My Own Barn Find: 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback

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Occasionally, under very rare circumstances, you run across a true “barn find”. This is a 1968 Mustang GT Fastback that I recently found under a tarp in my parent’s barn. You see, I’ve been out of the house for a few years, in fact, out of the state for many of them.  When my parents informed me that they were selling the house I grew up in, and they were building a cabin in the woods somewhere, I figured I should come collect some of my things. I hadn’t been in the barn for at least 5 years by this point, so it was somewhat of a surprise to me to see it 100% organized and clean. Tucked off, in the back corner of the barn, was this forgotten gem.

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I grew up a 4H kid, so I spent a lot of time in the barn preparing my flock for show. If there had been a Mustang within miles of that barn, I would have sniffed it out. This one, though, had not been there when I was a rebellious farming youth. It didn’t show up until later. I remember having met this car as a learned and worldly 17 year old.  I admired its voluptuous form, its hard served life, and its years on this planet. A 17 year old, no matter how educated, simply cannot fathom something having been built nearly 20 years before their birth.

As a high-schooler, I spent the first semester of my senior year living in Spain, a little town called Murcia, to be precise. It was the number one defining period of my early life, as it was my test separating the “kid world” from that of the “adult world”. I learned who I was, and who I became owes a debt of gratitude to that kid who decided to leave the nest and study abroad. Another thing I learned while I was there was my affinity for cars. My Stepfather’s Father would send me care packages that included his already-been-read Hot Rod, Popular Hot Rodding, MoPar, and Motor Trend magazines. Being that these magazines were the only English language literature I had at my disposal, I read every word several times.

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While I was away, my folks heard tell of a Mustang for sale in the depths of the wilds of Georgia. My Mother’s Father,  always looking for an excuse to head to the warmth of the south, agreed to pick the car up and trailer it back to Michigan as a way of surprising me when I returned home from Europe. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I saw the patina and gold exterior of this lovely car. Undeterred by years of grime, pitted chrome, and rotted floorboards, I saw the potential in the machine.

Excited to get started wrenching, I immediately began removing panels. Intricately organizing bolts, nuts, and screws became a way of life. Removing the beautiful to get down to the ugly, I began making lists of what the car needed. Either out of disgust, lack of depth, or perhaps funds, my Step-dad suggested we shelve the project until a more seasoned professional could tackle the job. My beloved fastback was extricated from the garage to make room for one of my other projects, and was banished to live in the barn.

Because of this, over the years my brain began developing a tarnished view of the car, thinking the worst of everything. Viewed through my youngster eyes, my adult brain had lengthened the list of “needs” to include full floor pans, firewall sections, rocker panels, door bottoms, fuel tank, trunk perimeter, fenders, and a radiator support at the minimum. Whether I have become more pragmatic with age, or if my time with Hooniverse has taught me to appreciate patina, when I looked upon the car just a few weeks ago, I viewed it with a clarity more closely related to the great opportunity that it provided. With this most recent viewing of the car, I have seen that the rockers are solid, and the floor pans could simply be patched in the front footwells. The only section that gives me any bit of fright is the section under the battery tray where large holes have made themselves present, but even this is repairable.

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There are a few plans for the car, as I have a ton of visions of what the future holds for this car. I ask the glorious Hoons to assist me in focusing this mosaic dream into a single plan. Tell me which of the following ideas you prefer, and with luck, time, effort, and money, I might be able to bring one of them to fruition. First, I could repair the worst of the rust, and overhaul the existing mechanical bits (currently running a 1967 302 Hi Po, a 5-speed, and a Ford 9″) to get everything back into running condition, and leave the exterior patina intact. Going with this method, ideally, the car will never see a paint booth again. Secondly, I have always had a vision of replicating a fast and loose version of Frank Bullit’s road machine. This would involve a Ford FE engine, a Highland Green paintjob, and blacked out wheels. Preferably, I could find someone in a black Charger R/T to chase around. Thirdly, I could go completely crazy and build myself a street legal track terror. I’ve had a crazy idea bouncing around in the back of my head for years now, which involves a twin-turbocharged 300ci Ford straight-six, a full bevvy of suspension modifications, and a largely period-correct track ready interior. 

At some point, I would like to press this beast into the daily driver rotation, however, with a potential move to yet another state on the horizon, my fastback might have to wait a few more years before I can help it to realize its potential. Maybe I have too many projects as it is…

Bradley C. Brownell is an Editor with Hooniverse.com, but he also contributes to his own site “themostlyporscheblog“. Head over there for more of his work.

[Photos: Hooniverse/Bradley C. Brownell]

20 Comments

  1. I'm partial to both straight sixes and just about anything uncommon, so I would vote the twin turbo 300. However, that probably wouldn't make for much of a daily driver, and it also adds a lot more complexity to the project. The more complex a project, the less likely it gets finished.
    I'd aim for two stages. First, keep it as is, with the stock powerplant. If it needs a rebuild, keep it stock or very mild- something that will be quicker and easier (and cheaper, since this engine isn't the end goal). Make the car look how you want it- choose your paint color, and make it nice. Then, once it's running and on the road, start researching the 300 build. Get a 300, start building it on a stand, driving the car the whole time, then once the 300 is ready to go in, swap the engines in a weekend, spend a little while longer than that getting everything dialed in, and there you go!

  2. Nice story. Combo of 1 & 2 would be my choice. Overhaul with some additional hp's + paint the car, Highland Green is nice but don't go too crazy with the movie car replica theme. Use, say, different wheels.

  3. The second picture, is that the battery tray? Also, is that a label I see on the left front tire? Did you really put new tires on it, way back when?

    1. Second picture is the passenger foot well. The rust is largely contained to the footwells, as the section under the seats is still intact, and the rear footwells have minor pinhole rust in a couple places.
      The car sat in a field in Georgia for about 25 years, and the tires that were on it were not round enough to roll the car around on. We did get tires for it, simply as a way of moving it about without a crane.

  4. I'm probably the last person to say this- but the Bullitt replicas have been played out. I've seen my fair share and only 2 or 3 are correctly done. Go 100% or don't do it. That means a 390 and Shelby steering wheel.
    If this car landed in my yard, I'd plan on making it fun. And Lime Gold, period Shelby parts, Hurst…
    Talk up Ford enough and you might end up with an ecoboost.

  5. 5sp? I thought this thing has set for a while and had been a barn find when you acquired it?
    I'd say fix the structural rust, do what is needed to revive the power train, put it back together and drive it.

  6. Make it into something that is fun to use, and use often. Keep it street friendly. Don't worry about the rest, just drive the pants off of it.

  7. I am sad that there no longer seems to be any middle ground between not repainting old cars at all in favor of "patina" (which in a lot of cases is — authenticity not withstanding — often rather nasty looking) and a zillion-dollar candy gloss coat three millimeters thick. If you want something that looks old-school, there were plenty of Mustangs running around with Earl Scheib one-coat resprays back in the day. That's the retro look I'd go for. It won't cost a fortune and it won't be something too fragile to use and enjoy.
    I say you rebuild the existing powertrain, clean up the sheet metal as best you can, then prime and sand the crap out of it, before going at it with an HVLP gun filled with Eastwood single-stage urethane.

    1. That old Mustang is too far gone.
      The bad part is seeing these old cars pulled apart and stuffed in boxes
      Half the parts missing and half need work
      No structural integrity left in that old unibody .
      But lots of nice parts.

      1. That body is far from gone, many people have brought back worse. parts are relatively cheap and plentiful and it's all pretty easy to do.

  8. Fix the rust, POR15 the floorpans, and spray on some rustoleum. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly
    Get the 289 rebuilt and drive it for a while before deciding on any go fast goodies or other modifications.
    Just please don't make ANOTHER Shelby replica.

  9. I think I've said this before, but the older I get, the more I like stock restorations. Assuming that can't be done 100% here, I would restore to a daily driver condition, which would include a coat or two of paint. Is the original color gold? That would look great.

  10. I vote option 1 with a respray to the stock gold I see on the door frame. I think you will get a lot more use out of it that way than if you go the (still awesome) turbo route.

  11. I'd say you should do the minimum needed to get the car operational and mobile. That's plenty of work right there. And doing that will give you more perspective on the whole package. Then you can go back and do more serious work or get into restoration and upgrades. The big problem with projects is that they too often stay projects. If you can enjoy the car, you'll have more motivation to keep the work going.

    1. Very true, I've seen too many grand plans never get finished because of the loss of enthusiasm. If it can be enjoyed occasionally then the enthusiasm can be maintained between small down times to do a specific project/upgrade.

  12. My vote goes to get it running and driving, after fixing the floors and battery tray. Do little things to improve it over time. When you need to fix the suspension upgrade it to what you want etc. But keep driving it, cars are meant to be driven!

    1. That's my credo. I've never understood people who pay top dollar for a low miles classic.

  13. Nice! I have a '68 fastback that I'm restoring myself. It was an original Highland Green / black interior car (currently in a shade of satin black I shot after putting it back together), so I'll be going back to that shade, but everything else on it will *not* be a Bullitt tribute.
    If you need some tips, let me know. I replaced my cowl panel a few years back and have done a lot of work to mine:
    <img src=http://www.supermotors.net/getfile/475730/fullsize/work-underway.jpg>
    <img src=http://www.supermotors.net/getfile/949764/fullsize/side.jpg>

  14. What a great car! There is so much support for classic Mustangs out there today. I do not recall ever seeing one of these in gold but the picture above looks great. It would stand out from all of the green and black cars out there. The driveline you have in there is good for now and can be built up over time. Considering the current condition you can do whatever you want without feeling that you have "violated a classic". I would lean towards the look, sound and handling (upgraded brakes, tires steering and suspension) of a late 60's Trans Am racer but with a civilized/stock interior. No matter what you will have one of the most iconic cars ever made. Good luck!

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