Rob Kinnan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
April 15, 2019

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.

[SIDEBAR]:

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.

[END SIDEBAR]

The 428 Super Cobra Jet is much the same engine as the regular Cobra Jet, but with stronger internals for drag racing.
The easiest way to pick out a Drag Pack/SCJ car at a show is with this oil cooler mounted on the driver-side core support in front of the radiator.
The 1969 Shelby G.T. 500 has a Top Loader four-speed and white interior with rollbar. It’s 100 percent original.
The door tag shows the Midnight Orchid Metallic car having an R as the fifth digit in the VIN and the W axle code (bottom right). When ordering the 4.30:1 rear axle (W code), the engine was automatically upgraded to the R-code Super Cobra Jet.
The center console on the Orchid car has the same foglights and interior light switches as all ’69 Mustangs so equipped.
Ed Meyer had us take these photos, saying, “These are the plates for the window adjusters. Normally, Ford laid them under the cowl when they painted the car, then installed them in the rear quarters and front doorjambs after paint. This is the only instance where I’ve seen they were painted in the trunk.”
The Shelby has the original Shelby wheels, while the ’70 has the Styled Steel wheel covers.
Bet you’ve never seen Shelby tires! In 1970 or thereabouts, Carroll Shelby lost the contract with Ford to build the cars, so he started a tire company. Designed around the Mickey Thompson street tires of the day, the Shelby Sixty was a bias-ply 60-series tire that is exceptionally rare to find today. Ed said, “The company was based in California so that’s where most of them were sold. I’ve only found that set and two other ones, and it’s been 20 or 30 years since I’ve seen any more.”
The SCJ engine in the Calypso Coral car is original but has been rebuilt.
This is the brass tag mounted on the radiator support that denotes the ’70 was built for internal use at Ford. The “L” likely means this car was meant as an internal lease.
The factory rev limiter.
This is the rare intermittent wiper box and switch on the ’70.
The ’70 is an automatic car with black interior.
Ed Meyer put in the paisley floor mats that were a dealer option and just scream 1970. This was when Chrysler had things like the Mod Top vinyl tops and trippy, hippy colors, so these were kind of an answer to the times without going overboard.
Two of the rarest Mustangs ever, together at the Cobra Jet Reunion in August 2018.

Photography by Rob Kinnan