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Phil Shoemaker’s 1969 Mach 1 is a Testament to Acting on Your Dreams
Dream Catcher: Phil Shoemaker’s “Throwback” is the culmination of his childhood dream to own a classic Mustang
Like any red-blooded American, Phil Shoemaker dreamed of owning a muscle car when he was a teenager. His specific car of choice was a 1969 Mustang SportsRoof. While a few friends had Mustangs back in the 1960s, his high-school job as a school bus driver didn’t allow for any such luxury. Like most dreams, Phil’s desire for a 1969 Mustang didn’t go away, it was simply buried deep down inside and temporarily replaced with adult responsibilities like marriage, work, kids, paying for said kids’ college, and more. However, once the house is empty and the last kid is out on their own, many dreams resurface and can finally be acted upon.
“The inspiration for Throwback came from my father. After he retired he started fixing older cars and giving them to his grandchildren. Unfortunately he got involved in so many projects that he died of Amyloidosis before he had a chance to start the one that he really wanted—a Jaguar XKE. His death brought home to me how short life is, so a couple of years later I started looking into Mustangs,” Phil tells us.
Phil found a suitable candidate in 2001 in Pella, Iowa. Believing the car was a good deal and solid, he rented a trailer and drove the 800 miles (one way) to purchase his dream. Sadly, upon arrival the Mustang’s reality slapped Phil in the face—big cracks in poorly applied body filler with a questionable purple paint, an interior that was an outright disaster, and to top it off the engine barely ran. The good news was it was indeed a Mach 1 and numbers matching. Phil realizes now he overpaid for the Mach, but as he told us “dreams don’t run on reason.”
Over the next decade Phil worked on the Mustang. “The first step was to decide what exactly the finished product was to become. To my mind it made no sense to put together a concours restoration,” Phil explains. More than any other car, the Mustang has benefited from a generous aftermarket support system of performance, handling, and appearance items. “The original car suffered from bump-steer, weak braking, inequitable weight distribution, and the chassis had never been designed to handle huge increases in horsepower. Safety, ride, power, handling and performance, all were susceptible to improvement over the years. It seemed to me that to put the car back together without taking advantage of all the upgrades was foolish and somewhat dangerous.” At the same time the car was a numbers matching 1969 Mach 1. Whatever Phil planned, it needed to remain a 1969 Mach 1. “The overall plan was to fix the body and restore it so that it’s instantly recognizable as a 1969 Mach 1. When you sit in it, it looks just like it did in 1969. But when you start it, or when you look under it, or when you ride in it, and especially when you look under the hood, it's clear that it's much better than it was in 1969,” says Phil of his upgrade plans.
Phil did some repair work on the body and repainted it, but didn’t go the extra mile of fully stripping the chassis. Something he regretted doing at the time. Once the body was painted the drivetrain was pulled for a freshening. The 351 Windsor got a full rebuild with a .030-inch overbore, aluminum heads, and a ProCharger supercharger making a dyno-certified 650 hp at the crankshaft. His friend Kevin Scales handled the rebuild/assembly of the 351, as well as rebuilding the factory 9-inch with a new limited slip unit and 3.50 gears. The original Top Loader four-speed was dropped off with Dan Williams Top Loader Transmissions in Franklin, TN for a rebuild and Dan even let Phil hang out and watch the process. Phil then added Wilwood discs at all four corners with Kevin’s help. The interior got a few fixes, including getting the instruments working and adding a boost/pressure gauge for the supercharger.
About this time Phil met John Kozak. John was into restoration work and Phil bent John’s ear numerous times over the next year about how dissatisfied he was with the paint job on the Mach 1. John, whom had become proficient in the art of soda blasting, discussed stripping the car and doing the bodywork properly. Phil decided it was time to start over and do the Mach 1 right. Phil and his wife gutted the car of all interior, glass, drivetrain, etc. and John picked up the carcass to blast at his place. When the soda dust settled it wasn’t a pretty sight. The Mach 1 needed quarters, rockers, frame rails, and a lot of small patch work. The extent of the work was handled by Jeremy Bishop at Elite Customs. Subframe connectors were welded in, side-marker light openings and the factory hood pin holes were welded up, plus the seams were stitch welded to increase body strength. Jeremy spent the better part of a year fixing the Mach’s wrinkled and rusty shell before applying the stunning base/clear paint to the surface.
Seeing how great the Mach’s body came out, Phil opted to have Jeremy’s shop finish all of the final assembly work. The suspension got a 1-inch drop with progressive rate coils, larger front and rear anti-sway bar, traction bars out back, and urethane bushings. The steering was upgraded to rack-and-pinion with a tilt-column. The interior got a complete update courtesy of TMI sport seats, new door panels, carpet, and other soft trim. “Unfortunately, both of my friends who had helped have passed away—Kevin from a heart attack and John from cancer. Perhaps the best story coming out of this project is to do it. Don't wait. I made about every rookie mistake possible, but I got to spend time with friends who are no longer here.” The Mach 1 now sits as a tribute to Phil’s dream and his late friends who helped his dream become a reality. It is on display at the Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum in Forest City, North Carolina for all to enjoy.