Fernando Gomez's '73 Mustang Mach 1 "Eleanor Beast"
I can tell you firsthand that one single movie sealed my love affair with cars. It was Gone in 60 Seconds, the original, first released in 1974. I remember watching it on the very first video cassette recorder my parents bought, an Akai with four heads and two speeds. As movies go, the plot is almost non-existent, the dialog hardly memorable, but the cars are something else. Then there's the chase scene. Lasting for approximately 40 minutes, it's realistic in the extreme, hardly surprising since the film was shot on a shoestring budget. The chase itself revolves around the lead character, Maindrian Pace, stealing the last of a lot of cars destined for shipment to South America, and it's the one he's been having the most trouble with-a '73 Mustang SportsRoof. After having to return two examples back to their owners for insurance reasons, he thinks he's gotten away, stealing the third from an underground parking lot. But as he disables the car's alarm system, he's spotted by the cops, who are parked across the street in their '70 Mercury Montego. A massive chase ensues, with the Mustang becoming increasingly worse for wear, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The movie was remade in 2000, but somehow the flashy Hollywood edition, although better scripted and more slickly directed, just didn't have the same "it" factor as the original, though it did send interest and prices of '67 Shelbys and clones through the roof.
However, as popular as that second Eleanor has become, there are those who still prefer the original-guys like Fernando Gomez. A serious car enthusiast, Fernando runs a restoration shop called Essen Service and has amassed and built many nice rides over the years, including a '46 Ford Business Coupe, a pair of Lincoln Zephyrs, a '50 Ford, and a '62 Galaxie ragtop. But the largely custom-built Mustang featured here probably takes the cake. The fact that Fernando calls Mexico City, Mexico, home, where restoring and building cars is a lot more challenging than up here, makes this pony all the more impressive.
Building a Tribute
But why go to such extraordinary lengths? Well, quite simply, Fernando wanted to showcase what the second Eleanor probably should have been, and there's certain logic to this: "The original was a '73, and when the new movie came out they had this modified Shelby.So I thought it would be cool to incorporate elements of both, using a '73 Mustang and adding some of the elements from the '67 in the second film. The '73 isn't as popular as the '67 in classic Mustang circles, but it was the original Eleanor and I think it's important that people recognize that."
The project started out as a '73 Mach 1 SportsRoof that had been botched in an attempt at customization. So before he could even start making his stamp on the project, it needed to be stripped completely. Although the car is still recognizable as a '73 today, there's precious little of the original car that remains aside from most of the roof, rear deck, and underbelly. "The wide-body fenders are custom," says Fernando. "Each of them was handmade and formed-they're steel, not fiberglass. The rear ones were particularly difficult to do because they're integrated with the rear of the car and were widened by 7 inches to cover the rear tires and give the car the right look." They also incorporate cooling gills ahead of the wheels, lending a somewhat European exotic look to the Mach.
Other touches include shaved door handles and locks and custom aero side mirrors. From a glance it looks close to stock, but the Mustang's front clip is equally elaborate-especially the spoiler. "For that, we actually built a 1/4-inch-thick wire frame and then we covered it with some special cardboard before using a clay filler. We then applied carbon-fiber layers over it and sanded and prepped them for paint. We had to make sure that it really was aerodynamic and that it matched the rest of the shape of the car. Because it was made in situ, it truly is a one-off. I just hope I don't have an accident with the car and break it because I can't make another one," chuckles Fernando. The same goes for the grille assembly, which combines elements of the original '73 Mustang with the '67 Eleanor. You can also notice how the original grille moldings have been modified and smoothed for a closer fit.
Further adding to the wide-body custom look are rocker panel extensions and a Kamm-style tail that incorporates elements of '67-'68 and '69-'70 Mustangs, with cutouts for the exhaust trumpets in the lower section of the valance. As a modern-day Eleanor, Cougar sequential taillights are de rigueur. Rounding off the bodywork mods are a custom installed sunroof and the paint, which is blue draped over custom silver (in many respects an homage to the '71-'73s, which could be painted blue with silver lower bodies, hood center sections, and decals). A green pinstripe was the final touch on Fernando's car.
Full Cabin Makeover
With any full-on custom like this, what's inside is just as important as the exterior. Fernando went to great lengths to get the right look. The center console was actually fabricated from wood, with foam and then leather added on top. The dash was entirely custom built, but Fernando originally had something else in mind: "At first my plan was to use an '05-'09 Mustang dash, so I bought one from a dealer." However, it was put on the back of a truck and it blew off on the way home-$1,600 down the tubes. But this incident proved to be a blessing in disguise, as it motivated Gomez to build a full custom piece.
The starting point was a cardboard top piece from which a fiberglass mold was created. Auto Meter gauges were installed, along with a premium vintage Blaupunkt European stereo head unit, and the whole thing was trimmed in leather. Looking at it installed in the car, along with the center console and door panels, the look is very early '70s Italian-much like a contemporary Maserati or Iso, but with modern colors and billet fixtures.
As for the greasy bits, it was a case of go big or go home. One advantage to the '71-'73 Mustangs is that you can squeeze in just about any engine you can think of, so Fernando went with a Ford 460 V-8. It has been bored and stroked to 514 cubes and runs an Eagle crank and H-beam rods, SRP forged pistons on a 10.1 squeeze, Trick Flow aluminum heads with 2.2-/1.7-inch intake/exhaust valves, and a hydraulic cam of undisclosed specs. Because of the altitude at his home base, Fernando elected to bolt on a Holley 650 carb atop the car's Victor intake manifold. "I could have gone bigger, but the engine would be starving for air," he says, "and although I might be robbing myself of about 50 horsepower, it still makes over 500 hp, which is good enough for me."
He has a point. The engine also sports custom-made headers, while bolted to the back of the mammoth motor is a TCI-built Super Street Fighter three-speed slushbox. It's designed to get the big Mach moving quickly with a 2.46 First gear, but a 1:1 top gear allows for easy cruising on the open road when required. The car still retains its original 9-inch rear and Traction-Lok, which helps keep the massive Michelin Pilot 335 section rear tires planted on the pavement.
Although he hasn't had the opportunity to take the Mach out much since completing it, when he has, Fernando has found that the car gets mobbed by admirers: "It attracts attention everywhere it goes, especially here in this part of Mexico. I've only taken it to three car shows so far, but it's won awards at all of them, including two Best in Class and one special merit award."
Because the Mustang is protected from the outside world in a climate-controlled garage along with a selection of other fine motorcars, including vintage Mercedes, the images in this magazine are likely the first any of us enthusiasts North of the Border have ever seen. On a final note, if anybody in Hollywood is reading and thinking about doing another Gone in 60 Seconds movie, please give a '73 Mustang a starring role. It just wouldn't be right otherwise.
Fernando Gomez's '73 Mustang Mach 1 "Eleanor Beast"
Ford 514-cid V-8
460 block bored 0.040 over
Eagle stroker crankshaft
SRP Forged 10.1:1 alloy pistons
Trick Flow Specialties aluminum cylinder heads
2.02-/1.7-inch intake/exhaust valves
Hydraulic roller camshaft
Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake
Holley 650-cfm four-barrel carburetor
Billet Specialties air cleaner
Ford Racing valve covers
Edelbrock aluminum water pump
Summit Competition Series aluminum radiator
TCI Super Street Fighter three-speed automatic
Ratios: First: 2.46:1, Second: 1.46:1, Third:
Custom-made full-length exhaust headers (polished stainless steel)
Dual 21/2-inch pipes and mufflers with trumpets
Front: Wilwood 13-inch vented disc, six-piston caliper
Rear: Wilwood 13-inch vented disc, single-piston caliper
Front: Team III aluminum, 17x9.5
Rear: Team III aluminum, 17x11
Front: Michelin Pilot, P275/40ZR17
Rear: Michelin Pilot, P335/35ZR17
Custom-made dashboard, center console, and door panels, trimmed in gray leather; modified factory high-back bucket seats, trimmed in gray leather; Simpson racing seatbelts, Auto Meter 4-inch speedometer and tach, 21/16-inch voltmeter, oil, water temperature, and fuel gauges with custom "Eleanor Beast" script; Flaming River tilt steering column, Flaming River four-spoke steering wheel, Painless 14-circuit wiring, Blaupunkt "ET"-style stereo head unit, Dakota Digital shift indicator
Painted in blue/silver with green pinstripe, custom shaped and formed front fenders, vented rear fenders, perimeter body extensions, front spoiler, and rear spoiler; smoothed Kamm-style tailpanel, custom-fitted grille, molded and smoothed front end, sunroof, aero side mirrors, '67 Cougar taillights with sequential signals, PIAA-style headlights and driving lights