Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
January 8, 2014

It’s not the rustiest car I’ve seen, but it’s probably the most banged up of any car I have owned. There’s not a straight panel to be found on it, but from a rust standpoint, it’s not too bad, or so I’ve been told. That’s the initial assessment of this ’69 Mustang SportsRoof that I picked up for a mere $1,700.

Thanks to a treasure trove of receipts that came with the car, I can tell you that the guy who kept all of these records purchased the car in 1983 with 97,000 miles on it while residing in Arizona. I’d love to know what happened in those first 97,000, but the Mustang’s second life started with a bang, or rather a collision with a ’79 Honda not long after purchasing it—I suspect the Mustang faired better than the Honda given the considerable size difference of the two models.

U-Haul receipts from May 1985 in Phoenix suggest that said owner loaded up and moved to the Sunshine state, and there is a copy of an application for a Florida vehicle registration from October 1985. It noted there were 111,000 on the clock at the time.

In 1987, an appraisal was performed by the Florida Mustang Connection, stating value for the SportsRoof at just $4,500. Pretty cheap by today’s standards for a SportsRoof in good running condition, but then the muscle car auction market wouldn’t hit the big dollars for years to come.

An interesting receipt for a cylinder head R&R in Houston suggests that the Mustang saw a bit of cross-country travel. That would certainly suck to break down in the middle of your 2,000-plus mile journey, and no doubt be stranded for a few days there while your ride is being fixed and your vacation money is drained.

Plant City, Florida, seemed to be where the Mustang spent a bit of time—a receipt in 1988 for a ball joint and stabilizer bar bushings showed the odometer read 131,000. There are a number of minor receipts taking the Mustang through to 1994, where a brake job was performed with a stout 226,000 miles on the clock. The U-joints took a dive at 227,000, and a tune-up followed at 230,000.

1. As the seller explained it, the Mustang was supposedly hit from behind and pushed out into an intersection where it got tagged on the front passenger quarter. This tore up the headlight bucket and bent the lower front grille filler panel. The lower front valance was missing altogether. Currently, it would seem this Pony has seen a little over 294,000 miles of road duty, and it shows.
2. Under the hood there is a small-block V-8 of unknown origin or specification. Attempts at getting it started proved futile. The engine took a while to get it to turn over, and once it did, it did so very slowly, even with a fully charged and brand new battery. I’m thinking that the piston rings may be frozen up, and that it isn’t generating any compression. While I have a compression tester, I called it a day, as I plan on swapping in a stick shift and possibly a late-model engine. It’s more than likely that this engine will go to the nearest craigslist buyer.
3. I never took a picture of the interior before I attacked it with the shop vacuum, but it was littered with rat turds and pieces of the seat cushioning. I also cleaned out and organized the spare parts that were stored inside. There was no gas tank in the car, so the trunk was just a big empty hole.
4. One of the first things I noticed when I went to look at the car was that the passenger door would not open. After assessing the significant damage to the rear quarter and framerail, I surmised that the quarter quite possibly had been pushed forward and had the door jammed up. No amount of force could open it up, so once I started on cleaning out the interior, I opened up the trashed door panel and found that the locking mechanism was just dry and the parts were not moving properly. I reached in and started moving the levers by hand and the door opened. A liberal application of WD-40 got the locking mechanism working like new. It was also good to know that the quarter had not been pushed that far forward.
5. This will give you an idea of what the car looked like when I bought it. After removing the seats, you can see how much cushion material was removed from the seats (mostly the back seat). I pulled the seat belts next and dropped the rug in the nearest dumpster.
6. With the rug out, I broke out the shop vacuum once again to clean up the remaining debris. The car’s Silver Jade factory hue still looks pretty good on the floor, at least where the rust hadn’t taken hold yet. Photo By Rusty Gillis
7. A lot of information can be ascertained from paying attention to details. Judging from the way the brake pedal is worn, one of the owners was a major left-foot braker (the other side of the pedal would have been worn down if they used their right foot for both throttle and brake).
8. You never know what you might find once you start to pull a car apart. I’m not sure if they were using the brush to hold the edge of the quarter-panel out or if it was just in there for safe keeping, but it’s the oddest place for one that I’ve seen.
9. Alright, it is time to assess the rust damage now that I have all of the carpet out. Starting with the driver’s side floor pan, the front pan and toe board are both shot. The floorpan has several large holes in it, and the toe board has started to turn into a multi-layered panel.
10. The passenger-side toe board was in good shape, but the floorpan on this side also showed holes in the integrity. It also flexed quite a bit, showing it was quite weak.
11. The rear floorboards were largely in good shape, with the only issue currently being a number of holes right in front of the driver-side wheelwell. The other side was solid.
12. Evidence of the rear framerail relocation appears inside where these two inner structures have buckled under the stress. The upper one will have to be straightened out, as short of ordering an entire chassis from Dynacorn and cutting the needed piece out, there are no other alternatives.
13. The top of the rear seat support has significant rust that we’ll have to address. While we haven’t had the glass out, all indications tell us that the window channels are relatively rust free. That can all change, though.
14. The passenger-side trunk floor isn’t in the worst of shape, but it is bent up a good deal and offers several views of the pavement below.