Dale Amy
September 1, 2009

Some of you may remember Don Gasiunas' former Pony project ("Unbridled Lust," July '06), a highly customized convertible that he called "Unbridled"-a nice play on words, in our opinion. It was, in short, his vision of a drop-top '67 Mustang for the 21st century. Turns out someone else must have shared that vision because, shortly after our feature, Don was, let's say, fiscally persuaded to part with his '67-which was quite OK since he always seems to have another project in mind. With a freshly recharged bank account, this time our creative Canadian friend decided to tackle his favorite vintage of Mustang-the '70 Mach 1.

The first job would be finding one. Now, it's generally agreed that a person will ultimately save much money and even more time by starting with the least oxidized steed possible. This can be a real challenge in Canada, where winters seem more like mini ice ages, and the resulting road salt has reduced many a classic car to metallic Swiss cheese. Or red dust. So it may seem odd that Don managed to find the basis for this project in an Ontario barn. The saving grace was that it had fairly recently emigrated from Arizona, leaving its body panels in excellent original shape. Ironically, Don would soon start cutting holes in them.

Actually, the task of body and paint went to A&T Auto Restoration, and the list of metal mods was fairly extensive. Perhaps the most time consuming but also most subtle was the deepening and extension of the rocker panels-subtle, that is, until you observe the size of the stainless oval exhaust tips now protruding through. Check out the exhaust routing detail on our belly shots. A little higher, you'll notice the absence of door handles and keyholes, a clean theme that is echoed in the flush-mounted fuel door and taillights, as well as the frenched projector-beam backup lights on the extended rear valence. Stock bumpers were retained, but are contoured to the body lines, and if you look closely, you'll see that front and rear marker lights (LED) are now frenched into the bumpers' outer corners-a brilliant bit of detailing.

Moving up front, the custom touches continue with a unique valance and fiberglass chin spoiler. Driving lights are now housed in the lower grille opening, inboard of which are small but bright multi-LED turn signal lamps. The front fenders now sport functional, screened heat-extractor vents, and the 1970-only char-acteristic paired "scoops" outboard of the head-lights are now functional as well. More airflow is assured by a pair of louvers in the hood, though the cowl vents are now completely banished. Anyway, we've probably missed lots of stuff, but the overall look is certainly modern, finished off, as it is, by 17x8 rolling stock in the front fenderwells, and honkin' 18x10 hoops out back.

Oh, and don't be misled by the "428 EFI" markings on the fenders, as the FE onboard has in fact been poked and stroked out to 445 inches, though it does indeed utilize FAST XFI electronic fuel injection for the utmost in civilized driveability, despite a solid roller cam that can fairly be described as having some obvious topography. A six-speed Tremec T56 aids in keeping highway revs under control, even with 4.11 cogs out back. See any bundles of wiring? Nope, they're hidden, and most visible parts of the engine have been polished, including the Tru Trac serpentine accessory drive system from Billet Specialties. Survival Motorsports in Detroit, Michigan, built the internally strengthened FE, which was dyno'd at 525 hp and 505 lb-ft on pump gas. We could spend all day describing the ultra-sanitary engine bay, but we only have so many pages.

Since modernity was a primary goal here, the chassis also received a bit of attention. How's that for gross understatement? Chassis rigidity was assured with a custom tubular subframe connection system. Both ends of the wheelbase now utilize full coil-over-shock setups from Total Control Products, the rear employing the company's hugely adjustable pushrod arrangement that brings along its own subframe structure, three-bar axle control with torque arm; horizontally mounted Watt's link, and an FAB9 9-inch axle housing. TCP also supplied the power steering rack that is linked to a Flaming River column and tilt steering assembly. Braking is nothing less than a custom Brembo system having a 14-inch rotor diameter on the nose, 13 inches at the tail. And the whole belly is carefully finished in contrasting red and silver, just like on top.

Which pretty much brings us to the two-seat interior; actually, there is a sort of padded bench area in back but, seeing that it's literally surrounded by strikingly large Clarion amps and subwoofers, we'd have to guess it wasn't designed with passengers in mind-at least not sane ones. Up front, however, are nice comfortable Procar buckets, custom upholstered in leather by Tack Upholstery, who also did the door panels and other interior skinning, which no doubt consumed a couple cows' worth of hides. Even the dash pad is now leather-skinned, and the overall cabin theme is nothing if not modern. It may be a little thing, but we like the engine-start button on the console. "God is in the details," as the saying goes.

All told, the conversion from 351-powered Mach 1 to big-block Xtreme Mach consumed some 14 months and untold thousands of dollars. Now that it's done, Don is thoroughly enjoying it, but is probably already planning his next modernized Mustang makeover. Our cameras will be waiting.

The Details
Don Gasiunas' '70 Mustang Mach 1

Engine

  • 428 FE, bored & stroked to 445 cubic inches
  • SCAT 9000-series stroker crank, 4.250-inch stroke
  • SCAT I-beam rods, 6.70-inch
  • Probe forged pistons, 10.5:1
  • Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum heads
  • Dove aluminum intake, modified for port injection
  • FAST XFI electronic fuel injection
  • built by Survival Motorsports, Detroit, MI

Transmission

  • Tremec T56 six-speed manual

Rearend

  • FAB9 9-inch housing
  • 4.11 gears
  • 31-spline axles

Exhaust

  • JBA long-tube headers
  • 2.5-inch pipes
  • Custom side exit
  • Spin Tech mufflers

Suspension

  • Front: Total Control Products coilover system
  • Rear: Total Control Products pushrod coilover system

Brakes

  • Front: Custom Brembo system, 14-inch cross-drilled/slotted rotor, six-piston caliper
  • Rear: Custom Brembo system, 13-inch cross-drilled/slotted rotor, four-piston caliper
  • Hidden brake lines

Wheels

  • Front: Raceline GT, 17x8
  • Rear: Raceline GT, 18x10

Tires

  • Front: Michelin Pilot Sport, P255/45ZR17
  • Rear: Michelin Pilot Sport, P295/35ZR18

Interior

  • SCAT Procar buckets, custom upholstery by Tack Upholstery, Flaming River tilt-wheel & column, Auto Meter Sport-Comp gauges, Clarion GPS/entertainment system, wiring by Chris Brown, custom rollbar

Exterior

  • Custom bodywork by A&T Auto Restoration, paint is a custom blend Ferrari red, four coats base, five coats clear
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