Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
March 1, 2005
Photos By: Jim Smart

This is one of those "found-in-a-barn" stories. For Frank Miller, who spotted the Calypso Coral '69 fastback drag car in a garage, the "find" got better and better as the details revealed themselves.

"I'm a contractor by trade," Frank said, "and I was building my brother's house. One day we saw the Mustang sticking out of a nearby garage. Curiosity got the best of us, so we stopped to talk to the owner. Yes, it was for sale."

The Mustang was obviously set up for drag racing, which helped explain the mere 14,000 miles on the odometer. In fact, Frank bought it to drag race. Then he discovered it was an original GT fastback, a relatively rare option in 1969 with only 4,084 produced, according to Kevin Marti's Mustang...By the Numbers production data book. It was enough to give Frank second thoughts about drag racing such a rare, special Mustang. But it was also an original R-code 428 Cobra Jet car with the Shaker hoodscoop, C6 automatic, and factory-supplied 4.30 Traction-Lok rear axle. With drag racing in mind, the original owner even ordered the radio delete.

Marti ran the numbers through his database: Of the 4,064 GT fastbacks produced in 1969, only 246 came with the R-code 428 Cobra Jet engine. Of those, only 94 were automatics. And of those, only 11 were ordered with the 4.30 Traction-Lok gears. Thus informed, Frank aborted his drag-racing plans and embarked on a full-scale restoration.

In the four years prior to 1969, the GT had been the top Mustang performance option. But in 1969, Ford added the Mach 1 fastback to the Mustang lineup. With its aggressive blackout hood, special deluxe interior with console, handling suspension, chrome Styled Steel wheels, and other standard items, the Mach 1 immediately overshadowed the GT option, which supplied "only" the handling suspension and visual doo-dads like side stripes, a nonfunctional hoodscoop, hood pins, a pop-open gas cap, and Styled Steel wheels with GT center caps. The Mach 1 was a hit, with 72,458 units sold, while sales of GT models dwindled to 6,694 total. In 1970, Ford dropped the GT model entirely.

For Frank Miller, the GT's drag racing heritage was a good-news, bad-news scenario. It was good because drag racing kept the miles low. It was bad because many of the original parts, including some of the extremely rare Cobra Jet items, had been tossed many years ago. "When I discovered what the car was, I decided to bring it back as original as possible," Frank said. "My brother and I spent endless hours at swap meets looking for the parts we didn't have."

With parts in hand, including N.O.S. chrome, Frank and his brother mounted the Mustang on a rotisserie in his brother's garage and went to work. The most difficult part, Franks says, was removing the old drag-racing parts, including a welded-in rollcage, frame connectors, and a ladder bar rear suspension. The pair handled the majority of the restoration, farming out only the stock engine rebuild to Mike DeBisco and Dave Preston, the interior to Williams Upholstery, and the fresh DuPont paint to Dave Piscopo Auto Body.

The 15-year project was completed just two weeks before its debut at the '04 All-Ford Nationals in Carlisle, where the GT racked up two significant awards: First Place in the 1969 Mustang class and Mustang Monthly's Editor's Choice for vintage Mustangs, not only for the restoration quality but also for the car's significance as a rare and unusual performance model.

Frank Miller obviously did the right thing by restoring this '69 GT-CJ drag car to how it looked before it was drag raced.