Car of the Week: 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1

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By Alan C. Orenstein

Back on the morning of June 13, 1998, when we still checked the local newspaper classified ads for antique and classic cars for sale, I found “it” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Just an hour’s drive away in Coopersburg, Pa., there “it” sat: an unrusted, unmolested, one-registered-owner 1973 Mustang Mach 1 that had been stored for the last 10 years. The seller’s phone was ringing off the wall so after a quick, on-the-spot negotiation, it was mine. Great, but it was dull green with the usual assortment of minor dings from parking lot encounters.

I grew up in the school of “restored down to the inspection stamps” and completed a couple of authentically, meticulously restored-for-show Continental Mark IIIs, 1963 and ’65 T-Birds and two finned MoPars. But the Mach 1 was green — boring, dull green. I got out the factory Mustang paint chart for 1973, but nothing did much for my Mach 1 or for me. I could still at least pick a Ford color, right? But my wife Lois thought, and I had to agree, that a clearcoat of MoPar’s Candy Apple Red Pearl color-sanded and buffed to a glassy finish would really work with the silver argent trim on the ’Stang.

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Once I gave up on the stock color, I figured I might as well build the rest of the Mach 1 the way I wanted to. What was Ford thinking anyway when the factory front energy-absorbing bumper was color-keyed, but the rear was chrome? And while I was rectifying that, why not give the back end a more muscular “black out” treatment around the tail lamps and rear trim? And that matte argent-silver finish on the hood and rear spoiler…. Well, matte is dull (in every sense of the word), so it was sprayed in a high-gloss clearcoat as well. As a final exterior touch, we added the running stallions from the 1979 Mustang Indy Pace Car.

In the engine bay, Ford Blue is OK, but those big Cleveland heads deserved finned, cast Mustang valve covers with a matching air cleaner. And for some sparkle, a chromed alternator, master cylinder cover, upper shock mounts, coil, stainless-steel hoses, etc. Yellow Accel wires and vacuum hoses added a splash of color.

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Now what about that single-exhaust, 351 Cleveland two-barrel asleep under the hood? Despite all the factory de-tuning by ’73, it still ran well, but was as dull as that green paint. An Edelbrock Performer intake, 600cfm Performer carburetor and 3.00:1 Ford 9-inch rear woke the Mach 1 out of its sleep. With a set of Hooker Headers and Flowmaster 40 mufflers underneath, a current tech JBL radio and speakers, the sound became better all around. With R134 in the factory air conditioning system, the Mach 1 was now cool inside and out.

American Racing Wheels replaced the factory dog dishes that went into storage, along with the wheel trim rings. Also, the blue valve covers with the inspection stamps, the emissions stuff, etc., are all stored in large, dry containers for some future “restorer” like I used to be. This Mustang has gotten more attention and recognition than any other car I’ve owned, so I guess all the mods work.

Alan Orenstein (appraisalsbyalan.com) is a certified appraiser.

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