Thunderbolt 68 Mustang
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Mustang Club of AmericaWhen Chris and Lisa Tramel of Liberty, Tennessee, first set out to buy a muscle car initially they were looking for a Firebird.  But, when they laid eyes on their 1968 Mustang convertible, it was love at first sight. 

Thunderbolt MustangChris had come into driving age in the 1980’s when muscle cars could be bought and fixed for speed inexpensively.  The gas crisis of the 70’s had caused many original owners of the gas guzzling machines to trade them in for cheaper, more economical, transportation.  This was a break for a generation of teens looking for cool cars that could meet their meager budgets.  Cars like the Camaro, Mustang, and Charger could be bought for a few hundred dollars, and with a little work to the engine, some primer and a nice set of wheels, you were in business. 

Twenty years later, with Chris and his wife a little more financially stable, they made the decision to buy and restore one of the American muscle cars from their youth. At first the couple began to look for a 1967 Firebird or possibly Camaro.  The car was to be a project they could work on together rather than one that was already restored, and for months they viewed several rusted out hulks without finding a suitable vehicle. That is until they ran across a friend that told them about a ‘68 Mustang he had for sale. 

The Tramels were intrigued.  They both liked Mustangs, but they had been looking for a Firebird.  But when the friend told them the car was a convertible, their eyes lit up.   A convertible was another story altogether.   They agreed to look at the car and at first glance the car looked perfect.  The body was straight and the engine was sound.  But further inspection proved the car to be only a fair project vehicle.  But, it was a convertible, and that fact pushed the Tramels to buy the car. 

T-bolts 347 StrokerResearch showed the car had been born in Dearborn, Michigan on December 11, 1967.  The original convertible sported a standard interior with bucket seats, a Wimbledon white exterior, and dark red kiwi pattern vinyl interior.   Under the hood sat a 302-4V engine and a C-4 automatic transmission.

The car was reported to have once been a display vehicle for a Ford dealership in Sparta, Tennessee.   After being sold to another auto dealer the car found its way to a barn where it was stored for several years.  During this time the car succumbed to weather and dry rot. In addition, at some point, someone had attempted to change the car’s white paint to a slate blue by spray-painting the car.  The Mustang’s red interior had also been swapped for a dark blue.  After a few untitled sales the car was then stored outside where it received even more weather damage. 

Its a Southern StangAfter the purchase the Tramels began an extensive restoration project, stripping the car to the bare uni-body.   The car had little road wear, but several damaged areas from simply sitting for years.  The Mustang received new floor pans, floor supports and torque boxes.  The sagging suspension was replaced with all new, five-leaf springs in the rear and two inch lowering springs in the front.  All steering and suspension components were replaced including a larger front sway bar. 

For stopping power, the original front drum brakes were replaced with a new disc brake conversion.   Additionally, all brake and fuel lines were replaced from underneath the vehicle.  A new two-inch duel exhaust system with turbo mufflers and Hedman headers replaced the single exhaust pipes.  The pipes were tipped with new Shelby-style chrome twin exhaust tips.

A new late model GER Thunderbolt Pro-Street C-4 transmission with a 2000-RPM stall converter replaced the weak 1968 C-4 with a small spline. 

Tbolts deleted rear body linesThe Tramels decided to paint the Mustang Midnight Black to highlight the new chrome purchased for the car. A ‘67 Shelby style fiberglass hood and a fiberglass front valance with a built in spoiler were also installed.  The car also received a fiberglass ground effects kit mounted on each side, and custom made “Southern ‘Stang” emblems on each fender.

The interior was also covered in black, with all new upholstery, dash pad, carpet, and dash panels.  An original center shifter console was installed along with a new shifter and wiring.  A new AM/FM radio cassette deck with CD changer was installed in the dash along with built in side speakers mounted in the kick panels.  The backseat of the car was replaced by cutting a longer coupe seat and piecing it back together at the convertible’s correct size.

The Mustang the Tramels now refer to as “Thunderbolt” was put back on the road in early April 2004, just in time for the Mustang 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Nashville SuperSpeedway in Gladeville, Tennessee.  There it was on display along with thousands of other cars from Mustang’s forty-year history.  

Only recently the Tramel’s conversion to Ford was made complete.  After over three years working on their beloved “Thunderbolt” Mustang their affection for the car compelled them to purchased a new Mach I Mustang as their daily driver - black, of course.

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