Mustangs have always been quite popular. Even when the car was introduced for the first time inside the Ford Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964, it proved to be the most successful launch since the Model A. Since then, the little pony car has gone through several generations of production – each one sprinkled with various options and ends.

The vast numbers of Mustangs built throughout the years makes it quite possible to find exactly what you’re looking for when looking to purchase one of these fine autos. Of course, it goes without saying that there are some options that are more highly sought-after than others. In fact, if you study the values of various Mustangs throughout the years, you’ll see several names and option codes that continually rise to the surface so far as desirability is concerned.

Cracking The Code

Richard McGill knows all about this, having owned several vintage Mustangs through the years, some of which enjoyed wearing those rare and desirable option codes. While he was looking at purchasing this S-coded ’69 Mustang, he also owned one of the rare 428-cube, R-coded Mustangs of the same vintage.

While many will pass by the S-code, 390-cubic-inch engine for the few additional ponies provided by the extra displacement, Richard knew what he wanted to do to make this car exactly the way he wanted it. Chasing numbers and option codes ultimately wasn’t in his mind at first – but having a big-block backed by a stout four-speed was definitely part of the plan!

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He explained that the higher value and hotter market for the R-code car actually helped him make the decision to use this car as his beginner platform, as he believed that the other car would best be served by returning it to its original form. He sold that car, so it could be “done right,” and focused on turning this project Mustang into something just right for him.

Being a US Air Force Reserve Technician meant that making the Mustang into exactly what he wanted and getting that just right stance would take some time to accomplish. Weaving shop time in between his commitment to his country as well as his family, Richard whittled away on the to-do list for the better part of 20 years. Even so, he admits that the car isn’t completely finished, as there’s always something to change or improve, even if it isn’t obvious what more you could do to perfect this muscular Mustang.

At The Start

It all started out while Richard was stationed at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Ohio sometime in 1997. That’s when he found what would become his dream car in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania. A good friend informed Richard of the car coming up for sale, and even though he owned three other Mustangs at the time, as Richard puts it, “It was such a great deal and it came with so many parts” that he had to have it. How many of us have used the same reasoning when not necessarily searching for another project?

The car was your typical basket-case, and Richard commenced hauling the car home in what seemed to be a million pieces.

“We hauled truck-loads of different parts back to the house, and the car itself needed a complete restoration,” he explained.

Long-Term Project

As you can imagine, stretching a project out over almost two decades can allow for deviations from the original plan. At the onset, Richard was going to restore the car but it soon turned into a restomod project. The car features an original, 1969, S-code, 390-cubic-inch, FE-series big-block with a Top Loader four-speed transmission. While not the option eye-candy that many collectors are searching for, it was plenty for Richard’s purposes and he figured that it was worthy of some upgrades and not untouchable so far as purists might be concerned.

Without good friends willing to give their knowledge and time, this build would have never been completed. — Richard McGill

You’ll notice some of the deviations from stock right away when the hood, modified with a Boss 429 scoop, is lifted. Clearance for those two Holley 4150 carbs atop an Edelbrock cross-ram intake was provided under that non-stock scoop.

More than just a pretty face, Richard’s FE engine received special treatment via his good friend Ernie, the one who told him about the Mustang to begin with, who is also the owner of Johnson Racing. Together, they planned the engine modifications and built it to showcase the individuality of this not-so-rare Mustang.

Just A Few Mods

Starting with a stock bore and stroke, they slid a Lunati hydraulic camshaft and Harland Sharp roller rockers into the build. You’ll also find a set of aluminum Edelbrock FE heads tucked in between the cam and rockers to help the engine breathe in as much air and fuel as those two Holley carbs can provide.

The Value In Letters

While letter codes simply designated certain options back in 1969. Today those codes carry significant value to collectors. Here’s K-code Mustang values compare to S-coded versions today, according to NADA Guides.

If you added a W- or V-coded rear axle ratio (optional 3.91:1 or 4.30:1) to your K-coded Mustang, you received the Drag Pack with an external oil cooler and the upgraded 428 Super Cobra-Jet engine.

S-CODE 390ci (320hp)

Then Now

$2,848 $11,650(L) / $27,900(M) / $43,600(H)

K-CODE 428 (335hp)

Then Now

$3,027.53 $18,640(L) / $44,640(M) / $69,760(H)

K-CODE 428w/SCJ (Drag Pack)

Then Now

$3,091.04 $20,387(L) / $48,825(M) / $76,300(H)

It’s a safe bet that the additional parts have pushed the pony’s performance well past what the vaulted R-code’s factory-quoted 335hp could muster. Whether or not that number was accurate, or under-rated to benefit the Cobra-Jetted cars against their track rivals has been an on-going dispute for decades. Even still, collectors flock to those R-coded cars with great regularity.

With the engine now living up to his expectations, Richard began focusing on the rest of the restoration. Even with all the parts that went with the car when he first purchased it, Richard still needed to replace some rusted areas before work could commence. A new set of floor pans, door skins, quarter panels and front fenders were mated to the car’s skeleton before any paint could be applied. The first thing that grabs you is that Calypso Coral paint by PPG. Augmented by the matte-black accents and black interior, the color stands out in a sea of show cars, which is one of the reasons Richard’s car caught our eye at the NSRA Southeast Nats.

With paint and power complete, it was time to weave all of the necessary systems together to make a well-running car. A hot MSD ignition and Pro-Billet distributor make sure all the fuel from those dual four-barrels gets burned and the Sanderson headers and Flowmaster exhaust direct the spent fumes into the history books.

So far as this ‘Stang’s stance, a set of Ridler wheels (18×8 front/18×9.5 rear) help fill in the wheel openings with Dunlop Direzza DZ 101 tires (235-40-18 front/275-35-18 rear). Behind that are a set of front disc brakes and manual steering with rear drums bookending a 9-inch rearend filled with 28-spline axles and a 3.50 limited-slip differential. Koni shocks are equally shared between the front and rear suspensions.

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Inside Richard’s ride you’ll find a blend of vintage, retro and technology. It quickly becomes obvious that, while Richard can appreciate that sounds emanating from that FE powerhouse, there are also times when he wants to choose his channel. When those times occur, we’re sure he has no problem drowning out the exhaust note with his RetroSound radio with Infinity speakers and amps, followed by a duo of JL Audio subwoofers.

Richard quickly admits that even after 20 years, he is still tweaking things to keep the car contemporary and enjoyable. But one thing he is certain of after all these years is that, “without good friends willing to give their knowledge and time, this build would have never been completed.”

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