November 1, 2004

The first time we saw Sean Lambert's '69 Mustang hardtop, we liked what he'd done to make it more appealing. It was a striking, sporty sibling to his father's Competition Orange '69 notchback. We even paired up the cars for a feature spread several years ago in our sister magazine, Mustang & Fords.

We ran into Sean at the '03 Mustangs Northwest Round-Up, and wanted to capture his hardtop again, this time for Mustang Monthly. What was it about Sean's "coupe" that attracted us? At first, we didn't know. Then, it smacked us right between the eyes: Sean had installed super-cool '03 Mach 1 five-spoke wheels, which completely changed the car's attitude. It went from a "nice fixer-upper" to bad and nasty in short order. And all it took was a set of 17-inch wheels and Kumho tires to change everything.

What's the message here? Mustangs that cost less aren't the convertibles, fastbacks, and SportsRoofs. So we turn our attention to the '69-'73 hardtops, '74-'78 coupes and hatchbacks, and even the base-model '79-'93 notchbacks. Just look at what you can do with the humble '69 Mustang hardtop with a little imagination and spare pocket change. This often-overlooked body style gets new respect, even from hobbyists who might never have noticed before.

But Sean did more for this classic Mustang notchback. It has a warmed-up yet streetable 302ci small-block, a C4 automatic, and 2.79:1 highway cogs out back. Under the air cleaner is a Holley 600-cfm four-barrel on top of an Edelbrock manifold. A Mallory dual-point lights the mixture.

Although many of us are tempted to bypass the basic coupe, quite a few are inclined to give it a second look. Wheels make the ride in ways we never imagined. For Sean, they wrapped up a visual renaissance that has meant renewed respect for the school-teacher ride of yesteryear.