With all of the knowledge and skills he had acquired in four years while restoring a 1969 Ford Mustang fastback with his teenage son Doug, Ken Sousa decided to restore a Mustang for himself.
He found several suitable Mustangs for sale but they were far from his Fremont, Calif., home. He had been searching for a fastback model like his son’s car when he located a 1969 Mustang convertible about 100 miles away.
Sousa went to inspect the car and found a well-worn Mustang with 87,000 miles on the odometer. The convertible had been repainted a silver color. “It looked like the paint had given up,” he recalls. “The paint had faded so much it looked like primer.”
Opening the long Mustang hood, Sousa saw every surface was had an orangish tinge. Sometime in the past, Sousa surmises, a radiator hose must have burst and sprayed rusty water and antifreeze, coating everything in the engine compartment.
Sousa says Ford built only 14,749 Mustang convertibles in 1969 so this relative rarity prompted him to buy it in April 1998. On top of the 302-cubic-inch V-8 sat a two-barrel carburetor that was barely functioning, however, Sousa decided to drive this prize home anyway.
As he limped the car home, rain started falling. He stopped and backed up to get under a sheltering bridge and was surprised when water poured from the bottom of the door. With the top raised, Sousa resumed his journey home.
Once at home he delved into the history of his 1969 Mustang, discovering that it had been built at Ford’s San Jose Assembly Plant in Milpitas, Calif., on Oct. 2, 1968. From there it went to Los Angeles where it was first purchased. The car changed hands two more times before Sousa became the fourth owner.
Sousa set about overhauling the engine, spicing it up to provide improved performance with a more aggressive camshaft and a four-barrel carburetor. A previous owner had installed dual exhausts, which Sousa opted to leave untouched.
“All modifications are kept as stock looking as possible because I like the look of restored cars,” Sousa explains.
Work on the car began with apprehension because of the water in the door episode. Sousa feared that he would find rust in the doors or on the floor under the carpet. He was pleasantly surprised to discover he had a rust-free car. “The once-black carpet had faded to brown,” he reports. The all-black interior was replaced, as was the black convertible top. The original plastic rear window had been replaced with a glass window. Sousa kept the glass window since it provides better visibility.
Sousa says his car is pretty much a bare bones model. It is equipped with power steering, a power top, an AM push-button radio, four-wheel drum manual brakes and front bumper guards.
The project was completed when a pair of racing mirrors was added and a set of white-letter tires was mounted on 14-inch chrome rally wheels. A luggage rack for the trunk lid was located in Santa Fe, N.M.
In April 2009, Sousa drove his 2,908-pound convertible to the 45th anniversary celebration of the Mustang in Birmingham, Ala.
“The car covered over 5,200 miles in the three weeks on the road and, aside from getting around 13 miles per gallon, ran without a hitch,” Sousa says.
On the return trip Sousa ran into a severe sand storm in Wyoming, which pitted the windshield and left the paint looking like it had been sand blasted.
When he arrived home he had his car stripped to bare metal. That is when he learned that the right rear corner of the car had evidently been damaged and repaired. Evidence was exposed showing the car had been painted yellow three times and silver once. As the Mustang was reconstructed both bumpers were replaced. A new windshield was mounted in a new frame.
In the years that he has owned the car, Sousa has driven it more than 50,000 miles, pushing the odometer up to 140,000 miles.
The best part of having the Mustang, Sousa admits is, “I get to be a teenager again.” — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010