By its very definition, a project is something that takes time, and we don't have to tell most of you holding this magazine in your procrastinating hands that some projects tend to drag out seemingly as long as the Chicago Cubs have been trying to win a World Series title. When Mark Bard started on this '70 Mach I restomod, the term didn't even exist.
It was 1977 and Jimmy Carter was in the first year of his one and only term, filling the Oval Office with cases of his brother's Billy Beer. Then again, Bard—who hails from Tilbury, Ontario, Canada—would have been more in tune with the Right Honorable Pierre Trudeau, who was Canada's prime minister back then. Either way, CB radios were the cell phones of the day, wood paneling was the basement décor of choice, and a new sci-fi movie called Star Wars was drawing fans dressed in their bell-bottoms and halter tops to movie theaters.
Bard was a young, wrench-turning enthusiast who traded a Pinto and a fistful of cash for the original Mach I (one of 3,528 built with a 351C-4V and one of only 450 to come with a white interior). Back then, a year in the life of a car was like dog years and it was nothing for a car less than 10 years old to have already experienced tremendous wear and tear. So, it didn't dissuade Bard at all that the original 351 Cleveland and four-speed had long been replaced by a slushbox-backed 302. He drove the car for a couple of years with plans on fixing it up further, but the smug feeling that came with trading a Pinto for a Mach I was shattered when he discovered the car been hit hard early in its life.
"Once I started on it, I found it had been hit all down the left side and repaired with a ton of body filler," says Bard. "Everything under the carpet was rotten, too—the framerails, torque boxes, trunk, and more. The car wasn't even 10 years old at the time!"
Over the next few years, as time and funds permitted, the car was back halved with new wheeltubs, trunk pan, and framerails. And as so many of us can relate, progress on the project halted in 1981, as Bard spent the next few years focusing on his new shop: Sparky's Performance Centre, which he still runs there in Tilbury.
"When I opened the shop, the Mach I went into a storage shed," he says. "I always planned to finish the car, so I kept a list of everything I was going to need and would go to the Ford dealership periodically to buy parts. Back then, just about everything was still available. Those were the days!"
Flashing forward nearly 20 years, Sparky's underwent an expansion in 1999 that included a dedicated bay for the Mustang, but still Bard didn't have the time to spin the wrenches on his own car. (He had also started a body shop.) By 2006, however, he finally made the time and jumped back into the dormant project with the gusto of a Star Wars fan who's had a few too many Billy Beers. That included taking a few steps back and undoing some of the previous work.
"We built a jig so that the car would be put back together nice and square, but it required taking some of the stuff I'd already done apart, including spot welds," he says. "It was a tough way to get going again, but it was the right way to go."
With the Mustang firmly affixed to the jig, all-new floors, framerails, torque boxes, trunk pan, wheeltubs, quarter-panels, doors, and fenders were installed, along with an all-new front frame assembly—we believe there are still a few square inches of the original roof in there somewhere. Fortunately, that cache of original Ford parts Bard had accumulated in the early '80s included sheetmetal, so he was able to fit genuine N.O.S. fenders and more to the car.