Picture-perfect PONY

by Larry D'Argis . Mar 11 2016
From the rear this Mustang has a menacing stance and triple tailights.

From the rear this Mustang has a menacing stance and triple tailights.

While Ford was still enjoying Mustang’s six-digit sales figures, General Motors fired their opening salvo with the new Chevrolet Camaro in late 1967, followed closely by the Pontiac Firebird.

Ford met the competition with the redesign of the Mustang in 1967 with an increase of two-inches in overall length. The wheelbase, however, remained unchanged at 108-inches. The redesign also increased underhood room to allow the installation of Ford’s 390-cubic-inch big-block V-8 to compete against the 396- and 400-cubic-inch motors available in Camaro and Firebird respectively.

For 1968, Mustang changed little in appearance other than the addition of government mandated side marker lamps and the replacement of rear quarter side vents with a cleaner piece of chrome trim. Additional improvements in handling and braking were also included, but these changes were minor unless the buyer opted for the GT package.

What also happened in 1968 was the debut of the movie Bullitt. Legendary actor Steve McQueen rolled onto the screen as Lt. Frank Bullitt, driving a Highland Green 1968 Mustang fastback. Thanks to an almost 10 minute epic chase scene, the car emerged as an instant icon.

In 2001, Mike Huen of Winnipeg went looking for a Mustang fastback. This would mark the seventh Mustang Huen would own over a number of years. Checking out a ‘68 fastback in South St. Vital Huen, thought he’d found the right car. “Usually after a few minutes of looking under a car, you often see rust or other damage and just walk away, but after 15 minutes I couldn’t see anything wrong with it,” said Huen. He also made arrangements to have his mechanic do a thorough inspection and ultimately purchased the car.

An early 1968 car produced in September 1967 it was equipped with the standard 289-cubic-inch V-8 engine, Select-Shift Cruise-O-Matic, three-speed automatic transmission and 2.76:1 rear drive ratio rear axle. A good-looking Mustang finished in Highland Green with a black vinyl interior, it featured power steering, power brakes, hood-mounted signal lamp indicators, centre console, fold-down rear seat, factory radio and added GT fog lamps in the grille. Final observation: it was nicely equipped and in good condition.

Huen drove the car for the first summer and found a few mechanical gremlins underhood, which led to an engine rebuild. The 289 had received some work previously including installation of a rare set of 289 hi-po cylinder heads. The block was rebuilt with new pistons, rings and bearings and the cylinder heads refurbished with a new valve job. “I got a bit carried away on the heads and included new screw-in studs, competition valve job and a set of roller rockers,” said Huen. Further improvements included an Edelbrock aluminium intake manifold with Holley 570 Street Performer four-barrel carburetor and Cobra air cleaner, along with a custom dual exhaust system.

Other additional items Huen found for the Mustang was a remote driver’s side mirror, new carpet, including insulation and sound-deadening materials, the addition of an AM/FM radio and a Grant three-spoke wood steering wheel. For the rolling stock and to give the Mustang that Bullitt look, the GT wheels were replaced with a set of 14-inch, American Racing Torq Thrust wheels, wrapped in BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires. The look just screams icon, and many people have commented on the car and actually tried to buy it from Huen.

Huen and his wife Barb have owned Mike’s General Store on St. Anne’s Road for the past 36 years and drive their vintage vehicles in the summer, so it isn’t odd to see one parked outside of their antiques and collectibles shop. “One day a customer made me a handsome offer for the Mustang, but my wife Barb leaned around the corner and said, it’s not for sale,” said Huen. “Over the years, the Mustang has just become such a part of me.”

During the summer months, Huen likes to drive the Mustang to the Sunday cruise at the Pony Corral Restaurant & Bar on Grant Avenue and usually caps off the summer with an appearance at the Fabulous 50’s Ford Club’s Flashback Weekend show at the Garden City Shopping Centre.

The 1968 Mustang is without a doubt an iconic car in many forms, but in keeping with the classic film, in 2008, Ford produced a limited-edition Bullitt Mustang. Stripped of badging, scoops and spoilers, with the faux gas cap on the trunk bearing the only name of the beast, it features a unique grille and specially crafted 18-inch wheels to round out the exterior treatments. Bullitt-specific interior trim with Bullitt badging and an aluminum shift knob complete the transformation. Each 2008 Bullitt was assigned its own VIN-specific serial number on a special ID plate affixed to the car’s strut tower brace.

Could it be the next future classic?

57ford@mymts.net

The Bullitt mural found on the wall of Mike’s General Store.

The Bullitt mural found on the wall of Mike’s General Store.

Mike Huen with his 1968 Ford Mustang.

Mike Huen with his 1968 Ford Mustang.

The interior features a wood-covered steering wheel, full complement of gauges and black vinyl upholstery.

The interior features a wood-covered steering wheel, full complement of gauges and black vinyl upholstery.

Photos by DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Photos by DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS