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When it comes to iconic Mustangs, there have been more than a handful that have made an impact with the movie-going masses. However, there are few –if any– higher on the “Pony Car Ladder of Fame” than the Highland Green ’68 Fastback that Steve McQueen commanded in the legendary film “Bullitt.” Not only did its incredible chase scene through the streets of San Francisco set a standard that all other action movie car chases would be judged by, but that particular big-block, four-speed motivated ‘Stang would live on in infamy among movie and muscle car fans alike as possibly the greatest “hero” car to ever carve-corners and lay massive rubber-rips in a high-profile motion picture.
Like with many high-profile vehicles that leave a cerebral mark through media like tv and film, there sometimes comes a deep-down desire to own that famous dream ride that you see on the screen. However, it can be a difficult task to obtain the correct model due to both low production numbers and the ever-increasing popularity factor of said vehicle. But sometimes the stars do align, and it’s possible to find an original sample that mimics the on-screen hero ride to a “t”, without minimal modification needed. Case in point; this “slightly” used and abused ’68 Mustang GT.
Living most of its life parked on the side of a mountain in upstate Pennsylvania, this much maligned Mustang was put out to pasture back in 1980. The owner left the spent ‘Stang at his small country house and never had the urge to move it. The residence was rarely visited and basically uninhabited for years. A few other rides were added along the way to keep it company, and to help block it in against possible predation from prying eyes. However, forty years later, news got out about the prized ride and luckily reached the right person.
The Mustang not only sank about ten inches into the soil, it also was frozen in place by the frigid climate. John Fardone and friends Rob Stilwell and Rob Hawkinson slowly rocked the car back and forth until the wheels broke free.
John Fardone has been out there saving collector rides from eminent doom and destruction for over 30 years. He scored his first muscle car back in high school, a big block Chevelle drop top, and has been infected by the barn find bug ever since. “I have a group of friends who help me out and give me tips on stored and neglected rides. I definitely love the chase,” states John.
John has lost count on how many collector cars he has saved and sent to good homes, but the joy of connecting new owners to old, forgotten muscle rides just never gets old for him. He doesn’t discriminate, and though he’s a Chevelle fan through and through, he is more than willing to search out cars of all denominations, makes and models. When he heard about this rare Mustang that was slowly seeping into a shallow grave, he pounced at the opportunity to grab it up and save it from the point of no return.
This is where this ’68 GT sat for the better part of four decades, slowly sinking into the topsoil. Its kept company by a 1980s Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS and a 307ci motivated Chevelle.
“With this particular Mustang GT, my friend found out about it first and bought it. He then gave me the opportunity to buy it from him and extract it from its resting place, which was not as easy as you’d think,” states John. And he was right. Due to it being winter in the Northeast with the temps hovering in the teens, and the fact that this Mustang had sunk a good ten inches into the now frozen ground, well John knew he was in for a good fight.
“We tried to shovel the wheels free, but the ground was too hard. That was a no go. Being that the front frame rails were rusty I had to be careful not to pull to hard with the winch…I didn't want to rip the front clip off. We carefully tugged back and forth on it till it broke free. Once it started to move, I was able to start pulling it up on the trailer. Overall, it took a solid hour to get it. We froze our asses off!”
The engine bay is relatively untouched. A newer Holley 750cfm carb sits where the original Holley 600cfm once sat. Besides that, and the aftermarket air cleaner, the mill in this Mustang is relatively stock to the naked eye.
Once back home, John got a real good look at what he just purchased. “The car is obviously rusty, but then again, it sat on dirt for four decades without moving. It is definitely salvageable, but it will take work. The good thing is that it’s all there, a 390ci motivated ride, numbers matching, and with some great options. These include the 8000 RPM tach, power disc brakes and the “sport deck” fold down rear seat,” states John. One thing we know was replaced was the original Holley 600cfm carburetor. It now has a later Holley 750cfm up top which was put on sometime before 1980 when it was parked for good.
As you can plainly see, most of the original Highland Green paint has been lost to the elements. “It been cooked up top on the hood, roof, trunk lid and tops of fenders, but there is some paint still on the sides. This car’s going to need some sheet metal, but luckily all of it is available,” states John.
The original interior is mostly intact, save for the bucket seats which were probably pulled from a ’69 Mustang. The Ivy Gold interior compliments the dark green nicely but deviates from the “Bullitt” theme. The original interior was nicely set up with a deluxe steering wheel, am radio and deluxe seat belts.
The interior is pretty stock except for the replacement front seats, which look like they came out of a ’69 Mustang. The Bullitt movie car had a black vinyl interior, so this is one point where John’s Mustang deviates from McQueen’s ride. Obviously, if you want to make this a Bullitt clone, changing out an interior that needs a total rehashing anyway is no big deal. Look at that poor dashpad, well that thing’s seen better days!
Along the rockers, there is an interesting set of side pipes; the passenger side has been partially eaten away by the elements, along with much of the original exhaust system underneath. These typical pipes were more “show than go” and were plumbed into the stock exhaust, as the car retains its original exhaust manifolds under the hood. The original Ford 9-inch with 3.25 gears is present, along with what appears to be a set of Lakewood traction bars. It’s all crusty underneath, but most of the important pieces to this pony puzzle are present and accounted for. The set of period-perfect Ansen wheels give this ride a 70’s street machine vibe.
Here’s a good shot of the sidepipes. These are a set that mimic header tubes flowing into the singular side pipe. These were usually hooked up to an original exhaust system with stock manifolds.
John also obtained the Marti report on his Mustang, so any mysteries were quickly solved. Turns out this ride was sold on 12/19/67, and only a few miles from its resting spot. The dealer was the now defunct Housenick Motor Company of Bloomsburg, PA. At one time Housenick was the second oldest surviving Ford dealership in the country, established back in 1918.
The report states that this Mustang came with chrome styled wheels and 14-in white walls, which are both long gone. A total of 317,404 Mustangs were built in 1968, with 42,581 being fastbacks. So, breaking it down to just Fastbacks, in the ’68 model year, 12,987 GTs rolled off the assembly line, along with 5,488 Highland Green cars. How many of these Fastbacks share these two traits is unknown. Add in the fact that only 4,113 ’68 Fastbacks had this engine/transmission code, and well you’ve got yourself one rare ride right there.
For now, John is content having the Mustang at home, but he knows soon, a Bullitt fanatic will come knocking on his garage door, just itching to bargain the title from his hands. “I haven’t done anything with it yet since I have other projects that need attention. I’ve even held off trying to get the 390 running again. I think I’ll just let the next owner do that. It’s still got plenty of life left in it!”