It was a daunting challenge. Take a '64 convertible, in pieces, perhaps not even complete, and like Humpty Dumpty put it back together again. Now, to make it a double-dare, score a Gold Award in concours judging at a national show.
For all but one of the prospective buyers who lined up to have a look at this '64 D-code convertible several years ago, the restoration was more than they bargained for. But Ray Coleman had a vision: He saw what the Mustang could be. He liked the Guardsman Blue paint, which was available only for the '64 . Plus, he's a club person with friends who restore Mustangs. For Ray, putting the '64 back together was a fun challenge, kind of like a big jigsaw puzzle.
"I actually found it in a wrecking yard," Ray told us. "The owner had it stored in pieces in a tractor-truck trailer. He had it for sale and everybody came to look at it. They were saying, 'I'm not about to tackle that!' "
The car was truly apart. The interior was completely out, as were the engine and transmission. The doors and fenders were off, basically making the convertible a rolling shell.
"I made an offer and the owner turned me down. I told him he'd be calling me in a week or two because he'd have to deal with all the idiots coming to look at the car."
Ray was right. He got the car. Later, he discovered he and his Mustang friends had overlooked some missing "high-dollar stuff," such as the intake manifold. It was wrong, as was the C4's gearshift lever, the door-handle brackets, and other '64 details, including the square-cornered armrests that differ from the beveled '65 versions.
Truthfully, Ray says chasing down the parts was fun. "I'm semiretired and that's what I do to have fun. Well, and to make a dollar or two. I enjoy the heck out of it."
Ray, who lives in Lewisville, just north of Ft. Worth, Texas, is a member of the North Texas Mustang Club. We caught up with him in Augusta, Georgia, last Labor Day weekend as he was rolling the car off the trailer and driving it into the convention center for national judging.
"Hope I rate a Gold," Ray told us.
Already, he'd scored high enough for a Gold at the MCA Regional National in Houston. There, he was docked a mere 2 points out of 701 total, with 680 qualifying for Gold. National judging, however, is "awful hard," Ray said, "but that's what I want because I want to find out what is wrong with the car."
Judging is a sport. People who play the restoration game want to know their score. For them, restoring without adding up the points would be like playing a basketball game without keeping track of field goals and free throws.
At the Nats, Ray scored 691 out of a possible 701, plenty high for a Gold. Where did he lose 10 points?
The judges found little things such as, "A wire going to the coil had the wrong color end." Another was black paint on the taillight bezels between the lenses. The dimmer-switch grommet was not used on '64 models.
Ray explained, "These are things you've got to have an MCA judge tell you. You're not going to learn that anyplace else."
Judges also learn and train future judges from concours cars. Ray's '64 has a rare dual exhaust system that he feels was dealer-installed on his car. It's not original, but he discovered, "The holes and brackets were there for the exhausts and I was able to get the exhausts, so I put them on."
After the judging was over, the judge brought back some people to get a closer look.
"They crawled underneath my car and looked at it for a while. The judge told me the underside was one of the nicest he'd seen, so he was showing the people he was training. That really made me feel good."