Jerry Heasley
January 18, 2014

Who would have “thunk” it? First, this 1969 SportsRoof is a very desirable Mustang. Even better, the engine code—the fifth digit of the VIN—is a “Q,” decoding as a non-Ram Air 428 Cobra Jet.

So how did this musclecar sit in Jeff Roland’s junkyard in Midland, Texas, for so many years? That is, until Michael Lightbourn made a stop on his way back from Dallas to his home in New Mexico.

Lightbourn said, “That thing’s been sitting there for years. I’ve been through the yard many times and never noticed it.”

An auto salvage yard is an obvious place to hunt Rare Finds. Being so obvious, and a source of parts, popular musclecars are easy pickings and disappear fast, more or less depending on their condition and completeness.

Lightbourn has what he calls a “bad habit” of checking VINs. This time at Roland’s Mustang Parts, he spotted the SportsRoof and checked the inner fender apron under the hood. With the fenders removed, the VIN was visible on the passenger side.

Was Lightbourn surprised when he spotted the Q-code for the 428 Cobra Jet? “Yeah,” he replied. “It’s surprising to see that they are still out there.”

Apparently, this Mustang was hit in the front, which probably explains why the Cobra Jet SportsRoof ended up in a junkyard. The upper fender aprons are bent, but Lightbourn feels they are fixable. The fenders are missing, but the shock towers, with Cobra Jet braces, and frame rails are not bent. Both are in good condition with no more than surface rust.

The body is sound with typical small rust holes in the rear quarters and the bottom of each door. Ten years ago, this Cobra Jet project was obviously too much for a restorer to tackle. But today, with rising prices and fewer project cars available, the CJ from the salvage yard has become restorable once again.

Obviously, the yard sold parts off the car until it was mostly stripped. Lightbourn got a good buy for the CJ SportsRoof, which is minus just about everything except the shell and the all-important VIN. It will need a complete drivetrain, interior, and even wheels, for Lightbourn to put it back on the road.