With so much emphasis these days on Bosses, Cobra Jets, and Shelbys, it's easy to forget that the majority of '70 Mustangs were basic hardtops, SportsRoofs, and convertibles with two-barrel 302 engines. In fact, according to Kevin Marti's book, Mustang...By the Numbers, nearly half of all '70 Mustangs-93,765 to be exact-came with the standard 302 powerplant. In contrast, only 11,473 Mustangs of that year were equipped with Boss or Cobra Jet engines.
You can't talk big numbers for convertibles in 1970. SportsRoofs were the rage, nearly catching up with the production of the base hardtop, while Mustang convertible production continued to drop. Ford built nearly 45,000 convertibles in 1967; in 1970, ragtop production fell to 7,820.
Dale Childress wasn't concerned about production numbers when he lucked across this '70 convertible in November 2003. He was simply searching for a Mustang convertible to restore through his Gateway Classic Mustang restoration shop when one of his employees spotted a "For Sale" flyer stuck to a post at the All-Ford Swap Meet in Columbus, Ohio.
"Everything about it was something I liked," Dale said. "It was a convertible with a V-8, and it was red with a white interior." A call to the owner in Wyandotte, Michigan, revealed that the car had been totally disassembled and some sheetmetal was replaced before the owner gave up on the project. Dale points out that taking on someone else's restoration project in mid-stream is usually a recipe for disaster, but in this case, the owner, who Dale only remembers as Dan, had done his homework.
"It was absolutely the perfect disassembly, even better than we do in our shop," Dale says. "Everything was in labeled bags, from nuts and bolts in sandwich bags to larger components in trash bags."
Even though Gateway Classic Mustang (573/732-3541; www.gate wayclassicmustang.com) is currently making news by building turnkey GCM-R restomods from Dynacorn '67 fastback bodies (see Pony Tales, p. 18), Dale stresses that restoration is the heart of the business. He turned the '70 convertible project over to his son, Lonnie, who tackled the remaining sheetmetal replacement, body work, and paint, with help from Ty Gaines (interior), Mike Hatcher (glass), and Mike White. Dale says the convertible spent its entire life in either Seattle, where it was sold new, or near Detroit, so "it didn't stand a chance" of avoiding rust. Using Gateway's Miller welders, Lonnie replaced all the rusted panels with new sheetmetal before applying the red exterior paint using DuPont's Chroma system.
Austin Netteler at A&K Machine Shop rebuilt the original 302, adding stealthy performance mods such as ported heads, a Competition Cams camshaft, and an Edelbrock Performer aluminum intake, painted Ford blue and topped by a 650-cfm Holley four-barrel underneath the factory air cleaner with a "302-2V" decal. Dan Miller at D&K Transmissions rebuilt the C4 and overhauled the 8-inch rear-end with the original 2.79:1 gear ratio.
Although the convertible still appears to be stock, Dale added a number of mild modifications, mostly items that were available as options or accessories in 1970. Upgrades include front disc brakes, Deluxe interior, a rim-blow steering wheel, a front spoiler, 15-inch Magnum 500 wheels with BFG tires, and an Auto Meter tach and volt gauge in a Shelby console pod. Custom Auto Sound provided the stereo while a Classic Auto Air Perfect Fit A/C system keeps things cool when the top is up.
Dale's only regret is failing to keep the previous owner's contact information. "We took the car to the Woodward Dream Cruise in 2005 in hopes of locating Dan so he could see the completed car. We never found him. Maybe he'll see it in the magazine."