1971 Mustang Mach 1 - Savoring The Journey
Johnnie And Rachel Garner Have Been Criss-Crossing The Continent In Their '71 Mach 1 For Nearly Four Decades
There's nothing like consistency, that ever constant pattern of sunrise and sunset, changing of the seasons, getting out of school for the summer, tax time, prime time into summer reruns, and everything else that comes and goes with fluid precision. If you lived on Johnnie and Rachel Garner's block in Rock Hill, South Carolina, you'd notice the consistency of their life cycle: Garage door up, Mach 1 out, garage door down, Mach 1 gone; Mach 1 back, garage door up, Mach 1 in, garage door down. Packing and unpacking the Mach 1. Washing, waxing, and detailing. Showing and most certainly winning.
And so it has gone since Karen Carpenter hit No. 2 in the Top 100 with "Rainy Days and Mondays" in 1971.
It was October 3, 1970, when Johnnie and Rachel walked into Hill Motor Company in Denton, South Carolina, and penciled out their pick-a '71 Mustang Mach 1. One month later, Ford's Dearborn assembly plant would deliver the Bright Red Mach 1. There would be papers to sign and car payments to make. For 20 years, the Garners would drive their Mach 1 daily until it was worn out. "The headliner was torn and the paint was faded," Rachel tells us. Although the Mach had seen its share of pavement duty, it had a few more miles left. They kept driving it daily it until 1994.
That's when the Garners decided to take their Mach 1 off the road and perform a full-scale restoration to what it was when they picked it up from Hill Motor Company 24 years earlier. Performing the entire restoration themselves, they stripped the car down to its bare shell, revealing what more than 23 years of daily use does to an automobile. Rachel admits there was a lot more work than expected. The driver-side floor pan had to be replaced, which took considerable time. Plus there were other Mustang projects to be accomplished in the mean time, which diverted attention away from the Mach 1. In due course, 11 years passed before the Mach would be completed.
The Garners did an outstanding job. Not one detail was missed, which explains the reproduction items like the Autolite Sta-Ful battery and F70 x 14 Firestone Wide-Oval tires wrapped around steel wheels with Ford corporate caps and trim rings. The Garners wanted this car to look exactly as it did when they took delivery. This means they didn't take any short cuts, as proven by the numerous awards in Mustang Club of America and Antique Automobile Club of America competition its first year out in 2007. By 2008, this Mach 1 had earned its first MCA Gold. You can bet there will be more
Now for the truly amazing part-this is not a trailered car. The Garners drive their Mach 1 thousands of miles every year, mainly to shows around the country. It takes more than a sparse amount of hair on your chest to restore, drive, and show a classic automobile like this. For one thing, the engine compartment is wall-to-wall Cleveland small-block packing a power steering pump and a huge York air conditioning compressor. That said, how do you clean up and detail a mill like this when you've just spent days on the road at 70 mph through all kinds of weather?
When we met the Garners and saw their Mach 1 for the first time, we were stunned at the car's condition considering they had just driven it from South Carolina to Phoenix, Arizona. Only a short time earlier, they had driven it out West for another Mustang show, then back home before coming west again. They rolled out one of their reproduction Firestones that had suffered failure on the road to prove they had driven the distance. A local tire store set them up with an exact replacement quickly.
You might be inclined to ask Johnnie and Rachel why they would cruise the country on reproduction biased-belted tires when radial tires would perform so much better. They would quickly tell you that with modern radials, the car wouldn't feel the way it did in 1970 when they were newlyweds and the Mach 1 was new. This ride is about the memories a South Carolina couple has been accumulating for the better part of 39 years-and they don't intend to stop now.