Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
May 21, 2014
Photos By: Al Rogers

We all know what was down starting in 1971, and that was horsepower. The ’71 Boss 351, widely known as one of the quickest factory Mustangs, was the last shot across the muscle car bow from the Ford camp. Or was it? The ’72 R-code Mach 1, though not as strong as the ’71 Boss 351, which also wore an R-code designation, carried on the tradition of small block Ford performance.

Call it a Boss 351 Jr, if you will. The ’72 R-code H.O. 351 was basically a Boss 351 with open chamber heads and lower compression. As we’ve pointed out on these pages before, larger, open-combustion chamber heads, a new flat-top piston design (engineered for lower octane pump gas), and decreased camshaft duration were the main culprits for the lost horsepower.

How much lost power, if any, is further muddied by a change in how an engine’s horsepower was measured. For ’71, horsepower carried an SAE gross measurement, meaning horsepower was measured at the flywheel with minimal accessories in place. In mid-1972, the “gross” rating changed to a “net” measurement, which meant horsepower was measured still from the flywheel, but with the appropriate pumps, pulleys, and exhaust equipment installed. Obviously, that change is going to adversely affect horsepower ratings.

The R-code H.O. 351 engine in Jeff and Marlene’s Mach 1 was factory rated at 275 horsepower. The Q-code 351 Cobra Jet, introduced at the beginning of the ’72 model year was rated at 266 horsepower, and the R-code was a mid-year addition to the option list. Basically a detuned ’71 Boss 351 engine, the R-code H.O. engine featured open chamber heads, a nodular iron crankshaft, forged connecting rods, four-bolt mains, a solid lifter camshaft, an aluminum intake, a rev limiter, a dual-point distributor, and an Autolite 4300D 4V carburetor.

So, when you look at it, the ’72 Mach 1 R-code 351 is basically a ’71 Boss without the “Boss 351” designation. Still, the horsepower was obviously down. Take for example, a ’71 Boss 351 was good for 13.8s in the quarter-mile, while a ’72 R-code H.O. 351, upon our research, was good for 15.1 at 95 mph—quite a disparity. The facts, and comparisons between the ’71 Boss 351, and the ’72 R-code H.O. 351 are filled with confusing numbers; enough to make your head spin.

For Jeff and Marlene Luptowski, these facts only get in the way of a good story. For Jeff, he wasn’t really into cars as a youth. It wasn’t until his older brother took him to a drag race in Ubly, Michigan when he was 15-16 years old. That was all it took. When it was time for Jeff to get a car, though, he had a humble start with a ’61 Bel-Air boasting a six-cylinder and a three-on-the-tree. He paid just $200 for the car. In 1968 he was 19 years old, and able to buy a brand new car. He was stuck in a sea of family members who worked for GM, so to stay in the will he purchased a ’68 Camaro with a 327 and a Powerglide. He owned that car for a little over a year before someone ran a stoplight, totaling the Camaro. After the Camaro he bought a ’69 Charger with a 318 and a Torqueflite. After 3 months owning the Charger, Jeff was hurt in a factory accident and had to sell the Charger.

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After the accident, Jeff and Marlene got married in 1970, and they settled into life. Jeff started working at Kmart, from which he retired in 2008. During the period of time between the Charger and retiring, Jeff and Marlene had normal day-to-day transportation—and a boat. The idea of the boat was better than reality as it sat in the garage most of the time.

Obviously disheartened with the boat, Marlene suggested Jeff find something to enjoy upon his retirement. Well, Jeff loves fishing, but since the boat didn’t really pan out to his liking, he turned to his other love—muscle cars. So they got rid of the boat and looked for a muscle car.

The Hurst-shifted Ford Top Loader is the main reason Jeff and Marlene now own the R-code H.O., and they didn’t even know how unique the car was when they first bought it, but adding to the car’s rarity is its Vermillion Sebring knit/Corinthian vinyl bucket seat interior.

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The Redford, Michigan couple wanted a muscle car with three pedals, not two. That was the couple’s only requirement, that it be a four-speed car. “While searchin’ the internet we came to the Holt Auto Sales web site,” Jeff says. “I noticed a ’70 Trans Am. I showed the pictures to my wife and we decided to drive to Lansing to look at it.” Their excitement turned into disappointment when they saw the Trans Am in person. “There were wires hanging from the dash, and other stuff,” Jeff says. It just wasn’t for them. Nothing else on the lot interested them until on their way out. “My wife noticed this bright red Mustang in the middle of the GM products, and we could not get over how beautiful this car was, and it had a four-speed,” Jeff tells us. Of course, the four-speed in this instance is the much-lauded Ford Top Loader four-speed. Jeff and Marlene drove the Mach 1, and that was it. “We made an offer that was accepted and the Mustang was ours,” Jeff says.

Jeff is just thankful for being in the right place, at the right time. “We knew nothing about an R-code—the unknown Boss—or how rare they are,” Jeff says. Jeff and Marlene’s Mach 1 is 1 of 336 SportsRoofs with the R-code H.O. 351. Unlike the Boss 351, the R-code H.O. 351 was also available in hardtop and convertible form. But again, Jeff and Marlene didn’t buy the car for its rarity. As Jeff puts it, “It’s just so much fun to drive.”

According to a Marti Auto Works deluxe report, the red on Jeff and Marlene Luptowski’s Mach 1 is paint code 2B for Bright red. Ford didn’t use much imagination when it came to the car’s color. Besides the red paint, black Mach 1 callouts adorn the car’s SportsRoof body, and accented by Magnum 500 wheels.