Rob Reaser
July 1, 2001

When the Mustang entered its third incarnation for the '71-'73 model years, the body styling and equipment availability reflected the detuning of the American musclecar. The car didn't look as lithe and sporty as the earlier models, and after the big-blocks were deep-sixed, that awesome V-8 power became bittersweet memories.

But all was not doom and gloom-at least not in 1971. Ford upped the Mustang's dimensions that year, in part to accommodate the blistering 429 big-block as a regular-production option. Heck, there were two variations of the 429 available that year, four versions of the conservatively spicy 351 V-8, and of course, the 302 2V small-block.

One of the more interesting powerplants available that year was the 351 Cobra Jet. Based on the 351 Cleveland V-8, the CJ version sported 4V induction and a lower compression ratio than the regular 351 4V. Surprisingly, this hot little number wasn't released until May 1971, late in the model year.

This '71 hardtop is owned by Chip Peyton of Haymarket, Virginia, and is one of those Mustangs so affectionately referred to as a sleeper. The reason? Beneath the sedate hardtop profile and unassuming Medium Green Metallic topcoat is a 351 Cobra Jet leading a host of luxury and performance goodies. It may not look like a stylish screamer, but you'd better not mess with it at a stoplight.

"My dad found the car at an automotive repair shop in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia," says Chip. "The owner was reluctant to sell, but my dad was persistent.

"When I arrived to purchase the car, it was in a storage yard behind the repair shop. It was obvious that the car had not been driven consistently for a long time. The paint and the vinyl top were faded, and a small amount of surface rust had formed around the rear taillight panel and the passenger-side quarter-panel. The interior and the drivetrain were in great shape, and the mileage was very low for the car's age: 86,000. The car was totally original, and no drivetrain or body modifications had ever been made.

"This car is 1 of 25 factory 351 Cobra Jet hardtops with the C6 automatic transmission," says Chip. "It was special-ordered by Herby's Ford in Alexandria and used as a demo car by the dealership. It was placed in demo service on September 14, 1971, and did not sell until March 31, 1972. The slow sale may have been due to the expensive price tag the car carried due to all of the Mach 1-type options, such as the 351 CJ, the C6 tranny, the 3.50 rear gears, the Competition suspension, air conditioning, tinted glass, the full console, the Sport mirrors, and the E70x14 tires with wheel covers. The other reason may be that the sales manager was having too much fun driving back and forth to work. Whatever the reason for the slow sale, I would say there were a lot of demo rides, since the mileage at the time of sale was 4,681. At some point during the six months of demonstration, the dealer installed the vinyl roof per the invoice provided."

Shortly after taking the title, Chip handed the car to Kevin Malcolm to complete the body work, then to Mike Peyton-who applied a new Medium Green Metallic topcoat. N.O.S. parts were used wherever possible to replace the nasty stuff, with everything else being refurbished. Because the driveline was in such good condition, Chip didn't have to spend a lot of time in this area. By February 1998-almost two years after setting to work-the restoration was complete.

Now when the Cobra Jet isn't earning trophies in National Capital Region Mustang Club (in which Chip is a member) or MCA events, it's sharing garage space with a '71 M-code Mach 1 (his current project); the '72 Sprint fastback he has owned since high school; and an original, unrestored '68 Shelby GT500.

As you can see, there's nothing boring about this '71 hardtop, or the rest of Chip's pony corral for that matter.