Mustang convertibles with big-block engines don't grow on trees; Ford built only 42 of them in 1971. Mickey Graphia, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has owned four of them-nearly 10 percent of the entire production.
His latest is probably his greatest and definitely one of the most visual '71 drop-tops Ford has ever rolled out of the Rouge assembly plant in Dearborn. Grabber Lime attracts attention, and when people see the 429 Cobra Jet engine "they assume, even at national MCA shows, that I painted it that color," Mickey says.
It's almost as if somebody ordered the '71 for today's collectibility, taking into account what features would be the most desirable and collectible. The 429 Cobra Jet is backed by a four-speed. Air conditioning blows cold air. Electric motors zip the windows up and down. The factory Instrumentation Group dolls up the center of the dash with oil, alternator, and water temp gauges. Firestone Wide Ovals roll on Magnum 500 wheels. Passengers recline on luxurious Deluxe seat upholstery.
Mickey's 429 is not a Super Cobra Jet, however. Ford produced only eight of those in '71 convertibles. His one-of-34 429 is a non-Ram Air C-code, although the previous owner elected to add the "429 Ram Air" decals to the NASA-scooped hood. An SCJ could have been a C-code or a J-code, designating Ram-Air. One advantage of the 429 CJ compared to the 429 SCJ was the former passed emissions without power-robbing smog equipment.
So far, Mickey hasn't uncovered the exact number of '71 big-block convertibles built in Grabber Lime, but he does know about a second one. Since he was in high school in the late '70s, he's been on what might be described as a quest for rare big-block Mustangs, especially convertibles-particularly ones in exciting "Grabber" colors.
In high school, Mickey drove a 351-powered '71 convertible and fantasized about moving up to a big-block. He spotted a Lime Green '71 429 CJ for sale in, of all places, the want ads in the back of Hot Rod magazine. In those days, Hot Rod's classified section contained a small number of cars for sale. "The car had 5,000 miles on it," he says. "Ten years later, I finally located that exact car, but it wasn't for sale. I always wanted one that color."
Mickey didn't pine away for the one big find. He bought other big-block Mustangs. During the last 29 years, he's bought "at least 60" '69-'70 Shelby GT500 convertibles. During that time, he also uncovered 17 of the '71 429 CJ convertibles. He managed to buy four of them.
The last Grabber Lime find was the one he really wanted. Already treated to a rotisserie restoration, Mickey bought the stunning convertible three years ago, trading one of his '69 GT500 convertibles and getting some cash to boot. Currently, he owns five '69-'70 Shelby GT500 convertibles, along with a '70 428 Cobra Jet convertible.
Mickey's latest '71 Cobra Jet convertible is definitely show status. However, he chooses to display his cars instead of entering them into competition at shows. "I don't show cars anymore-there are too many other people out there who want trophies. I quit that probably 18 years ago."
Mickey drives his big-blocks, too. He has drag raced a '71 Mustang 429 CJ convertible before. This one hasn't been on the track yet, but he will at least drive the car to cruises. An occasional drag race isn't out of the question, either.
(Editor's note: Mickey's convertibles are not new to Mustang Monthly. Two have been featured in the past, a '73 in May '81 and a '70 Shelby GT350 in October '86.)