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1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Cobra Jet Rare Find
Rare Finds: A case of Cobra Jet fever
Mark Houseman couldn’t sleep for two or three nights after learning about a 1969 Cobra Jet Mach 1 buried under debris in a garage in rural Georgia.
“March 9  happened to be my day off,” Houseman said. “I was sitting out by my pool in the afternoon taking a break from yard work.”
His friend, Hunter, called, but Houseman almost didn’t answer his cell, which would have been a huge mistake. Hunter had driven to a rural location in southern Georgia to look at horses advertised for sale. The seller was a lady in her mid-60s who took care of her 93-year old mother-in-law. He was interested in several of the horses, and also went into the garage to see some bridles and saddles. He was shocked to see more than leather inside. The sight of an old Mustang piled with stuff made Hunter call his friend Houseman, who loves to buy old cars.
“He said, ‘Mark, you’re not going to believe what I am looking at.”
Fifty-six-year-old Houseman grew up with a father who was into antique cars. In their South Florida neighborhood, his dad had no problem knocking on doors of Palm Beach estates to talk to the butler or chauffeur about an old classic. His dad bought some phenomenal cars in those days, including a 1938 Cadillac limousine from the estate of Merriweather Post, the cereal baron. Houseman also appreciates outstanding cars, especially a great bargain.
“At first, I thought was it was definitely a Mustang,” Houseman said. “I doubted it was a Cobra Jet, which is about as hard to find nowadays as a Shelby.”
Hunter relayed what he could about the fastback, 41,000 miles on the odometer, husband deceased about seven years ago, had owned the car since it was eight months old, and the license tag registration date of 1986. Before the phone call ended, Houseman had developed a bad case of Cobra Jet Fever. This car seemed what he thought it was, and the kind of deal his father had taught him to seek out. He set up a time to see the car the next day, Thursday, after working his mail route in Valdosta, Georgia.
The next day, Hunter brought his wife along to look at the horses, and Houseman followed in his car. While Hunter and his wife checked out the horses, Houseman looked at a horse of a different color. “The car was in a detached two-car garage. The rolling front door wouldn’t open because there was so much stuff leaning up against it. I opened a little side door that brought me in near the back of the car. The first thing I noticed was the flat back of the trunk lid that read “Mach 1.” I was definitely looking at the back end of a fastback. I asked the lady, ‘Let me just stand here and look.’ The sight was so awesome.”
She knew nothing about the Mustang, other than her husband had bought the car when it was eight months old and had been restoring it at the time he died. The Mach 1 just had the look of an original car. The lady had not only thought about selling, she already had a price in mind, which Houseman believed was fair. But before agreeing to buy it, he would have to unearth the old car to see how complete it was and to check for rust. That day, it was too late to do this amount of work.
Houseman wanted to come back Friday, but he had an obligation he could not get out of. Before leaving that first day, though, he got as close as possible to look. Bags of concrete made opening the car doors impossible. However, the glass was missing to the driver’s side door, and he could peer inside to a beautiful interior, almost like new. The back seat was strewn with parts, including door panels and a front grille.
Houseman scheduled a return appointment Saturday and two more nights of sleep deprivation. “Saturday morning I went over there alone,” he said. “I spent three to four hours digging the car out.”
The Mustang was a for-real 428 Cobra Jet. The VIN on top of the dash contained an R in the fifth digit, decoding it as a 428 CJ with ram air. Apparently, the big-block had been out at one time and painted, but the owner did not know if her husband had rebuilt it. Rust was limited to the front floorpans, which was already cut out with another pan awaiting installation. Houseman found the air cleaner in the trunk, but the carburetor and important ram air scoop were both missing.
Excited about a major find, Houseman bought the Mach 1, knowing he could buy the missing parts later. Before leaving, he noticed a drop-down ladder to the attic, and the owner had no problem with him searching. In the rafters, he found the driver’s side door glass.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to find that scoop, and maybe the carburetor.’ So, I started digging around.”
Houseman found the front and rear bumpers for the Mach 1, which he paid for separately because he had already purchased the car. But, he never did find the carburetor or hood scoop. The only other parts missing, apparently, are the headlight buckets and side moldings, parts that are easy to find. He plans to sell the 1969 Mustang fastback that he has been working on, now that he has a 1969 Cobra Jet Mach 1 to restore.