We'd have to say that Lonny Dubay was understating things a bit when he described the "before" condition of his '64½ convertible as "needing help." The photos taken when Lonny hauled the forlorn Mustang out of his father's storage yard reveal what Lonny 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 age 13, he started working in his father's collision repair shop in Colorado, learning metal repair, welding, paint, and mechanical repairs. By 21, he had opened his own shop. In 1987, he relocated to Florida, but 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 '64½ Mustang convertible in his father's storage yard. "He bought it in the early 1980s," Lonny says. "It was missing the motor and transmission, so it just sat outside for over 20 years." Last year, Lonny 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 '64½ model with all of the early-production characteristics - D-code 289, generator charging system with "GEN" warning light and large horns on the front frame braces, 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, like power top, Rally-Pac, console, rocker panel moldings, and Styled Steel wheels.
In just four months, Lonny, with help from his father, took the convertible from salvage yard reject to 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 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 a rotisserie restoration like this, 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 '64½ 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 '64½ 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.