If you're gonna do something, do it right! Those simple but sage words of advice and a personal moral code came to Florida's Jim Lane by way of his father and grandfather. Both of those gentlemen are also serious car guys, another trait Jim seems to have picked up. To be more specific, Jim is a Ford guy-always has been, and presumably, always will be. Combine all these facts and it's not hard to see why Mr. Lane ended up with a pristine vintage Mustang in his garage; two in fact, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
"I have always admired the factory-fresh look of a concours Mustang," says Jim, "To me, it's like looking through a window back in time and history." So at a young age, he made it a personal goal to someday have one, in particular a "first-generation 289 convertible with as many original parts as possible."
After years of planning and wishful thinking, his opportunity finally came in 2003. While visiting family in Pennsylvania, he responded to an ad for a GT convertible located in upstate New York. The next day, he and wife, Julie, headed north, and on arrival, as if in some tall tale, found this '66 ragtop in a barn beside a tractor.
"Although covered," Jim explains, "the Mustang had become a storage unit for the family suitcases and a pet cat." Even so, the odometer showed only 34,312 miles, and the GT was nicely optioned with a four-barrel 289, four-speed manual, power steering and top, a Pony interior, Styled Steel wheels, and even air conditioning. Better yet, the Signalflare Red ragtop had matching numbers on the VIN, buck tag, and door tag, plus the engine, steering box, tranny, and rearend also had factory tags in place. It suffered from an inoperative A/C compressor, leaky power-steering lines, and a cracked original carburetor, but otherwise, it was utterly solid and very original.
Soon the deal was consummated, leading to the next problem: how to get the new project from New York back down home to Orlando. The answer materialized in the form of an open U-Haul trailer-meaning, of course, that it rained the entire 1,500-mile trip. "Knowing that hidden cowl-vent rust was a common problem," says Jim, "I was very happy when I checked the front carpet that first night and found it dry. The cowl vents were solid!" With the GT safely ensconced in his two-car garage, Jim then tore into its restoration with all the enthusiasm of a kid with a new model airplane, all the while remembering the counseling of his seniors: Do it right.
He started with a thorough mechanical inspection, replacing anything suspect with concours-correct parts. Brackets and pulleys were stripped and repainted; then Pony Carburetors supplied a new Autolite 4100 carb, and new and correct power steering lines were hunted down. No more leaks.
We'll let Jim describe the next phase: "The suspension and undercarriage were the next projects on the list. Years of dried grease and road dirt covered the suspension and entire bottom of the car. Each suspension component was removed and meticulously hand cleaned in order to find, record, and later duplicate all of the factory markings. All of the steering linkages are original and were cleaned to their previous metal luster on a wire buffing wheel.
After the factory undercoating on the entire undercarriage was painstakingly removed, it revealed the original red oxide undercarriage and overspray areas. The undercarriage was left in its original condition. This cleaning of the suspension and undercarriage took my sons, Danny and Andrew, and me nearly seven months to complete.
"I soon learned that more time was spent on researching correct parts and fastener finishes than actually bolting them on. I inspected original hardware and then compared it to new AMK hardware. If there were any discrepancies, I simply cleaned the original hardware and reused it."
Turning his attention to the black deluxe interior, Jim found it to be original right down to the metal tags tied to the seat frames. He then struck gold when he found the factory buildsheet taped to the main wiring harness near the wiper motor, which confirmed the convertible's unmolested state right down to its 3.00:1 open rearend and Visibility Package (day/night mirror, remote side mirror, and two-speed wipers). The only departure from factory issue was the GT's dealer-installed Cobra Dress-Up kit. This was when he decided the car merited a "complete and correct concours restoration."
At this point, the car was moved to T.M. Classics Restoration, owned by friend and fellow Mid-Florida Mustang Club member Todd Morris. There the GT was completely disassembled to begin an 18-month stint in the shop. Some highlights of the process include: "Being a messy Metuchen (New Jersey) car, sound deadener and caulking were heavily reapplied to closely match the factory application. Original assembly-line writing was found, documented, and reproduced. Many of these marks will never be seen, but nevertheless, they are present." Jim was doing his best to do it right.
While the A-code 289 and Borg-Warner T10 were gone over and meticulously refinished, Jim took the opportunity to fit hardened valve seats and substitute a modern Centerforce clutch. All else mechanical remains as Metuchen built, save for any accessory bits that came off in favor of N.O.S. replacements.
With the car stripped to its skivvies, it was possible to be faithful to production-line methods and hues in the painting process. Even the primer coat was computer matched to the red oxide primer found on the undercarriage. For the color coats, it was decided to go a few steps better than OEM with Glasurit polyurethane base/clear, perfectly matched to the factory code-5 Signalflare Red. Factory overspray was duplicated, down to how the top coat oversprays onto the inside of the body panels and the black underhood paint intrudes onto the undercarriage's red primer. Meanwhile, T.M. Classics' upholstery guru, Gene Switzer, replaced the convertible top using N.O.S. materials and hardware.
With the freshened drivetrain installed, it was finally time to get the GT back to Jim's own garage, where yet another eight months were spent in final reassembly, but not before some more disassembly to clean up the dust that had inevitably gathered on the suspension and chassis bits while in the shop. As always, it came right down to the wire, and detailing was completed at 2 a.m. on the night (morning?) before leaving for the '06 Silver Springs Mustang show. The immediate result was the People's Choice Award and Mustang Monthly's Best Vintage Mustang accolade.
The GT now shares air-conditioned garage space with wife Julie's Vintage Burgundy '66 convertible, which is not quite detailed to the level of this one but impressive just the same. According to Jim, Julie's car was used in Sylvester Stallone's 1994 flick, The Specialist.
"The garage is my favorite room," Jim says. "Why? I love turning on the lights and seeing how fortunate I am. It's like a dream come true; I'll never grow tired of seeing his-and-hers classic Mustangs parked in the same room."
Some of the memorabilia displayed in his garage are from Jim's grandparents' Mobil service station, a proud facility they operated for nearly 40 years. Though his grandfather is nearly 90 years old, Jim says he still gets invaluable mechanical advice from him.
As for the elder Lane's philosophical advice to always "do it right," it's pretty obvious Jim has taken it to heart and put it to good use.