California's Highway 58 takes you across the Central Valley to the coastal mountain ranges and Santa Margarita. It's quite a drive, but not a bad idea if you're Tim Doyle, who, along with his wife, Bonnie, owns this Silver Blue '66 Mustang convertible. When Tim and Bonnie first arrived on the West Coast from North Carolina in 1979, they set their sights on owning a vintage Mustang convertible.
Despite California's status as a region rich in all kinds of Mustangs, finding a drop-top dream ride would not be easy for the Doyles. Every time they saw a Mustang convertible, they put a note under the wiper blade asking if the owner would entertain any offers. Two years later, the phone rang. It was a woman whose husband had just passed away. The dusty Silver Blue ride was in rough condition, but was sitting safely under wraps waiting to be restored. It would be at least another 10 years before the restoration began because dreams worth dreaming don't always come quickly or easily.
The Doyles learned that it's challenging to find shops qualified to restore automobiles. It's easy to hang out a shingle and call yourself a restoration shop, yet quite another to perform first-class restorations. The Doyles' Mustang ended up in a Bakersfield shop for five years. When they picked it up, it left the shop no better for the experience. So they decided to restore it themselves at Tim's Rod & Classic Shop in Bakersfield. Because Tim had previous experience building hot rods, putting together a stocker involved a lot of restraint. A hot rodder's natural tendency is to light the torch and reshape the ride, but Tim opted to keep the convertible virtually stock, including the 200-horse 289-2V, C4 automatic, and 3.00:1 peg-leg gears in an 8-inch chunk.
Because the Doyles wanted their Mustang to yield a period driving experience, they didn't go with some of today's popular upgrades. On the ground are 195/78-14 white-sidewall radials wrapped around 14x5-inch Styled Steel wheels. Behind the wheels are drum brakes, just like we remember from the '60s.
When Tim and Bonnie drop the top, it's easy to see what they did inside: blue with white appointments in the rich Interior Dcor Group we've come to know as the Pony interior. In the dashboard is an authentic AM/FM stereo radio, circa 1966. Between the bucket seats is the Mustang's full-length console with storage compartment, certainly unique in 1966.
When we complimented Tim on the fine restoration, his response wasn't what we expected. He told us he completed the entire restoration in five and a half weeks, thanks to help from family and friends. The determined team of loyalists became focused on accomplishing what seemed an impossible task in little more than a month, just in time for Ford's 100th anniversary celebration at Jim Burke Ford in Bakersfield. Tim, honored by the invitation, approached the restoration with a lot of determination. He and his cohorts pulled it off with a restoration that caught everyone's eye at Ford's 100th. Burke, so impressed with the restoration, asked Tim if he could display the convertible in his dealership showroom for a month. Showroom traffic included many offers to buy, but Tim and Bonnie weren't selling.
It's no wonder-striking Mustang classics like this aren't easy to come by, nor are they easy to restore. Tim Doyle and his close circle of friends know this better than anyone.