Car of the Week: 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1


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Story and photos By Brian Earnest


Mark Ciesielski had looked far and wide for his dream Mustang. For two years, he scoured classified ads and chased dead ends. Eventually, his dream machine showed up in the last place he expected to find it: right outside his front door.

“One day this one showed up at my neighbor’s house,” said Ciesielski with a grin. “The guy who owned it was friends with my neighbor, and I just said to my wife [Cathy], ‘Look out the window at this Mustang!’ There was just something different about it … A year later it went up for sale and we were the first ones that had the opportunity to buy it.

“I had asked my neighbor if it was is for sale, but he said no, the guy restored this one for his personal use. But he ended up buying a Boss 302 a year later … As soon as I heard about it, I was right there at his doorstep.”

Ciesielski, a resident of Plover, Wis., had his heart set on a Mach 1, and when he got a look at the brilliant Gulfstream Aqua paint job and fantastic overall condition of the totally restored 1969, he knew he had found the right car. The fact that the Mach 1 was an usual big-block car — it carried the 390-cid V-8 rather than the more common 428 — was an added bonus, as far as Ciesielski was concerned.

“The big block was what got my attention because they are kind of rare,” he noted. “There are a lot of 428s out there, but very few 390s.”

Ciesielski had considered getting a weathered car that he could restore himself, but the search for a promising project car had gotten discouraging. He was more than happy to take ownership of a car that had already been redone. “Everything we found needed paint or motors overhauled or something,” he said. “They all needed something and this one was at a pretty fair price. The motor was completely done. It had hard valve seats to work with unleaded gas, which was nice.

“It had been purchased by J&J Muscle Car out of Green Bay in 1993. They work the West Coast looking for cars to bring back and restore. A guy named Bart Adams bought the car from them. He towed it home on a dolly at the time. It was in rough shape — unrunnable. Bart and his brother dismantled it in 13 hours, and he did a complete rotisserie restoration. It took him almost a year doing it part time out of his garage at home, and he did a great job on it.”

Ciesielski said the car had one quarter panel replaced by the previous owner, but otherwise had been largely free of rust. The restoration included a new interior, engine rebuild and a stellar paint job with all the correct Mach 1 touches. “It’s all painted underneath, and it’s even got the overspray like it’s supposed to have,” he said.

Ciesielski bought the car in 1998, and eventually fitted it with a different dual exhaust and added the rear window slats, which were a factory option in 1969. Among the car’s other options, in addition to the 390 V-8, were Magnum 500 wheels, a shaker hood scoop, Tiltaway Steering, a close-ratio four-speed transmission, and air conditioning. “The tires and exhaust aren’t factory [correct],” Ciesielski said. “And the battery.

“The shaker wasn’t functional. It had the shaker on it, but I had to buy all the internal parts and get that working. I also replaced the valve covers. They were looking a little bad.”

Among their many great qualities was the staggering variety that the Mach 1’s offered. The cars were very popular — Ford built 72,458 Mach 1’s for 1969 – but there were so many color, drivetrain, and accessory combinations it wasn’t likely a new car buyer would run across too many Mach 1’s that were just like his. There were a half-dozen engine options, 10 different axel choices, a handful of transmission choices, three interior colors, and 16 different paint colors available.

Of course, any new Mustang was a pretty cool ride in 1969. Ford’s hot-selling pony car was restyled and grew in almost every direction. For the first time, Mustangs had quad headlights — the external units were mounted in deeply recessed openings at the outer edges of the fenders. The inboard lights were mounted inside the grille opening.

There was no change in the Mustang’s wheelbase for the model year — it was still the same 108 inches as in 1965.

Missing for the first time was a side scoop (or cove) on the body. This styling gimmick was replaced with a feature line that ran from the tip of the front fender to just behind the rear-most door seam, at a level just above the front wheel opening. On convertibles and hardtops there was a rear-facing, simulated air vent in front of the rear wheel opening on both sides. On fastbacks, this feature line led to a backwards C-shaped air scoop above the main feature line.

The fastback was now referred to as the SportsRoof or Sports Roof (various Ford ads spelled the term differently). It had a 0.9-inch lower roofline than earlier fastbacks. Also, Mustang fastbacks were now true hardtops. The rear quarter louvers were gone. Instead, a small window abutted the door glass.

Mach 1’s had the Mustang’s fanciest interior with high-back bucket seats, black carpets, a rim-blow steering wheel, a center console, a clock, sound-deadening insulation and teakwood-grained trim on the doors, dash and console.

The Mach 1’s base engine was a 351-cid two-barrel Windsor V-8. This was essentially a stroked 302-cid Ford V-8 with raised deck height, which created a great street performance engine. The basic version cranked up 250 horses. Options included the 351-cid/290-hp four-barrel V-8 and a 390-cid/320-hp V-8. At the top of the engine heap was the 428-cid Cobra Jet, which produced 335 hp. Both the 428 and 390 were $254 options that were attractive to the go-fast crowd.

Ford built a grand total of 299,824 Mustangs for the 1969 model year, with the Mach 1 version second in popularity only to the standard hardtop coupe. A “basic” Mach 1 Fastback with the 351 V-8 started at $3,122 and weighed in at 3,175 lbs.

With the 1969 redesign, the Mustang had evolved into more of a sleek touring car and made a clear departure from its compact pony car roots. Ciesielski has owned 1965 and ’66 Mustangs in the past, and he says all the changes were for the better. “[The ’69] is a big improvement over the ’66s and ’65s I owned. The ’69 is what I always wanted. I just love the body style and the stripes … the window slats and the shaker hood scoop — everything,” he said. “But it doesn’t compare to the new ones, of course. I have a 2008 GT, and it’s not quite as comfortable as that.

“But they’re pretty quick and it’s not bad for gas mileage. It gets about 16 [mpg] on the highway, which isn’t too bad!”

The odometer on the Mach 1 shows 110,000 miles these days. “When you count how many years old it is, that ain’t many per year,” Ciesielski noted. “I’ve put about 800 miles a year on it. I watch where I park, and I we go to a lot of car shows, but I don’t go over maybe 1,000 miles a year. I don’t want to get it dirty. It takes too long to clean it up!”

Ciesielski jokes that if he ever wins the lottery or a raffle, he’ll probably add some more Mustangs to his fleet. If not, he’ll be happy to hang onto his Mach 1 another 13 years. “I’ve had offers for it, but the wife would never let me sell it,” he said. “My youngest son has already spoken for it, anyway.

“Nobody’s ever been close [to buying it]. They would have to be way over market value for it. We really love the car.”

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One thought on “Car of the Week: 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

  1. edrogers

    i had an opportunity to buy a maroon one in the 80’s of the same year as this one. i ended up buying a ’84 camaro but even though i enjoyed the car i kick myself now for not buying the mustang that had low miles and was in mint condition.


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