We'd have to say that it was an understatement when Lonny Dubay described the "before" condition of his '64 1/2 convertible as "needing help." The photos taken when Lonny hauled the forlorn Mustang out of his father's storage yard reveal what he started with. To some, the car would be best described as a prime candidate for the scrap yard or crusher. The Poppy Red paint was faded. The convertible top was ripped in numerous places, allowing rain, leaves, and debris into the interior. Nearly every body panel showed signs of rust or denting. The tires were flat, the chrome was pitted and twisted, and the upholstery was literally falling apart. The car needed more than help.
If anyone could save the Mustang, it was Lonny. At the age of 13, he began working in his father's collision repair shop in Colorado, learning metal repair, welding, paint, and mechanical repairs. By the timeLonny turned 21, he had opened his own shop.
Lonny relocated to Florida in 1987, but he took a side trip to North Carolina in 1993 when he was recruited by Roush Racing to fabricate Winston Cup Thunderbirds for Mark Martin and Ted Musgrave. By 1999, he was back in Florida to devote full attention to his real passions-restoration and fabrication-at his Edge Performance shop in St. Petersburg.
While looking for a car to showcase his abilities, Lonny remembered the '64 1/2 Mustang convertible in his father's storage yard. "He bought it in the early '80s," Lonny says. "It was missing the motor and transmission, so it just sat outside for more than 20 years." Last year, he purchased the Mustang from his father and transported it to his Florida shop.
It was certainly a good car to save. First of all, it's a convertible, and Poppy Red to boot. Built in July 1964, Lonny's Mustang is a coveted '64 1/2 model with all of the early production characteristics: the D-code 289, the generator charging system with a "GEN" warning light and large horns on the front frame braces, the brake warning light switch on the master cylinder, short Mustang emblems on the front fenders, and the "A" for "Air" stamped on the fresh air vent knob. It's also equipped with some choice options, including a power top, a Rally-Pac, a console, rocker-panel moldings, and Styled Steel wheels.
In only four months, Lonny, with help from his father, took the convertible from a salvage yard reject to a glistening showpiece. "Everything was completely disassembled and restored bolt by bolt," Lonny says. "I did it all-drivetrain, interior, body, and paint. The car never left my shop."
Restoring the body involved stripping the original body panels to bare metal before repainting it in show-quality Poppy Red. Mechanical assemblies were either rebuilt or replaced with period-correct components. Every nut, bolt, and screw was removed for cleaning or replacement. As you'd expect from this kind of rotisserie restoration, the underside is as nice as the topside.
"The entire Mustang was reassembled by hand to a standard equal to or better than an original showroom-new '64 1/2 Mustang," Lonny says. That process included a concours engine compartment with the correct decals and generator. The interior features the original AM radio and Rally- Pac with clock and tach. Best of all, the radio and Rally-Pac actually work.
By bringing his '64 1/2 back from the brink of extinction, Lonny has met his goal of showcasing his restoration and fabrication talents. We'd love to see what he could do if he started with a nice car.