Jeff Chipman has been a car enthusiast all of his life. But until he reached his mid 30s, he couldn't afford to buy or build the car of his dreams. A '64 Pontiac Catalina was the latest in a series of old cars he couldn't afford to restore. When a buddy bought a '70 Boss 302, Jeff began thinking about ditching the Poncho and getting a Mustang. He scored this '69 hardtop for a song and put his imagination to work.
Jeff has always been a fan of road racing-in particular, driver Parnelli Jones. He decided to paint this unassuming hardtop in Grabber Orange, a spirited Mustang color similar to Parnelli's championship Boss 302 from 1970. It exudes speed and a winning attitude.
When Jeff got the car home, the first order of business was to remove the black vinyl top and ugly white paint along with mountains of filler. "I think the car lost 100 pounds when I removed the body filler," Jeff recalls. Once Jeff got the body to raw steel, massaging it to perfection came naturally. Jeff painted the Mustang himself using PPG Grabber Orange two-stage paint with color sanding and a nice rub-out. We like the nice touches Jeff added in the spirit of vintage road racing-the crossed flags, "302" graphics, and white Le Mans stripes over the top.
With his 331 small-block from DSS Racing, Jeff proves that you can get into a reliable crate engine for not much capital and still have money left over for an Edelbrock Air Gap dual-plane intake with a 650cfm Holley, Canton oil pan, and PerTronix distributor. The 331 produces smooth, civilized power, so Jeff stayed with the car's 2.79:1 gears inside the 8-inch axle. Although 2.79:1 isn't much for acceleration, it yields 2,500 rpm on the interstate. Accurate Transmission rebuilt Jeff's Hurst-shifted Top Loader four-speed.
On the ground, Jeff went with 16-inch Vintage 48 wheels wrapped inside BFGoodrich Comp T/A radials. Parnelli Jones would appreciate the Mini-Lite reproductions. For the suspension, Jeff utilized RRS coil-over shocks in front with conventional leafs in back.
Inside, Jeff opted for a Grant woodgrain Mustang steering wheel and instrumentation that includes a column-mounted tachometer.
Jeff's goal was a really nice driver he could take just about anywhere. When we caught up with him in Oklahoma at the Mustang Club of America nationals, he had driven his Grabber hardtop hundreds of miles from Illinois, proof of its rock-solid reliability.