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1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 - Conversation Piece
A classic Mach 1 with a two-barrel 351 and three-speed manual transmission tends to get people talking
We all have our favorite vintages of Mustang. For Jim and Ted Daminski, it seems the ones to own are strictly from model year '69. These middle-age brothers from upstate New York currently have a trio of first-year Mach 1s in their garages—one currently undergoing restoration and two complete, including our featured Indian Fire Red example—and together have owned more than 15 '69 Mustangs over the span of their Ford-faithful lives.
The guys will be the first to admit that many of their earlier Mustangs had been, well, rode hard and put away rusted—the inevitable result of both youthful exuberance and the infamously snowy and salty winters of their Buffalo-area upbringing. Luckily, even the terminally rusty ones were a good source of spare parts that were put away for future use. And while western New York's winter weather is as miserable as ever, the siblings' driving habits have matured a tad over the decades, and these days the Daminskis are much more respectful of the history spoken through their co-owned Mustangs.
Truth be told, however, the brothers did go for a number of years without any Mustangs, focusing instead on fast snowmobiles—not entirely unreasonable in an area where frigid northwest winds whip copious moisture off Lake Erie and deposit it in layers of frozen white crystals, often measured in feet at a time. Still, the call of the ponycar is strong and, in the mid-1990s, Jim and Ted once again started scouring the country for a suitable candidate. As it turns out, they needn't have looked so far: "We found this one almost in our back yard, about 15 miles away," Jim says.
What they found was a Mach 1 with the base-model H-code 351-2V and rarely seen three-speed manual gearbox in very nice overall condition. They became only its third owner(s) on July 4, 1998. Jim gave us a brief history: "It started life in Texas. The original owner drove it to Buffalo around 1983 and put it in the Buffalo Evening News for sale."
As an aside, we can only guess that this sudden decision to sell was because that first owner must have seen the writing on the wall for a 14-year-old Mustang about to take on the Rust Belt. Jim continues: "Russ Ryan bought the car and decided to restore it because of a few dings, dents, and fading paint. He completely disassembled it in 1992 to just the shell and did a full rotisserie restoration with the help of Gene and John Connors of Connors Collision in Hamburg. The restoration only took two years because the body was completely solid except for the dings and dents. Russ got the body back to his home garage and reassembled it piece by piece. When he put the engine in, he added headers and dual exhaust for more performance, but kept the original exhaust manifolds in his attic. Afterwards, he would only take the car out for special occasions and Sunday mornings when no one was on the road. When he was done, he would wipe it down, put it back in the garage, and cover it."
It was this pampered pony that Jim and Ted picked up on Independence Day in 1998. Still, it wasn't perfect: "After a few years, we took the car to our first Mustang Club of America show thinking we had something great. But what we got was a lesson."
That "lesson" was in the form of a judging sheet and its telltale listing of minor flaws. So the brothers got to work, gradually weeding out incorrect fasteners and washers, installing a correct Carlite windshield, pulling and repainting the 250hp 351 Windsor in the correct shade of Ford Corporate Blue, and ditching the previous owner's aftermarket headers in favor of the original manifolds backed up with a correct single exhaust system. It now appears close to original, save for the added spoilers and Hurst stick.
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Like most of us, the guys prefer to mount up modern radials for local trips and cruise nights. But for more serious shows, a second set of rims with the pictured white-letter Polyglas belted rubber add authenticity. Jim and Ted have trailered the car (usually ˇ with its much-modified Gulfstream Aqua garage-mate) all over the northeastern U.S. and Canada, picking up many trophies along the way. Whether gathering shiny hardware or not, they particularly enjoy the inevitable conversations that a mostly stock, small-block, three-speed manual '69 Mach 1 will set off at Mustang shows that are seemingly filled with big-block 428 CJ Machs. In this regard, Jim had always been the more talkative of the two, but this Mach 1 may have changed things.
"My brother used to be very quiet," Jim says, "But since we got back into Mustangs again, you can't shut him up."
Meaning this Mach1 is a true conversation piece.