Jim Smart
August 1, 2009

"I arrived at the Ford dealer when our Mach 1 was getting its first bath," Tony Paulek tells us. "We ordered the car exactly as we wanted. I still have the order sheet."

Interestingly, Tony and Teresa Paulek wanted Pewter Metallic but chose Medium Copper Metallic for a faster arrival from the Dearborn assembly plant.

When Tony and Teresa picked up the Mach 1, they were able to top off the fuel tank with a five-dollar bill. Months later, five bucks got them one-quarter tank. There would be gas lines and odd/even license plate days, giving the Pauleks pause to wonder if they'd done the right thing when they ordered the most powerful Mustang available for 1973. Beneath the long hood is Ford's powerhouse 351 Cleveland with Motorcraft 4300 four-barrel carburetion, a fuel-thirsty combination. But lean into the throttle and the rear tires break loose with the sensation of positive pressure at your backside. So instead of a fast trade-in for a smaller Mustang II, the Pauleks hung on.

A decade later, the Mach 1 was worn out from daily use in central Illinois's harsh winter climate. The Pauleks once again considered trading it in. But when they checked with dealers, they learned their Mach 1 had no market value in the 1980s. One dealer offered them $500 - insulting by anyone's standards. So the Pauleks kept the Mach 1 and polished its clunker appearance by giving it a fresh paint job. They began taking it to cruises and joined the Central Illinois Mustangers club.

No longer a daily-driver, the Mach1 became a weekend cruiser, which came with a price when the Pauleks felt their ride had to measure up to other cars at the cruises. So they turned their Mach 1 over to Bill's Mustang Restorations. Tony told them, "I want people to say, 'Uh-oh, there comes the competition.'" Ron Romanotto and Tony Anneriao massaged the body and laid down the paint. Grover Schrock color-sanded and rubbed out the finish. Tony restored the rest along with help from committed friends determined to get this car to its former glory.

The result is a slice of what was available from your Ford dealer in 1973, a solemn year for Mustang enthusiasts because word on the streets wasn't positive about Mustang for 1974. Word was out that it would be based on the Pinto, there would be no V-8, and the convertible would be gone. People flocked to Ford dealers to order powerful 351C-4V Mustang Mach 1s and drop-tops before the fun ended.

When the Pauleks ordered their Mach 1, they penciled all the right boxes for a good road car: C6 transmission, radial tires on aluminum alloy wheels, air conditioning, dual exhausts, and Ram-Air. For years, the C6 coupled with 2.79:1 cogs kept rpms conservative on the open road. In 1992, Tony realized he could do better with Ford's newer Automatic Overdrive (AOD) transmission, which is what he placed behind the 351C-4V engine. The result is a much better road car than he had in 1973, with a pinch more fuel economy. At 70 mph, he gets a solid 1,800 rpm from a purring Cleveland.

There's nothing quite like the feeling of knowing you've been a Mustang's only guardian for 36 years. For Tony and Teresa, they are the Mach 1's only history, having stayed the course since Day One.

Mustang Snapshot

  • 1973 Mustang Mach 1 SportsRoof 106,980 miles
  • Dupont Chrome Premier Medium Copper Metallic
  • White standard interior with black appointments (unrestored)
  • Full instrumentation
  • 351C-4V V-8 (original, never been apart)
  • AOD transmission (originally C6 Select-Shift)
  • 2.79:1 conventional axle
  • Power front disc brakes
  • Forged aluminum wheels
  • BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires, R225/70x15
  • Dual exhausts
  • Custom Autosound AM/FM Cassette