For about two hours, Bobby Curtis was a rock star. A crowd of gapers had gathered as soon as the engine was killed, headers tinking and fan still spinning, to get a peek at the source of the rumpity rump fairground noise and shimmering pool of light.
We were sucked in, and waiting a bit too long to get to the driver conjured worries that we might not get a shot at all. He had a line of photographers shoving cards in his hands and trying to lure him elsewhere for a shoot. Everyone could tell this car was fresh, never seen, and barely dry. It's a magazine hoard's finest prize. Bobby looked amazed.
It wasn't his first time in the limelight; Bobby used to race flat-track motorcycles in the '70s when he was just 15 years old at Castle Rock Race Park in Washington state. And he was good. He competed on the clay oval with a Bultaco or a Honda 350 for years then switched to open-road racing on a Honda Interceptor, all the while collecting wins in Portland, Seattle, and up into Canada. Then one day in 1984 while he was sitting on the starting grid, he thought once about his newborn daughter; he quit that day with a 20-point lead in the championship and hung up the leathers.
The miracle here is that he somehow managed to stay married and fight the speed jones for nearly 20 years using a lucrative motorcycle repair business, a job at Boeing, and finally part ownership of an Infiniti dealership in the Seattle area. It couldn't last forever. In 2002, he wanted to know if he still had the salsa brava, the mustard, the ability to fling a bike on one wheel around the oval, albeit in the old-guys' class. "I don't remember it hurting so much after a crash," he mused, "but I learned that I still had what it takes to win." Bobby picked up a couple of wins and suffered a nasty high-side wipeout. The next season, he just didn't want to go back.
Sure, he'd stopped racing, but he still wanted to go fast, so he started looking into something for the street. Maybe musclecars. "I remember seeing the red-and-black '69 Mach 1 when it first came out, so I went looking for one of those."
He started looking at Mach 1s with the red-and-black paint, 428s, and shaker hoods. "At the time, I didn't know the difference between the '69 and the '70," he said. "Then, as I looked, I began noticing the head- and taillights and the locking ignition, things like that. The '70 had fewer scoops and looked sleeker than the '69." He liked the '70 better because it was more subdued, and he wondered if you could still buy them. Like the rest of us, he consulted eBay for a possible impulse buy.
He probably looked amazed again after realizing he'd just bought the '70 Mach off eBay sight unseen for a wad of cash. He was sitting behind the computer at work and made the decision with 30 seconds left to bid. "I sat back and wondered, 'What the heck did I just do?'"
What: A '70 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Owner: Bobby Curtis
Hometown: Renton, Washington, just south of Seattle.
Occupation: He is part owner and parts-and-service director for two Infiniti dealerships in the Seattle area.
Saga: He blew up the engine within the first hour of ownership. He stripped the interior, frontend, and everything but the sheetmetal. He had a guy come over to finish the wet-sanding and polishing of the body while Bobby went through the drivetrain.
Brakes: The car didn't want to stop, so he replaced the stock parts with a Baer 13-inch Track system for Mustangs. He said it just bolted in behind the 17s.
Engine: The 351 Windsor has the numbers-matching block bored 0.030-over. It went to a machine shop to have the block checked and came back with an 11.0:1 rotator and an Honest Performance mystery cam. Bobby bolted on the Victor Jr. heads, the intake, the Speed Demon 850 carb, and the MSD ignition stuff.
Exhaust draggin: The set that came with the car was cracked, so on went the Hooker Super Comp long tubes after they were ceramic coated. The Mustang has 3-inch pipes back to the Flowmasters with tips from MagnaFlow.
Wheels: The car came with 17-inch Edelbrock 454s. He had them rechromed and added the Pirelli P Zero Rossos, 235/45R17 front and 245/45R17 rear.
Front suspension: When he first drove the car, it was all over the place with the 17-inch wheels on it. After surveying some local import tuner kids, he decided to use a Total Control Products rack-and-pinion steering setup. After a little mounting-bracket refab, the kit bolted right in. He says, "It still won't steer like a new Infiniti. It's a handful but a lot better."
The pump: Bobby bought it with the power-steering rack from Total Control. It was sold separately and was valved for high-speed track action, so the wheel needed a lot of effort to turn. Now it's valved to turn corners and park.
Rear suspension: He went through the 9-inch rearend and added the factory Traction-Lok from Northwest Differential he found on, yes, eBay. He kept the 3.00 gear that was in there and added some Shelby traction bars.
Paint: Brilliant Silver to match his hair. The original owner painted the stripes.
Transmission: To get the Tremec five-speed to work, Bobby bought a clutch and brake-pedal assembly out of a four-speed car. Then he cut a hole in the firewall for the clutch master cylinder and attached the pushrod directly to the pedal arm. The slave, bellhousing, and gearbox just bolted right in. He purchased the Tremec kit from Dark Horse Performance in Renton, Washington. The headers go on last.
Interior: Everything is either eBay or Mustangs Unlimited. The clock was purchased already refurbished, and Sunmark Upholstery in Kirkland, Washington, recovered the seats.
Tricky stuff: For the factory tach to work, he used an MSD tach adapter. He still needed the original harness to get everything else to work properly, so he bought one on eBay already rebuilt.
Power: On the dyno, he saw 485 hp and 425 lb-ft at 6,000. We're thinking the cam is big.
Stupid stuff: He won First Place in the Street Modified class at the Mustang Round Up in Seattle, then during some other photo shoot, he drained the battery with the lights on and the door open. Then had to steal a battery out of a 'Cuda to make our shoot. All at a Ford show.