Rob Reaser
January 1, 2000
Photos By: Tom Rounds

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P86647_large 1969_Ford_Mustang_Mach_1 Front_Passenger_SideP86649_large 1969_Ford_Mustang_Mach_1 Rear_Driver_SideP86652_large 1969_Ford_Mustang_Mach_1 EngineP86653_large 1969_Ford_Mustang_Mach_1 Interior

"I was young when the Mustang first enticed me," says Maryland resident Emory Harrigan. "My brother and I were camp counselors, and I remember four of us piling into his '64-½ Mustang and sneaking out of camp to Woodbridge Ford, the local dealer, because the new models were being unveiled for the year. When we got to the showroom, all these people were crowded around one car, and you had to jockey for a position just to get a glimpse of it. It was the '69 Mach 1.

"My brother and I were so excited because we knew that our parents were in the market for a new car, and we campaigned hard for a Mach 1. But, of course, our parents didn't go for it. They came home instead with the plain-Jane version--a blue hardtop six-cylinder. Oh well, at least it was a Mustang."

That hardtop served the Harrigan family well for a few years. When Emory turned 17, his father passed the car on to him, which he drove during his latter years in high school. Afterward, the Mustang was passed on to Emory's two younger brothers, and then back to him. Nevertheless, that showroom glimpse of the '69 Mach 1 lit a fire in Emory's soul that continued to burn for almost two decades, when that long-simmering dream to own a Mach 1 came to fruition.

In the summer of '87, Emory was delivering a company car to his foreman when he spied an abandoned '69 Mach 1 in the gentleman's driveway. "The next time we worked together," says Emory, "I teased him about fixing up the car for his son--who was of driving age--to cruise around in. Nelson had no interest in the car, and his response was that if I was so excited about the car, I had better come get it out of his driveway before he had it hauled away to the junkyard!"

Nelson Dorsey had purchased the Candyapple Red Mach 1 new on July 7, 1969. Sporting the 351 4V Windsor V-8, the car came with a host of goodies, including power steering and brakes, air conditioning, an FMX automatic transmission, Visibility Group, Deluxe three-spoke Rim-Blow steering wheel, fold-down rear seat, Exterior Decor Group, and a stereo. Backing the FMX was a 3.25 limited-slip rearend.

"The car looked like it had been through a demolition derby," recalls Emory. "Both front fenders were crushed, the hood was twisted, the front and rear bumpers were destroyed, the rear quarter-panel had to be replaced, and the interior was shot."

Still, the realization that owning his dream car was within his grasp steered Emory on the inevitable course toward restoring the Mach 1 to its original form--and in spite of the obvious problems, the 66,374-mile Pony wasn't as bad as it looked.

"The deeper I got into the restoration," says Emory, "the more I realized that although the car had been sitting for years and appeared to be in sad shape, it actually was structurally solid and sound. The engine and drivetrain were intact, the motor and transmission were untouched, there had been no alterations to the wiring harnesses, and considering it had spent so many years in the Washington, D.C., area, where the roads are salted at the hint of snow, there was very little rust to be found on the car.

"The restoration took five years. Most of it was done in my home garage. I had the transmission checked over at a shop and the window repaired by a specialist. The longest time away from home was during the bodywork and paint process. After I stripped the car, reconditioned old parts and collected new parts, my neighbor, Richard Brzozowski--who is an absolute perfectionist--worked on the car during his spare time in his garage/paint shop."

Shortly after completing the car, Emory began to participate in local shows. Then he learned of the detail needed to successfully compete on the show field. "As soon as I started entering shows, I realized the engine needed to be detailed, so that was my winter '94 project. My friend, Brian McKenzie, offered his support and expertise during that work."

After that postrestoration touch-up, Emory began to reap the rewards of the extra labor. The following year at the '95 MCA Grand National, the Mach 1 nailed down a First Place win in the Occasional Driver class--a class in which he continues to participate and do extremely well. The next project, Emory explained to us, is the restoration of that '69 hardtop that originally displaced a Mach 1 for space in the Harrigan family driveway. "My 15-year-old son has his eyes on it now, and my 13-year-old son is patiently waiting his turn."

As for the Mach 1, which inspired him so long ago, "It took me 18 years to get the one I really wanted," says Emory. "That's OK. I think I'm having more fun with it during my second childhood!"

The Mach 1 might have come a bit late, but as the saying goes, better late than never.