1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

Performance became marketing’s big thing for cars in the Sixties and the Mustang Mach 1 was the cherry on the cake for Ford fans…

The Ford Mustang is surely the number one, most evergreen example of the all-American car. From its Lee Iacocca-inspired inception on April 17, 1964, right up to its current nostalgia/retro look, the Mustang has always been with us. Whether you want a good-looking convertible, a sleek fastback or just a plain two-door sports coupe, the Mustang has always been able to accommodate (in fact there's a whole supplement dedicated to it this month).

The Mustang created the ‘pony car’ class of American automobile with its sports car appearance, coupe models with long hoods and short trunks, performance-oriented engines and looks to die for. This new style inspired offerings from other manufacturers, including the Camaro, Javelin, Challenger and the third-generation Barracuda. These cars battled out the 1970 Trans-Am racing series on America’s roundy-roundy circuits with Parnelli Jones clinching victory in a 302 Boss Mustang.

Fast forward a couple of years – and several styling changes – and we arrive in 1969 and the introduction of the Ford Mustang Mach 1. This new model firmly put the car into Shelby territory and a completely new level of performance. The Mach 1 was essentially a fastback (sports roof) GT with different stripes and a fancy interior, yet the car became a huge seller. It was an iconic model that could be had with really cool options such as a rear spoiler, front chin spoiler and rear window louvres – who needed to see out back? This new Mustang set the tone for the future in Ford’s ever-growing lust for street performance.

The car benefited from a new, sleeker and larger body, growing four inches in length and a half-inch in width. Up front the car looked stunning with an aggressive pointed shark-like design giving over to a blacked-out grille, dual headlamps and a non-functional hood scoop borrowed from the GT; however, a functional Shaker scoop could be had as standard with the 428cu in Cobra Jet Ram-Air V8 and optional on 351cu in and 390cu in powered cars. The device was mounted on top of a special air cleaner and protruded through the hood. A vacuum-operated door opened when the throttle was mashed, allowing gulps of cool air to feed the carburettor.

Under the hood the Mach 1 came standard with a 351cu in two-barrel V8 giving out 250 horses; a four-barrel 351cu in version could also be had with 290bhp. Bigger still was the 390cu in with 320bhp. However, the daddy of them all had to be the four-barrel 428cu in Cobra Jet Ram Air, pumping out a healthy 335 horsepower. A ’69 Mach 1 with the 428 and a four-speed transmission could be had for as little as $3750: a great price for that level of performance on tap.

No wonder, then, Ford sold lots of ’69 Mustangs, especially Mach 1s… how about 72,458 for its first year of production? The Mach 1 tripled sales of fastbacks and re-energised the nameplate. Ford enjoyed unparallelled success in 1969, as the Mustang and other new models sold well and their racing teams won the aforementioned Trans Am series and a certain Mr Petty (for one year only) jumped ship to the Blue Oval camp and won them the NASCAR championship in a slippery Torino called the Talladega. Mustang production came in at a total of 299,824 with 80% of cars sold having a V8.

These figures are incredible when you consider that Chrysler, Chevy and AMC all had successful muscle and pony cars looking for owners too. New wild colours such as Aztec Aqua, Indian Fire Red, Lime Gold and Meadowlark Yellow boosted the cars’ appeal among young buyers looking for a more definitive muscle car.

A further notable fact is that a Mach 1 could be ordered hundreds of different ways as Ford offered a myriad of option combinations: 16 different interiors, 17 body colours, three- or four-speed manual transmissions, C6 auto in various guises and a rear axle known as a ‘traction lok’ with 3.91 or 4.30 ratios. The heavy-hitting Mach 1 had to be the 428cu in Super Cobra Jet, equipped with the ‘drag pack’ option; this car really did rule the traffic light races. For an extra $155 you received a Shaker scoop, plus a modified crankshaft and stronger connecting rods for better high rpm durability.

Also a four-speed or Ford’s improved Select Shift heavy-duty automatic; the manual cars came with staggered rear shocks for even more traction. These particular models were so underrated at 333bhp, they had more than adequate power to literally rip up the black top! High-13 quarter-mile passes could be had with ease in a ‘drag pack’ Mach 1 with terminal speeds of more than 100mph.

In the end the Mach 1 outsold the base GT model and Ford cancelled the GT altogether, making the Mach 1 the primary street performance Mustang. We'll sign off this month with a very fitting quote from Jim O’Connor, Ford’s former group vice president: “Of all our living legends, Mustang might have the richest heritage, everyone has a favourite, Mach 1 is one of the most memorable and collectable Mustangs.” So there you go: grab a Mach 1, you won’t be disappointed!

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