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1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·

This is a new thread I'm starting on yet another project car. Actually I have a basket case '68 XL fastback that I was going to start after these two '66's were done. However another '68 XL fastback sort of fell into my lap that is cosmetically superior to my original XL pile of junk. However whilst this looks far better than my old one, it has many mechanical, electrical and vacuum problems.

Some have asked well if it has so many problems, why did I buy it. Good question. My XL is missing key trim and the trim that is present most of it is pretty bad and would need reconditioning. Then there is finding the missing bits. I ran an estimate of what it would take to make my old XL's body look as nice as this new XL and it would be about 3 times what I paid for this one. So whilst this XL wasn't cheap, it was cost effective in the long run and it saves me time.

Here's my old pile of '68 XL




Oof! what a mess. It was delivered not running as it sat for decades but I did get it running and drivable. The frame is rotted and portions of the body as well including the floor pans/braces and trunk pan.

Now a word on 1968 XL's. The reason why I bought this is because it has what I call the tri-fecta of options rarely found in these. They are an FE big block (usually they came with a 302), factory A/C (expensive option back then) and bucket seats/centre console with floor shift (even though it's an XL you could get them with a bench and column shift).

In the years I've owned this I've only seen 3 others come up for sale that had all three of these options, that includes the one I just bought.






This car also has one more valuable, well at least to me, option. That is a factory AM-FM stereo. The reason why this is a valuable option is I've been trying to find the clear dash lens for this for years and have been unsuccessful. You see for the 1968 dash withcidentally looks very similar to the '65/'66 dash Ford made the dash different for AM only and AM-FM stereo. I have two extra of these AM-FM stereo radios and one NOS black plastic applique but I haven't been able to find the clear dash lens either NOS or used. That begs the question how do you put a price a part you cannot get?

This car was owned for 28 years from the people I bought it from, they did try to take care of it, but the problem was plain to see that lack of research or willingness to buy expensive parts or have the correct part sent off for overhaul led to compounding problems. Also the seller was very honest and said this car has near enough 300,000 miles on it, well 291K but now were just splitting hairs

It was the wifes daily driver for all those years. I respect that.

This car actually broke down getting it off the trailer when we made it back home, so right off the bat with the problems. Actually the crappy aftermarket Pertronix ignition module shorted. When we made it back home from Arizona it was late (about 8.5 hours one way with truck and trailer) and very cold. The owner said he didn't use coolant but distilled water, oh here we go again, so I couldn't leave it outside in the teens. My better half and I were both beat and so we thought well it should take about about 15 minutes to unstrap the car and drive it into the heated garage.

HAH, 3 hours later. I started the car on the trailer and let it warm up whilst we undid the straps and chains. We laid the ramps and I proceeded to release the parking brake I set on the trailer only to find the previous people didn't use it much and it was half stuck on and the brakes dragging. Well crap, off to a good start <rolling eyes>. With that I just figured I would overpower the parking brakes with the engine and proceeded to reverse off the trailer. No problems there. I shifted from reverse to drive and it just stalled. I cranked and cranked and cranked it and not a glimmer of a light off.


We couldn't push it because the brakes were dragging. It felt like someone just turned the key off, so I figured ignition, so after a brief diagnostic the crappy Pertronix just failed right then and there, the driver transistor was shorted on. I remembered I had an FE distributor replete with a functioning set of points and condenser somewhere in the parts reserve in a very cold storage garage. Eventually found it and proceed to replace the distributor for my old points spare in 15 degree weather. Eventually I did and it started and I drove it into the garage.

So I thought this would be different approach to owning and driving an old car, one that isn't so bad it's not in dire need of a complete tear down but one that could be mended along the way keeping the car drivable as much as possible.

I've been driving it around the subdivision making notes of everything I find wrong and boy oh boy it's a lot.

Here's the list so far of problems after two days:

1.) Charging system voltage low at idle, also it has the wrong alternator
2.) Clock doesn't work
3.) Radio only has one channel working, the FM stereo light occasionally works, AM sensitivity is really poor, FM seems fine.
4.) Glove box latch sticks
5.) Hazard switch doesn't flash the rear tail lamps
6.) Hissing noise from dash, when in heat mode, some air is coming out the dash main vents
7.) Wrong brake booster and doesn't hold vacuum.
8.) Transmission has shift kit and shifts hard. I don't like that so that will have to go.
9.) Every time it shifts there is a loud clunk from the rear axle. Cardan joints and or entire differential with gears are worn.
10.) Engine has low oil pressure (that's a given with near enough 300K miles, it's not a diesel).
11.) Parking brake sticks, needs new cables.
12.) Either the thermostat is stuck open or there is no thermostat as there is little to no heat.
13.) Needs a proper OEM electronic ignition system.
14.) The seller said it needs alignment of which I grew immediately suspicious and had a look and sure enough some clown put new strut rod bushings in and flipped the cupped washers around, so the bushings move around and so does the strut rods and the lower control arms. <rolling eyes>
15.) They replaced the front springs and the front end sits to high, needs original XL springs for FE, PS, and A/C installed.
16.) The right interior kick panel vent doesn't seem to be connected.
17.) The reupholstered front seats aren't done properly and the drivers seat especially rubs on the centre console, it will need another new set of proper seat covers.
18.) Hidden headlamp assembly is missing rubber bumpers and some hardware and is painfully slow to open and close. Will do an electric conversion. That's one old thing I don't mind upgrading.
19.) Back seat feels like the springs are broken or stretched.
20.) Needs new rear package tray liner, this one is carpeted.
21.) Has some tacky aluminum radiator, needs original brass copper one.
22.) Fan shroud is cracked.
23.) Has some hideous aftermarket flex fan that is about 3" smaller than the original fan. This needs to get tossed and the original clutch fan reinstalled.
24.) Someone installed an Edelbrock carb but plumbed it horribly.
25.) The seller had a new York compressor installed and changed one hose and the expansion valve, but since it still has the original receiver drier I bet it still has some mineral oil (R12) and the new compressor came with PAG (R134). Those two oils when mixed, heated and have some moisture in the system create an acid that attacks aluminum. That entire HVAC system will have to be dismantled, the evaporator and condenser inspected and flushed and everything else replaced. Probably a new proper brass copper heater core as well.
26.) The wiring in the car is very baked, it all needs to be replaced.
27.) Both torsion springs for the deck lid broke and need replacing.
28.) The floor shift feels loose and worn.
29.) There's an Edelbrock aluminum coolant pump, or in this case quite literally water pump, and I'm wondering if it's a high flow model. Seems out of place. If it is I will convert it back to a normal flow coolant pump as it's just wasting horsepower.
30.) The harmonic damper isn't correct, it has a later year part number code on it. Need to check TDC.
31.) The A/C idler pulley looks original and probably about to fail. Need to retrofit it with a replaceable one since these are discontinued.
32.) Wrong power steering pump

How's that for a short list :)

Now I knew ahead of time what I was getting into but someone else might look at this and would never realize all the problems it has and it would be ruinously expensive to take to an expert to sort it all out if you didn't know much about these cars or had access to parts cars with the correct parts on them.

The good news is I've relegated my junky '68 XL and junky '68 LTD as parts cars. My old XL whilst missing trim was 100% complete and original in the engine bay, so loads of hard to find correct parts to be had.

The plan is rather than take a part off the new XL and rebuild it/replace it, I will take it off one of the other parts cars and rebuild/refurbish it and then do a parts change on the new XL. This applies to everything from the clock to the engine.

The last spot of good news is I've been collecting parts, new and NOS for my old XL for years. I have boxes upon boxes of parts ready for this new XL as well.

So instead of my usual long boring posts on building a car up from a bare frame, this one will more spontaneous and dealing with individual problems and mending them whilst keeping the car drivable. Thought it might be something different.


1963 Ford Galaxie 500
173 Posts
Wow, quite a post. Looking forward to watching your progress. It is a looker already, and the interior and exterior look great for 300k miles, but it is an Arizona car, so. Sometimes the Arizona cars roast the interior. Looks damn good for that year.

1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, quite a post. Looking forward to watching your progress. It is a looker already, and the interior and exterior look great for 300k miles, but it is an Arizona car, so. Sometimes the Arizona cars roast the interior. Looks damn good for that year.
Hello ahaywood5785,

Yuppers on the Southwest cars roasting the interiors. The ones we plucked from an Indian reservation here in New Mexico and the one we bought from El Paso Texas all look like a thermonuclear hand grenade went off inside them. On the 1968 Ford full size, in my opinion the fastback (galaxie 500 and XL only) were the best looking ones of the bunch. I have that 1968 LTD 4 door hardtop parts car and whilst the front clip is the same as the XL boy the rest of the styling is rather ugly. My 1966 LTD 4 door hardtop has nice clean lines and considering it's just a Ford and not a Mercury or Lincoln has a touch of regal looks. The '68 LTD just looks like the designers lost their way.


1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Great cruisers. The ones like this are often over looked. If I may ask, what neck of the woods are you in? Would love to see them in person. You just don't see these anymore.
Hello rickyracer1983,

We live in the Albuquerque area. Just yesterday I was saying something similar to a friend about these cars. Back in the day these were ubiquitous and they didn't stick out as racy fastback because there were a lot of other cars with large sloping rear windows and hips. But when the life of those expired, they were recycled and now they are all but gone. The ones left strangely garner the attention now that they never had when they were new.


1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
First thing I would make sure works is the brakes, then suspension. Keep on the road and bring her to a stop.
Hello again,

Aside from the brake booster not holding vacuum, unless I find something troubling when I have the car in the air and wheels off, they are pretty good for now. It's the suspension and steering that are jenky at the moment. Installing the strut rod bushings correctly along with doing a front end alignment here at home is at the top of the list, along with the cooling system and some insidious wiring I've found. I just leave the battery disconnected when not driving it till that's sorted out. But I think once that's done it's stable to drive out of the subdivision with the necessary normal use safety equipment currently working.


1,229 Posts
Very cool cars. :cool:

I do like the mid 60's full size Fords.

... reminds me.... back when I lived in Whitehorse Yukon (mid 70's), at 18 years old, a friend had almost unlimited use of his dad's 68 LTD 4dr hardtop.

I remember thinking it was not bad looking, but mostly it had the room to pile in a bunch of people and go partying! :D

I guess the formal roof line did kinda make it more like an "old mans car" than a young guys cruiser, but we had fun in it anyways!
Good times!

My best friend at the time had a 66 LTD 2dr hardtop, so nice cloth interior, bench seat, column shift, but of course the "fastback" roof line and the high series grille.
Sadly the car is long gone and my friend was killed in a trucking accident, but still good memories from those times.

961 Posts
I like the big beasts. I had a 72 LTD Brougham, had a 429 4v so when I rebuilt it, just stroked it to a 460 and put earlier heads on it. Had a class III tow bar installed and used it for 5 years to tow my car trailer and 82 Zephyr to drag races.


1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I like the big beasts. I had a 72 LTD Brougham, had a 429 4v so when I rebuilt it, just stroked it to a 460 and put earlier heads on it. Had a class III tow bar installed and used it for 5 years to tow my car trailer and 82 Zephyr to drag races.
Hello rickyracer1983,

Your 1972 LTD Brougham is styled much nicer than the 1968 LTD in my opinion.

On the subject of big beasts, there's another 1968 XL fastback on Evil-Bay at the moment and this one is the kind you have to be careful of. It's already going for a silly high bid and it's the typical "flipper special".

1968 XL Fastback

The minute I see a fresh respray and missing trim, I really scrutinize it. Oof! this is hiding much. I would wager a large amount it's a bondo bucket. It's already been tagged in the back and the front with damage still present. That exterior and interior is a poor execution. Plus for an XL it has the bench seat and column shift option. I guess I don't get that, why spend more for the XL model and not get the bucket seats. You basically bought an expensive galaxie 500 with hide-a-way headlamps. :unsure:

Also there is no factory air conditioning. Have fun roasting in the summer time in a mostly black interior. I drove my newly acquired XL around in a 38 ˚F sunny day and because the heat doesn't really work I turned it off but in about 15 minutes of tooling around the interior became so warm from the sun coming through the windows and heating the cabin I had to open the wing window to cool off. Imagine that on a 100 ˚F day without A/C! I bet you could cook breakfast on the passenger seat. :eek:


961 Posts
I had that orange painted over with black. I'd go down the freeway at 85-90 and come up behind someone with that big Black/white and they'd get out of the way fast. It was always funny. HUGH trunk on that thing. sleep a family of 4 easy.

1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Air Con Pulleys

And it begins. This wasn't on my already lengthy list of things I found wrong, but I was just barbequing some steaks on the grill and since the grill is right by the garage I was looking over the engine compartment on the XL whilst waiting to flip the steaks. It was then I noticed the tensioner pulley assembly was replaced but it still was running an old idler pulley. That sent shivers down my spine. So next day I removed both the tensioner and the idler and sure enough the idler was on borrowed time. Whilst it spun, you could hear and feel the ball bearings and races were galled and there was just no lubricant in it. This was a few months from failure, especially a hot summer month with the A/C going.

With that I decided to take my spare idler pulley apart and see what I could do as it's different than the '65/'66 A/C pulleys for FE.


This is the idler pulley and bracket off the '68 with FE. Ford really started to cheapen out even by '68. The bases are no longer nice cast iron machined bases, it's just a soft thick chunk of steel that's blanked, punched and stamped. However, Ford started using actual common Imperial/English size bearings and not the weirdo half metric half Imperial/English integrated bearings as on the '65/'66. On the '68 you can just pop the cover on the pulley off, remove the snap ring and press off the pulley, press out the old bearing and reassemble.

However I like my solution to simply unbolt the pulley from the bracket especially since the bracket is a bear to remove from the car. The '68 front dress is really cramped compared to the '65/'66.


So this is kind of cheesy. The bracket is so soft they had to spline the shaft stub then stake it in to keep it fixed in place.


deja vu.

I will not repeat the machining process to make your own pulley shafts as I have done in the past, for those interested please see here:
1965-1966 Ford A/C Idler and Tension Pulleys Rebuild for FE


All that's left is cut down the other half of the shaft.


I don't have the ability to spline (broach), instead I oversized about 0.003" for a tight press fit. 0.003" sounds like a lot but the splines will mush over and take up some of that space as well.


It was a nice tight press.


Then I staked the back side. I really had to wallop that shaft steel to get it to spread.


That's the goal. Now they are really easy to service.


These are really hard to get to sit flat as the stampings are by no means a machined surface.


Continued in next post

1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Air Con Pulleys Continued

This is an alternative method to measuring the correct height.



Now the tensioner.....


Here's my beef with the aftermarket tensioners. The one on the left is the one I took off the XL. The one on the right is for the same application but these are the ones I've been buying for the '65/'66 pulleys. I just simply keep the pulley and toss the rest.


These are the part numbers for the '68 with FE tensioner.


My first problem is this. The bolt sticks out the back and this whole back needs to be flush. I wonder if the other brand they used had the same problem.


guess so.


Second problem I have with these. This is the tensioner, this is what put the tension and force on the A/C belt. That belt in turn pulls down and away on the pulley. There is sheer and tension all focused on the bolt and bracket threads. It's a small bolt in comparison. The idler pulley had that big honking bracket with a large press fit piece and the idler only slightly deflects the belt and there's not a lot of tension on that assembly. But this does.

Now the bolt is tempered, but the bracket isn't. It's soft low carbon steel. Time to bolster this.


I'm going to enlarge the hole first.


This is how I know this steel is soft, that step bit drilled through this like a hot knife in butter.


I machined a shaft stub that's 0.002" oversize on diameter and 0.025" shorter in length on the back so it leaves a small pocket. I will TIG weld the backside after pressing it in and this will spread the load on the soft steel.

Continued in next post.

1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Air Con Pulleys Continued


I just made two laps around the perimeter with the TIG welder. The slight recess gave the weld somewhere to flow with less filing. I then took a flat bastard file and ensured the back was more or less flat.




Those pulleys have the cheapest bearings in them when you buy them. I replaced them with Timkens.


Done and installed.

Now I don't have to worry about the idler locking up and burning the A/C belt or worse having the idler fly off and taking out the fan and possibly the radiator.

Good grief, I never want to see another pulley again, at least all 3 Fords are done now. :)

On a positive note after installing the pulleys I did try the air conditioner and much to my surprise it worked. The low side frosted and the high side was warm. It still could be low on charge as it was a cool day, but I'll still take it as a win. At least something works on the car.

More to come.

1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Rear Track Bar (Panhard Bar)

The car feels like the chassis is attached to the wheels via licorice. Whilst the car looks nice it's not fun to drive. In fact after I stood on the side near the back of the car and oscillated the body laterally and watched the wheel rim with respect to the body and not only did is mostly stay put there was a really loud knocking noise. 3 guesses if you need them, well especially with the title of this one.

The axle is loose laterally with respect to the chassis and just floats around. It's nerve racking to drive. After I found that I parked it till it was fixed.

At first I thought it was an axle bearing or something funky with the axle internals but I crawled underneath and watched the track bar as I grabbed the fuel tank and shook the car. The bushings are annihilated.

I have a spare track bar, so I stripped and painted it and ordered some generic bushings as the bushings for this application are long discontinued.


These are the part number I found work best. You do have to do a little modifying, but what else is new.


The bushings are for a deeper mount. So you have sand, mill, or grind the excess off in the middle. You don't have to have to have them perfect, in fact you want a little gap in the middle so they compress normally when tightened and it also give a little spot to house the grease.


The ground down ones on the left.


The bushings are also too long, so either cut that down or use the original sleeves if they are intact as it save's time.


Grease with Teflon.


Replacement track bar all ready for installation.


The old one out of the XL.



The bushings, dare I call them that, were rock hard. There is no elasticity left in them. In fact they crumble when you touch them. It's like they are trying to revert back to carbon. There's the source of the knocking noise.


This is how I changed it. Used the trans jack to lift up the axle to undo the shocks then lower minding the hydraulic brake hose and parking brake cable until I could just grab the coil springs out. The less stuff in the way the easier it is to move the axle around to get the refurbished track bar into position.

Continued in next post

1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Rear Track Bar (Panhard Bar) Continued


Looks like the original coil springs. It has the paint marks on the other side to identify them. I wish they would not have changed the front coil springs as the car sits too high in front.

Since the car was in the air for the first time I took this opportunity to examine the rest of the undercarriage.


Oh look the nice Edelbrock coolant pump is leaking and it had antifreeze in it at one time. What a shocker Edelbrock leaking. Good thing I ordered a standard new Wells coolant pump to replace this. The cooling system is next on this as all the parts should be delivered this weekend. The car has no heat and the engine runs cold.


The front steering has loads of play. It looks like all the critical components were replaced sand a rebuild a on the steer gear, it's just dripping. I would wager heavily the Pitman shaft bushing is worn inside the case and possibly the rack and worm assembly as well. But it does have a newer Pitman arm on it. Those are only available by Rare Parts so kudos to the previous owner on that one.


He had the heavier duty sintered bearing idler installed. Again well done.


The ball joints and tie rods are also replaced and it looks like the front bushings as well. I see Moog on the dust covers of the tie rods. Again top notch parts.


Here's something I can't wait to replace. That transmission. It's clearly a rebuilt unit ( I found a tag on it) and has that damn shift kit in it. It's really annoying to drive. Someone please help me understand why a transmission has to shift uncomfortably hard?!


What a shocker the rear mount is missing the safety brace.


Rear hose needs replacing (cracking).


Well the rest of the rear axle bushings are obliterated, this one is trying to escape its can. The other side of the can is rubbing on the frame... nice..


The other ones aren't doing that much better. The lower control arm bushings are crumbling as well. I took it out for a test drive after the track bar was replaced and it's much better. However hard acceleration you still just feel the axle moving around. The rest of the control arm bushing need replacing. Let me clarify something, when I say hard acceleration, I mean as much as this tired cheesy, Y code, low factory horsepower 390 can generate and it isn't much.

Continued in next post.

1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Rear Track Bar (Panhard Bar) and Under Car Inspection

When we first bought this and we knew it was a basket case of sorts, I thought maybe this is the better way to go as you can still drive the car and fix it as you go.

Now I'm starting to think --> no.


This is the way to go. This is a much better and easier approach. This takes longer to do, but it's all done, ready and raring to go with many years of trouble free service other than the usual maintenance. Still an FE, just brought into the 21st century.


I will say one thing about this XL. This is the least rusty 3rd gen I've seen in original form and certainly the least rusty one I've owned.



The little bit of surface corrosion is so light it wipes off with your finger.

More to come.


1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Pandoras Box - Cooling and electrical, well mostly.

I thought my next round of parts infusion should be towards the cooling system as there's no heat when it's cold outside and some heat when it's warm.

Here's a run down of parts I'm replacing:







Now this is a used original radiator I'm trying to clean out. I flushed it out with water till it came out clear then boiled up 3 gallons of vinegar and filled the radiator up twice after letting each round soak for 10 minutes and this trail of sediment poured out of the radiator.


That was a lot of stuff, it's a trail all the way down the pad. Tis very clean on the inside now.


That's the fan shroud and fan blade off my XL parts car.


3rd gens do not have an overflow tank, you simply do not fill the radiator all the way up. There is a note stamped into the radiator where to fill when cold. This is some tacky cheap overflow thing and will be removed.

Continued in next post.

1,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Pandoras Box - Cooling and electrical, well mostly continued


Big tacky Griffen expensive aluminum radiator with too small a direct drive flex fan.



This is the original Ford copper brass radiator. I am a little concerned using it because it's 53 years old, but sadly it's in much better shape than the aftermarket aluminum thing as we shall see. The direct replacement for this 3 row radiator is about 800 dollars and the double density version is around 900 dollars.


All the fins are intact, there's no degradation I can see, it's clean and didn't leak when it was in the '68 LTD for a couple years. For a 53 year old radiator it's in seemingly good shape.


Although I did get into an argument with the original petcock. I didn't like what it had to say.


So the receipt for this 800 dollar radiator said direct fit...... Ummmmmmmmm no.


Hell no. Plus they had to bend the original upper bracket. This is why I prepped the other one. It's unmolested.


I couldn't take the suspense anymore, there's a mystery module found the other week. It's some crazy voltage regulator with those fins and die-cast housing. I mean that was expensive to make. Oh but wait, there's the Ford voltage regulator right where it should be also and it's also connected... What the hell, yes there's dueling voltage regulators still connected. <shaking head>

Oh and do you also like the dueling vacuum cans. The big one is the cars original and disconnected, that smaller one does not belong on the car. <rolling eyes>


There's extraneous wiring coming off the back of the alternator, there's that harness for the "other" voltage regulator and must disturbing of all is the wiring looks like it's from an American Flyer train set.


The wiring is so bad on this car.

Continued in next post.
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