Old Cars Weekly archive – May 8, 2008 issue
Maryland car buff finds ‘73 Mach 1 worth waiting for
By Brian Earnest
George Hatcher figures he’ll probably never be able to replace his beloved 1972 Pewter Metallic Mach 1 Mustang. Heaven knows he’s tried. But after years of searching, traveling, hope, anguish and disappointment, he seems to have come pretty close.
Hatcher, a lifelong car buff, Mustang fanatic and co-owner of the Norris Ford dealership in Easton, Md., is certainly proud of his stellar 1973 Light Blue Mach 1. It might not be an exact match for the ’72 that was wrecked in an ugly encounter with a truck back in November 1976, but the car has certainly become as close as a car can be to becoming kin, and it holds more than a little sentimental value for Hatcher and his family, for many reasons.
“That crash, it was like it took away a member of the family,” says Hatcher. “I got another car, but it wasn’t the same. That ’72, it was one of the most important things in my life at that point. I went everywhere in it. I took my wife places in it. We went to college in it … It might sound corny, but that car was like a magic carpet that could take me anywhere I wanted to go.”
Hatcher had gotten his ’72 Mustang new when he was a teenager after being smitten by the pony car’s new body style. He scoured the local dealerships in Maryland and eventually, after performing what he said was a “laundry list” of duties and meeting some difficult challenges set forth by his parents, settled on a shiny new 302-cid three-speed Mach 1 with few amenities. He drove it for five years before it was wrecked, and it was probably inevitable that he would set out to find another to get back what he had lost.
“I’d say in the mid-80s I started looking around for another Mach 1. I looked and looked and looked,” he said. “I traveled around all over looking for one, and it just never seemed to work out.”
As luck would have it, in 2000 a friend spotted a newspaper ad for a ’73 Mach 1 in Annapolis, within driving distance from Easton. “At first I just said, ‘Ah, forget it. I’m not going on anymore car trips.’” Hatcher said. But he eventually convinced himself to go take a look, and he certainly wasn’t disappointed by what he found.
“When my daughter, Lynn, and I pulled into the driveway and saw the car parked outside, I thought the same thing would happen that always happened: It would look great from a distance, but when we got close it would look bad. But it didn’t,” Hatcher said. “We took it for a test drive, and the asking price wasn’t too high. I offered them less than they were asking and they took it right away because they needed the money.”
What Hatcher got was probably a little more than he bargained for. The car was one of the few Mustangs that rolled out Michigan for that 1973 dressed in Light Blue, and not only did it have the hard-charging 351 Cobra-Jet engine — 1973 was the last year it was offered – it was in almost pristine shape (less than 50,000 miles) and had been owned for most of its life by a car-coddling Ford employee.
Bob Rozsnyai was employed as a boilermaker at the Rouge plant next door to the Dearborn assembly plant. He ordered himself a new Mustang every few years and in 1973, was able to virtually watch his Light Blue Mach 1 being built. He was eventually convinced to part with the car around 1996, and the Mustang changed hands once more before Hatcher stumbled across it. While researching the car, Hatcher was able to track down the original owner and he says one of the best parts of the whole saga has been the unlikely friendship he and Rozsnyai have been able to strike up — all because of a 35-year-old car they have both owned.
“Getting to know Bob has been one of the best parts (of the whole experience),” Hatcher said. “He was able to watch most of his cars, including the one I have, go right down the assembly line. And he’s just a genuinely interesting person.
“The car had never been driven much, and the people I got it from hadn’t had it long at all. The car basically came to me exactly as it left him … I have looked, during my time in the hobby, at literally hundreds and hundreds of Mach 1 Mustangs, and it’s one of the nicest ones from this time period that I’ve ever seen. The one thing that I found out about these cars from ’71 to ’73, is that they were, as they say, rode hard and put away wet. They were mostly trashed. I finally decided that the smartest thing to do would be to buy the nicest Mach 1 I could find, regardless of the year or equipment, and that’s what I did.
“It has a highly desirable engine, and it’s cool because it has a very different color. All the girls love it!”
Hatcher’s beauty boasts a standard blue interior, traction-lock rear end, radial tires, an AM radio, automatic transmission and no air-conditioning. “Technically, it’s a 1-of-1 car,” he said.
“There isn’t another one that has the exact combination of options this car has.” It was one of the last true muscle cars of its time, and Hatcher has vowed not to baby it. He drives it regularly and takes it to shows. It remains pretty much all-original except for the exhaust system — “the mufflers rusted out, but I still have them,” he said. “I might have to make a trip to the scrap yard and get rid of them, though. My wife (Kim) will tell you, I’m the world’s worst pack rat.”
Hatcher decided to repaint the left rear fender after he says he goofed with a buffing compound, but the rest of the paint is original. His only other concession to non-originality is the spiffy performance wheels and white-letter tires that the Mach 1 rides on. They were a Christmas gift from his son Georgie, who thought the original wheels were a little too pedestrian for a baby blue muscle car. Or course, George still has the original rims, along with the original window stickers and almost everything else that came with the car.
“When I first got it, I was probably a lot more afraid to drive it than I am now,” Hatcher admits. “I had restored other cars, and some of my earlier cars I had worked hard to restore and spent a lot of time on. The problem is when you restore a car to such a high standard, all you do is worry about if it’s gonna rain, or if this is gonna happen or that’s gonna happen … Cars were made to be driven. They were meant to be enjoyed. For awhile I thought restored cars were the ultimate, but now I enjoy original cars that have had a caretaker – that have been lovingly taken care of.”
Perhaps more than anything, Hatcher says the car, in at least some small way, has helped the family cope with loss of oldest daughter Mary Anne, who died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage in 1993.
Not that a car could ever replace a family member — not in a million years — but it has at least helped them find joy and some healing in a familiar place — a wonderful old car. Mary Anne, George figures, would have loved the sweet baby blue ‘Stang.
“She was just the most wonderful gift I could have ever been given, just as my other two kids are the most wonderful gifts,” he says. “It’s funny, but there’s not a time I ever get behind the wheel of the car without thinking of her, or without thinking about my first car.
“Pieces of happiness come in all shapes and sizes. I don’t know really how to say it … It’s just something that we’ve all been able to share.”