There is an old expression about the early bird catching the worm. That expression certainly applies to Alan Orenstein and the acquisition of his 1973 Mustang Mach 1. The Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, resident recalls, “I paid $2,600 for it as an unrestored running car in decent condition, on June 13, 1998. I believe the seller was asking $2,800, which would have been a fair price at the time. Today, it would be a hell of a bargain! I was just happy to be the first one there—the seller's phone was ringing off the wall while I was handing him the cash deposit." Orenstein often comes across a good deal. He's been an automotive appraiser for many years, so the Mach 1 was a nice personal score.
His Mustang was originally listed for sale in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He notes, “This was before the Internet changed the way we find cars and parts." It was a one-owner, well-documented car, which had been stored for 10 years. With just over 79,000 miles on the odometer, it was in remarkable condition. The icing on the cake was that it had a long list of options that included factory air, power steering, power front disk brakes, a Rim-Blow steering wheel, upgraded Mach 1 sports interior, tinted glass, folding sport deck rear seat, and the “convenience group" with rare automatic seat back releases. However, the blue exhaust smoke that filled the street during the testdrive, and the dull dark green paint, were not so desirable.
Undaunted by the mechanical and paint issues, Alan faced a tough decision, especially being cognizant of the rising values that restored muscle cars were beginning to fetch at the time. A full restoration was considered, but the paint was an issue, or more precisely, the color was. The other issue was, of course, the anemic 351ci two-barrel Cleveland tucked in the engine bay. Rated at 177 horses, Orenstein describes it as a “slug." Making it even less appealing was that blue exhaust smoke.
The issue with the color was a game changer. “I have to admit, I just didn't like the original Dark Green Metallic color," Orenstein candidly explains. “Once I gave up on the stock color, I figured I might as well build the rest of the Mach 1 the way that I wanted it. I got out the factory Mustang paint chart for 1973, but nothing did much for me. I really liked the later model Mustang Laser Red, but Chrysler's Candy Apple Red Pearl was a little deeper and really worked with the argent trim."
Making the car a personal statement involved both a mechanical and a body rehabilitation. Luckily, he knew his way around a wrench. Having owned, and restored a number of cars previously, for Alan, part of the overall enjoyment was the hands-on experience of doing the work.
The first phase of the makeover was tackling the body and paint issues. With sleeves rolled up, his mission was to do the bodywork and paint prep. Since the Mustang was going to sport a shiny red Chrysler skin, the issues with the old faded green paint had to be resolved. Alan started by gutting the car until he ended up with a rolling shell. Once fully immersed in the process, he points out that, “The original paint was actually very solid, so only the repaired areas were stripped and spot primed. The bodywork was essentially down to the usual dents and dings of an unrestored car, and alignment of doors, hood, and trunk. The best part was that the car was very solid. I had almost no rust to deal with which is pretty unusual for a Northeast car, even for one which had been garaged."
With the bodywork complete, the Mustang was then sent to Executive Auto Body in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The staff there completed the paintwork by laying down the basecoat/clearcoat Candy Apple Pearl. They also painted the argent silver stripe on the hood, the rear wing, and installed a set of new old stock side and rear Mach 1 stripes. Adding a custom touch to the stripe treatment, Alan decided to also apply a set of Running Stallions found on the '79 Mustang Indy Pace Car. The last details included painting the rear bumper body color, and a blackout treatment around the taillights and rear honeycomb trim panel. Ironically, this panel was the only bit of trim missing when he purchased the car. “In 1998 it was very hard to find a used unbroken one, and reproductions were not yet available," he points out. “My wife, Lois, called all over the country to surprise me with one. She located one from some guy in the Florida swamps."