Rob Reaser
August 1, 2002

There's a considerable distance between a ready-to-restore Mustang and one that can be generously referred to as a "rolling shell." Thus, it's difficult to imagine someone setting out to buy the former then ultimately settling on the latter. But that's exactly what happened when Alan and Donna Rye of Bartlett, Tennessee, embarked on a journey to find an R-code Pony three years ago.

The couple was looking for a 428 CJ Ram Air Mustang when they stumbled across a "ready-to-restore" model in northern Indiana. Once they saw the disaster, they quickly checked that car off of their "possibles" list. On the way home a frustrated Alan picked up a copy of Ford Trader and discovered a "'69 R-code rolling shell" for sale by Semo Mustang.

"Because I had done business with Jeff in the past," says Alan, "we were somewhat familiar with each other. I told him where we were and Jeff said he would wait for us to get there. Four and a half hours later, we arrived. On that Saturday evening Jeff took us to a shed, and in the far back under lots of dirt, dust, and old parts was a dark blue, bent up, and stripped-of-anything-that-was-of-value R-code.

"After finally getting the car out of the shed, needless to say, Donna was shaking her head. To my surprise, the serial number on the door plate revealed color code E5-C (Aztec Aqua with a blacked-out hood), not the Winter Blue that Jeff had told us. Jeff nor I had ever heard of, let alone seen, a '69 Mach 1 this color.

"I like to have something different, and I hit the jackpot because Aztec Aqua is definitely different!"

As a "rolling shell," veteran Mustangers can understand the challenge facing Alan and Donna in bringing this big-block Pony back from the brink. Sand-blasting, acid-dipping, cutting, welding, and a whole lot of scraped knuckles were just part of the process, as was swap-meet scrounging and numerous calls to parts suppliers.

"Everything on this car is new or restored," says Alan. "The project started out as a resto-mod. I revived the Cobra Jet to see some quarter-mile action. The engine was balanced and blueprinted; ARP rod bolts were installed; and the heads were ported, polished, and fitted with stainless steel valves, bronze guides, and hardened seats. A 292 Lunati Cam was added for a little more zest, and I installed the correct Holley carburetor, exhaust manifolds, distributor, and smog equipment."

Alan also beefed up the driveline to help the Mach 1 survive aggressive straight-line sprints. The C-6 tranny was treated to a bit of TCI revamping, including a 2600 stall TCI converter. In back, Alan maintained the correct 3.50:1 nodular carrier but added a 31-spline Detroit Locker. Finally, a set of Dual Flowmaster mufflers, specially-made 15x7 and 15x10 Styled Steel wheels (boasting 235/60 and 295/50 radial T/As) rounded out the upgrades.

"My first MCA National Car show was in March 2000. Besides becoming a new member of the Mustang Club of America, the event was a learning experience for me. I quickly realized that the visible modifications [wheels and tires] had to go in order to be able to compete in a concours class. Since then, we've won Gold in Concourse Trailered at Nationals events."

We concede that Alan and Donna's '69 Mach 1 stands on its own merits at the showfield. And the fact that the car sports the always-desirable 428 CJ Ram Air package provides added sparkle wherever it goes. But the honest fact is that it's the highly irregular Aztec Blue topcoat that makes this Pony something completely different.

The Ryes wouldn't have it any other way.