Like many classic Mustangs, Ross's Cobra Jet then endured prolonged hibernation until, one day about five years ago, one of his patients, who worked in a speed shop, came to see him with a magazine in hand. Within was an article pointing out the overall rarity of '681/2 CJ convertibles, and in particular featuring a Candyapple Red example with white top that was alleged to be the only such one in existence. (In retrospect, this claim was probably due to that car's red interior). Until then, Ross really had no idea that his old horse was of such a rare breed. He decided it was time to pay it a little attention.
The first step in what would ultimately evolve into the total restoration evident on these pages was in having the performance shop where his patient worked rebuild the ragtop's 428 FE, its C6 automatic, and 9-inch rear axle, even though the Mustang had only 47,000 original miles on the odometer. That shop also totally disassembled the winter-ravaged car, even going to the extent of cutting out its rusty floorpan and sandblasting some of the unibody, but that's where they stopped, since they were a speed shop, not a restoration facility.
The project then shifted to Pure Stock Auto Restorations
(www.purestockauto.com) in Mt. Brydges, Ontario, where proprietor Richard Johns faced the daunting task of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. This was complicated by the fact that, when disassembled, all of the GT's fasteners, wiring harnesses, and other small parts had simply been tossed into a large container and not in any way catalogued or tagged. Richard had all those original fasteners re-plated to the appropriate finish, and even acquired a second '68 Mustang-one that had never been apart-to verify correct fastener and wiring harness locations. SEMO Classic Mustang supplied the missing smog hardware, but all the other factory underhood components were still with the car, though nearly all were pitted or otherwise corroded and in need of cosmetic refinishing.
Richard did have to chase down lots of replacement sheetmetal, including inner rockers, half the firewall, used California floors, doors, rear quarters, front fenders, and decklid, along with an NOS rear valance and headlight buckets, proving once again how hard snow-belt winters were on classic car bodywork. In the process of refinishing, he was careful to reproduce any factory markings found, including the rather large and obvious grease-pencil scribblings on the underside of the CJ's distinctive and functional hoodscoop. A carefully researched and impressively detailed rotisserie restoration ensued and, in all, Richard estimates he spent well in excess of 1,500 hours on reviving the rare ragtop.
There are two departures from factory originality on Ross's R-code GT as restored. First is the substitution of the white C-stripes that he had always wanted and, second, is that yet another aftermarket cam now nestles within the convertible's original FE block-certainly nothing as radical as the long-duration Erson version installed in the early '70s, but still a bit "bumpier" than the C6OZ-625-B cam used on factory 428 CJ and 390 GT Mustangs.
The scarce soft-top was absolutely fresh from the restoration process when we photographed it; in fact, Dr. Gillman's first chance behind the wheel of his better-than-new Cobra Jet came only after our images were taken. As he and his "new" old horse thundered briskly away, we realized that the intervening four-plus decades have done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm.