Rod Short
April 23, 2018

If you’ve been around cars for a while, it’s not uncommon to see people have flirtations in their mind about buying and restoring a classic Mustang. Sometimes it’s just a pipe dream. Other times it develops into a fling. For Phil Keithley, however, it’s been nothing short of a long-term affair.

“It was 1980,” Phil began when asked about this car, “and I had sold a 1965 coupe that I’d restored and had been driving when I started looking for a new project. I found this ’72 in the newspaper. It was just a plain Bright Lime SportsRoof with a 302 V-8, FMX transmission, and air conditioning. I bought it and drove it home that very day.”

Mustangs from 1971-1973 weren’t anywhere near as popular as earlier first-gen cars, but Phil loved the look of the car and, being a tall guy, really appreciated the larger interior space. While SportsRoofs in this generation of Mustangs are normally associated today with the Boss 351 and Mach 1 models, they were available in base trims and are relatively rare. Out of a total production of a little over 125,000 cars in 1972, just over 12 percent were base SportsRoofs—nearly twice as many of the more expensive Mach 1 SportsRoofs were made.

“My sons—aged 4 and 6 at the time—started taking the car apart,” he continued. “For the most part, the car was rust free and fun to work on. We found most of parts and pieces we needed in the flea markets at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and over time, rebuilt the drivetrain. We even did the bodywork and repainted it ourselves.”

After eight years and a company relocation to another state, the car was finally finished and back on the road. By the time the early nineties rolled around, however, the car was beginning to show some wear and rust here and there. While taking the car apart again to freshen it up, Phil was transferred yet again, where work on the project car stalled as his boys grew up and got cars of their own (which Phil worked on). When he eventually retired and relocated to North Carolina in 2007, the old pony car made the trip, but still languished as a lost project.

“In 2012, my oldest son, Mike, called,” Phil said about the turning point in his long-time affair, “and said that he wanted to return all the favors and restore my 1972 Mustang. I gladly accepted and the car was once again headed back to Pennsylvania.”

There was a lot of work to be done. To give this SportsRoof the right stance and look, the front suspension was scrapped in favor of dropped 2-inch spindles from Heidts. A Rod & Custom Motorsports coilover arrangement complete with engine mounts and tubular A-arms followed. Aldan American provided the shock-and-spring combination. The rear suspension features components from the same companies. Wilwood 4-piston disc brakes with 11-inch-diameter rotors were used on all four corners for sure stopping power.

While this was in process, attention was being paid to the engine bay. The shock towers were removed and the inner fenders were replaced to provide a clean and tidy look. The crown jewel under the hood, of course, is the 2014-model all-aluminum 5.0L Coyote engine that came straight from the FRPP catalog. With an 11.0:1 compression ratio, dual overhead cams, variable timing, and 32 valves, this modern reincarnation of the 5.0L provides an estimated 500 horses that brought this classic Mustang alive. Ford’s wiring harness, PCM, and installation were used along with the applicable motor mounts, A/C, and alternator kits to make this transplant as smooth and reliable as possible. Ancillary parts and pieces include Mustangs to Fear Coyote headers, SpinTech stainless exhaust, a Ron Davis radiator, and an FRPP color-coordinated plenum cover kit.

Completing the drivetrain is a Tremec TKO-600 five-speed that utilizes a McLeod 11-inch clutch and bellhousing. Underneath the floorpan is a Mark Williams custom-built aluminum driveshaft that connects to a Strange Engineering 9-inch Traction-Lok rear with 4.11 gears and Johns Engineering axles.

Discerning eyes reveal that a lot of hours went into the bodywork of this car. G.A. Beyer in York, Pennsylvania, was responsible for that along with a lot of long hours coming from both Mike and his father Phil. Mustangs Unlimited provided the front/rear bumpers and roll pans, while the Mach 1 reproduction grille came from Daniel Carpenter.

Chris Waller of Kustom Paint & Body sprayed the finish bodywork in Permacron Ford Deep Impact Blue, while Alan Yoho of Coastal Auto Restyling applied the graphics. Grainger Metalworks and HMS Performance Coatings did the powdercoating and plating. Seventeen-inch Billet Specialties wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber makes up the rolling stock.

TMI Pro Series bucket seats and matching door panels grace the interior along with new ACC carpeting. Dakota Digital gauges along with a Corso wheel and Hurst shifter help viewers peering in through the new Safelite glass know that this ride means business, despite its comfort.

“My son Mike was the driving force in finishing this car,” Phil said humbly. “He did most of the work, ranging from the suspension, engine installation, exhaust, and bodywork to scheduling and out-sourcing the work as well. He was a mentor in selecting all the right parts and suppliers to help finish everything. The 10 days just before Mustang Week 2017 saw our final all-out push to get it finished,” he continued. “Mike Provenzano helped me for 12 hours a day during the last week just before the show. We got in, entered, and won Best in Class 1971 to 1973 while my son’s 1965 coupe won an Award of Excellence. Now my car is licensed and on the road for a long time to come. This would have never happened if it was not for my son. This may have been the high point of my life.”

Sounds like a long-term affair to remember!

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