Jerry Heasley
January 3, 2011

Anytime a big-block coupe surfaces, we rush to Kevin Marti's Mustang . . . by the Numbers book for production figures. Rick Parker's Grabber Blue '71 coupe was especially interesting to us because original paperwork reveals that this car went to Ford Motor Company as a test vehicle. With an early build date of September 8, 1970, the 429 Cobra Jet coupe wasn't sold to the public until February 9, 1972. That's about a year and five months after the build date, and we have to wonder what Ford did with the car during that time.

Parker, a Mustang and Ford enthusiast who makes a living with his hobby at Signature Auto Classics in Columbus, Ohio, calls this coupe, "A mystery car." In other words, neither he nor anyone else seems to know the nature of Ford's testing with this car.

"Was it built for an executive?" Rick asks. "Was it built to figure something out? Did they run the crap out of it? I mean, who knows what they did?"

Parker bought this car from Ed Pierce in Vermont. Although Pierce knew about the test car heritage, he did not know how it was used.

The options and accessories don't provide clues. Ford ordered the C-code 429 Cobra Jet backed by a four-speed manual transmission and 3.25:1 gears in a Traction-Lok differential. The car simply came with trim rings and dog-dish hubcaps. However, from this muscle car beginning, the build went all-out with the Convenience Group, power steering, tilt steering wheel, power front disc brakes, air conditioning, AM radio, console, intermittent windshield wipers, power windows, rear window defroster, color-keyed racing mirrors, and tachometer. The options pushed the price to $4,653-Thunderbird and Lincoln money in 1971. This Mustang may be the highest priced regular production '71 coupe built.

The 429 Cobra Jet did not prove popular in the '71 Mustang. Total production amounted to 1,865. Of these, Ford assembled and sold 86 in the coupe body style. Rick's '71 is one of 11 built with the C-code 429 CJ and a four-speed. Ford also built 22 C-codes with the automatic, followed by 15 ram-air 429 CJs (J-codes) with the four-speed and 38 ram-air CJs with automatic. Hot-rod types obviously preferred the 429 CJ in the fastback with 1,737 produced. The convertible 429 CJs, at 42 total, are even rarer than the coupes.

Rick bought the Cobra Jet pretty much as-is. He painted the wheels body color, per stock specifications, but left off the trim rings and added the dog-dish center caps. The trim rings would scratch the paint, Rick felt. Plus, the car has a stronger muscle car persona with the trim rings removed. All a person has to do is pop them off and go drag racing.

Rick might go drag racing with this ride, except the car attracts so much attention at shows. Also, he went to the trouble to mount reproduction Firestone raised white letter, bias ply Wide Oval tires. They would go up in smoke with the 450 lb-ft of Cobra Jet torque. Horsepower maxes out at 370 at 5,400 rpm.

And here are more mysteries. Why did Ford leave off ram-air? If they were going whole hog with the option sheet, why didn't they add Drag Pack and make the CJ a Super Cobra Jet?

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If anybody knows why Ford built and tested this car, we invite letters via email at