Jim Smart
June 1, 2008
Photos By: Mark Houlahan

Step By Step

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One common denominator across the generations is the wraparound feel of the Mach 1 in 1969 and Mach 1 for 2004. It took the talents of Bobby Griffey to make it work successfully.
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Mach 1 power for 1969 was a variety of V-8 engines displacing 351, 390, and 428 ci. For 2004, it was but one V-8--this one--the 4.6L DOHC screamer, which has protected the Mach 1's image across time. Larry had to make big structural changes to fit it between the fenders.
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Do you see the similarities between 1969 and 2004? Twin pod instrumentation catches our attention today much as it did 39 years ago.
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Through the years, there have been those determined to divide the many Mustang generations and those just as determined to meld them together. Whether you love the classics or get lost in late-model, fast-steppin' steeds, one thing connects them all--the hot Mustang fun-car mindset. These cars were all about affordable, sporty fun in 1964, and they remain the same today. This is one car Ford didn't mess with, not wanting to get away from the Mustang's original market segment. It has always been a sporty, four-place, bucket seat, snappy, powerful, fun car. No matter what you do with a Mustang old or new, you'll always have fun with it.

Larry Payne sees 44 years and 9 million Mustangs as the same basic idea. They were all designed and built to accomplish the same thing, even in the toughest of times. In the lean '70s when a convertible top and powerful V-8 couldn't be found in Ford showrooms, the Mustang was still a fun car to drive. The '74-'78 Mustang II brought us better quality, quieter operation, and terrific handling. The redesigned '79 Mustang brought us even better quality and extraordinary handling for the period. In the years to follow, the Mustang only got better.

Larry owns an '04 Mustang Mach 1, the end of a generation of Fox/SN-95 chassis Mustangs that kept the breed alive--and hot. Mach 1 returned for just two years, 2003-2004. It was a punctuation mark and a flash in the pan--a Mustang powerhouse chock full of 4.6L DOHC power and a Shaker hoodscoop like its ancestors had 35 years earlier. Inside, Mach 1 had the knitted vinyl Sports Interior all over again with instrumentation borrowed from the '01 Bullitt Mustang--another retro Mustang winner. Larry liked the familiarity, a deja vu experience that left him feeling like he'd been there before.

Larry's cousin owns a '70 Mach 1. When Larry drove it, what struck him most was how familiar it was as well--like the '03-'04 Mach rockers. The more he drove each car, the more alike they seemed to him. Then, he got out his measuring tape and went to work. He was stunned at the dimensions on both. They were virtually identical in every respect. He wondered about putting an '03-'04 Mach 1 interior inside a '69 Mach 1. As he thought more about the idea, it took on a life of its own.

First, Larry had to find a '69 Mach 1. He spotted a '69 SportsRoof hidden under a tarp in Knoxville, Tennessee. It took a little negotiating, but Larry managed to talk the owner into selling. Larry was shocked when the car started and actually allowed him to drive it home. He drove it right into his shop and began disassembly. All he needed to do was find an '03-'04 Mach 1 parts car, and he could get started. His son, David, located a totaled '04 Mach 1 online in Rockingham, North Carolina.

It wasn't long before two generations of Paynes had two Mach 1s in various states of disassembly. And make no mistake, this was not an easy undertaking for Larry; his wife, Connie; David; and his grandson, Austin.

It's one thing to envision a car like this and quite another to build it. Because Larry is a mechanical contractor by trade, he has a solid grasp of what it takes to both conceive an idea and propel it into something with function and style.

Weaving '04 Mach 1 genetic tissue into a '69 Mach 1 took a lot of imagination and fabrication skills. First, the '69 had to be trimmed down to a shell. Floorpans came out, as did the firewall. Quarter-panels and other rusted sheetmetal had to be replaced. Larry set ride height using wooden blocks, then built a tube chassis using 3 x 2 x 3/16-inch steel tubing. The '04 Mach 1's firewall and floorpan had to be grafted into the '69 body, which was no small feat either. The '04 dashpanel had to be modified to accommodate the '69 windshield. Because the '04 windshield has a greater radius, it was easy to trim for a perfect fit, enabling Larry to keep the correct defroster outlets. "We were amazed at how close the '04 and '69 dimensions were," Larry says. "The dashpanel from the '04 was exactly the same width as the '69."

There were times when Larry was certain he was home free, only to discover a new set of challenges to work through. When you build an unusual car like this, it's like building a street rod--you do lots of mock-up work before body massaging and painting. You assemble a steel body clad in DP-{{{90}}} primer and find all of the flaws; then you make adjustments. Larry's last challenge was the hood, which wouldn't close properly. "We ended up with a tear-drop-shaped opening in the hood," he says. "I installed the Shaker hoodscoop and made a wire frame around the opening. David then welded metal panels to form the raised portion of our hood." Larry says they even had to fabricate a special 16-gallon fuel tank using '04 components. They hit pay dirt on steering issues, however, using the '04 power rack, which fit perfectly.