Jim Smart
January 1, 2000
Photos By: Bill Erdman

Do you remember the early '70s? The world around us was quickly changing: Vietnam was finally over, the sexual revolution was at its peak (remember that?), polyester was boss, disco was still a few years away, and performance was taking a back seat to safety and efficiency.

Certainly, I remember the early '70s. I'm 43. When Ford's Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant was producing its last '73 Mustang convertibles, I was finishing out my first year of high school 600 miles away in Bowie, Maryland. At the time, I couldn't have fathomed the demise of the Mustang convertible. Around my hometown, we were far removed from the doings of Dearborn. We didn't know a compact-based Mustang was coming in the fall.

Although I was focused more on adolescence during the summer of '73 and less on Detroit, my buddies and I had heard that 1973 would be the last year for a Mustang convertible. Worse yet, it would be the last year for a V-8, as there were nervous rumblings about an energy shortage. But how could that be? Worldwide there was plenty of dead dinosaur crude thousands of feet below the earth's surface, and I had just obtained my driver's license-just in time to sit in gas lines and pay a whopping 53 cents for a gallon of gasoline.

If my buddies and I were aware the Mustang convertible would be no more, you can bet most of the car-buying population knew it, too. Nineteen seventy-two had been the Mustang's worse sales year ever, selling only 125,093 units-down some 24,585 units from 1971, and only 6,401 of those were convertibles. But 1973 would be a different year for the Mustang. Although total production would be up a modest 9,774 total units, a large percentage of that number would be convertibles and Mach 1s.

What does that 9,774-unit increase tell us? Plenty. It tells us that controlled corporate leakage to the media and the dealers is good for sales. Word hit the streets that both the convertible and V-8 power would soon be gone. Buyers ordered Mach 1s and convertibles at a healthy clip for one last shot at a dying era of performance and top-down fun.

Take a look at Peter Schmidtke's Gold Glow '73 Mustang convertible and savor the memories. This is a prime example of a premium Mustang convertible for 1973, since it is sporting a 351 Cleveland 2V powerplant, FMX transmission, and 9-inch Traction-Lok differential. Adding to these power pleasures are power top, steering, and brakes; color-keyed racing mirrors; and the Interior Decor Group clad in ginger vinyl. Combine all these features with the Gold Glow finish and you have a winning performance from the Mustang convertible's last year.

Of course, time would make liars out of most of us who predicted the all-American convertible would never be again, as Ford reintroduced the Mustang convertible in 1983 with a lot of fanfare and nostalgic passion. We would never have to want for wind through our hair again. Nonetheless, the '73 Mustang convertible allowed us to ponder-and live-life without a new convertible for a long time to come, making this steed something to cherish for those of us who remember what it was like to live in the '70s.