Jim Smart
February 1, 2011

It was just an old Mustang hardtop parked at Harvey's Service in Seattle, Washington. The owner, Margaret, an elderly lady of 96, hadn't driven the car since 1987; it had been sitting under a car cover for 23 years and she brought it in to get it running again. Not tagged since 1994 and up for sale, the hardtop's fuel system was contaminated with rust particles and rancid fuel deposits. Getting it running, even with just 29,800 miles, would not be an easy task.

Howard Holt's son spotted the Mustang at Harvey's and told his father about it. Howard, who never intended to buy a car like this, wound up hauling the Mustang home in January 2010. Harvey managed to start the engine but it was running on six of eight cylinders and had a horrible shake. When Howard pulled the valve covers, he discovered that two pressed-in rocker arm studs had pulled out of a head, rendering at least two bores inoperative. He yanked the heads and performed a valve job along with adding screw-in rocker arm studs for added insurance.

You might be inclined to ask why anyone would be interested in a once commonplace '70 Mustang hardtop, even one with low miles. Didn't Mary Tyler Moore drive one of these in her popular hit comedy series during the 1970s?

The charm of a car like this is what it isn't. It isn't a Cobra Jet Mach 1. And it isn't a Grande or Boss. It's a routine small-block Mustang hardtop like thousands of others that were purchased as sporty, good-looking transportation without the high sticker price. What makes the car extraordinary is its ordinary status. School teachers bought them. So did college grads headed into careers. Mustangs like this one did pavement duty for many years to follow, with most succumbing to a fateful trip to the junkyard when time and luck ran out. Margaret's hardtop would not be one of them. It's a survivor.

It's easy to understand why Margaret chose a Mustang like this. The 302-2V V-8 keeps this Mustang light on its hooves. It's manageable and easy to drive. Where a lot of folks opted for the 351W-2V or 351C-4V engines for '70, Margaret was content with the base V-8. There's a C4 Select-Shift in the tunnel. And if you know your Mustangs, you know the most common rear end for these base V-8 Mustangs was the 2.79:1 conventional 8-inch axle with 28-spline shafts.

What made the car charming to Howard was its past-native to Seattle, it's an original-owner car with all the paperwork and Owner Card. Its entire history is known, dating back to its September 29, 1969, buck date at Ford's Dearborn assembly plant. And the original owner is still alive to provide details about the car's history. It was too good to pass up.

Sold new by Seattle's Wilson Motor Company, the sticker price was $3,473 with a $734.35 discount along with $136.75 in taxes. Margaret traded in a '68 Fairlane two-door hardtop for $1,475. She kept diligent records while driving the Mustang and caring for it faithfully until health issues made it prohibitive. That's when she parked it.

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Once Howard got the Mustang drivable, he went to work on the car's weaknesses while remaining true to its originality. He massaged the Bright Blue Metallic hardtop back to showroom status, which was easy because the car was well cared for. The Blue Vinyl and Blue Ruffino Vinyl standard interior was undisturbed. Because the Mustang had spent most of its life in Seattle, it had all of the usual problems associated with the damp and rainy climate, including surface rust and flaking paint. These were areas Howard had to handle carefully because it meant doing touch-up work without it looking like a touch-up.

Howard's new-found purchase demonstrates that good finds remain out there as hidden treasures waiting to be unearthed.

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