Miles Cook
July 1, 2002

Wouldn't it have been cool if Ford offered the '72 convertible exactly the way Steve Kiker and his wife, Angie, built this one? Sure it would. But even better-you can make one yourself just as they did, by starting with a plain-Jane, six-cylinder car and basically building it from scratch.

It was a long, nine-year road to get this Pony into shape. The foundation for the project was considerably rustier than Steve originally anticipated. "The car had been repainted a nonfactory color before we purchased it," he says, "and it looked to be in fair condition, but, wow-was it ever a rust bucket when I took it apart. It was, however, pretty much original with no modifications."

The short version of this project is that Steve started out with a rusty six-cylinder convertible and turned it into the snarling Cleveland-powered gem you see here. He did all the work at home, including prepping and painting the car in a full basement that's set up like a body shop with an air compressor and MIG-welding capability. In fact, Steve built just about the entire car himself, along with help from family members like Angie and their son Stephen. The only work he farmed out was the convertible top and seat-cover installations, the engine machine work, and the transmission and rearend rebuilds.

The details of the longer version follow. Says Steve, "I could tell by the original data-information plate, this car was originally a very plain, six-cylinder convertible. The only option on the window sticker was a set of hubcaps. Considering the amount of time and money we were going to spend on this car (because of the rust), we elected to dress it up and change the drivetrain. It was done with mostly Ford parts, and my goal was for it to look like it could have come this way and not look at all like it had been modified. So, out came the sixer and in went a 351C that was built using TRW forged pistons, Clevite bearings, a roller timing chain, and roller rocker arms. The engine was balanced, fitted with a Reed cam, and topped with an Edelbrock intake and Holley 750 carb. Spark is provided by a Pertronix ignitor electronic ignition. The completed engine was painted Ford Blue to keep the appearance as close to stock as possible."

As Steve didn't want the car's mods to be obvious, he did an excellent job in reaching that goal, integrating several other factory bits such as 15x8-inch Magnum 500 wheels; power front disc brakes; Mach 1 suspension; the aforementioned Cleveland mill; a factory tach and gauges; front and rear spoilers; a Mach 1 hood, grille, side stripes, taillight panel, and gas cap; Ram Air; power steering; a Rim-Blow steering wheel; and a console with a clock.

Also added to the car were a Top-Loader four-speed and a 9-inch rearend with limited-slip and a 3.50:1 gearset. Giving the car its clean look as it rolls down the road and pleases the show crowds are BFGoodrich Radial T/As with 235/60R15s up front and 245/60R15s in back.

The result, having just been completed barely a year ago, adds up to a nicely built '71-'73-style Mustang that's at home on the show scene or at the local cruise nights around Newman, Georgia (Steve made it clear the car is never trailered). We'll bet it also looks good next to the '71 Mach 1 Steve has owned since 1985, as well as the '93 5.0 LX he and Angie have owned since it was new. But even though the other two cars have plenty to recommend them when it comes to driving a nice Mustang, we'd opt for the ragtop more often than not. Wouldn't you?