"I actually started this as a concours restoration,but then decided, what fun is that?" Rob Ball
Wouldn't it be a bummer if you finally got the musclecar of your dreams only to be overcome with the notion that it was too valuable to abuse as God intended? It's the sort of drag we see lots of guys coping with these days, when Shelby Mustangs and Hemi 'Cudas rival vintage Ferraris for top bidding at major auctions. Even lesser stuff commands enough coin to make some guys think twice before side-stepping the clutch.
But then there are those who've managed to find the balance; the middle ground between museum piece and street/strip star. Rob Ball is familiar with the value and rarity of '60s-era Ford speed parts; we showed you a glimpse of his vast stash in the July '05 issue. Along with parts, Rob has been gathering significant cars for years, including a factory lightweight Galaxie, a '67 Shelby GT500, and this '69 factory R-code Mach 1. That R-code part means Cobra Jet to you Ford neophytes. This one also has factory Drag Pack, making it among the more covetable non-Shelby Mustangs made. But rather than packing the Mach in a hermetically sealed chamber for the rest of eternity, Rob actually runs it down the quarter with some regularity.
"I remember seeing the exact same car on the showroom floor when I was about 10 years old, shopping for a new family car with my dad," recalls Rob, giving some insight to his Ford fetish. "It was a Cobra Jet with a shaker hood and it was Acapulco Blue, though it may have been a four-speed." Not surprising then that when he came across a similar specimen fifteen years later, Rob needed to have it, even if it wasn't the cleanest example on the market. "It was pretty beat when I got it back in 1985. The previous owner had taken it partially apart to restore, but didn't get far. It was sitting in his backyard when I first saw it."
Apparently, the Mach had spent the '70s being abused, either on the street, the track, or both. The original 428 CJ was long gone, replaced by a standard passenger-car 428, but that merely provided the opportunity to make improvements. Rob explains, "I wanted to drive it and use it for what it was intended, but I wanted the factory look."
Rob's parts scrounging paid off, as he already had a '69 CJ motor in stock, along with the necessary goodies to step it up to Super Cobra Jet status, those being the Ford "Le Mans" connecting rods and the forged crankshaft. To pump it up a bit, Rob had the heads mildly worked, stepped up the cam, and topped it off with a high-rise aluminum intake, though it's mostly obscured by the factory shaker scoop. Experimentation during dyno sessions showed that tubular headers offered a relatively mild improvement in power that Rob felt didn't outweigh the nightmare of fitting them to the chassis. Instead, a 212-inch custom exhaust connects to the iron manifolds.
The somewhat concealed enhancements continue to the fortified numbers-matching C6 trans, now fitted with a 3,000-stall converter and the factory-installed 9-inch rear, which was recently treated to a gear swap. "The last time I ran it with the 3.91s it was going through the traps at about 4,700 rpm. The 4.30s should put it right where it ought to be at the top of the track." The Mach has already run corrected high 12s at LACR, so observed 12s may be coming right up.
There are a few subtle outward alterations, like the custom-made 15x7 rally wheels, which when wrapped in fat Goodyear Polyglas rubber give it the Krass and Bernie vibe without necessarily looking modified. The only other obvious clue to the deviations made to this Mach is an audible one emanating from the stock exhaust tips, but even purists should appreciate that.