Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatures
So, we’re walking around the Cobra Jet Reunion in Norwalk, Ohio, in the summer of 2018, chatting with our buddy George Huisman of Classic Design Concepts about the amazing number of rare and significant Cobra Jets, and he tells us, “You gotta see these two W-code convertibles over here.”
Under the tent next to Al Joniec’s 1968 Winternationals winner and a handful of “135” cars (the first 50 race-destined Cobra Jets built) sat two Mustang convertibles, one a purple 1969 Shelby G.T. 500 and the other an orange 1970. What makes these cars significant is that they were both ordered as W-codes, meaning they are Super Cobra Jet Drag Pack cars with 4.30:1 rear gears. That alone makes them rare; the convertible tops make them unbelievably rare. Going into the rarity zone even deeper—the two cars you see here are the only two 428 SCJ Drag Pack W-code 4.30-geared convertibles known to exist.
Mustang collector and historian Ed Meyer owns the purple (Midnight Orchid Metallic) ’69 Shelby, and Jim Jasinski owns the Calypso Coral 1970. They came to Norwalk together along with Huisman to show the rare machinery to the Cobra Jet fanatics that had gathered from all over the globe. Meyer owns the ’69 Shelby, so let’s start there.
First, about that color. Midnight Orchid Metallic was a one-year-only (1969) Thunderbird color not offered on the Mustang. The person who ordered the car had just bought a ’69 T-bird for his wife and wanted his Shelby the same color for a “his and hers” deal, so that hue is a special order for the Mustang. The car is all original, meaning that it has 50 years’ worth of patina, so the paint is heavily oxidized but that gives the car tons of originality—you know immediately upon seeing it that it is original and unrestored. Like the Calypso Coral Mustang, this Shelby is fully optioned with every available option Ford offered on the Mustang, including rare intermittent wipers but lacking air conditioning. It has roughly 25,000 miles on it; Ed explains, “The car never got driven much, since 4.30 cars aren’t very good for long trips.” Well, that and it had been in storage since 1973 when Ed found and bought it. Oh, and this is the only W-code 1969 Shelby convertible ever made. As Ed says, “This is the only one. That’s it. Period.”
Jim owns the 1970 Calypso Coral convertible, which is a “brass tag” car built for in-house use within Ford for testing, executive use, as a demonstrator, or as a lease. Ed says, “Normally, brass tag cars are highly optioned cars. They load them down to get exposure and allow them to test all the options.”
There were two 1970 Mustang convertibles built with the W code; this car is one of them, and the other is not known to exist any longer—it was possibly crashed and crushed, who knows? That makes this the only W-code ’70 Mustang convertible on the planet, and it is 100 percent original. Meyer says, “A guy named Hamilton bought it in Georgia, then sold it to a guy in Pennsylvania who hung onto it until about five years ago. He was very secretive so not a lot of people knew about the car, but Jim found out about it and kept trying to buy it. Eventually, I don’t know if it was health reasons or what, but he agreed to sell it to Jim. We then got it and reworked the car. It had the original motor, but it needed to be rebuilt—so we rebuilt it, but the [engine and] drivetrain are all original. We upgraded the car to today’s standard as a ‘show driver,’ not a rotisserie-restored car. It’s very original and has all the correct parts on it.”
While the Calypso Coral Mustang has undergone a very minor restoration—more of a cleanup than a full-on restoration—the Midnight Orchid Metallic car is just as delivered from Ford, fully loaded and with some interesting details that you can see in the photos here.
Cobra Jet Codes
The “regular” Cobra Jet Mustangs of 1969 and 1970 came with the same 335hp 428ci Cobra Jet engine from 1968, but depending on how a buyer checked the option sheet it could be upgraded. Selecting the optional V- or W-code options got the buyer either 3.91:1 (V) or 4.30:1 (W) rear gears, but the options included went far beyond just a gear change. Selecting either one garnered more upgrades, including the 428 Super Cobra Jet (SCJ) engine that had a more durable rotating assembly (crank, rods, pistons, flywheel, and damper) to withstand the brutality of drag racing, an external oil cooler, and relocation of the horns to make room for the cooler. This was the Drag Pack option, and you had to order it to get the SCJ engine, which was rated the same 335 hp.
Photography by Rob Kinnan