Jim Smart
January 1, 2005
Photos By: Jeff Ford

Jeff Chipman Recognized The Potential In A Low-Buck ‘69 Mustang Grande
Seems everyone wants a '65-'68 Mustang fastback or convertible. If they can't afford that, they opt for the '65-'68 hardtop. In the old days, those who restored and drove '69-'70 Mustang hardtops just weren't the coolest of the cool. But check out Jeff Chipman's '69 Grande-who's cool now?

We are seeing more and more successful car-building efforts with '69-'70 Mustang hardtops and, to a lesser degree, the '71-'73 hardtops. Because these cars aren't as popular as their more classic brethren, they have always been more affordably priced.

Jeff Chipman of Illinois teaches all of us something about the humble '69-'70 Mustang hardtop. You can do a lot with imagination and homespun craftsmanship. Jeff's Mustang is a '69 Grande luxury hardtop with a 302ci small-block. From the factory, it was pretty fundamental: eight cylinders, a three-speed manual transmission, and 2.79:1 cogs in a conventional 8-inch axle. But Jeff's small-block is warmed-over with an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, a 600-cfm Holley carburetor, an Autolite ignition system fitted with the Pertronix Ignitor electronic ignition, 289 High-Performance exhaust manifolds, MagnaFlow mufflers, stamped-steel chrome valve covers, and an open element Hi-Po air cleaner. All this doesn't guarantee Jeff 11-second quarter-mile times or faster laps around Road America. It does, however, guarantee him a wonderful cruising experience because that's what this ride is all about.

Jeff knows that two basic facts apply to car building: stay within your budget and recognize the car's purpose. It doesn't have to be the fastest car in town, nor does it have to sport the most expensive paint job. It just needs to look and feel right when it's time to go cruising.

For wheels, Jeff chose 16-inch Vintage 48s wrapped in BFGoodrich G Force T/A radials. They fit just right, and they don't rub the wheelwell fender lips, even when he loads two or three buddies in the back seat. In front are 225/50/16s; at the rear, there's a little more meat at 245/50/16.

Inside, Jeff kept his efforts quite simple and elegant per the Grande persona. Seats are the low-back Grande buckets with headrests, so common for 1969. Molded door panels with woodgrain appointments are what made the Grande a downscale Cougar competitor in 1969. That's an Auto Meter tachometer strapped to the steering column. A Grant classic Mustang steering wheel rounds out Jeff's inner world.

Underneath, Jeff lowered the car 1 inch using lowering blocks at the rear leafs and cutting 111/42 inches out of the front coils. He installed a 1-inch front sway bar to reduce body roll.

If you want to spice up an old Grande, you change the original Wimbledon White finish to a '70 Mustang Grabber Orange with white Shelby stripes running the length of the body. Hand-painted crossed-flags compliment the Mustang script, implying performance without having to prove it.

We tip our hats to Jeff Chipman for the terrific job he has done on this Mustang hardtop. he has shown us how far you can go with a limited budget and a whole lot of imagination.

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