateway Performance Suspension. Mustangs are notorious for traction problems. The Gateway solution is to replace the leaf-spring suspension with its three-link system. The core of this kit is a torque arm that connects the rear axle to the transmission crossmember. Two links connect the axlehousing to the original front leaf-spring mounts, and a third link installs between the housing and the torque arm. AFCO coilovers and Eibach springs make up the rest of the system. The axle is completely controlled while the coilover setup provides adjustable ride height and easy tuning for track and street use.
While the outside of the car was sprayed with DuPont Ford Screaming Yellow, everything else received a coat of benign gray. The brothers raced monster trucks for years, and brought this trick from that racing background. The gray color provides a lot of light reflection that's handy when you're trying to repair something, and it makes it extremely easy to see oil leaks or even cracks in the sheetmetal.
The Dynacorn fiberglass hood...
The Dynacorn fiberglass hood includes a short hoodscoop, and the lower front valence gives the front of the car an overall Shelby look without trying to be a clone.
The interior is primarily equipped for racing with minimal acknowledgement of what the car once was. A pair of Procar racing seats are adorned with a swath of upholstery and five-point safety harnesses. The dash has the appearance of a '68 Mustang, thanks to a Year One insert that houses a host of Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges. One of the more interesting controls in the cockpit is a Davis Technology adjustable electronic traction control system. It senses spikes in engine rpm and retards the timing if it thinks the tires are breaking loose. The stock steering column was topped with a store-shelf race steering wheel to complete the functional race car interior.
The car was finished with only hours to spare. The last touches were completed at 3 a.m., the car was loaded in the trailer and the team headed to Tulsa for the event. By 11 a.m., the car was making laps on the track. Lonny and Jason said that what they like best about the car is having fun beating on it. Over the course of the event season, they tuned the suspension and the car overall, bringing the performance to the top of the pack. Moreover, this wicked little Mustang finished 11th overall at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational featured in this issue. The exercise has allowed Gateway to make additional refinements that they could incorporate into their suspension products, further improving the great handling that they put in reach of other Mustang owners.
Pony Performance by Gateway
As owners of Gateway Classic Mustang, Lonny and Jason Childress knew the shortcomings of the factory suspension of '70-and-older Mustangs. These cars have the right look, decent front-to-rear weight bias, and can house the proper powertrain, but in stock form, their corner-turning and stopping abilities leave a lot to be desired. That's when the brothers decided to create a new business, Gateway Performance Suspension (www.GatewayPerformanceSuspension.com), which is dedicated to developing suspension, steering, and brake systems that delivered the performance that these Pony cars deserve. They now offer a full line of suspension systems, ranging from mild street performance to track ready. They have focused on the '70-and-earlier Mustangs, but most of their front systems will work on any Ford built with a shock tower suspension.
Their next endeavor will be to create a mini-tub kit for the Mustang that will allow you to stuff a 335/40R17 under the sheetmetal. That should tip the scales for the Mustang even further in favor of autocrossing and road racing!
|BY THE NUMBERS
|’68 FORD MUSTANG
|Lonny and Jason Childress
||Ford 368 small-block
||Dart iron block
||Wiseco billet steel crank, Eagle billet steel H-beam connecting rods, Wiseco 11:1 coated pistons
||Air Flow Research 205cc CNC-ported aluminum
||COMP Cams solid roller with 254/260 degrees at .050 and .627-/.627-inch lift
||Jessel Sportsman 1:6 roller rockers, 2.08-/1.60-inch intake/exhaust valves
||Edelbrock Victor intake, Holley HP 850-cfm carburetor
||Ford Powertrain Application headers, 2½-inch dual exhaust with Spintech mufflers
||Roush mechanical fuel pump
||MSD 6AL-2, MSD Pro Billet distributor
||Be Cool direct bolt-in aluminum radiator with dual electric fans
||548 hp at 6,900 rpm and 461 lb-ft at 5,600 rpm
||Roush Competition Crate Engines
||Tremec TKO-600 five-speed manual
||Housing from the 9-inch Factory with 4.30:1 gears, Detroit Truetrac differential and 31-spline axleshafts
||Gateway Performance Suspension Street Extreme strut kit, Eibach springs, Koni double-adjustable shocks
||Gateway Performance Suspension three-link kit, Eibach springs, AFCO shocks
||Baer six-piston 13-inch rotors front; six-piston 13-inch rotors rear
|WHEELS & TIRES
||Vintage Wheel Works 17x8, front; 17x9.5, rear
||245/45R17 BFGoodrich KDW, front; 275/40R17 BFGoodrich KDW, rear