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ESM 2005 Project Feature

In 1969 there was no Stealth Bomber, but there was the Mustang Mach I!
Text and Photos by J.R. Janicek

The Money Pit by J.R. Janicek

In 1969 there was no Stealth Bomber and there was no land speed record that eclipsed the speed of sound, but there was the equivalent of a sonic boom that caused heads to turn in the direction of the Ford Motor Company. That sonic boom is more appropriately named the Mustang Mach I. With the appearance of a fighter jet, the Mach I beckoned muscle car enthusiasts to climb into its cockpit for a ride.

One such enthusiast that was seduced by the Mach I, with its "black-leather-jacket" look and fiery attitude, is Dwayne Fields of Franklin, Tennessee. Like most vintage Mustang enthusiasts, Dwayne will be the first to admit that although the original Mustang might be America's first "pony car," Ford's entry into serious muscle really began with the Mach I. Taking styling cues from the in-your-face Shelby Cobras, the Mach I states: "I am the big horse in the neighborhood now."

Dwayne saddled up his big horse alright and was even willing to go the extra mile. The extra mile in this case is the modification and improvement of an R-coded 1969 Mach I Mustang. After 30 years had passed under the floorboard, it was time to call on the talents of an expert, Steve Carter of Carter Kustom from Brentwood, Tennessee. By the way if you are just now joining us, Mach I Mustang fans, you may want to refer to the build up, or should we say re-build, of this car which was in the last issue of ESM. Otherwise, hold on tight for the details of how this car became Dwayne's "Money Pit."

For starters, the car you see here, though it is stock in appearance exterior wise, it has very much been modified and improved, hence landing itself in our "neck of the woods" and eventually into an ESM photo shoot. In our special project article we combined the buildup into one, but to be forthright, the car had been re-built twice and improved upon since 1998 to present time.

The re-build initially started out when Steve discovered rust in the floor board and frame. Steve had to cut out the floor board to repair the rusted portions and of course, in all cases such as this, Dwayne liked Steve's work so much he decided to let Steve do the dirty deed of chopping up an R-coded car. Now, when we say chop, we don't mean chop as in "bad," but chop as in "good." We can assure you that Steve does not do "choppy" work!

From the floorboard Steve moved forward a bit and solved an age old problem these particular cars had. over heating. This was solved by cutting off the stock front end and making it a "free air" design. The new front end was rebuilt with two inch steel tubing styled support hence removing the stuffiness of the engine compartment. Finishing off the engine compartment, Steve also smoothed out the firewall to give it a smoother sleeker appearance.

After the front end was smoothed, perfected, and a mock up engine was installed to check for clearance issues, it was finally ready for the paint booth. Steve said it was difficult to match up the nose paint, but after playing mad scientist for a while, with various colors of green paint, Steve eventually came up with a close match that was sprayed on the entire front end with six coats of clear applied to it. On the left hand corner of the firewall, Steve also signed the car's name: "The Money Pit."

Speaking of the engine compartment, while driving to a local convenience store for gas, the original engine. well. blew up. This gave Steve the opportunity to improve the power plant as well. The 428 Cobra Jet engine was the big dog for Mustangs. It added a premium to the price of a Mach 1, but was the choice of high-performance enthusiasts. Dwayne would be no exception, especially when Steve is doing all of the work! The 428 SCJ (Super Cobra Jet) engine, with a solid lifter cam, received ported and polished Edelbrock heads, and a one-off serpentine belt system custom fabricated by Steve. Once the engine had been worked over, fine tuned, and perfected to Steve's standards, the engine was disassembled, sanded smooth, and painted green to match the rest of the car.

After the paint dried, the engine was placed back into the engine compartment where it received various polished billet components, which were sprayed with a clear coat to preserve luster and ease the cleaning process. To help with hood spring clearance issues, the master brake cylinder had to be redesigned to an offset one-off billet version.

Luckily for Steve, Dwayne has a similar philosophy that there is no such thing as "too much power." With that said, Steve went right to work installing a Nitrous Oxide System which takes this pony car right over the edge in the realm of all things fast! The bottle was mounted in the trunk of the car with a custom one-off side loading bottle bracket made out of " hand polished aluminum. The bottle also received the "green" treatment along with the words "Go Baby Go" painted on the side. With the new nitrous system, the factory shaker hood had to be modified as well to solve clearance problems with the higher manifold and nitrous plate. A bucket and pan had to be made to attach the center air breather element to the hood. Of course with all the "VROOM" this car was going to have, Steve decided to add a little attitude to the factory hood as well with the addition of a Carter Kustom specialty... ghost flames!

With all of the go and no slow, that could be a bad thing, so Steve upgraded the brake system to larger diameter disc brakes. The front discs consist of 12" cross drilled rotors and the rear discs consist of 11" Ford Explorer disc brakes attached to a Ford 9" posi rear end with 355 gears.

Next on Steve's list was the exhaust system. The new exhaust consists of sectioned 2" jet hot coated mandrel bent steel tubing and dual Flowmaster mufflers, which is what helps this muscle car breathe with relative ease!

Keeping all the ponies under control can be a daunting task, so Steve installed a new transmission to take control! The transmission required raising the tranny hump 1" for proper clearance. This had to be done in order to make the new transmission removable with relative ease. A custom plate covers the hole in the hump which is bolted into place. In true Carter Kustom fashion, Steve also gave the tranny a new shifter that screams custom. Made out of hand polished " inch aluminum, the shifter lever is topped off with the Carter Kustom classic trademark. a skull shifter knob!

Moving into the interior, Steve left everything pretty much stock except for the custom shift lever (as noted above), a true four point roll bar, Corbeau four-point harness buckets, and a custom steering wheel.

For the most part, the exterior of this car was left alone (including the school bus stripes). Naturally, Steve couldn't let the car out of his garage without upgrading the stock wheels for larger 18" Vintique replicas of Ford Magnum wheels. The polished billet wheels were sealed with Zoop seal to pro-long the luster.

Other minor exterior modifications include removing the chin spoiler, shaved front license plate mounting holes, and the removal of the ugly black mud flaps. Finishing off the aggressive look of this Mach I, as well as this re-build, is a three inch drop all the way around with adjustable coilovers up front and lowering blocks in back.

Dwayne's 1969 Mach I Mustang has a perfect combination of show and go. No doubt it is fully capable in both realms and as long as people like Steve are around, there is no doubt it will stay that way!

Shout Out: "Special thanks to Steve of Carter Kustom for his awesome talents!" -Dwayne


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