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Chris Cotone


One rally point during NCMRC Poker Run Oct. 2022

Truthfully, this is not my favorite Mustang, but it has been a fun car. The 67-68 model years are not my favorite body style, preferring 69-70 model years, but 67-68 models do have a more aggressive muscular look than 65-66 IMHO. This pony came to me as a bread a butter coupe with a 289/2V.

I began looking for a Father & Son project in 2011. My goal was to find something we could fix up together and he could drive to High School and I to Mustang related events. I didn’t have a lot of cash on hand to spend at the time with a young family (wife + 3 kids) and I worked a lot of off duty overtime to build up a nest egg of funds. The overtime was one way I justified the idea to my wife. I went to look at several cars advertised locally in auto trader and on eBay, but settled on this one when I discovered how solid the body was. It is a true California Car, built at the San Jose plant and having spent most of its life West. It was not the typical east coast “Rustang” that I had been so accustomed to since High School when I began turning wrenches on them. For us East Coast pony afflicted, we know the goal is finding the best of the worst and fooling oneself into thinking that it might be halfway repairable.

Inspecting this car I found it had all the original sheet metal, solid torque boxes, floor pans, and original undercoating. I could find no body filler whatsoever in the car. The usual trouble spots were amazingly all in good shape. Finding a solid body project car like this on the East Coast made it a good choice for my son and I. We would be able to focus on the fun mechanical repairs and improvements instead of chasing rust damage.

My son and 68 on purchase day

Not to say the car was perfect by any stretch. It had been monkeyed with a lot and many things had been reassembled incorrectly, poorly, or were missing entirely from its previous 3 paint jobs. The last of which was a poorly done shade tree job where prep work was lacking. Improper paint prep led to paint peeling in some aeras and a heavy orange peel in some spots. Unfortunately, the car had also been sitting under a tarp at a Rockville, MD body shop for some time. The wind shifting the tarp around on the roof really scuffed up whatever clear coat once existed. Though when cleaned up it was still a decent 30 footer. Good enough to knock around in and for a high schooler to drive.

The previous owners had restomoded some of the cars look with modern appointments, oversized modern wheels, billet grille. Some interior pieces like a grant steering wheel didn’t suit the car to my taste. The car also seemed to have been driven hard as the rear tires were basically slicks and there was lots of burned rubber coating the inside of the rear wheel wells. The seller explained that he had bought the car from his nephew in Stamford, CA and had it shipped East. He said the 289 motor had been replaced with a Jasper crate motor (probably due to hard use), otherwise the car was all pretty much original. The motor in it has been great for me with proper TLC. After 12 years of my ownership and use the odometer shows around 103,000 but I have no idea how many miles the motor has on it.

Pictures of yucky interior and motor on purchase day

We settled on a price I could afford (which was probably a little generous to seller’s favor), but I figured I would make it up in the lack of rust repair work needed. Plus the car ran and was drivable upon purchase though I had it towed home to prevent surprises.

Towed home on purchase day for safety’s sake

As I already had another Mustang project in my garage at the time, this one was an outdoor project. Since the existing paint wasn’t anything to worry about, it worked out well. My son and I disassembled all the usual wear and maintenance areas and put in new parts. The biggest noticeable improvement was adding 1 inch front sway bar which made driving much more pleasant and responsive. The factory low back bucket seats on early cars hit my shoulder blades in an uncomfortable spot, so I used some other 70 high back bucket seats I had instead. We refreshed and reworked all the interior gauges and added options that didn’t originally come with the car like the dash clock and a tach. With new carpet inside and new chrome outside and deep cleaning/polishing; the 68 turned into a decent 15 footer. My son drove it to school on occasion for fun for several years. He had another daily driver for poor weather days or when he wanted A/C.

The best trip that we took with the car was getting it ready in time to travel to the Mustang 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2014. This was a great father son road trip despite the rainy weather most of the weekend. We learned on that trip how much the windshield leaked at the bottom and spent the trip mopping up water with towels and trying to keep the windshield from fogging. We participated in the record breaking Largest Mustang Cruise event which was a highlight. Thankfully, we had no mechanical headaches due to our thoroughness in preparation for the 6 hours ride each way.

Final prepping to leave for Mustang 50th Anniversary - Charlotte Motor Speedway

Cued up for record breaking Mustang Cruise

Cruising in the rain, Mustang 50th, my son driving

Obligatory "participation trophy" Ha

The low point for this pony was 2 days before Thanksgiving 2022, when I was driving it and rearended a small SUV in some panic stop traffic. This seriously wrinkled the front end and my spirits but fortunately there were no personal injuries, and the front frame was still straight. This crash prompted me to make serious repairs, improvements, and to undertake the long overdue proper paint job. I had wanted to get it painted sooner but other life priorities always prevailed. My wife felt sorry for me so didn’t protest much other than the “so how much will this cost us?”

Towed home due to smashed radiator

Repairs went well, the biggest negative was the loss of the original hood, L/F fender, and front fender extensions. It was a shame that those original CA Ford parts were destroyed.

This is what happens when you can’t stop in time...

Thankfully, the aftermarket stuff I needed was all available and for the most part pretty agreeable and workable. The multi-colored Frankenstein hodge podge of new and used parts came together and fit reasonably well.

Repairing the damage

Wanting to do something other than just a stock 68 coupe redux I decided to pursue a California Special Tribute Car look. This car wasn’t one but could have been. To make the car more interesting I put a new Holley 4bbl intake and carburetor on the motor. Prior to painting I also sourced Shelby style fiberglass for the rearend. I installed a Shelby style fiberglass taillight panel and sequential taillights as well as body side scoops. The car originally came with a blue vinyl top, and I am having a black vinyl top installed soon to compliment black hood stripes and a black CS/GT body stripe.

The car was  turned over for paint work in March 2023 which was completed at the end of August 2023. This left me one short month to reassemble the car as I intended to use it during my oldest daughter’s wedding ceremony the beginning of October 2023. I would come home each day from work, work on the Mustang for 4-5 hours (often staying up way too late) and repeat the next day.

Beginning work at paint shop

One year later at NCRMC Fall Show and outing in Frederick MD Oct. 2023

I am happy to report I was successful in getting the car road ready and looking great for the wedding. It was a highlight event for me to be able to drive my daughter Shelby up to the outdoor wedding venue on her big day in my freshly painted pony car and walk her down the aisle! Her new husband and my new son in law took her away in a new Bronco. I brought her on my horse, but she left on his…

This Mustang now holds a special memory for us and may in fact be the favorite car right now 😊

As every car person knows all it takes is money and time. Of which I have limits to each. My wife asks if the car spending/expenses will ever end. Clearly those of us with the bug know that the answer is no. On the positive side though, I think she appreciates the rides with me and the approving comments we get. Plus she usually knows where to find me out in the garage tinkering.

For me, the pleasure in owning Mustangs is turning wrenches and driving them. Being a common man’s sporty car and the availability of parts makes it achievable. My first car was a 1970 coupe that my grandfather gave me in High School in 1985. I learned a lot about cars from having that fun ride and the Mustang affliction took hold. I wish I still had it for nostalgic reasons. I Hope to meet you on the road during future NCRMC cruise events.

Out in the Fall in a Mustang, What’s Better?!

Chris Cotone
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