Courtney Barber
February 27, 2019
Photos By: Peter Linney

With every lap of his family’s vineyard, young Wally Kuhns piloted his John Deere doing his daily chores, daydreaming about typical teenager things, most likely including girls, sports, grades, and that kind of thing. But every time he turned Big Green toward one neighbor’s property, the dreams turned into the four-wheeled kind, as that neighbor happened to have a 1969 Mustang Mach 1. “It taunted me with every lap of the field,” says Wally. “I knew someday I would own one too. It took a dozen years out of college and several trade-ups, but eventually I found my unicorn, a ’69 428 CJ Mach 1.”

Fast-forward to 1999 and Wally’s career took him from Illinois to Southern California, where two big life events happened: meeting a girl and finally scoring his beloved Mach. Wally explains, “I had time to kill before a second date with a girl named Teresa. The local Auto Trader showed a nearby 1969 CJ Mach. An attorney had taken several cars for client fees and was slowly selling them off. The Mach was covered with a blue tarp and had a trunk full of parts. The owner said he wanted me to run it up to 100 mph, so I had no concerns. We did, I didn’t, and it was mine.”

Good things come to those who wait, right? This was in 2000, and the Mach 1 had been built for the quarter-mile with lots of modifications for that purpose, but it was complete and straight. And that is when Teresa got a clue about what she was in for if she dated Wally. Wally says, “I told Teresa, today you’re going to find out about my addiction. I bought another Mustang, the one I always wanted, and I need your help getting it home. She just laughed and we were that much closer to being a couple. By the way, both Mustangs are still in my stall if you follow me!”

Since that time, the Mach 1 has been a passion project that has remained constant, and the couple’s twins, Mia and Nate, have grown up watching Wally wrench on the car, even jumping in to help at times. “In 2015, my son helped me redo the interior, which was a fun introduction to the hobby and set the hook,” says Wally. With help from a few shops, like JBA Racing in San Diego, Wally has rebuilt the 428 CJ engine and C6 automatic transmission, added a Gear Vendors bolt-on overdrive, changed the interior from white to black, and updated the wheels and brakes (replacing the original rear drums with discs). He says, “Eventually, we’ll repaint the car, and we plan to stay with the same color code—it’s originally a Wimbledon White car, but a previous owner had painted it Candyapple Red.”

Rewind a few years to the early 2000s and Wally had the car at a GoodGuys show with his twins, who were six years old at the time. Typical of nice cars, especially a Cobra Jet Mach 1, people would walk up to the car, nod appreciatively, and ask, “How much?” That irritated the twins, to the point that when they noticed someone walking toward the car, they would proactively shout, “It’s not for sale!”

When Wally got a Marti Report on the Mustang, it showed the build date as June 17—the same day as his grandfather’s birthday. Wally says, “When I discovered that on my Marti Report, I knew Pop had teed this one up for me. It’s going to stay in our family.”

Special Thanks
Wally wanted to make sure to thank the following for helping him realize his dream Mustang: JBA Racing; Lake Forest Transmission; Gear Vendors; his son, Nate, and father-in-law, Skip; and “My ‘big bro’ Mike Popp, who taught me all about restoring ’69 Mustangs.”

The much sought-after shaker scoop with “Cobra Jet” script tells one that this 1969 Mustang isn’t just a garden-variety Mach 1.
JBA Racing rebuilt the Mach 1’s 428 Cobra Jet, giving it a mild over-bore to 435 cubes with a 10.26:1 compression ratio, a mild Comp Cams hydraulic cam with 228/236 duration at 0.050 inch of lift, Edelbrock aluminum heads, a vintage Ford Police Interceptor intake manifold with a Holley 750-cfm four-barrel, Hooker headers with JBA custom exhaust, and a Pertronix ignition. That combination dyno’d at 439 hp and 490 lb-ft. Stock Cobra Jets were rated at 335 hp, but many people believe that was underrated. Chief CJ engine designer Bill Barr claims that was pretty accurate, however, with his certified dyno results coming in between 335 and 345 hp. Either way, JBA gave Wally an extra 100 horses. He tells us, “The OE radiator was gutted and replaced with an RV core, finally solving my temperature challenges.”
The car was originally Wimbledon White with a white interior, but Wally and his son changed the interior to black using TMI carpet and a RetroSound Malibu stereo system. The automatic shifter works with a C6 trans (built by Lake Forest Transmission) with an add-on Gear Vendors overdrive, which, with 3.50:1 gears in the 9-inch rear, allows low-rpm highway cruising.
Wally and his Mach, which will stay in the family forever. The wheels are 15x7 Wheel Vintiques 53 Series Ford GT Rallye.

Photography by Peter Linney