Throwback Thursday C&D Mach1 Review
This Thursday I did some quick digging on the interwebs and found another cool Car and Driver Mustang article. I love reading what people thought of what we consider legends today.
Outwardly a blend of dragster and Trans-Am sedan, the sum is far short of its parts.
- JAN 1970
- BY CAR AND DRIVER
- PHOTOGRAPHY BY BOB BENYAS
It may just be that this time the stylists I have done too good a job. Look at the Mustang Mach I and you expect miracles—drive it and they are not forthcoming. The pieces are there—most of them anyway—but the sum is far short of its parts.
Understand that we're not saying high speed is a new deal. Speed has been the thing with cars since the very first bucking, snorting horseless carriage appeared to change the ways of the world. If early, awkward devices were slow, at least the fenders were shaped like birds in flight and the radiator ornaments were windblown figurines. Who could forget the intuitively streamlined boat-tailed speedsters of the Twenties or the Chrysler Airflow of the Thirties or the GM fastbacks of the late Forties? Those were the happy, innocent days when a teardrop was the slipperiest thing going. Can you imagine telling Henry Ford that what the 999 really needed was a chopped off tail and a spoiler?
But now, in The Year of the Automobile 1969, your car can't even be clothed in semi-Edwardian fashion unless at least one end—and preferably both—has flaps. Enter the Mustang Mach I, fashionably spoiled at the rear and not lacking competition inspiration on any other part of its anatomy either.
Outwardly the Mach I is a blend of dragster and Trans-Am sedan. In a year when every manufacturer offers hood scoops, Ford outdoes them all with an AA/Fuel dragster-style bug-catcher sticking right out through a hole in the hood. Even more than that, it's only partially ersatz. The scoop is authentically shaped right down to the ribs that adorn its exterior, and since it really fastens to the top of the air cleaner, instead of the hood, it spends all of its waking hours vibrating hack and forth with engine motion just like the real thing. That's just a start. The hood—which is almost entirely flat black—is held down in front by locking pins in the true NASCAR/road-racer tradition and so the retainer pins don't disappear into the hands of the first sticky fingered collector to come along, they've been secured to the car with plastic-covered steel cables.
Let no one hint that Dearborn stylists are revisionists when they assault the mirror problem, either. The outside rear-view mirrors are housed in body-colored fairings to cheat the wind. Scoops are always good things to have, even if they aren't functional, and that's justification enough for the mock air gobblers on the rear fenders just below the C-pillars.
From its pinned hood to its tape-striped spoiler, the Mach I is the 1969 edition of what Ford Motor Company stylists think you want in a specialty car. It still looks like a Mustang but it's the toughest one yet.
Since the basic Mustang shape has been a howling success in the market, you can't blame Ford for sticking with a winner. But you can blame it for excess. Since the long hood/short deck styling theme has been rewarding, more of the same should be even better, right? So for '69 the Mustang grew 3.8 inches—all ahead of the front wheels. Believe us, that is the last thing the Mustang needed. The test car with its 428 Cobra Jet engine has 2140 of its 3607 lbs. balanced on the front wheels and that's with a full gas tank. Fifty nine point three per cent of its weight on the front wheels. Double grim. Any rear-wheel-drive car would be hamstrung with that kind of weight distribution and the Mustang is no exception. It can't begin to put its power to the ground for acceleration. And, when it comes to handling, the most charitable thing to say is that the Mustang is all thumbs. Well, fetlocks anyway. We expect a lot from a package as bold as the Mach I—but it doesn't come through.
The big 428 Cobra Jet needs very little introduction to performance enthusiasts. However, shoehorning it into the engine room is a task with a difficulty-quotient exceeded only by changing the spark plugs once it's there. Conservatively rated at 335 hp at 5200 rpm it's the same prime mover that pushes NHRA super stock Mustangs through the quarter in the mid-11s with speeds in the 120-mph range. The 10.6 to 1 compression ratio combined with free-breathing cylinder heads, and an intake manifold topped by a 735 cubic-feet-per-minute Holley 4-bbl. carburetor, all allow the Cobra Jet to turn out an admirable quantity of energy in spite of its fairly long 3.98 inch stroke.
Torque is its most important product and torque is available on instant notice without having to climb high into the rpm scale. The standard dual exhaust system, which ends in two pairs of chrome tipped pipes under the rear bumper, allows the Cobra Jet to rumble in a fashion that puts its competition to shame. It's so loud at full throttle that we wonder how it will fare with the law in some of the more picayunish states like California and Pennsylvania.
With all of this—and a 3.91 axle ratio to hoot—the Mach I was pretty well prepared for the acceleration part of the test. That is to say it was all ready except for its built-in lack of traction. Even the F70 Goodyear Polyglas tires failed to help much and quarter-mile times suffered accordingly. Our best efforts resulted in a 14.3-second run at 100 mph but most runs were clustered around 14.4 seconds. Now this isn't slow—let there be no misunderstanding about that—but the potential of the big Cobra Jet doesn't really show up when you have to part-throttle most of the way through low gear. In this case the automatic transmission is clearly the most advantageous setup because it allows the driver better control of wheelspin. Even so, anyone wanting to get the most out of his Cobra Jet should think of big sticky tires as a necessity.