"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.
What: '69 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Owner: Rob Ball, hoarder of covetable FE treasures
Hometown: West Hills, CA
Engine: The original engine was long gone when Rob took ownership, but fortunately, he had a spare '69 428CJ in stock. JMS Racing Engines in Monrovia, California, bored it 0.030 inch and fitted the JE pistons to the Ford "Le Mans" rods and balanced them with the SCJ steel crank.
Heads: The '69 Ford Cobra Jet castings from the same engine were treated to a gasket-match and bowl work and then fitted with 2.19/1.73-inch Manley valves and Isky springs. A set of Erson 1.76:1 roller rockers tops the heads off.
Camshaft: To get the CJ breathing, a Crower hydraulic cam replaces the stock stick; this one has 0.547/0.549-inch lift and 224/232 degrees duration at 0.050.
Induction: One of the few non-stock pieces that are visible on the Cobra Jet is the Blue Thunder intake manifold, and even it's topped with a factory CJ-spec Holley 735-cfm carb carrying a Ford part number. A Carter CJ-spec X-type mechanical fuel pump feeds the Holley and the shaker scoop still fits just fine.
Exhaust: Rob dyno-tested the 428 before installing it in the '69 and found, among other things, that tubular headers were only worth about 15 hp at the power peak. So even though they did boost low-end torque a bit, stock iron manifolds feed the 212-inch custom exhaust with Walker turbo mufflers. The system terminates with stock chrome splitter tips.
Transmission: The original C6 was rebuilt by Pro Trans in Palmdale, California, using a Ford "R" servo and then fitted with a 10-inch, 3,200-stall converter from Continental.
Rearend: The factory 9-inch housing was still under the car when Rob got it and still running the original 3.91:1 gears on the Traction-Lok. Now it has a Detroit Locker diff running 4.30:1 cogs in the hopes of improved e.t. The axles are factory 31-spline.
Front suspension: Most of the suspension is stock, including the 560-pound springs, 1516-inch swaybar, and even the Autolite shocks, which Rob had in his stash of N.O.S. goodies. The Mach has power steering with a 16.0:1 ratio as well.
Rear suspension: Stock five-leaf rear springs and Autolite shocks help plant the rear axle without the aid of traction devices. So far Rob has managed a best 60-foot time of 1.88 on sticky tires.
Brakes: Stock front 11-inch single-piston disc/rear 10x212-inch drum.
Wheels/tires: Stock-type rally wheels were custom altered from 14x7 to 15x7 and wrapped with repro Goodyear Polyglas GT rubber in F70-15 and L60-15, front/rear.
Body: The stock sheetmetal remains, unaltered but straightened by Euro Tech in Van Nuys, California, the same guys that laid down the factory hue of Acapulco Blue with factory-style black accents. New Mach 1 graphic decals were then installed.
Interior: The Mach 1 package included the deluxe interior, the most prominent aspect being the high-back bucket seats with red striping. The deluxe woodgrain dash is the other main focus, featuring the passenger-side clock. Rob's is stock down to the N.O.S. "rim-blow" steering wheel (that's a type of horn switch, by the way).
"I wanted it to look stock but run hard." Rob Ball