Jeff Ford
March 19, 1999
Photos By: Ford Motor Company, Mustang Monthly Staff

Step By Step

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In your face! The Mach 1 in its heyday was an in-your-face performer. But the times, they were a changing.
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The mighty will fall. Shown above is the baddest in the line of Mach 1 "Big Boys," the 428 CJ. By 1972, the big-inch torque monster V-8 was a memory. Worse yet for performance buffs, 1974 saw the advent of the fuel-efficient 2.8 V-6 as the top engine option. At least Ford saw fit to go back to the V-8 in 1975.
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One of the stalwarts of the line. The 351 Cleveland carved a reputation in the drag racing and circle track venues as a capable performer. It was probably the most popular engine in the Mach 1 lineup until 1974.
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The '69 Mach 1 was fairly luxurious compared to the standard Mustang interior.
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The '74-'78 Mach interiors were an improvement over the base '71-'73 Mach 1's interior. (Cobra interior shown)
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The Mach 1 standard interior become truly standard in 1971--as in base-model Mustang.
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Cool press shot circa 1968. The lines of the '69 Mach seem to flow well and, for some reason, the '69 Mach seems more graceful than the'70 that would replace it one year later. Groovy couple, huh? Dig those shades, man!
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This is what we look like when the new Mustangs come out--the only difference is the date--1969. We have to wonder, what is the story with the bandage on the guy's nose?

In 1969, it was the everyman answer to performance with style--big-inch engines and aggressive styling that was a universal departure from the more button-down, tweedy look of the '68 GT. Where the GT was about sophisticated power, the Mach 1 exuded brawn and machismo--and in base form, at least, a decent price tag. On the greenback scale, the Mach 1 was priced for the working man and the Boss and Shelby tended to be slightly higher.

As collectors and admirers of Ford Mustangs, we all seem to have at least a passing weakness for performance cars. Shelbys, Bosses, GTs, and of course, Mach 1s. On any given show field there will be at least three Machs crouched on Styled Steel wheels and seemingly ready for a Camaro lunch. Usually, the Machs are the '69 428 Cobra Jets; arguably one of Ford's most prolific and best straight-line performers. Values are high in the market--though nowhere near the helicon days of the late '80s.

So what is it about these cars that makes us want to restore them to their former glory? Obviously, it has to be a number of reasons, not the least of which is style. Of course, that can't be the only and deciding factor; there are cars populating the salvage yards that had plenty of style. Our guess is the combination of style and power. Brute force applied in a straight line wrapped in the swoopiest body of that time. When optioned with the 428 or the '71 429 SCJ, the Mach became more than a peppy daily commuter. It became a car the Bow Tie and Pentastar boys would fear.

Powerful to Powerless

In 1969, the 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1 was stunning in its power delivery--when you could get it to hook up. It delivered the same loud thwack to the backsides of many Bow Tie bruisers as its GT predecessor. But instead of being sedate, it screamed at the opponent. The power wasn't hidden, it was advertised.

Of course, if you wanted the 390 4V, it was still there too, hanging on by the barest thread. At year's end, the 390 4V would be history--not enough power and stuck between the rock (428) and the hard place (351). In fact, the thread was so bare, that, to our knowledge, none of the magazines of the day bothered to test the 390 4V.

What about the 351? Very little is said about its performance potential when compared to the 428. However, the 351 was the meat-and-potatoes engine that bore the brunt of the commuter responsibility. When the new-for-'69 351 Windsor came out, it was a welcome "upgrade" from the 302 4V of the '68 GT. It also was largely in response to the 350 that was available with the Camaro. With a 1-inch-taller deck height, it was something more than the 302 it replaced, but shared many commonalities.

A year later, the Windsor took a back seat to the new '70 351 Cleveland. The canted valve engine was a departure from the small-block design that had debuted in 1962 as a 221-cid 2V. It boasted more power than the 351 Windsor and developed a well-deserved reputation for performance.

Nineteen seventy-one was the beginning of the end of big-inch power out of the Mach 1. It also was the year that Ford debuted the 385-series engines in the Mustang. The 385 was the replacement for the now corporately tired FE engines. The resemblance to the Cleveland is more than passing--as is its resemblance to the Chevy big-block.

Nineteen seventy-two and 1973 saw the 351 4V become the top option on the Mach 1. New SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) ratings, lower compression, insurance, and the coming of higher gas prices all conspired to whittle away at the image. Of course, there was one performance bright spot in 1972: the 351 H.O. This engine was nothing but a detuned 351 Boss that was standard in all the Mustang models.

But if the buyer thought 1972 and 1973 were bad, they only had to look to 1974 to know it was going to get worse. Ford struck the V-8 from the ponycar lineup for the first time. In place of the thundering 428 was a whopping 2.8L V-6--dark days indeed. By 1975, Ford realized the gaff and scrambled to reinstall the 302 2V V-8. This engine remained an option until the Mach's demise in 1978.