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1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 - All Grown Up
Andrew Serling’s modernized Mach pays respect to the Mustangs of his youth
The early years of vehicle ownership are often looked back at with a smile and memories of being young and stupid. It's OK. We can all own up to our mistakes, or even chalk some of it up to the time period (remember running small lights in your wheelwells or those awful extended shackles with air shocks?). Today's youth is no different, they're just doing it with different cars and parts (undercar neon and fart-can mufflers anyone?). Watching them make the same mistakes may make us cringe, but for many, it's considered a rite of passage in the automotive hobby.
Andrew Serling of Ambler, Pennsylvania, remembers those early days as a teenage car owner well. He remembers all too fondly working on a rag-tag fleet of Mustangs in the bitter, upstate New York winters with his friends.
There was a '67 Shelby, a Boss 302, and a '69 SportsRoof that we jointly worked on and drove around together in, and I cant recall any of them looking anything close to a full car, Andrew shared. While these Mustangs would be well cared for and appreciated today, back then they were just used carstransportation to school and the occasional Saturday night date. They were loud, fast, and since they were transportation, what could be bad? Andrew added.
In the years since, Andrew got married and raised a family, and while he did us car enthusiasts proud by owning some hot cars over the years, including a twin-turbo Supra, a Corvette Z06, and a couple of Porsches, it wasn't until he bought a '70 Boss 302 a few years ago that he felt at home again. The Boss brought Andrew back to that place in time where he worked on those Mustangs with his friends. Unfortunately, Andrew ended up working a little too much on the Boss. With the abbreviated driving season in the northeast, Andrew seemed to be spending more time under the hood than on the road. The deal breaker was a wayward pushrod that took the Boss off the road and put Andrew on the sidelines.
With the engine in the Boss needing a lot of work, Andrew toyed with the idea of building a restomod from it. Building a car with power steering, air conditioning, improved power, and more was something Andrew dreamed of; something he could just hop in and twist the key and not be constantly working on. Andrew, above all, wanted to drive his car as much as possible. After much thought, however, the for sale sign went on the dash as Andrew felt it unwise to modify such an original and collectible example. Now, the hunt was on for another Mustang that he could modify to his hearts content, and enjoy more time behind the wheel with it.
It just so happened that John Gilbert, owner of Gilbert Auto Repair in Hartly, Delaware, was busily working away on a 69 SportsRoof he had dug out of a nearby farms field in 2010. Johns vision of a clean street rod based off of the Mustang (stock body lines, no emblems, custom paint) jived with Andrews, and it certainly didn't hurt that John had found a totaled 04 Mustang Mach 1 with just 13,000 miles on it to use as a donor. The late-model drivetrain, fuel system, and more would make it the reliable driver Andrew was searching for.
Johns work with the car was nearly complete by the time Andrew latched on to it, and the work was impressive. Starting with a full rotisserie restoration of the body with new floors and quarter-panels, John welded in the '04s firewall to allow the hydroboost brake assist unit, clutch and brake pedals, and so forth to easily swap over as true bolt-ins. John also added a Rod & Custom Motorsports Mustang II frontend to make room for the 32-valve modular Fords considerable width. John went ahead and replaced the front framerails at the same time so he would have new and clean metal to weld the suspension crossmember to. As previously mentioned, the body was kept stock; no outrageous scoops or body mods, just a clean spray of Sizzling Crimson Metallic from the Scion color palette and all emblems shaved. The front and rear subframes were tied together with weld-in connectors as well.
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When it came to the interior, John once again kept things fairly stock, retaining the original seats and building his own custom door panels. The gauge pod is from the '04 Mach. John simply cut the center out of the '69 gauge cluster bezel and molded in a new shroud to fit up to the '04s gauge cluster. There are more than 30 hours of fabrication labor in the process, but with the vintage font on the gauges, it looks right at home in the '69. The cluster is wired up with a Ron Francis chassis harness, while the modular engine is controlled by one of Ron Franciss Detail Zone Telorvek EFI wiring kits. Even the fuel system is a mix of old and new. John bought a new '69 Mustang gas tank, trimmed the top of the 04 tank, which included the pump and sending unit, and had the top of the '04 tank welded onto the new 69 tank. John tells us even the low-fuel warning light works as it should!
With the Mustang about done, Andrew snatched it up for himself. Andrew felt the Mustang was going to be the perfect driver for him now compared to his finicky Boss 302, but he did make a few post-purchase changes to the SportsRoof in the name of looks and keeping the peace with the neighbors. In the appearance department, Andrew just felt the Foose wheels John put on the car were a little too much, so he swapped them out for the retro-looking Billet Specialties Mag G you see here. As for keeping the peace, were referring to the biting exhaust note the car originally used to alert the neighbors (and Andrews wife) with his comings and goings. After several muffler swaps, he settled on the DynoMax Super Turbo mufflers for a nice deep rumble that was much more subdued than how the car initially sounded. Lowering the front with 2-inch drop spindles was also Andrews idea, and Andrew tossed the stock 04 shifter for a much more precise Hurst unit. Blast From the Past Street Rods in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, gets a nod of thanks from Andrew for some of the upgrade wrench turning as well.
There's no doubt that Andrew misses those teen years of carefree automotive indulgence (and probably wishes he still had some of those rides), but as we grow older and wiser, there comes a realization that our time is limited, our backs, hands, and feet aren't what they used to be, and wed all rather be driving instead of wrenching. There's nothing wrong with that, its just a sign that we've all grown up.