Rick Barkley has fond memories of his first car—a '65 Mustang K-GT convertible he purchased in 1973 from a Melbourne, Florida, surfer for $500.
"I had absolutely no idea what it was other than a Mustang convertible," Rick explains. "It was all jacked up with aluminum slotted mags and big tires. I did my share of street racing with it. When I eventually blew up the engine, I replaced it with a junkyard 289, only to learn later that the original was a Hi-Po! I tried to get it back from the shop but the owner had already rebuilt it for his Fairlane race car!"
After trading away his K-GT convertible, Rick began dating his future wife, Vicki. Each time he picked her up at her mother's home, he saw a beat-up Mustang GT convertible in the yard with weeds growing around it. Rick soon learned that the '65 Mustang belonged to Vicki's brother, Doug Pratt, who had parked the car due to low oil pressure. Rick eventually met his future brother-in-law at a family get-together and was soon bugging Doug to sell the car.
"I hadn't even looked at it close enough to see that it was a K-code," Rick adds. "I tried to buy it several more times over the next couple of years, but Doug always said he wanted to rebuild the engine and restore the car."
Then, out of the blue, Doug called. "He asked if I still wanted the Mustang and I replied ‘Yes!' When I asked how much, Doug said, ‘Nothing. If you want it, come and get it."
As newlyweds, Rick and Vicki couldn't afford to repair the Mustang, much less restore it, so the convertible was relegated to storage, mostly outdoors where it continued to deteriorate for the next 20 years. Finally, in 2007, the Barkleys had saved enough for the restoration and delivered the car to a shop. Then, in early 2008, Rick lost his job when the company he worked for closed its doors.
"I called Vicki on my way home and told her we'd have to put the restoration on hold. She said, ‘Absolutely not! We've already planned for the restoration expense.' What a great wife!"
Over the next year and a half, Rick had plenty of time to search for parts while also searching for a job. Fortunately, the Mustang retained many of its original parts, including the VIN-stamped block, heads, distributor, fuel pump, shifter, 9-inch rearend, and exhaust manifolds. Rick quickly became an active participant at the Hi-Po Mustang website (ww.hipomustang.com), where he got advice for having the original components rebuilt by some of the best in the country: David Kee (four-speed), Distributor Dynamics (distributor), Bill Heeley (shifter), Arizona Brake and Clutch (clutch disc and pressure plate), Damper Doctor (harmonic balancer), and Fred Ballard (fuel pump, plus supplied an original water pump). Pony Carburetors, now out of business, supplied a manual choke, Hi-Po version of the Autolite 4100 carburetor.
Rick's freshly restored K-GT convertible was a stand-out at the 2011 Mustang and Fords Roundup at Silver Springs, where we presented Rick with the Mustang Monthly editor's choice award. It was hard to miss the slick black paint with red GT stripes and redline tires. We also noticed that the car is well-optioned; in addition to the GT Equipment Group and Hi-Po 289 engine, it's also equipped with the Décor (pony) Interior, Styled Steel wheels, AM/FM radio, power top, brake warning light, and Rally-Pac.
"The restoration was a large undertaking," Rick says. "I couldn't have done it without the generous gift of the car itself from my brother-in-law; the support from my wife, family, and friends; the specialists who helped with parts; and all those who answered my countless questions on the Hi-Po Mustang, Vintage Mustang, and Concours Mustang websites."
Unfortunately, Rick's brother-in-law, Doug Pratt, lost his battle with cancer in 2012, but not before seeing the results of Rick's restoration efforts.
"It's unfortunate that Doug isn't here to see his old Mustang in the pages of Mustang Monthly," Rick adds. "Vicki and I want to dedicate this feature to him."