Jim Smart
October 1, 2009

Ever had a car in your neighborhood you wanted so badly that you kept a close watch on it in hopes that it would come up for sale? In most cases, the car vanishes, never to be seen again. Joel Sokolow has a story like this, only his '70 Mustang Grabber is the dream car that didn't get away.

"I first laid eyes on this beautiful automobile in 1985 when I moved to Arcadia, California," Joel tells us. The car was a Vermilion Mustang SportsRoof parked in a neighbor's garage across the street from a buddy's home.

His buddy, Tom Frazin, eventually introduced Joel to Rob Ilgenfritz, owner of the Mustang SportsRoof that had been given to him by his father. James Ilgenfritz had purchased the Mustang new from Foulger Ford and drove it for about six years before passing it along to his son. Joel rarely drove the car because he wanted to preserve it. Still, his Mustang had its share of scar tissue. Once, while en route to Las Vegas, he struck an object that damaged the left front fender. Another time, he took up two parking spaces at a local community college, incurring the wrath of an angry student who keyed his paint.

Rob eventually hopped up the car with Appliance slotted mag wheels, Mickey Thompson valve covers, and dual exhausts, although he was smart enough to keep the original parts. Through the years, the SportsRoof became legendary in the neighborhood, often discussed but rarely seen.

In time, Rob would discover drawbacks to a car that sat too much. It became challenging just to start and drive, so Rob started thinking about selling his Mustang. A number of people in the neighborhood wanted the car but Joel had the shoe-in because of his friendship with Rob through Tom. On Labor Day weekend 2008, Joel picked up the 80,000-mile Mustang, which needed a lot of work to get into good running condition.

Joel sent the car to Mustangs & American Classics in Orange County, where Duke Mao and his staff went to work on the SportsRoof, overhauling and tuning the carburetor to get the engine running smoothly again. But Duke's work was only the beginning. The brakes needed attention along with the suspension. When Duke tore down the cooling system, he discovered that corrosion had blocked most of the cooling passages. The heater core was leaking and had to be replaced. New BFGoodrich Radial T/As replaced old Goodyear GTs.

About the same time, Joel ordered a Marti Report from Marti Auto Works. He learned that his SportsRoof was originally a Mustang Grabber, with just 5,120 produced for a Ford sales promotion in 1970. Aside from Ford producing so few as springtime sales stimulators, they're also hard to find because many have lost their identity-stripes and black-out rear panel-during repaints. Unless you have a Marti Report, Grabbers are impossible to confirm because they vanish once the stripes are gone. There was no special trim or color code-not even a six-digit special-order DSO code. A Marti Report is the only way to confirm an original Grabber.

Because Joel wanted his Grabber authentic and ready for Mustang Club of America judged competition, he looked to Jeff Speegle for restoration tips and information. Jeff shared '70 Mustang engine compartment images, which gave Joel an idea where the decals should be located. Another valuable contact was Oklahoma's Lance Morgan, who runs the '70 Grabber Mustang Registry. Lance helped Joel learn more about these unusual limited-production cars.

As Joel began wrapping up his detailing efforts, he couldn't help but notice the vandalism to the original paint. Those spiteful scratches were still there. Joel found T.J. Wallace, who specializes in repairing this kind of damage by hand. Another company, 1-800-DENTDOC, repaired the fender damage from that trip to Vegas long ago.

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