Berney Cunningham of Hueytown, Alabama, bought his '72 Cobra Jet Mustang from someone he calls "a collector of '71-'73 convertibles." With the factory Q-code Cobra Jet 351 four-barrel engine, the Gen 1 classic was flashy underhood. Otherwise, Berney says, "it was just a plain car." That bothered him because he felt the car's exterior needed to match the hotness of the factory engine. In his eyes, the Cobra Jet needed side stripes, a front spoiler, a Mach 1-style grille, and ram-air induction.
The '72 model year was a strange one for Mustang performance. Aficionados remember that Ford was caught trying to certify the ram-air 351-4V by using test data from the ram-air 351-2V. Therefore, due to a lack of time and resources, it became an option only for the two-barrel. It isn't clear if any four-barrel 351 engines made production with it, although many enthusiasts added the cold-air induction later.
Berney's plan was to do what he thinks Ford should've done with a Cobra Jet convertible by adding worthy features. Basically, he made the '72 look like a Mach 1 convertible, something Ford never built. What Ford did do for '72, however, was offer the Mach 1 stripes and grille for the coupe and convertible in a desirable appearance option called the Dcor Group.
To get the ball rolling, Berney brought the '72 to Impatient Creations in Alabaster, Alabama, just south of Birmingham. Impatient Creations stripped the body to bare metal to repair all the imperfections. Meanwhile, Berney, with help from his son Randy, who is a well-known Mustang collector and club member in Birmingham, rounded up the parts and pieces to dress up the Cobra Jet "like we wanted it to look."
The key piece was the ram-air system. From the factory, the CJ came with the nonfunctional ram-air-style hood, so Berney and Randy removed the block-off plates and attached the underhood ram-air flapper assembly, motor, and air cleaner to convert to functional ram air, down to the decals on the hood's exterior.
Next, they added what's now called the Mach 1 grille. The Dcor Group lists it as a "unique black honeycomb grille" with "sports lamps." The remainder of the features in the Dcor Group consist of the lower body-side paint treatment with a bright-chrome upper molding, a color-keyed front bumper to replace the old chrome bumper, and color-keyed hood and fender moldings to replace the chrome trim. Trim rings and hubcaps were substituted for the steel rims. Berney favored the upgraded Magnum 500 chrome wheels.
Cruising is fun with the 266hp ram-air 351 Cobra Jet. The convertible would be welcome on the dragstrip if Berney chose. At last year's MCA 35th Anniversary Celebration in Birmingham, Alabama, he entered it in the MCA "Occasionally Driven" class, where he received an award of excellence.
All dressed up, Bernie's '72 Cobra Jet Mustang has plenty of places to go.