Had Steve Nelson bought this ’69 Mach 1 recently, the build would probably have been a restoration. First-year Mach 1s are quite valuable today, no matter what engine is under the hood.
But, Nelson bought the fastback in 1980 when he was 18 years old. This latest build has followed more of what the teenager inside wanted in his wild days.
Today a Rolls Royce/Bentley mechanic, Nelson was like most kids in the early ’80s. He listened to the Doobie Brothers and wanted a hot car to modify into a hotter car. The ’69 was white with red stripes and a full Mach 1. What a sight this factory stock muscle car must have been. He and some friends made the trek from Las Vegas to Southern California to bring home this classic for a sum hard to believe in today’s market–$1,500.
“It was straight and rust free,” Steve recalls.
Under the hood was the 351 four-barrel Windsor backed by an automatic with console shifter. Today, a complete shaker assembly would fetch more money than the 351 Mach I did in 1980.
Collector-wise, the 428 CJ would have been the Mach to buy for the long haul. In 1980, Steve just needed a starting point for his awesome build. The teenager modified the Mach 1 from Day.
“I was a kid. I needed a hot rod. I wasn’t thinking long term. I painted the body red, put a fiberglass hood on it, put the rollbar in it, and picked out a set of Centerlines.”
Steve kept the Modified Mach in a constant state of flux into his twenties and thirties. The build served as a weekend warrior on the dragstrip and a fun ride for downtown cruising in his hometown.
Then, seven years ago, the 40-something teenager (enthusiasts are trapped in car high school when it comes to Mustangs), started all over from scratch.
“I stripped the body down to bare metal and redid all the body work.”
His goal was to make the Mach 1 into a “car that I take to the racetrack on the weekends.” Basically, Steve was moving into the big time, in an adult manner of speaking. Adept in the car-arts, he took his time and did the work on his own in his backyard.
Such a build can be intense and perhaps a little too far on the wild side. Plus, Steve would lose his cherished cruiser if the Mach 1 were strictly a drag racer.
Midway through the project, he changed horses and decided to keep the build street legal. Vestiges of the dragstrip look and power, however, remain.
“I started out building a race car,” Steve admitted.
Then, he remembered the local car events he liked so much in Las Vegas.
“Here in town they have cruise nights and so forth that we go to. I just kind of hang out with people at mini car shows and things of that nature.”
The focus of the build shifted to race and street. The fairly radical 428 build, initially a Cobra Jet, would still power the street build, Steve figured. In his mind, swapping out the automatic for a four-speed would negate the need to de-tune. Steve chose a vintage Ford Top Loader four-speed driving a set of 3.50:1 gears in a Traction-Lok, nine-inch Ford differential.
The 428 in Cobra Jet tune is synonymous with Mach 1. More horsepower, however, cannot hurt the image. Mach 1 means one times the speed of sound.
Steve bored out the 428 by 0.030-inch then fitted the big block with enough internal and external modifications to dyno a tire-lighting 730 horsepower at the flywheel.
The modifications to the 428 roll off Steve’s lips like he’s name-dropping famous vendors- Edelbrock aluminum heads, Offenhauser Port-O-Sonic intake manifold, Lunati solid lifter cam, Harlan Sharp roller rockers, Milodon gear drive, MSD ignition and billet distributor, Barry Grant Silver Claw carburetor, Hooker Super Comp ceramic coated headers, March billet aluminum pulleys.”
Steve ran out of name brands and his thought switched to the dream he harbored for years.
“I always wanted a big-block car. That was kind of unreachable. So the easiest thing for me to do was to get the motor and build it myself.”
In 1980, rack and pinion steering would have been out of the question. Today, Steve ordered one from Total Control. Like the rest of the build, he installed the steering box himself.
A common complaint with early Mustangs is the coil springs sit on top of the upper control arms. Steve remedied this factory set-up with a set of adjustable tubular upper and lower control arms from Total Control.
In the back, Steve kept the basic leaf spring, solid axle set-up. To improve 60-foot times, he installed a set of Caltrac bars that eliminate leaf spring “wrap-up.” Basically, they keep the axle from rotating and help maintain the pinion angle.
There seem to be no bounds in this 21st century build. Of course, that’s what happens when an adult holds onto teenage car dreams, Mach 1 style.
1969 Mach 1
428 Cobra Jet bored 0.030”
Edelbrock “Performer” aluminum heads
Offenhauser Port O Sonic intake manifold
Barry Grant 1000 CFM Silver Claw carburetor
MSD billet distributor
MSD 6AL ignition box
Lunati solid cam
Harlen Sharp roller rockers
Miloden gear drive
Miloden high volume oil pump
Hooker Super Comp ceramic coated headers
March billet aluminum pulleys
KRC power steering pump
Power Master 140 amp chrome alternator
Custom aluminum radiator with dual electric fans
Custom 3-inch dual exhausts with Flowmaster mufflers
Ford Top Loader 4-speed
Nine inch rear end with 3.50:1 Traction-Lok
Total Control adjustable tubular upper and lower control arms with adjustable coil over front shocks
Total Control power rack & pinion steering
Competition Engineering sub frame connectors
Wheels & Tires
17-inch Polished American Racing Torque Thrust Nitto Extreme performance tires
Auto Meter Phantom gauges
Sony Explode CD player
Kicker 500 watt amp
Polk Audio speakers
Hooker chrome roll-bar
Dynamat sound deadener
RJS 4 point shoulder harness for the front seats
Matching lap belts for the rear seats
Rim blow steering wheel
Fold down rear seat
Custom Pitch Black paint
Shaved Door handles
Rear window louvers
Tri-bar headlamps with H4 bulbs
Sequential LED tail lamps
Chrome Mach 1 Insert for shaker scoop
Factory Mach 1 stripes on rear deck lid only