This 1969 Mach 1 Proves That It’s Not All About Horsepower
It’s not always about horsepower at the sacrifice of street manners—Tony Whitmore’s 1969 Mach 1 proves that
The beauty of the Ford Mustang is that it’s very easy to make horsepower (pun intended), yet most gearheads would argue that you can never have enough power. However, as Tony Whitmore would discover, perhaps the key to a perfect Pony is striking a balance between power and street manners.
Tony owns this beautiful green 1969 Mach 1 that his grandfather, Karl Whitmore, bought brand new off the showroom floor. Grandpa would then gift it to Tony’s father, David, who would relinquish the car to Tony in 2012. Tony grew up with a natural love for all muscle cars, but the Mach 1 holds a special place in his heart. Perhaps it was the unique performance appointments the Mach 1 came with—SportsRoof body, competition suspension, Goodyear Polyglas tires, matte black hood, hoodpins, hoodscoop, rear spoiler, dealer-optioned chin spoiler, and rear louvers really made these Mustangs stand out from the rest of the muscle car pack. Regardless of the reasons, Tony would take on his family’s legacy and bring this classic first-generation Mach 1 back to its former glory.
Many Mustangs have racing in their history, and this Mach 1 is no different. All horses have to be let out to run, after all! The stories span back decades. David, Tony’s Dad, remembers being 10 years old in 1969 and going to the grocery store because his dad would always burn the tires across the four-lane highway in New Mexico. Karl hot-rodded and street-raced the car from the time it was driven off the showroom floor until he gave it to David. Like father like son, David would also continue the hot rodding while Tony and his brother, Jesse, would develop their love for racing through their dad’s Friday night escapades on the streets. The car’s rather unique lime gold color and overall performance would gain it quite a reputation. At its quickest, the car ran a 9.90 at 132 mph. It would be this pivotal moment when the Whitmores would have to decide on allowing this Mustang to continue to run wild or tame it. NHRA rules require a rollbar in anything quicker than 11.50 in pre-2008 vehicles, while a six-point cage is needed to run sub-10s. For the Whitmores, this is a solid classic car, and the idea of cutting into the body was not in the cards. It was officially time to tame the wild Mustang.
The restoration took four years and seven months to complete. The first order of business was the body. Since the Mustang was already a solid car, paint and bodywork would only take six months to complete by Sonny’s Auto Body Shop of Wichita, Kansas. The metallic green is not the original color but close to the factory Lime Green, and it is accented beautifully with gold striping. Kansas Klassics brought the interior back to life, re-covering the seats in gorgeous white Comfortweave vinyl (not straying far from the original ivory white). The color combination was important to keep true to the original and to the decade from which the Mach 1 hails.
Karl Whitmore, Tony’s grandfather, was able to see the Mach 1’s exterior restored to its former glory before unfortunately passing on. For Tony, this meant the world to him, since his grandfather was the drive behind this entire restoration process. To be able to see the car brought back to better-than-new condition ensured Karl that this car would continue the legacy he started. Bittersweet, as the saying goes, the Mustang will honor memories of the past while forging new ones. A proud moment, indeed! During the remainder of the restoration process, Tony would rely on the support from his wife, Sierra, who graciously allowed all the time away from their daughter to see the project through. His father, David, and brother, Jesse, would continue to provide moral support and guidance. This project truly is a family affair, and it turned out exactly as Tony envisioned.
Tony’s Mach 1 is an original 351W four-speed car and would stay that way until 2003. Using the same engine from when the car went nines as a base, the refreshed 351 displaces 357 ci now and sports Scat H-beam rods mated to SRP forged pistons. Darrell’s Automotive in Furley, Kansas, performed all the necessary machine work. The short-block is rounded out with a stock Ford crank and features a 10:1 compression ratio. For the business end of the powerplant, Tony chose AFR aluminum cylinder heads, which are complemented by a Lunati cam and hydraulic rollers. Manley dual valvesprings and Crane rocker arms keep the valves in line. Air is supplied though an Edelbrock aluminum intake, and it is pushed out through a pair of Hooker headers. This classic Pony dropped the carburetor in favor for modern fuel injection, and 80-lb/hr injectors provide the fuel this horse needs to generate 400 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque. This power is transferred to the wheels through a Tremec five-speed and Spec Stage 2 clutch. The Ford 9-inch with Richmond 4:11 gears propels this car to a respectable 11.90 at 115 mph, while the Calvert Racing shocks, CalTracs bars, and leaf springs make sure the power gets transferred effectively. The always classic Weld Racing wheels paired with M&H tires up front and “sticky Mickies” out back allow this wild horse to flex its muscle without much drama. It’s a perfect balance of performance without having to cut into the body for a rollcage. The car also retains heat and air conditioning via Vintage Air—perfect for cruising or a night out at the track. All Tony would need to do is re-install the nitrous kit and he would have his 9-second monster again, though that would dictate a serious ’cage, taking away some of the streetability.
Who’s to say that taming a wild Mustang is not possible or desired? Tony’s Mach 1 is a wonderfully beautiful execution of respectable performance without sacrificing a well-preserved example of a quintessential Pony car. This classic first-generation Mach 1 will continue the legacy of Karl Whitmore by creating more cherished multi-generational family memories, just as Tony envisioned.
Photography by Grant Cox