Twenty years ago, modifying a classic Mustang was an unthinkable sin. Even the modest six-cylinder hardtop was concours-restored to factory-original condition and shown with the best of them in the interest of preserving the breed. In the early '90s, the concours restoration movement began to give way to the fresh, exciting, and imaginative world of restomod. Early on, restomod was more about hidden modifications that made these cars safer and more fun to drive, like front disc brakes, handling improvements, dual exhaust, and stereo systems.
When Danny Banh of D.B. Performance Engineering introduced his 5.0L fuel-injected Mustang hardtop in 1993, and later, when Ron Bramlett of Mustangs Plus built his "Ronster" chop-top Mustang roadster, enthusiasts found greater comfort in doing more extensive modifications to classic Mustangs. Restomod logic is pretty simple: Keep the modifications tasteful and functional, make the car safer and more fun to drive, and never make modifications that cannot be reversed to rare or one-of-a-kind Mustangs.
Gerry and Gordy Gaub of North Bend, Washington, followed these simple rules with their '68 J-code Mustang fastback. For those of you just tuning in, a J-code '68 Mustang is factory-equipped with a high-compression, premium-fuel 302 four-barrel V-8. The engine wasn't just a 302 fitted with a four-barrel carburetor, it was also equipped with unique cylinder heads with smaller 53cc chambers to squeeze the mixture a little tighter. With more compression came additional power thanks to these short-lived 4V heads.
When the Gaubs found this Acapulco Blue fastback three years ago, it belonged to the original owner. It hadn't been driven in 20 years and was kept in a dry garage. The story was stereotypical: The husband had passed away and the surviving wife wanted to sell. The Gaubs hauled the car home and went to work. As you might imagine, they had to blow off a lot of dust to figure out what they had. Then, they decided to dress it to the nines with tasteful modifications.
Ford did a nice job on this Mustang to begin with, providing the Gaubs with a cool canvass on which to paint; 302 4V, four-speed, Interior Decor Group, overhead console, fold-down rear seat, and more. The Gaubs capitalized on the loaded fastback body by adding simple, tasteful goodies; 17-inch American Torq-Thrust II wheels, a custom grille, an AM/FM cassette stereo system, Jenson speakers, and a Moto-Lita steering wheel.
The result is a simple, well-executed Mustang that the Gaubs enjoy daily and for weekend getaways.
The 302 has been completely rebuilt for great performance and extraordinary reliability with hardened exhaust-valve seats, an ACCEL electronic distributor, Ford Racing ignition wires, an Edelbrock Performer intake with 650-cfm carburetor, and a Scott Drake engine dress-up kit with billet air cleaner. Behind the 302 is Ford's rough-and-tumble Top Loader four-speed, backed by 3.00:1 gears in an 8-inch housing.
The Gaubs have proven you don't have to build a radical restomod to have fun in a classic Mustang. Their approach has been one of simplicity, limiting their modifications to cool bolt-ons that don't cost much, yet make all the difference in the world.