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1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1 - Long Time Coming
More than three decades in the making, Mark Bard’s restomod Mach I is a testament to perseverance…and procrastination
By its very definition, a project is something that takes time, and we don't have to tell most of you holding this magazine in your procrastinating hands that some projects tend to drag out seemingly as long as the Chicago Cubs have been trying to win a World Series title. When Mark Bard started on this '70 Mach I restomod, the term didn't even exist.
It was 1977 and Jimmy Carter was in the first year of his one and only term, filling the Oval Office with cases of his brother's Billy Beer. Then again, Bard—who hails from Tilbury, Ontario, Canada—would have been more in tune with the Right Honorable Pierre Trudeau, who was Canada's prime minister back then. Either way, CB radios were the cell phones of the day, wood paneling was the basement décor of choice, and a new sci-fi movie called Star Wars was drawing fans dressed in their bell-bottoms and halter tops to movie theaters.
Bard was a young, wrench-turning enthusiast who traded a Pinto and a fistful of cash for the original Mach I (one of 3,528 built with a 351C-4V and one of only 450 to come with a white interior). Back then, a year in the life of a car was like dog years and it was nothing for a car less than 10 years old to have already experienced tremendous wear and tear. So, it didn't dissuade Bard at all that the original 351 Cleveland and four-speed had long been replaced by a slushbox-backed 302. He drove the car for a couple of years with plans on fixing it up further, but the smug feeling that came with trading a Pinto for a Mach I was shattered when he discovered the car been hit hard early in its life.
"Once I started on it, I found it had been hit all down the left side and repaired with a ton of body filler," says Bard. "Everything under the carpet was rotten, too—the framerails, torque boxes, trunk, and more. The car wasn't even 10 years old at the time!"
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Over the next few years, as time and funds permitted, the car was back halved with new wheeltubs, trunk pan, and framerails. And as so many of us can relate, progress on the project halted in 1981, as Bard spent the next few years focusing on his new shop: Sparky's Performance Centre, which he still runs there in Tilbury.
"When I opened the shop, the Mach I went into a storage shed," he says. "I always planned to finish the car, so I kept a list of everything I was going to need and would go to the Ford dealership periodically to buy parts. Back then, just about everything was still available. Those were the days!"
Flashing forward nearly 20 years, Sparky's underwent an expansion in 1999 that included a dedicated bay for the Mustang, but still Bard didn't have the time to spin the wrenches on his own car. (He had also started a body shop.) By 2006, however, he finally made the time and jumped back into the dormant project with the gusto of a Star Wars fan who's had a few too many Billy Beers. That included taking a few steps back and undoing some of the previous work.
"We built a jig so that the car would be put back together nice and square, but it required taking some of the stuff I'd already done apart, including spot welds," he says. "It was a tough way to get going again, but it was the right way to go."
With the Mustang firmly affixed to the jig, all-new floors, framerails, torque boxes, trunk pan, wheeltubs, quarter-panels, doors, and fenders were installed, along with an all-new front frame assembly—we believe there are still a few square inches of the original roof in there somewhere. Fortunately, that cache of original Ford parts Bard had accumulated in the early '80s included sheetmetal, so he was able to fit genuine N.O.S. fenders and more to the car.
By the late-2000s, the aesthetic for modified cars had changed from ladder bars clamped to the axle and chrome velocity stacks pushing through the hood, and Bard rightfully went the restomod route, finally putting dreams of metal-flaked paint and a crushed red velvet dashboard out of his head. In there place is the appearance of a nicely restored Mustang that, upon closer inspection, reveals a number of clever details. The color, for instance, isn't Grabber Orange; it's a Lamborghini color with a pearlescent quality that has to be viewed from different angles to fully appreciate it. And the Mach I Shaker scoop isn't an original '70 piece, either. It's from the 2003 model. The scoop has been modified to accept the air inlet for a Paxton-blown 351.
The RideTech air suspension is another of the car's signature features and Bard claims his was one of the first Fords to be equipped with one.
"It was an interesting process adapting it to the car," he says. "I'd call them for technical assistance, but it seemed I was giving them back as much technical advice on the installation for Mustangs as they were giving me in general for the system itself."
You'd think that after nearly 35 years that Bard wouldn't have felt rushed to complete the car, but by early 2011 he was feeling the squeeze of getting it to the Motor City for the Detroit Autorama—one of the largest and most prestigious indoor car shows.
"There was an all-nighter to get it finished, just like you see on one of those cable TV shows about building cars," he says. "With the help of a bunch of good friends, the car was loaded on a trailer at 7 a.m. and delivered to Detroit, where it won its class. Three weeks later, it was named the Best Ford and one of the Top 10 overall at Toronto Speedworld."
The awards have kept coming, too, as Bard and the Mustang take home a trophy at just about every event they attend. That's quite a few, too, because the car is a driver and the owner enjoys exercising its more than 700-horse supercharged engine and banging through the gears of the Top Loader transmission behind it. We simply don't have the space on these pages to show every last detail, but believe us, the underside is as sanitary as everything within eyeshot.
It's also the perfect calling card for Bard's restoration services, exemplifying craftsmanship, creativity, and excellent attention to detail. He swears, too, that customer projects don't take 30 years to complete!
Mark Bard's 1970 Ford Mustang Mach I
Ford '71 Boss 351 (0.030-in. overbore)
Ford Boss 351 crankshaft
Ford Boss 351 connecting rods (shot-peened), 5.780-inch-long
Speed-Pro forged aluminum pistons
Speed-Pro piston rings
10.1:1 compression ratio
Edelbrock Performer RPM cylinder heads ported by Mark Bard
Custom-grind Comp Cams roller camshaft with 0.576/0.576-inch lift and 290/290-deg. duration
Comp Cams roller lifters and pushrods
Comp Cams 1.72-ratio rocker arms
Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum intake manifold
Demon 750-cfm "double-pumper" carburetor
Paxton Novi supercharger pushing 12 pounds of boost
MSD ignition system
Classic Auto Air air conditioning system
Aeromotive fuel system
709 hp at 6,600 rpm
574 lb-ft at 6,200 rpm
Dyno testing conducted at Leitch Performance, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Top Loader four-speed
McLeod dual-disc clutch
Modified V-gate shifter (moved back 6 inches to clear dashboard)
Ford 9-inch N-case housing (shortened)
Ford Traction-Lok differential
Hedman ceramic-coated headers, 13⁄4-inch primary, 3-inch collectors
Custom 3-inch exhaust system by Mark Bard
Spin Tech mufflers
Custom "zoomie" exhaust outlets in front of rear wheels
Front: Global West upper and lower A-arms and RideTech ShockWave air-over-shock height-adjustable dampers
Rear: RideTech ShockWave air-over-shock height-adjustable dampers
Flaming River rack-and-pinion
Tilting steering column
Front: '70 Ford Mustang 11.25-inch discs
Rear: 11-inch discs (Ford Racing drum-to-disc conversion kit)
Front: American Racing 200S, 15x8
Rear: American Racing 200S, 15x10
Front: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 26X10.00R15LT
Rear: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 28X12.00R15LT
Original-style with custom center console for shifter and RideTech suspension controls; Eagle Talon front seats; leather and cloth upholstery by Mr. B's Custom Upholstery, Coatsworth Station, Ontario, Canada; Auto Meter instruments in factory gauge locations
Lamborghini orange color; '03 Mustang Mach I Shaker scoop; Tri Bar headlamps, factory lower Mach I rocker molding eliminated for cleaner appearance; body- and paintwork performed by Southwest Coatings & Finishings, Tilbury, Ontario, Canada