Have you ever bought, or considered buying someone else’s unfinished project? It’s just a fact of the hobby that buying a car with work done to it is only going to cause you more trouble than good. You run the risk of encountering buckets of body filler, an incorrectly built engine, or any number of potential setbacks that are caused by someone biting off more than they can chew.
Herb Dennis of Bremerton, Washington, bought his 1967 Ford Mustang in 1995 out of Central Valley, Washington. It was parked under a car port and sat as someone’s project. Herb saw the opportunity and took it. It was an original S code 390 cubic-inch, 4-speed car, with a Cleveland engine, some poorly built transmission linkage, and a body that was essentially rust free.
A Rough Start To A Big Project
The people who built it didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t take their time. – Herb Dennis
The 351 cubic-inch Cleveland had a knock and the exhaust was literally non-existent. “The people who built it didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t take their time,” Herb told us. “I believe they had good intentions though.”
On the way home in the primer-spotted project car, Herb had to stop and crawl under the car twice to unlock the transmission linkage. It was so poorly aligned it would lock up as he was driving.
The car sat for a couple years as Herb drove his Fairlane Cobra and had other things on his plate. All the while, this project sat dormant and awaited his attention — he knew he had something special. This is one of only 141 cars that were sold with a competition handling package that cost an additional $388 as an option. On top of the rare option, on some documentation that Herb obtained, the Philco Corporation was listed as the original buyer.
Herb started the project by stripping the car. He pulled off the front fenders, trunk lid, and hood, then pulled all the interior and wiring out and readied the car for paint. Long story short, he made a deal with someone for the paintwork, paid half up front, and ended up getting nowhere fast. A year later, he was out $3,000 and had a car with a sandblasted cab and one dent on the rear quarter that had been repaired. The inside had been sandblasted month’s beforehand though, “which made it rust.” Herb explained.
Never Giving Up
He ended up having the car painted at Rainbow Auto Body in Gorst, Washington. He went with Zion Black Cherry Pearl, a color choice we wholeheartedly agree with. A year behind schedule, he was ready to get things moving.
Herb recycled an already recycled engine for his project. He bought a state patrol car with 120,000 miles on it, rebuild the block and put it in his pickup. After taking that rebuilt motor 130,000 miles, he pulled the motor, sold the pickup, and refreshed the bottom end with all new bearings and seals, then put it into the Mustang.
After building the engine, he had it setup in his garage where he configured his whole front end system with his radiator, flywheel, and hydraulic clutch system. He went through the transmission and added a small parts kit then installed his Hurst Linkage. At this point, things were really starting to shape up for his project.
Herb made a few custom improvements to the car to overcome a few challenges he faced during the build. He wanted to fit some wider tires in the back without tubbing it, so he shortened the rearend by 3 inches so he could make the tires fit in the stock wells. He then installed Calvert Caltrack rear traction bars.
The Finishing Touches
With the drivetrain lined out and things ready to go, there were a few interior alterations that Herb wanted to tackle. He ordered the seats from a company called Sorello out of California and bought extra fabric so that he could put it in the back seats and door panels to help things match a little better. He also went with a carpet color called Emberglow, instead of black, so that it would fit better with the color scheme as well.
Herb then added his custom gauges. They are Mustang Products gauges made by a company called Fierra. “We had a little trouble with programming the speedometer, there was something not working out right,” Herb told us. “The speedometer is designed to do all kinds of things, and once you get it set in, it’s great.” But as he faced challenges in the build, he didn’t give up. “You just pick yourself up and do it again,” Herb affirmed.
I wanted to get the car done in time for the Elks car show in July, and I did. – Herb Dennis
He started in February and finished the car in June. “I wanted to get the car done in time for the Elks car show in July,” Herb told us. “And I did.”
A couple other cool things he was able to add to the car are sequential taillights and Ringbrothers hood hinges, both of which were gifts from his wife. He also installed some unique export braces that unhook and pull right out. “They make it real nice for things like changing spark plugs since you have to pull the valve covers to reach them,” Herb said.
The Final Product
In the end, Herb has a 440 cubic-inch engine with ported Edelbrock heads, Erson flat topped cam, forged pistons, Erson roller rockers, Edelbrock intake, and a set of six, 2g Rochester carburetors fueling the whole system. The drivetrain is finished out by a top-loader transmission and a Gear Vendors overdrive, a Currie 31-spline axle, and a Ford traction lock rearend.
I feel 20 years younger to hear it run and feel the horse power. – Herb Dennis
He really just likes to drive it whenever the weather is nice, and avoids the rain if possible. That being said, it’s built water tight and could take on any weather it’s faced with.
“When you complete a project and it turns out as nice as that one does, there is a real sense of accomplishment,” Herb told us. “I feel an inner satisfaction when I start and drive it.” And what was the inspiration for the whole build? For Herb it was simple, the idea of the finished project was all he needed. “I’m old school.”