In the spring of 1969, Billy Ray Sullivan walked into Pegus Hurst Ford in Longview, Texas, and placed an order for a black-with-red interior 1968 Ford Torino GT hardtop equipped with an R-Code 428 and an automatic transmission. He’d been putting away funds from his job with the State of Texas and had saved enough money to buy the car of his dreams. He was 33 years old at the time and feeling good about himself and the opportunity to finally own a fast car.
On June 14, he took delivery of his ’68 Torino GT, and not long after, he took it to the streets of his hometown in Texas where it became legendary within the street racing scene there.
According to a letter obtained from his son David, Billy Ray Sullivan reached out to the selection committee at the TV show ‘OVERHAULIN’ in hopes of having his beloved 1968 Torino GT restored. Unfortunately, it was not chosen by the selection team for a makeover and the car sat idle in a pasture on the family homestead in Longview, Texas, for decades.
In 2005, his youngest son, David, decided he was going to start the process of restoring the car. He disassembled the Torino just as the opportunity to kick his acting career into another gear forced him to halt all work on the car and relocate to the acting capital of the world, Hollywood, California.
One day he stumbled onto a Facebook group that had connections to Marty Burke, Head Judge for the Fairlane Club of America. David reached out to him and was invited to see Marty’s personal collection of Fords and Mercurys. It was during this visit and laying eyes on a 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler Dan Gurney Special that David asked if Marty would be interested in restoring a 1968 Ford Torino GT R-Code Hardtop. David went on to share his story about how his father bought the car new in 1968 and it was now his dream to get it restored and looking factory original, much like the way it would have looked the day his father picked it up at the Ford dealership.
Marty informed David that he wasn’t the one who restored his ’69 Dan Gurney Special.
Burke added, “I can’t take credit for this one. It was done by Billups Classic Cars in Colcord, Oklahoma. If you’re serious about having your ’68 Torino GT restored to world class standards then I’ll help you contact Jason Billups, owner of the restoration shop.”
Marty went on to say that Jason and his team would be the only ones he’d recommend for a restoration of this magnitude.
With Marty’s help, David was introduced to Jason Billups. After all parties agreed, the restoration started in the winter of 2023 and was completed for the official unveiling at the Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals on Saturday, November 18, 2023.
Readers of Old Cars magazine will get the full story about the car’s journey in the January 1, 2024, issue of the magazine, when owner David Sullivan, Fairlane Club of America Head Judge Marty Burke and Jason Billups, owner of Billups Classic Cars, share how they contributed to the highly successful 1968 Torino GT restoration process.
Look for David Sullivan and his 1968 Ford Torino GT R-Code Hardtop to grace the cover of the magazine as a special feature story for the annual Auctions and Muscle Car issue. Included in the article will be the actual letter written and signed by Billy Ray Sullivan asking that his 1968 Ford Torino GT-428 Cobra Jet HT be considered for restoration by the restoration team at ‘OVERHAULIN’.
*OVERHAULIN’ was an American automotive reality television series.
The show’s premise was that an unknowing “victim” – the mark, in the show’s language — is nominated to be “Overhauled” by his or her family or friends, the insiders. The mark’s car, usually an old and tired antique car, was obtained through some ruse. Some common examples included the car being “stolen” by Evans, Janic or Chip Foose, a car being misplaced or lost at a mechanic’s shop, or the car being towed away by “police.”
An integral part of the show was when the two co-hosts play tricks on the unsuspecting mark, sometimes acting in roles of insurance adjusters or law enforcement agents, other times helping the insider, while Chip Foose and a team of mechanics – dubbed “The A-Team” – have a week to remake the car into a custom masterpiece. Each show ended with the surprise reuniting of the owner and newly made-over car.
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