Jim Smart
November 1, 2001
Photos By: Tom Rounds

Some Mustangs just command respect without making a sound. The '69 Mustang Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet is a case in point. It speaks softly at idle and remains quite civilized in traffic. When it's time for the open road or traffic light interaction, it gets our attention in a positive way. You have to drive a Cobra Jet Mach 1 to completely understand our point. This is a fine ride for the daily commute (despite the LA-unfriendly, $2-plus a gallon prices at press time), because it isn't temperamental. Good idle quality. No overheating if the cooling system and engine bore is in proper working order. Awesome cockpit with twin pods and a lot of character. A slippery fastback roof-line called SportsRoof. It gets the looks.

Despite the qualities that could make this Mach 1 a superb daily driver, it's unlikely you will ever see Mickey Chrisman taking it down to the corner for a load of groceries or driving into Washington, D.C., for a day at the Smithsonian. Nope, this is a concours restoration-a time capsule, a '69 Cobra Jet Mach 1 that gives us a good look at showroom new in the Going Thing era. Glide your optics over the rich Raven Black Glasurit/BASF polyurethane finish applied by Mickey himself and you can understand why it would be sinful to leave anything to chance. Mickey shows us what you can do with a classic Mustang, given talent and persistence.

We like the chrome Styled Steel wheels wrapped in Goodyear Polyglas F70 x 14 bias-belted tires. This is the way it was in 1969 for Mustang buyers. Raised-white-letter tires were something exciting and new at the end of the '60s. Back then, radial tires were the exception, not the rule. These Polyglas bias-belted tires require a real driver who understands what it takes to stay out of trouble in a power slide. The 428 Cobra Jet makes enough torque to power out of any moment the Mach gets sideways.

The 428 Cobra Jet FE-series big-block is the heart and soul of the Mach 1 SportsRoof. At 3,400 rpm, the CJ makes 440 lb-ft of torque. Around the tach at 5,200 rpm, you can expect 335 hp. These are modest figures, considering Ford's desire to stay out of trouble with the insurance companies and safety advocates at the time. Some experts tell us the 428 Cobra Jet in street trim makes closer to 400 hp with nearly 500 pounds of twist. Question: Where was this engine in 1967 when the 390 was the best engine Ford could come up with in the Mustang?

It takes a brute slush box to handle the kind of torque the 428 Cobra Jet makes. The C6 Select-Shift in this Mach 1 is one of the best automatic transmissions ever produced. It accepts punishment without complaint, and when it's time to build a tough automatic, the C6 accepts all kinds of mods graciously. Ford driveline engineering efforts don't stop here. The legendary 9-inch Ford axle with 3.50:1 gears and limited-slip engagement gets power to both sides.

Inside, Ford restyled the Mustang's all-new flight deck for 1969 with a twin-pod dashboard; high-back bucket seats with knitted vinyl; an optional fold-down rear seat; a sporty clock; and rich, molded door panels. It's little wonder the Mach 1 outsold the Mustang GT that first year.

Outside, it's the best-looking Mustang fastback ever conceived by Ford stylists. For 1969, the Mustang fastback had a new name: SportsRoof. It had a super slippery roofline with huge shoulders and meaty biceps; a streamlined front end with twinset headlamps; and on top, there was something really groovy we'd never seen before: an optional shaker hoodscoop others would copy ad nauseam in the years ahead-but Mustang coined the shaker first.

Mickey's message to all of us is simple: This is a Mustang designed to familiarize us with history in an age when modifying a vintage Pony has become fashionable again. This particular Mustang wasn't built for personal expression, but to share a time in history we'll likely never see again. Thanks to Mickey's efforts, you can go home again.