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1973 Ford Mustang Convertible 351 Cleveland - The Stepsister
Once Neglected, Bill Johnson's '73 Convertible Is Now A Beauty
As the president of the Mustang Club of America, Bill Johnson has Mustangs on his mind day in and day out with the steady stream of car shows, meetings, and traveling. For Bill, it's hard to find time to work on his own cars, like the '73 convertible he picked up for a screaming deal and just couldn't get around to restoring. The yellow Mustang sat on the sidelines for ten years, earning the name stepsister, as other Mustangs received preferential treatment around Johnson's Lopez Island, Washington, stable.
The convertible was originally obtained for Bill's wife, Nancy, but she disliked the car for its size. "The seats are too low, the hood is too long, and the car is just too big," she said. "I prefer my '65 because it's smaller and more girl-like."
That was just fine with Bill, who has always had a fondness for '71-'73 Mustangs. During his ten years of ownership, Bill did some work on the faded Mustang with the tattered top, like rebuilding the 351 Cleveland and dropping it into a freshly-detailed engine compartment. But recently, it was time for a major facelift. Bill wanted a driven beauty that, in his words, "Demands attention at every stoplight."
The project began with a complete strip and media blast of the body. Randy Sargent of Duvall, Washington, was entrusted with stripping the car of the gooey undercoat and replacing the hood, a couple of patch panels, and a door. Once the body was streamlined, the Medium Bright Yellow paint was applied along with a new top.
"If you are going to build a car like you want and still enter show classes," Bill advises, "you do it first to meet your own expectations, with the show rules taking second place." So Bill added his own style with a NASA-scooped hood with a functional ram-air kit, chin spoiler, pop-open gas cap, and rear wing. To finish off the convertible, Bill applied the tape stripe on the sides to tie everything together. The optional aluminum five-slot rims were buffed and polished before receiving new red center caps.
The 351 Cleveland sounds healthy with the added dual exhaust. For accuracy, all the engine compartment parts-from the battery, to the decals, to the hoses-have been replaced with concours-correct components.
Johnson's Mustang may not be completely stock, but it certainly is an eye-catcher. "After all," says Bill, "what's losing a couple of points in a car show when you can drive this beauty down the street? Not bad for a stepsister!"