Jim Smart
March 1, 2005

Mike and Priscilla Johnson call the Kansas City area home. When we first met these folks and shook their hands, there was a comfortable familiarity about them-good, salt-of-the-earth Midwesterners. Ironic, isn't it? So is how they found this Grabber Blue '71 Mustang convertible. They found it in the rain. Ironic because convertibles are for driving in the sun or in the moonlight.

The Johnsons found their Mustang in the company newsletter 16 years ago. Then they went to look at it in the cold and the rain. There it was, sitting neglected under a lean-to in rural Missouri. The Johnsons struck a deal, shook hands, and loaded the rusty convertible onto a car trailer. After being parked and forgotten for many years, the fourth generation drop-top was about to get a new lease on life. It would survive to see the sunshine.

Most of you who have restored old Fords understand the euphoria that goes with a new, yet old, purchase. Tt first, it's exciting. It's the "getting there" part of it that takes our time-something we can never get back. That's why we have to find joy in the restoration process. It's that warm intimacy with a ride where we take rusty, dirty, old parts and make them like new again. It is the welding in of new panels, and the laying on of primer and paint that gets us charged up and keeps us going during the car building process.

Mike and Priscilla can look at this slippery convertible and know they've been with it every step of the way. Aside from farming the engine rebuild out to a local machine shop, they did the entire restoration themselves. There's no body filler in this restoration, nor is there any reproduction sheetmetal. We're talking original and N.O.S. body panels because they wanted everything to fit properly. When you study this restoration, fit and finish speak for themselves.

What makes this convertible unusual is its color-Grabber Blue. We don't see this color on many Mustangs to begin with, and it becomes even more unusual in a '71. Dipping this '71 convertible in Grabber Blue is only the beginning, however.

Underhood is the short-lived 351C middle-block V-8 produced from 1970-1974. This is the 351C-2V V-8 with Ram-Air, unusual for its ram-air feature and smart execution for its conservative port sizing and torque programming. Behind the 351C is a transmission we don't see much of anymore-the cast-iron FMX transmission. The FMX is a durable Borg-Warner automatic that was once quite common in Ford and American Motors products. Big Fords had it, and so did 351W- and 351C-powered Mustangs from 1969-1973.

Because the Johnson's convertible has 351C power, it has the tough and dependable 9-inch removable carrier differential with 3.00:1 gears. This axle ratio is perfect for both acceleration and cruising. The Johnsons cruised from Kansas City to Park City, Utah, where this photo shoot took place. Fuel economy from the snappy Cleveland was in the high teens. Not bad for a vintage carbureted V-8 void of overdrive, fuel injection, and other assorted high-tech science.

We like the Magnum 500s and BFGoodrich T/As on all four corners. They not only improve handling, they look terrific.

Inside, we also like the Mustang's stylish Interior Dcor Group with its white molded door panels and black appointments. Mid-dash is a factory AM/FM stereo radio. Did you catch the tilt-wheel and power window options?

When we asked the Johnsons if they would ever consider selling the convertible, the response was an emphatic "No!" The humble convertible found on a cold, rainy day could not be replaced with anything comparable that would give them the same kind of pleasure this one does . . . even in the rain.