This is being written for the future owners of my car.
To tell the history of this car I must go back to the reason I bought it in the first place. It was late summer of 1968. I was 21 years old, had been discharged from the Army in May of that year and had just been hired by Weirton Steel Company, a large integrated steel producer in Weirton, West Virginia, just across the Ohio river from where I lived in Steubenville, Ohio. The car I was driving at that time was a red 1966 Ford Fairlane GTA that I had purchased from my parents when I came back from Vietnam. Mom and Dad had bought the car new. As the owner of a three year old Ford, Ford sent me a brochure of all the new 1969 models. One of the pictures in that brochure was of a red Mustang Mach 1 taken from the side. It was love at first sight. Soon after I started shopping the local Ford dealers. None of them had any Mach 1s so I decided to order one. This was going to be my first brand new car. After going back and forth between Biggio Ford in Steubenville and Cattrell Ford in Weirton I finally got the best deal at Cattrells. The salesman�s name was Jack Deemer. I placed the order on October 5, 1968 for a 1969 Mustang Mach 1, 428 Cobra Jet ram air, 4-speed with tinted windows, an AM-8 track radio (no one used FM in those days), power steering and brakes and I ordered an optional axle ratio of 3:91. The salesman told me I could expect delivery in 4 to 6 weeks. I started counting the days. Mid November came and went. Then early December. I asked the dealer to find out what was delaying my car. They told me there was a problem with the optional axle ratio but couldn�t get any details. More on this later. I had still never seen a Mach 1 in person. One day I noticed a new red Mach 1 parked in the parking lot where I worked. It was a 351 otherwise it was just like the one I had ordered. I stopped and looked at that car every day. Beautiful, just beautiful. Anyway Christmas and New Years passed and still no car. Then one day a co-worker told me he had just driven past Cattrell Ford and saw a red Mach 1 being unloaded. It was January 6, 1969. I immediately took off for Cattrell�s. I walked into the showroom, saw my salesman and said, �Where is my car?� He said, �How the heck did you know it was here?� I told him about my friend seeing it being unloaded and he told me the car was in a storage building behind the dealership. We walked back there, opened the door and there it was. I will never forget how it looked. Even though it was dirty from transport and had grease pencil marks on the glass, it was absolutely beautiful. I was told it would take a couple days to prep the car for delivery. The next day I took my younger brother over to see the car. By this time the car was inside the dealer�s service department being prepped. I remember telling the guy doing the prep that I did not want a "Cattrell Ford" emblem attached to the car. In those days the emblem was made of metal and attached to the rear of the car with sheet metal screws. Definitely didn�t want that! Then my brother said I should have the radio antenna mounted on the rear quarter panel. Said it would look better there. The antenna was not mounted at the factory but by the dealer. I decided to have the antenna installed in the normal location on the front fender. The next day the car was ready and my brother and I picked it up. I will never forget driving that car out of the dealership. What a thrill. We drove the car all around town that day and finally took it home to our parents house where we both were still living. Then I made another big mistake that I would regret in later years. I scraped off the window sticker and threw it away! Later that afternoon I took the car out to my girlfriend�s house but I didn�t pull it into her driveway. I parked it a short distance away and told her some story why I had done that. She didn�t know the car had arrived and I wanted to surprise her. Needless to say it was a big surprise. A day or two after I picked the car up I took it to the Ziebart dealer in Steubenville. In those days cars started to rust as soon as they were built so a lot of people had their cars rustproofed. This involved drilling holes in different spots then spraying a heavy tar-like coating inside the body to prevent rust. My girlfriend and I took the car to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky Ohio that summer and also to Mid-Ohio race track to see the Can-Am races. Can-Am was real popular then. Got to see the late Bruce McLaren race there among others. Also that summer we took the car to Quaker City Dragway in Salem Ohio. We didn�t race the car, just watched, but the seed was planted that would lead to a lot of racing later. In November of that year of 1969 my girlfriend Judy and I were married. We went on our honeymoon to Pittsburgh in the car. Pittsburgh was all we could afford since Steubenville is only 35 miles from Steubenville. After all I had a huge car payment to make, 92 dollars and 60 cents a month for three years. I was only grossing 400 a month. The summer of 1970 we started racing the car at Quaker City. The car was pure stock and still had it�s original F70-14 Goodyear Polyglas tires. We only raced it a few times and the best I could get out of it was 13.94 at 99.60 mph. Traction was definitely an issue and I was new to drag racing so I wasn't the best drag racer in the world. It was about this time that I discovered that the 3:91 gears I had ordered were not in the car. The car was built with 4:30 rear end gears! It was also about this time that I learned that my car was a Super Cobra Jet. I had no idea that such a thing existed nor had I ever heard that other term used for these cars, Drag Pak. When I ordered the car I just specified the optional axle ratio (3:91). If I recall it cost less than 10 dollars! What a deal for an SCJ. I also found out later that ordering the optional axle was what had delayed the building of my car. For Christmas 1970 my wife gave me a Hurst Competition Plus shifter. I distinctly remember taking the stock shifter out and tossing it into a garbage can. More mistakes were to follow. All this time the Mustang was my daily driver, summer and winter. Snow covered roads and Cobra Jet Mustangs don�t make the best combination but I never put a scratch on it.
In 1971 I started getting more serious about racing. I installed Hooker 6114 headers. That was a chore. It took me a week to get them on and all the bolts in and tightened, 32 bolts total. I was a novice mechanic at this time but was learning as I went. The Thermactor system was the next to go. That too went into the trash, again who knew in those days what stuff like that would be worth in the future. The next change was a camshaft. I bought a Crane H-312 cam and kit along with 427 adjustable rocker arms. When I pulled the cylinder heads to have the new valve springs installed I found a problem in the engine. There was a nice little hole in number 6 piston top. I had no idea this had happened, the car was running fine. It turned out I had switched the distributor vacuum line from the ported outlet on the carburetor to a full manifold vacuum source. I was thinking that would make the car run better but what it did was cause the car to run full advanced nearly all the time which resulted in a holed piston. Live and learn. So now I had to pull down the whole engine. I wound up taking the engine .030 over because there was a scratch on number 6 cylinder wall caused by that hole in the piston. I also purchased stock configuration TRW forged pistons. The entire reciprocating assembly was sent to Pittsburgh Crankshaft Company to be balanced and the crank chromed. A great old machinist did the boring of the block and set up the heads along with bronze valve guides, PC teflon oil seals and new cam bearings. I assembled the engine myself adding a C8AX Ford deep sump oil pan and an aluminum Police Interceptor intake manifold and 800 cfm Holley double pumper. I also removed the mechanical fuel pump and installed two electric pumps and a Holley pressure regulator and an Accel dual point distributor. The original distributor I tore apart and used the shaft as an oil pump primer. Another big mistake. As for the rest of the car I installed Lakewood traction bars, a blowproof bellhousing, moved the battery to the trunk, removed the power steering by changing the idler and pitman arms and center link and finished it off with a set of M&H Racemaster 10.5 x 28.5 x 15 slicks. I was definitely getting serious.
The car was no longer driven much on the street although I did have a set of header mufflers and I did take it for an occasional drive, minus the slicks of course. In 1972 the State of Ohio awarded a cash bonus to all Vietnam Veterans. It was the grand sum of 200 dollars and I used this money to have the car repainted. Again, in hindsight this was a mistake but at the time it seemed like a good idea. I had the car taken from it�s original red to a medium blue. All the Mach 1 stripes were removed and the flat black hood eliminated. I also had my name lettered on the side windows and added Keystone Klassic chrome wheels. Also installed were tow bar brackets and a friend welded up a tow bar for me. I couldn�t afford a trailer so I flat towed the car to the strip. Very few people at that time had trailers and enclosed trailers were virtually unheard of. That year I removed the driveshaft every time we left for the strip, reinstalled it at the strip, then did it again for the trip home. Of course I also had to change the rear tires to slicks. It was a lot of work. I did not record the best runs the car made in 1972 but in 1973 the car ran a best of 12.47 at 109.62. 1974 was better with a best of 12.07 at 113.20. I was learning how to tune the car and also to drive it. I usually staged the car at around 4000 RPM and shifted it around 6300. Those 4:30 gears turned out to be perfect for the quarter mile as the engine would be turning between 6300 and 6500 through the traps. During this time period I received a recall from Ford. It seemed the seat back supports could fail causing the rear of the seat to collapse backward. This would be a bad thing for the driver! I contacted Cattrell Ford and was told to bring the car in and they would take care of it. I asked them if I could just bring in the seats since the car was a race car and I would need to tow it over. They replied by saying they would NOT fix the seats if the car was used for racing. After some heated words between the service manager and myself I hung up the phone and called Ford Motor Company. After explaining the situation I was told I would be contacted by Cattrells shortly. It wasn�t 15 minutes later when a very contrite service manager called and told me to bring the seats in and he would be happy to make the repair. I took the seats over and the repair was indeed done. From 1975 on I kept a journal of each weeks racing. I recorded any changes to the car, ET and MPH for each run and sometimes who was I running against along with weather conditions. One of the major changes I made that year was to install a Hurst Super Shifter in place of my old Competition Plus. This was a much better shifter with a very short stick and short throws. However this shifter mounted far back on the transmission which required cutting the transmission tunnel for clearance. The one smart thing I did was to keep the metal I saber sawed out. Those pieces would come in handy decades later. My best times in 1975 was 12.01 and 112.78. I had one interesting day in 1976. On July 25 I made three time trial runs. They were 12.00 at 113.70, 12.00 at 113.63 and 12.00 at 113.41. I dialed in an 11.99 and lost in the first round with a 12.01! This with a 4 speed. I remember being disappointed that day because I had never made an 11 second run and really wanted one. In September I would get my wish with an 11.96 at 114.35. More 11 second runs would follow with a best ever run of 11.88 and best ever speed of 114.50. This was the last full year of drag racing I would do. At this point I was growing tired of it and when I was told by the drag strip early in 1977 that I would need to put a roll cage in my car due to it�s speed, I quit racing. By this time I had another hobby, flying airplanes, but that is my story, not the car�s. The car went into my garage to be brought out only for an occasional cruise. Soon even that would stop and the car went into hibernation for many years although it was in a heated and air conditioned garage.
In the late 1990s I decided the car needed to be restored and began by pulling the engine and transmission. Then I removed just about every part I could unbolt, cleaning and repainting each part. I also removed the complete interior. Then I started cleaning the bottom of the car and that�s where a problem started. Not with the car but with me. Every time I got under the car to work I got dizzy and sick to my stomach. I was told it was an inner ear problem. The bottom line was I quit work on the car. All the parts I had taken off were identified, wrapped and stored along with the interior. More years passed. Then in late 1999 my friend Bob Timperman died. Bob was the original owner of a 68 � Cobra Jet Mustang. He and I met during the 1970s at the strip and became great and lifelong friends. After Bob died his widow asked me to help her sell Bob�s car. To make a long story short I contacted a Mustang dealer in Columbus, Ohio named Rick Parker who bought Bob's car. A year later I happened to be in Columbus and stopped by Rick�s restoration shop. I was very impressed by the quality of his work and realized that I could never do as professional a restoration on my car that Rick could. In March 2003 I delivered the car to Rick�s business, Signature Auto Classics. There was no contract signed for the work to be done. Everything was on a handshake. I had originally asked Rick how much he thought the restoration would cost. He estimated low 20s (low $20,000). I replied that sounded good even though the completed car would be only worth mid 20s. He replied the car would be worth considerably more than that! Turns out he was right.
The restoration included media blasting the entire car, removing the entire front and rear suspension and virtually every nut bolt and washer. All the holes I had drilled for fuel pumps, cool cans and other racing gear were welded up along with the metal I had saved from the transmission tunnel when I installed the Super Shifter. The holes from the Ziebart rustproofing were also welded up. The car was repainted it�s original red color however base coat clear coat was used instead of the original enamel. Rick and his guys Larry, Doug and Dan went over every part of the car, correctly repainting all the parts I had done years before. I had originally planned on cleaning the engine up and putting it back in just as it had come out when I removed it in the early 1990s. I decided that was probably not a good idea and that a rebuild was in order. That old machinist who had done the engine work back in the 1970s was long gone and there were no other machine shops close. Then a friend told me about an engine builder who did good work. I took the engine to Randy Zazlok�s shop in Weirton and he rebuilt the engine for me. It turns out the engine was in surprisingly good condition considering the abuse it had taken over the years. The pistons and cylinder walls showed almost no wear. The crank was perfect but a couple rod bearings were �a little loose� but nowhere near to spinning. Not bad for an engine that had hundreds of full throttle runs, burnouts and an occasional missed shift. The engine went back together with the same TRW pistons, it�s original Lemans rods with new rod bolts and the racing Crane cam also went back in too. Brand new adjustable rockers, shafts and stands were used. Headers would not be going back on. The original exhaust manifolds and the original clutch fan had been stolen from the garage I was renting before we bought our house but I had found a set of manifolds at a Ford swap meet and Rick would take care of replacing the fan. I had the new set of manifolds ceramic coated by Jet-Hot to prevent rust. The original intake was also long gone, sold to my brother-in-law years before, so the aluminum PI went back on, painted Ford blue. Also retained was the C8AX oil pan. 8 quarts are better than 5. I decided not to reinstall the power steering. I think the engine compartment looks cleaner without it. For the same reason the Thermactor system would not be replaced. That and changing spark plugs is tough enough without all that plumbing in the way. Other �incorrect� things on the car are the PCV system. Although I have the original carburetor I like a mechanical secondary carb so a new 750 double pumper was installed. Rick installed a different primary fuel bowl so the car feeds from the driver side like the original. With the shaker in place you cannot tell the carb is not correct. I also used the old Hurst Competition Plus shifter my wife bought me that first year we were married.
When the engine was finished I brought it home, painted it and then loaded it on my utility trailer and delivered it to Rick in Columbus. I tried to visit Rick�s shop as often as I could. It was amazing seeing the car come back together and it was always a pleasure seeing my car as well as all the other great cars they were working on, as well as visiting the great people at Signature Auto. At one point I counted eight, count �em, eight Boss 429s in his shop. One point of interest during the restoration was the rear tape stripe. All the reproduction tape stripe kits come with a rear stripe with �Mach 1� cut out. My car�s original rear stripe was plain, no lettering. I wanted this duplicated so I wrote a letter to Marti Auto Works, who make these stripe kits, and include pictures of my when new showing the plain rear stripe. They agreed to make me set of these stripes and when they arrived there were two sets of rear stripes included, one plain and one lettered, at no extra charge. It was also decided the hole for the antenna on the front fender which was filled during the 1972 repaint would remain filled. An NOS antenna, still in it�s brown paper bag, would be placed in the trunk by Rick.
Then in May 2004 Rick told me the car was almost finished and I should come out and see it. There are some special moments in life you never forget. One of them for me was when I walked into that garage at Cattrell Ford and saw this car for the first time. Another was walking to the back of Signature Auto and seeing that same car sitting there looking brand new. It was 1969 all over again. I walked around and around the car. I will admit that there were tears in my eyes. The car was absolutely beautiful. It looked better than it did when it was new. A week later on May 26 I returned to Columbus to bring the car home. Rick had arranged for an enclosed trailer to transport the car and I wanted to see it loaded and follow it home. The trip home was uneventful and finally, after a 14 month restoration and a trip back to 1969, the car was back in my garage.
Since 2004 my wife and I have enjoyed driving the car to shows and cruise-ins. The only major change I have made is changing the original 4:30 gears for a set of 3:50s. I bought a complete duplicate third member and pulled the original intact and put it in storage. The day the restoration was completed the car had 18184 mile on it, a lot of them a quarter mile at a time. At this writing in February 2008 the car has 22841 miles on it. There are few things I enjoy more than driving the car on a warm summer evening, with an occasional full throttle run for old times sake! Of course it never goes out in Winter and if it even looks like rain it stays in the garage. It has not even had a garden hose on it. I clean it with distilled water in a spray bottle.
That is to date the story of this car. If you are now the owner I must be dead. I hope you love it, enjoy it and care for it as much as I have.