When James Long purchased his ‘68 Mustang convertible from fellow Roamin Angels Terry and Mary Crane in 2006, they had already done a lot to improve it.
After finding a donor ‘70 Ford Torino, they had pulled the six-cylinder engine with a three-speed trans and replaced it with the Torino’s 351 CID Cleveland 350 HP V-8 with a top-loader four-speed trans.
They also replaced the drum brakes with the Torino’s discs and replaced the Mustang’s bucket seats with high-back ones from the Torino.
Although the work had been done in the early ‘90s, the upholstery had no problems and the engine still ran great with good oil pressure.
In fact, James says that of the 10 Mustangs he has owned over the years, this one is the tightest and has no issues with the squeaks common to Mustangs older than 40 years.
Although this Mustang was a strip-down model, with only an electric convertible top, the Cranes had added an after-market cruise control for long cruises. The only worries were failing paint and the chrome.
With his business, T.J.’s Auto Spa, and his work with the Hub Society, a club for youth interested in restoring cars, James found little time to focus on the Mustang.
But the Hub Society is all about teaching young men and women the “hands on” approach to the automotive field, so the Mustang recently became one of the Society’s projects.
The only running-gear problem was the radiator, so he had that replaced with a higher-efficiency aluminum one.
Under James’ supervision, two young men took the car down to bare metal, thankfully finding almost no rust.
The next step was to do a repaint in a metallic medium blue. James had planned to replace the bumpers with new, reproductions from China.
However, the quality of the repros were so poor that he had the lads polish out the originals and kept them.
He would not use junk. As for the interior, he had it detailed and the metal portion of the dash repainted.
“I want it to look like it did in 1968,” James said.
Keeping in that theme, he is going to replace the 15-inch wheels with period-correct 14-inch American Torque Thrust chrome spokes. As a nod to its previous owners, the Cranes, he has kept the Dale Wood Memorial sticker honoring that departed Roamin Angel on the right rear window.
Traditions are important in the hobby. James says that an emotional high in the restoration was when he recently showed Terry Crane the refurbished Mustang.
He felt like the baton of keeping the hobby alive was being passed down from one generation to the next.
The one bit of ego James gave into was installing a “Long” shifter, stamped on the side with the brand name that is the same as his.
Car guys always want to leave a small imprint on the vehicles they have owned.
Now that the Mustang is almost finished, James thinks he may sell it.
He likes the car, but he needs to fund a project his Hub Society is well into: recreating Kelly Patillo’s 1935 Indy race car.
Patillo won the race that year, the first time the Indy was won by a car powered by the legendary Offenhauser engine. Offy’s won many races on the Brickyard from 1935 until 1976, including every year from 1947 until 1964.
James has one of these little four-cylinder, dual overhead-cam powerhouses in the process of being rebuilt by the Hub Society.
The plan is to drop it into a reproduction ‘30s Indy car, completely built by the Hub Society.
And, under his supervision, the youth will be the ones doing the actual building with genuine parts.
To James, that’s really keeping the hobby alive.