Jim Smart
May 1, 2006

Okay, we admit it: We're busted. We were hooked on this one the minute we saw it at the first-ever Mustangs Plus Restomods in Reno show last May. With all that orange blazing an imprint on our optics, it wasn't even a fair battle. Even if we need cataract surgery, this was an easy sell for Dan Collins; it sold itself without him saying a word.

It's very retro, reminding us of another era on Main Street. Dan fired the big, fat 514-inch big-block and disturbed the seismological meters at California Tech's earthquake lab in Pasadena hundreds of miles away. The car not only looked badass, it sounded equally bad with the hyperactive twist of a brute 385-series big-block.

What makes this '69 Mustang Mach 1 exciting is how it's executed. Dan completely ignored today's rules of restomod: subtle and soft-spoken with a Teddy Roosevelt persona, walk softly and carry a big stick. This one hauls out a heavy bat and looks you right in the eye with the rumpity-rump-rump of a big-block, hairy camshaft, huge carburetor, long-tube headers, steep rake in the body, big tires, tunnel-ram hoodscoop, fender flares, and that bold attitude we remember from the classic-musclecar era. What you see is what you get-with a few surprises.

Dan's motivation was a desire for a Mustang powerhouse with a huge twist of nostalgia. The elements that give this car its persona are hot-rodding tricks from long ago. If you're an aging baby boomer, you'll remember hot cars like this one got everyone's attention rumbling into the Sonic or Bob's Big Boy. They rattled the windows and startled the masses when throttles were cracked, and when they left, they didn't go quietly. They blazed a trail of hot rubber and echoed the sound of raw power off buildings and trees as they faded away, leaving the tell-tale scent of racing gas in its wake. This is the image Dan was looking for in his Mach 1.

Dan began with something any of us can order from a Ford Racing Performance Parts dealer: a 514-inch monster short-block, factory-assembled and ready for the home stretch. Fitted with an aggressive hydraulic roller camshaft, it's topped with flow-bench-tested aluminum cylinder heads with 1.73:1 rockers. That's a single-plane high-rise intake manifold from Ford Racing, topped with a Bill Mitchell-prepared, 900-cfm Holley double-pumper. What may surprise you is the Ford Duraspark ignition complemented with MSD components for added reliability.

Call this power package outrageous because there was a day when 700 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque were unheard of for street use. Only through better cam, induction, and cylinder-head technology can we enjoy once-unthinkable amounts of power on the public highways. Cam profiles offer us civilized idle quality that comes on like gangbusters when the throttle is pinned.

This kind of power doesn't come without a price, and the expense continues after the engine is complete. You need a strong driveline and chassis system to manage this unwieldy amount of power. A-1 Transmissions of Stockton, California, built Dan a C6 transmission designed to handle power using B&M components like the Holeshot 2400 converter and Shift Improvement kit. Channeling the power to those BFGoodrich Radial T/As is a 9-inch Ford with 3.70 Richmond gears, locking differential, and 28-spline axles.

A solid platform to build on is smart power management, and Dan opted for four-wheel disc brakes from Stainless Steel Brakes Corp. Underpinnings include Grab-A-Trak suspension components from Mustangs Plus combined with Monroe gas shocks. Since safety begins with good brakes and a suspension that handles, Dan has his bases covered.

Dan's creative side shows inside the car. We're jazzed over the more-obtainable billet treatments that computer-aided design makes possible today. Dan is responsible for the 514 Mach 1 billet touches and stainless steel trim work throughout the interior. Pro Car bucket seats not only keep Dan centered when it's time to get it on, they're comfortable for hours of cruising.

An aggressive splash of Tangelo by House of Kolor can be found inside as well as outside. More on par with street rodding than classic musclecar, it's a blend of two approaches to car building. It's a new trend with baby boomer-inspired classic Fords, and we like it.

Classic musclecars are combining elements we've never seen before. For example, a '70s hot rod would be virtually void of such items as the Kenwood high-power sound system, Electric Life power windows and locks, and custom instrumentation. Today, we can build 'em almost any way we want. Technological advances and open minds are allowing us to go where we've never gone before.

Dan offers us a blend of classic raked-body hot rod and conveniences that make his Mach 1 more fun to drive. So what about the hot-rod Mustang of your dreams?