Jim Smart
March 30, 2011

"I'm a Ford guy, blame it on my parents," Mike Querio quips. Growing up in Walnut Creek, California, Mike had plenty of opportunities to hang out at his local Ford dealership because his grandparents lived right behind Rhett-White Ford. When he was old enough, he was always visiting the showroom to check out the new Fords. There were Galaxies, Fairlanes, Falcons, and surely Mustangs. He'd press his face against the showroom windows to get a look inside before someone would chase him off.

Mike became hooked on Mustangs. He had to have one, but he had to earn it. He figured out the financials and worked at a restaurant busing tables. Tips were best on Friday and Saturday nights, which cut into his social life, yet pretty much guaranteed the money needed for his Mustang purchase.

Shortly after high school graduation, on June 17, 1971, Mike visited Rhett-White Ford to lay his money down. He had walked into that showroom so many times as a kid that it seemed surreal. He wanted a Mach 1 with muscle, either a 429 Cobra Jet or perhaps a 351 Cleveland. Torn between yellow or pewter, he decided on pewter because it was the color of the cover car on the '71 Mustang sales brochure.

Mike sat down with salesman Bill Hoeffer at Rhett-White Ford (today Walnut Creek Ford under the same ownership). It was like signing his own declaration of independence because he'd waited a long time for this moment. Perusing the option sheet, he chose the 429 Cobra Jet in a Light Pewter Metallic Mach 1 with body tape stripes. He also checked off the four-speed transmission with a 3.25:1 9-inch Traction-Lok rear axle, tinted glass, F60x15 Firestone Wide Oval tires, power steering with tilt wheel, Sport Deck (fold-down) rear seat, air conditioning, Stereosonic eight-track radio, console, and full instrumentation. Indeed a loaded Mach 1.

Shortly after placing Mike's order, Rhett-White Ford received a disappointing memo from Ford-the 429 Cobra Jet had been discontinued and was no longer available. Disheartened, Mike decided on the 351C-4V instead. Although it wasn't a high-displacement 429 Cobra Jet, the 351 Cleveland was still a force to be reckoned with, especially when coupled with the four-speed and 3.25:1 gears. Mike didn't know it then, but he had a front row seat for the official end of the muscle car era.

Two months later, Mike's Mach rolled off the transport. "I remember the first time I laid eyes on it," Mike says. "It was backed into a corner of the shop in glistening silver and black." That's when he realized there was no Ram-Air. Apparently, he had missed that box on the order sheet. Rhett-White Ford gave him a $200 estimate to add Ram-Air, but Mike was headed to college and didn't have the cash. Ram-Air would have to wait. Instead, he bought Ram-Air decals and removed the block-off plates in the hoodscoops.

Like most of us in those days, Mike thought he knew how to build a better Mach 1. He installed Gabriel Hi-Jacker air shocks, L60x15 tires, 780-cfm Holley, Offenhauser intake, Cobra air cleaner, Hooker headers with glasspack mufflers, and traction bars. He even had the antenna moved from the front fender to the rear quarter-panel.

In 1974, Mike's then-girlfriend (and future wife) Linda Clark sold her '65 Mustang to purchase a '66 Shelby GT350. Realizing that his Mach 1 would never perform like a Shelby, he sold his 65,000-mile Mach 1 to his uncle so he could purchase a GT350 as well. He sold the Mach for $3,000, the same price as the Shelby.

Twenty-eight years later, in 2003, Mike's phone rang. It was his aunt. She and his uncle were selling their house and had decided to sell the Mach 1 as well. She wanted to know if Mike wanted it back. He didn't know anything else to say but "Yes."

Mike told us, "My uncle was a great caretaker. He had driven the Mach 1 an average of 200 miles a year. The odometer showed 70,000 miles. I was speechless." The original Light Pewter Metallic was faded and worn, but the rest of the car was perfect. "Thankfully, the original parts were still in the box I had given my uncle when he bought the car."

When Mike purchased his Mach 1 for the second time, he drove it out of his uncle's garage and right onto Ken Mann's trailer for the journey to Pacific Pony Cars in Oregon, where Ken took the car down to the shell and repainted it in fresh Light Pewter Metallic. The original factory interior was reinstalled, with Ken replacing only what he felt needed to be replaced. The engine and driveline were torn apart, rebuilt, and put back together.

In the spring of 2010, Ken finished Mike's Mach 1. "When Ken backed it out of his trailer, I teared up," Mike admits. "Just couldn't help it. My Mach 1 still had its original blue and yellow California plates along with the Rhett-White Ford license plate frames."

For Mike, it was a swift journey back in time to that day in August of 1971 when he picked up the Mach 1 from Rhett-White Ford. "I slid into the bucket seat and popped an old eight-track into the tape player before taking the Mach 1 out for a short drive," Mike told us. "It had been 35 years since I'd driven it. That day, I was 18 again."

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