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Customer Spotlight: Rockie Russell

Customer Spotlight: Rockie Russell

It seems that all restoration projects have a story behind them. However, for teenager Rockie Russell, his first restoration involved over 130 new parts and more than enough excitement in trying to get his 1968 Mustang coupe to its first car show.

The 1968 Mustang, in progress.About Rockie's 1968 Mustang

Rockie's Mustang first entered the family in the 1970s, when Rockie's grandfather bought it as a project car. It didn't run, so he rebuilt the motor and suspension, while Rockie's dad, Rick, restored the interior, vinyl top and paint and used the car as a daily driver for more than 10 years. Once Rick married his wife, Denise, and they had Rockie, the Mustang got parked in the bushes for many years as family life took over.

In the Spring of 2012, Rick pulled the Mustang out, gave it a wash job and gifted it to Rockie as his 16th birthday present. While Rick had tried to keep it covered when it was in storage, the weather in the Pacific Northwest finally took its toll, leaving lots of parts in need of repair and replacement, meaning he and Rockie had a monster restoration on their hands before this Mustang could ever hit the road.

Rockie Russell at work on his 1968 MustangThe Restoration

Since it sat for years and was exposed to the weather, there was lots of rot to deal with. The rear window panel completely rotted out, which let water enter the back seat and helped the rear seat and foot wells to rot out. The lower cowl vents rotted, which allowed water into the car, which added more rot to the foot wells, and caused the fuse panel to rot out. In addition, both of the quarter panel skins and the outer wheel houses had to be replaced. Most of the rest of the parts on the car, except the suspension, were removed and either restored or replaced.

Overall, the restoration took 27 months and required 31 different orders from CJ Pony Parts, with over 130 parts. Denise, Rockie's mom, says that there were points during the restoration where UPS was delivering parts from CJ's several times per week and their living room was stacked high with CJ's boxes. Some of the larger items that Rockie and Rick installed in the 1968 Mustang included:

Those are just the major parts, so that list doesn't include all of the little packs of hardware, the emblems, bezels and more that Rockie and Rick installed on Rockie's Mustang. With the sheer amount of parts they needed, they certainly had their work cut out for them during the 27 months of the restoration project. However, they had one goal in mind: Getting the car to the Goodguys Pacific Northwest Nationals and show it, which was happening right before Rockie was planning to head off to college. They met their goal, but it was certainly an adventure.

Rockie Russell arriving at the show in his 1968 Mustang coupe.Goodguys Pacific Northwest Nationals

In the days leading up to the show, both Rick and Rockie were frantically trying to finish the car in time. Denise says that their living room was even temporarily turned into an assembly line for the Mustang's interior.

10 days before the show: The glass went in.

9 days before the show: The exhaust was completed and the ignition started for the first time.

7 days before the show: The front wiring harness burned up. After that, both Rick and Rockie thought the show wasn't going to happen for them any longer. However, during a mad scramble to find working parts, a used wiring harness turned up and was rapidly installed to get their goal back on track.

3 days before the show: The interior was completed.

The rear of Rockie Russell's 1968 MustangThe night before the show's registration deadline, Rockie's 1968 Mustang coupe made its maiden voyage. It was rough and they still weren't sure if the show was actually going to happen for them.

The next day, another test drive revealed the wheels and tires were too big and were going to rub against the new quarter panels. Rick and Rockie decided to install some shackles and gamble that they could make it to the show. On show day, they filled the fuel tank for the first time. The 22 gallons of fuel that went in lowered the rear, requiring more adjustments to the shackles for the wheels to clear.

Once they hit the road to make the 15 mile trek to the show, the Mustang stalled and began having sporadic electrical issues. As they entered the show, men sprung from their lawn chairs as Rockie drove down the road--not to show Rockie support, but to let him know that he was losing coolant. Moments later, before Rockie could get parked, the car stalled again. It was determined the alternator was dead, so Rockie's grandparents brought in a new one, which was quickly installed.

Arriving at the show in his 1968 MustangSoon after, Rockie's Mustang was judged and he was awarded the "Young Guys Pick" award.

On the way home that night, the Mustang overheated, so they knew it was going to be a challenge to get it back to the show in the morning to receive the award and drive it in the parade. They decided to give it a try and see what happened.

It didn't make it.

Rockie had to abandon the '68 Mustang on the side of the road, four miles from the show. His dad took him to the show to get the trophy, then looped back with Rockie's grandfather and some tools, and they got the Mustang back on the road and to the show. However, there were valid concerns that the car wouldn't make it through the parade, so Rockie arranged to go last and to be pushed part of the way. When the time came to push, Rick and Rockie's younger brother, Jake, were tasked to get Rockie's Mustang to the awards area. However, as the automotive community often does, a dozen spectators and show officials jumped in and helped make sure Rockie easily made his goal and could pick up his trophy.

It was quite an experience for an 18 year old (and his family).

The Russell Family at the Goodguys Pacific Northwest Nationals

The Future

After the show, a flow test determined that a new radiator was necessary for the Mustang, as was a new thermostat. However, once the fine-tuning is complete and the Mustang is reliable, Rockie is ready to drive it and enjoy it! He plans to enter it in many more car shows, too.

Rockie just started his freshman year at Washington State University. He's looking to study Foreign Affairs, all while working hard throughout school to be able to help finance and pay for his education. After the determination he showed on his Mustang project, along with all the skills he picked up along the way, we're pretty positive that Rockie has a long and successful future ahead, both with his Mustang and in whatever path life takes him.



Hey guys, awesome project!

Could you elaborate on this : "Rick and Rockie decided to install some shackles"?

Also, why are the taillights "doubled"?



Hey Leo!
We had to attach some long shackles to the rear leaf springs in order to raise the rear end. This is because the rear tires would rub the inside of the wheel well when we'd go over bumps in the road.
Hope that answers your question!


My 15-year-old son is restoring his grandpa's (my dad's) 1966 Sprint 200 Mustang. Your story is an inspiration as our car also sat for 15 or more years and requires LOTS of work and LOTS of parts! Thanks for sharing how your family got involved in the process.

Very nice restoration. I have a 1966 Mustang Coupe with 14x7 rims and the BF Goodrich 60 Series and I too was concerned about the fenders rubbing. On a hot day in the Bay Area of California and with wheels of I used a 3lb hammer and rolled all four fender lips up in curved areas. I didn't cut the fender lips that most do for clearance. Now if and when the fender tries to rub, the fender is smother and doesn't mark the tires. p.s. my 1966 Mustang is my first car and have had it 41 years, 2nd owner and most can't believe the shape it's in..

Why are there two sets of taillights on each side? Thanks. P.s. I am 13 and I am restoring a 1967 mustang coupe. Any tips? Thanks.

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