By Babs Rodriguez
Photos by Ralph Lauer
Never mind horsepower. It was all about the cool factor when it came to this father-daughter renovation of a 1968 Mustang.
Cassie Kalil was 19 when she and her dad finally found the perfect project car for the two of them. In 2004, they spotted a classified ad for a 1968 Ford Mustang. Sam Kalil was a fan of fast cars who had done a little pro stock driving. He thought the “pony car”— first introduced at the World’s Fair in 1964 — sounded promising.
After a short phone conversation with the seller, the pair headed out from the Kalil family home in Fort Worth to take a look at the car where it was garaged in Hurst. “Honestly, I probably would have liked anything, but Dad thought it was a good car,” Cassie says. “And he liked that the seller said his father had been the original owner.”
While the Mustang only had a six-cylinder engine — not the powerful V8 Sam might have preferred — he liked the Mustang for its distinctive long hood. The thought of having a convertible was appealing to Cassie. Both appreciated that while the car had not been driven much in recent years, it looked to be in pretty good shape.
“The soft top wasn’t original and the interior had some water damage, so we knew we’d have to replace the carpet and do some interior detailing. We bought it. And it broke down on the way home,” Cassie says with a laugh
There was a small leak in the radiator, and sitting around for years hadn’t done the carburetor any favors. “We had to pull over and let it cool down for a minute,” she says. But as soon as the project car was home, the tag-team tinkering began. There was no hurry, and they worked on the car on weekends over the next few years as Cassie advanced through college, first in Fort Worth, then in College Station and finally in Lubbock, graduating from Texas Tech. Every time she came home, the car was waiting. She tried to do much of the work herself, and Sam was there to help with anything she needed.
From the beginning, the color of the car was an attraction. The Kalils know from their research on the car’s history that its factory color was Gulfstream Aqua. “My dad thinks the car might have been wrecked and maybe repainted then. I pulled the VIN code on it, and the aqua is a shade or two off the original color.” The white swoosh of racing stripes on the side panels, added by the previous owner, might have been a nod to the limited-edition model known as the California Special. That said, none of the 1968 CS models were convertibles, and that feature alone makes Cassie’s car pure Route 66 cool.
She worked on rebuilding the carburetor throughout the years, replaced the spark plugs, reupholstered a couple of interior side panels and added new sun visors. The vinyl bucket seats are original. Cassie did resist her dad’s desire to beef up the engine. “It’s just a cruising car, not a racer,” she says.
A cruising car has to have a radio, of course, and an AM-FM stereo radio was first introduced to the Mustang in 1968. The one in Cassie’s car is a reproduction of the original.
The results inspired HGTV producers to request the car make a cameo appearance in an episode of One of a Kind that featured her grandmother’s home in Fort Worth’s Ridglea Hills. “The show featured her midcentury house — everything inside was vintage from that era. My mom submitted the house to the show, and they remodeled the kitchen. My mom’s favorite color is the color of the car, which she told the producers of the show was her inspiration for the backsplash tile and appliances she chose.”
Cassie says her grandmother was 93 when she died last October, and that she had only gone joyriding in the Mustang a couple times, because she wasn’t too keen on riding in a convertible. “That would mess up her hairdo. I took her to the lake a time or two, but once she’d get that perm and set, she wouldn’t want to mess with it.”
Cassie, the owner of Funky Town Catering — her parents, Sam and Pam, were the owners of Entrees On-Trays before retiring — says being busy with her food-delivery business means she doesn’t have much time to drive the Mustang other than in the occasional parade or out to dinner.
“Sometimes I drive it around the neighborhood just to get the dust off of it.”
Her affection for the car and all vintage motorized things runs deep. “I have a ’71 Honda scooter and a 1961 ‘Canned Ham’ Mobile Scout camper — I have a lot of toys.” That said, her daily driving is in an older model Jeep Wrangler. She figures with her first baby due in August there may be a new car in the future, but she imagines the Mustang will one day belong to her daughter.
Anytime the family does load up in the Mustang, it garners a lot of attention.
“Whenever I do drive it, people try and make me an offer,” says Cassie. “Even people walking by the house who see it in the garage will ask if it’s for sale.”