Jim Smart
May 30, 2007

Phoenix, Arizona's history dates back 1,300 years, long before settlers landed at Plymouth Rock. In those days, it wasn't known as Phoenix. In fact, it didn't become Phoenix until the Civil War in 1865 when the Confederacy began settling the area. Philip Darrel Duppa named the city for its irrigation system, derived from the Hohokam Indian ruins. The city rose from the ashes of another civilization.

Webb McHardy's '69 Mustang convertible is a Phoenix metaphor as an automobile risen from the ashes. Webb's Mustang story dates back to when he was 15 and living in upstate New York. He and his father began looking for a Mustang. There were a lot of them in the classifieds, but none befitting of Webb's dream. It wasn't until a friend of his father decided to sell his '69 convertible that Webb found his dream machine.

The Mustang was what you would expect from the mid '80s: cosmetically restored with fresh upholstery and a set of Cragar SS mag wheels. Webb drove the Mustang throughout high school and had a ball with it. In 1988, he took the car off the road and garaged it for 17 years as he waited for the time and money to rebuild it.

In 2001, Webb's parents decided to pull up stakes and move to Arizona. Webb and his Mustang followed. Not long after settling in Phoenix, his father passed away after battling cancer. That's when Webb decided it was time to restore the car as a tribute. He turned the convertible over to The Mustang Shop and gave them carte blanche to build something extraordinary.

"The car went from a basic restoration to a stunning restomod," Webb says. "John Dinger and Randy Tinsley's eye for detail is amazing."

The Mustang now has a Smeding Performance Extreme 351W small-block, an FMX transmission, a 3.25:1 Traction-Lok in a 9-inch housing, Baer disc brakes, 18-inch Magnum 500 wheels and Nitto tires, blazing Viper Red paint, Procar Elite bucket seats, and more. The Mustang Shop built Webb a weekend warrior to be envied and appreciated.

The 430hp Smeding engine starts with a CNC-machined Ford Racing Sportsman block with 4.030-inch bores, a 9.500-inch deck height, and non-siamesed bores for improved cooling. It's then fitted with a 4340-steel crank, H-beam rods, forged pistons, a custom-ground roller hydraulic cam, and Edelbrock aluminum heads with a Victor Jr. intake topped by a Proform 750-cfm carb. Webb added an MSD ignition and a Griffin radiator.

All the technical jargon translates to an unwieldy amount of dyno-tested horsepower and torque. The Mustang Shop was concerned about the Smeding stroker's power, so it built a platform designed to take the twist. The shop's custom subframe connectors keep things in alignment. A late-model Mustang Cobra front suspension system was also installed for improved stability. Believe it or not, this is easy to do with one of the company's conversion kits. In back, five-leaf, reverse-eye springs get the job done, resulting in a 2-inch body drop in conjunction with the Cobra front suspension.

Inside, Webb added Scat Procar Elite bucket seats with custom pony logos fabricated by Sonny's Custom Upholstery, with the rear seat upholstered to match. The Grant 14-inch, shallow-dish, leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good. He decided to go for the street-rod look with a center billet air-conditioning outlet that's striking-again, on black vinyl. Because Webb likes the escape of great audio, he opted for a Clarion 200-amp system with four 4x6-inch speakers, complemented by a pair of rear-facing 13-inch subwoofers in the trunk.

Webb tells us the only regret he has in 20 years of ownership is not being able to share the outcome of this car-building project with his father. We're convinced his dad is with him in spirit every time Webb saddles up.