Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
March 23, 2016

If you have ever torn into a Mustang for a restoration or paint and body work, you no doubt found some questionable work by the previous owner(s) that made you cringe and wish you could hop back in time to smack these owners on the back of the head, shouting, “What were you thinking?!” It’s inevitable that these cars, many of which are four and five decades old, have seen everything from daily driving in Minnesota winters—those are the ones with pop-riveted street signs in place of the missing floor sections—to questionable 1970s mods like air shocks, aftermarket shifters, speakers cut into locations they should have never been, and so much more. We could write a complete issue of Mustang Monthly on bad decisions made by previous owners!

Bill Parrett’s 1969 Mustang has seen many of these issues. It’s been a daily driver beater, a second car for the family, a bracket racer, and even a straight-axle drag car. The scary thing is these changes weren’t done by a busload of previous owners. No, Parrett is responsible for all of these changes! He made them over the last 31 years he has owned the hardtop. You wouldn’t know by looking at it now, but after three decades of modifications, wear and tear, and sitting in barn storage, when Parrett pulled the tired hardtop out for its latest incarnation he had a lot of work ahead of him, work that often had him shaking his head at his younger self.

To offset the rich Acapulco Blue hue, Parrett opted for a set of Coys C-57 wheels in polished finish. The wheels are 18x7 front and 18x9.5 rear, wrapped in General G-Max AS-03s: P225/50ZR18 up front and P275/40ZR18 out back. Steering is manual with an Open Tracker Racing Products roller idler arm. The suspension features Global West arms up front with Open Tracker’s roller spring perches, while in the rear the 3.50 geared Eaton Truetrac equipped 9-inch is suspended by Eaton Detroit Springs HD leafs and a set of Cal Tracs.

“I have owned this Mustang since 1981 when I purchased it for $500,” he says. He had to borrow the money from a friend. The friend “had been using it as a daily driver and playing in the mud with it like it was a four-wheel-drive truck, but I needed a car and wanted a Mustang. It had a 351W and Top Loader four-speed from the factory, both of which were extremely tired, but had little else in the way of options.”

The 351W was so tired that Parrett immediately swapped it out for a 302ci small-block and left the Top Loader in place so he could drive it every day, fixing little issues as he could afford them. His father helped him with bodywork, and they painted the hardtop black. The black paint actually stayed with the car through all the changes right up until this latest transformation into this big-block brute of a street car.

After a few years of daily driver duty Parrett handed it off to his wife for her to use. Later it became a drag car, even becoming a straight-axle gasser at one point. Parrett says, “At one point in the 1980s, my neighbor Jeff Duncan (who has since passed) helped me put an Econoline van straight front axle under the car as I went through my ‘gasser’ phase with the car, replete with air shocks, overly wide Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires, and super skinny VW tires on the front. That was an evil-handling beast, but it was fun.”

The 385-series big-block is stuffed with all the right parts, including Eagle H-beam rods swinging on a cast Ford crank and topped with SRP forged pistons. Breathing duties are handled by Blue Thunder aluminum heads that are fully CNC ported along with a 0.580-lift custom solid roller cam and an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap intake. The cherry on this horsepower sundae is the FiTech 1,000-cfm EFI system that the car’s owner, Bill Parrett, states was a breeze to install and tune and makes the car very driveable.

Over the years the Mustang has seen countless engine and transmission combinations. It has been powered by 302s, 351Ws, and 351Cs with FMX, C4, C6, and Top Loader transmissions. Externally the car has been modified and modified again with such accoutrements as Cougar taillights, a Boss 429 hoodscoop, and even a Mopar Pro Stock–style hoodscoop. It led many hard lives at the dragstrip and ingested a lot of nitrous too, Parrett tells us!

When he finally decided to pull the old Mustang out of the barn for its current build it was rougher than he remembered. Had he not been emotionally attached to the car it probably would have been smarter to start with a more solid car (like none of us have heard that before). Stripping the car down to bare metal revealed a bunch of earlier work that Parrett had performed—work that he wasn’t too proud of. “Many times along the way, I found myself cursing the younger me and fixing things I had done improperly decades before, like the crude hacking of the transmission tunnel to put in a Hurst Verti-Gate shifter, or the numerous holes and dents in the trunk to fit nitrous bottles and fuel pumps.” Short of the roof skin and one fender, the rest of the sheetmetal was replaced either with reproduction panels or with patches Parrett fabricated himself.

Parrett kept the interior basic and all business with standard black carpet and upholstery with the main concessions being a Year One dash panel to fit the Classic Instruments All American gauges (including a trick GPS-based speedometer), an owner-designed shift boot, a three-point seatbelt conversion, and a Sony single CD stereo system.

This build saw Parrett determined to make the Mustang the way he always wanted it, a big-block stick-shift car with gobs of torque and no frills to get in the way of the pure driving experience. Short of the EFI and overdrive transmission, Parrett feels he nailed it, and we certainly can’t argue with him after listening to that solid-roller 466ci 385-series big-block under the hood idling away during our photo shoot session.

When all was said and done, Parrett had touched every part on the Mustang during this latest rebuild except for the engine block machine work and spraying the Acapulco Blue base/clear, which was ably handled by his friend Al Helf. Without the support of his wife Teresa, and his parents, Sunda and Bill Sr., this 1969 hardtop might still be languishing in the family barn living out its remaining days, but instead it has been given a new life once again. The sins of the past have been washed away with several years of hard work to create what you see here.