Ed Meyer gets absolutely giddy over assembly-line details found on untouched, low-mileage Ford Mustangs. While Meyer is known for his Boss 429 and Shelby restorations, his knowledge and experience with factory assembly-line procedures and parts also makes him the go-to guy for detailing survivor Mustangs, many of which have spent years, even decades, in hiding.
This Grabber Lime 1971 Mustang convertible is a perfect example of what excites Meyer. One of only seven produced that year with the J-code 429 Super Cobra Jet engine, and one of just five J-codes mated with a four-speed, the super-rare, heavily optioned convertible was owned for more than four decades by Ohio collector Dick Serdinak. He purchased the Mustang from its original owner in the mid 1970s, adding it to his eclectic Ford collection.
“I’ve known about the car for 35 years,” says Meyer, who frequently shared vendor booth space with Serdinak at the Ford Swap Meet in Columbus, Ohio. “When Dick bought it, the convertible had only 7,000 miles on the odometer and was very original, including the paint, so I convinced him that he should stop driving it. The car became part of his collection of 50 or so that were stashed away in various stages of condition around the Akron, Ohio, area. The SCJ convertible was one of his best cars. For all those years, few people knew he had it, and it never appeared in public.”
When Serdinak passed away in 2018, his family reached out to Meyer for advice and assistance when preparing to liquidate the collection, which also included many rare and hard-to-find parts. Meyer purchased the convertible for a private museum in Los Angeles that collects rare, unrestored muscle cars. The Only Original Once Collection is compiling an impressive collection of low-mileage, original-paint survivor vehicles of all makes and models, including one of every Boss 429, and the 1971 Mustang SCJ was a perfect fit. Meyer, his brother, Patrick, and wife, Donna, were charged with cleaning up the 1971 Mustang Super Cobra Jet convertible from its four-decades-long hibernation, a process that included getting the engine to run properly again.
Meyer points out that the convertible is special beyond its low mileage, originality and rarity.
“It’s a late-production car, and loaded with factory options,” Meyer says. “It’s like someone — perhaps a Ford dealer — knew that big-block engines were disappearing after 1971, and ordered the car to put away. They saved all the paperwork, including the best original window sticker I’ve ever seen.”
That window sticker documents the convertible’s long list of factory options, starting with the 429 CJ-R big-block, the Hurst-shifted four-speed and Drag-Pack with Y-code 4.11 Detroit Locker differential. With the Drag-Pack option, the 429 became a Super Cobra Jet with a solid-lifter cam and Holley carburetor for an underrated 375 hp. With this combination, the 1971 Mustang Super Cobra Jet matches the 1969-’70 Boss 429 as the most powerful of Mustangs. It’s also a J-code, which means the convertible was ordered with the functional Ram-Air hood that also included black-out paint and twist-type hood latches. With its combination of high-performance equipment, Meyer says it’s the fastest production Ford convertible from the muscle car era.
Beyond being packed with ultimate performance for 1971, the convertible is also equipped with a long list of convenience and luxury options. These include: power steering and brakes; AM/8-track Stereosonic radio; power windows; white Décor Group interior with console; the Instrumentation Group; and 15-inch Magnum 500 wheels with F60-15 Goodyear Polyglas tires. The nearly $2,000 in options contributed to the Mustang’s $5,330 sticker price, about the same as a 1971 Corvette convertible.
In August 2020, the Mustang convertible was trailered to the Meyer’s Cars’ shop in Huntingburg, Ind., to begin the process of clean-up and mechanical refurbishment. He and his brother, Patrick, went through the matching-numbers engine and drivetrain, cleaned the fuel and brake systems and flushed the coolant system numerous times to remove scale deposits and particles. An original Autolite dual-point Tune-Up Kit from the ’70s, part number TKF-21, supplied new ignition points and condenser. When firing the engine for the first time, debris blew out the mufflers, providing evidence of a rodent’s residency. Meyer also installed a 1974-era Motorcraft 27F battery to replace the dead unit.
“That would have been the Ford replacement for the original battery, when Dick last drove the car,” Meyer notes.
The white interior shows little signs of use, while the power convertible top remains original — along with its boot and storage bag — and in perfect operating condition. In his successful search for the build sheet under the carpet, Meyer found cotton glove fingertips; he had heard that assembly line workers often clipped off the tips from their work gloves to make it easier to install small interior parts, including tiny screws, but this was the first time he’d found the evidence.
Because the convertible was stored indoors and under a cover, the Grabber Lime paint cleaned up nicely, thanks to Meyer’s neighbor and go-to paint guy, Curt Blackgrove. The expected patina — such as minor surface rust and pitting — was revealed under the hood and other areas; this was expected in such a time capsule. According to records, documents and Meyer’s knowledge, Serdinak took it off the road sometime in 1975 and kept it stowed away for nearly 45 years. The car showed all the evidence of being tucked away for more than four decades when Meyer rescued it from captivity and gave it a new life in 2020.
While the convertible’s optimum performance equipment, abundant options, rarity, low mileage, original paperwork and survivor condition puts it in top-value territory, Meyer notes that the car has another thing going for it.
“It was built on July 7, 1971, at the end of the 1971 model-year schedule,” he says. “It could very well be the last big-block muscle car convertible produced of any make or model.”
A smooth return after 45 years!
In September 2020, I was on hand at Meyer’s Cars’ garage in Huntingburg, Ind., to document and hear this Mustang’s engine run for the first time since the mid 1970s. Video footage of the event was captured, and, yes, a rodent was blown out of the exhaust and onto the shop floor during the process. Once the car was deemed mechanically worthy, the Huntingburg Airport in Huntingburg, Ind., was secured for a photoshoot. During the trip to the airport, Ed Meyer drove the ’71 SCJ convertible to the local Shell gas station, where he gave the Mustang some fresh premium fuel, then to the airport for the photoshoot. The Mustang’s maiden voyage back into the motoring world happened without any issue, and went off without a hitch. Pretty remarkable, considering the car had not seen the pavement for 45 years!
— Al Rogers
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