The humble hardtop was the best selling Mustang body style for its first four years of production. Some of us call them coupes; others call them notchbacks. Whatever you call it, the hardtop was the most popular selling Mustang body style from '65-'68. In 1969, the hardtop lost its styling edge. It became softer, more feminine, without the sizzle of its base sticker price predecessors. When Ford redesigned the Mustang again in 1971, the hardtop became even more lackluster and had a corresponding dip in sales numbers.
The '69-'73 Mustang hardtops were something our schoolteachers drove during the '70s. There were thousands of them all over public school parking lots three decades ago. A lot of these cars moved on to third-car and salvage yard status. They made good parts cars for the more popular Mach 1s, Bosses, convertibles, and SportsRoofs. The hardtops that did survive are good bargains for enthusiasts who are seeking Mustang projects and can't afford the more popular Machs, Bosses, drop-tops, and Shelbys.
So how do you turn a plain-Jane, ugly duckling hardtop into a screaming eagle? You look to Ron Swan for advice and emulate the job he did on this Indy Green over Black Pearl '72 Mustang Grande hardtop. Ron knows a thing or two about getting respect. he was the only guy at his school into Fords, and everyone gave him a hard time about his passion for them. To add insult to injury, his passion was for a Grande Mustang hardtop with a short deck and extra-long nose. He would come home, pull the heads or yank the distributor, and his father would ask why? But Ron was determined to prove to everyone that he and his Mustang hardtop could become something more.
To get there, he entered Ford Motor Company's ASSET school in Kenton, Washington. He became an ASE-certified technician-a senior master technician at that-in 2000. What's more, he was appointed to the Ford Professional Technician Society. His good education would serve him well in the years ahead.
With his education in tow, Ron then turned his attentions to the Grande hardtop that would enjoy the specialized skills Ron gained in school. Ron began to practice his knowledge on the Grande's 351C powerplant-freshening it up from the inside out. He topped it with an Edelbrock Performer RPM manifold and 650-cfm Speed Demon carburetor. To make the most of the 351C's cylinder head design, Ron ported and polished the passages, installed polished stainless steel valves, and fitted the iron castings with True Blue roller rocker arms. Inside, he balanced the bottom end, going with forged 9.5:1 compression pistons, hydraulic cam from Comp Cams, and custom-made headers.
Ron stayed with his Mustang's original FMX select-shift transmission, which is an older design cast-iron automatic transmission. A 9-inch Ford Traction-Lok with 3.50 gears gives Ron the benefit of all worlds-acceleration along with the advantage of fast cruising. Cruising along at 30 mph, Ron can stab the accelerator and break the tires loose just for fun with raw Cleveland power coupled with the shallow gears in back.
When Ron decided to undertake bodywork and paint, he opted for the Mach 1's NASA hood and a rear deck spoiler. He also had the trim and moldings powdercoated for good measure. We like the result. Inside, those are Flo-Fit bucket seats in black. A Kenwood sound system fills Ron's inner world with richness for everything he likes to listen to.
When we asked Ron if he'd ever consider selling the car, he told us that would never be an option. It was his first car; something his father helped him buy a long time ago. That's not a car anyone sells easily, not even when marriage and children become priorities. For Ron, it wasn't just a first car, but the inspiration that allowed him to make the most of his life and gain the respect he has earned.