Classic Car Buyers Guide: 1969-1970 Mustang Mach 1
By Patrick Smith
The Mustang was tame until mid 1968 when Ford released a 428 CJ engine package and it became a full blooded muscle car. Capitalizing on a sensational new body, Ford created the Mach1 option in 1969. The 1969 and 1970 generation Mustangs are the most desirable Ford pony cars, holding rank over the 1971-73 models. If you're shopping for one of these evergreen collectibles, read on and learn how to pick a primo stallion instead of a gelding. The Mach 1 and sports roof models are the hottest collectibles and ones we'll focus on.
Year to Year changes
Ford went all out for 1969 offering ten engines including two inline six cylinders. There were three body styles available, a coupe, a fastback and a convertible. You could order your Mustang standard, with fancy Grande trim, a light performance model called GT or a serious performance model called Mach 1. Competition-oriented drivers went for either the BOSS 302 or BOSS 429 model. They were expensive, custom jobs and only connected people got these cars which bore little resemblance to standard production models.
The 1969 Mustang featured twin headlamps and scoops on the rear quarter panels on the fastback body. The hardtop and convertibles used reversed fender scoops near the rear wheel well. The '69 models had simple tail lamps without trim bezels or deck garnishes even on the Mach 1. The performance Mach 1 used reflective tape stripes in various colors which were selected to compliment exterior and interior colors. The GT model used plain taped stripes. The interior was sporty with an emphasis on luxury. Teakwood trim was used on door panels, dashboards and optional steering wheels. Highback bucket seats were used on Mach 1s while plain sports roofs came with low back bucket seats. Bench seats were available but understandably rare.
1969 Mach 1 has dual headlamps, reflective tape stripes and quarter panel scoop.
1970 was a carryover year so Mustang had only minor changes to the grille and incidental trim. The grille put the horse emblem in the center and switched back to two headlamps. Mach 1s used a different grille with integral turn signals. The rear quarter panel scoops were removed from all models. The tail lamps were new with fussy metal bezels while Mach 1 cars added a black checked trim panel and die cast Mach 1 letters on the trunk lid. Reflective tape stripes were dropped in favor of large die cast rocker panel moldings with Mach1 identification. The GT model disappeared. Fastbacks, convertibles and coupes were still available. The engines were reduced to two six cylinders and five V8s.
Drivetrains & Popular Options
The most common engine you'll find is the small block V8 such as the 302 or 351 Windsor two barrels. The 351 Cleveland was available in 1970 Mustangs only. A few late model 1969s were made with them but I haven't seen one yet. The favored engines among muscle car enthusiasts are the 428 Cobrajet and 428 Super Cobra Jet, ( CJ and SCJ). These big block mills are strong, heavy and demand premium gas. Their strong points include reliability and availability with either the very strong C-6 automatic or TopLoader four speed manual transmissions. If you're looking for straight six power, I'd stick with the 250 cubic inch version for better torque and resale value.
The 428 Cobrajet is the most desirable regular production engine, this is an 'R' code Ram Air version.
Popular options include the Mach 1 package which was only available as a fastback. The Mach 1 includes premium interior with highback bucket seats, full instrumentation including tach and clock, teakwood trim and Mach 1 identification. The 351 Windsor is the base mill, and anything from the 351 four barrel up to the 428 SCJ is optional. Other popular options include the shaker hood scoop, magnum 500 steel wheels, front and rear spoilers, rear window louvers and high visibility 'Grabber" paint.
The 1970 Mach 1 has single headlamps, different grille and no side stripes.
The GT package was a 1969 only model, replaced by Mach 1 in 1970. The GT was a basic version of the Mach 1 with different stripes and no matte black hood treatment. When it comes to the Mustang luxury options you'll find items such as air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and stereo 8 track systems are more common on convertibles or the upscale Grande series. Bench seats were offered but are scarce and may only be a plus in a suitable model such as a convertible. The convertible itself is a desirable model as sales peaked in 1966, making the 1969 and 1970 era ragtops relatively low production. The only downside is you're usually left with a straight six or 302 for power, the top option being a super rare 428 which Ford made only 47 for 1970.
Things to Watch For: When shopping for a Mustang, you must remember these cars have been collected and restored for over 20 years now. The hobby was quite different in 1983 when these pony cars first caught fire with baby boomers. There were fewer reproduction parts available and the cars weren't worth as much restored, compared to today. You might encounter a car with a rear clip welded on from a donor vehicle as a means of repairing rust or collision damage. Some coupes have been converted into fastbacks this way as well. Look for spot weld marks starting just past the leaf springs on the floors and rocker panels. This may be concealed with filler. Check for an incorrect differential.
Mach 1 interior has lots of teakwood trim. This car has desirable rimblow steering wheel, four speed and pedal dress up.
The Mustangs are unibody cars without separate chassis and body. Instead the frame is boxed steel spot welded with special reinforcement braces called torque boxes near the firewall. The rocker rails are part of the door sills. The shock towers and lower frame horns are welded together as an integral unit and the lower engine sub cradle is connected to the front floor pans. This forms your chassis and these are the weak spots on a Mustang. Replacement parts are available, but consider the cost of installation when calculating a purchase price. On convertibles, make sure the reinforcement brace is still on the bottom. Sometimes collision repairs or early restorations left out this part or used a homebuilt set up. For exterior body panels, rust was an issue on the doors, front fenders and rear deck, particularly the leaf spring perches and tail lamp housings.
1970 Mach 1 rear has large stop lamp chrome bezels, black honeycomb appliquÃ© and die cast Mach 1 letters.
Accident damage is frequently found in front suspensions with bent, misaligned strut rod braces and shock tower damage. Often the lower shock tower is pulled back into place using a porta-jack and the wrinkles smoothed out with body filler. Look for abnormal wear patterns on tires or unusual number of shims on one side of suspension. Sometimes there will be misalignment of the tires due to incorrect placement of new torque boxes and front braces during restoration. One wheel is farther ahead than the other. While it may not pose driving problems, such a prominent defect is a deal killer for many buyers.
Project cars still appear, the things to check are solid bodies and original drive trains on high performance CJ models.
This car has fire damage, but the front end, body and engine are intact.
Verification & Documenting
Ford enthusiasts are fortunate that the major engine and performance package options are included in the VIN number. The 428 CJ was available in regular or Ram Air Induction form and each have their own engine codes in the VIN. Ram Air 428s are 'R' code engines, regular induction 428s are 'Q' code engines. Although the Ram Air version is very desirable, the Q code is quite rare and has a following as well. The 351 engine was available in Windsor and Cleveland versions in 1970 but both shared the same 'H' VIN code. Further inspection will determine which engine you have. Windsors have the intake manifold plumbed for antifreeze, the Cleveland engine does not. The cylinder heads are quite different between the two engines with the Cleveland using staggered valves and massive ports for high rpm flow.
If your car has buck tags, a further clue to verifying Mach 1 status is the presence of 'TT' on the buck tag. This means matte black hood treatment which was a Mach 1 feature. Regular sports roofs and GT cars don't have that code. The metal door tag repeats this info along with transmission, axle , interior and paint code. They've been reproduced so don't rely on them exclusively.
The 428 engines had an optional set up called Super Cobrajet (SCJ.) This package included an engine oil cooler mounted on the radiator support, heavy duty engine components and a 3.90 or 4.30 rear axle ratio. The easiest way to determine if your car is an SCJ is by checking the rear axle ratio. An essential documentation service called Marti Auto Works provides data on exactly how your Mustang was equipped from the factory. You supply them the VIN number and for a small fee, they'll tell you how that car was equipped from the factory. Older cars may have Ford documentation before Marti bought the licensing rights to this service. If the car has no build sheet or is missing the door tag, that service will save you time ordering the right parts, interior and paint on project cars.
By 1969, a partial VIN was included on engine blocks to assist in theft recovery. On Ford 351s you'll find the partial VIN on the top of engine behind the intake manifold between two bolt holes for the bell housing. In the 390 and 428s, it's the same deal and located on the passenger side rear of block below the cylinder head. It's often faint and in rough cast. On unmolested power trains you might get lucky and find the metal dog tag still bolted on the intake manifold. It describes engine displacement, model year, revision number, year and month of production and the build sheet code number for engine on bottom right. Of course these tags can and have been faked so verify the dates with the ones on the block and heads. The 1969 and 1970 428 CJ and SCJ engines were reengineered and have many different pieces so it's worth checking this out if you're paying big money for one. Everything from bell housings to fan blades and shaker equipment were changed.
The transmissions were given partial VINs and you'll find them on the top of the transmission case on four speeds. The automatics had pre-stamped metal tags indicating model type on top, a build date on the bottom. The partial VIN is stamped on the top of the case in the middle on a flat pad. Sometimes it's close to the bell housing area on a thin lip. The last major decoding work is the rear axle. The favored unit is the Ford 9-inch carrier preferably in Nodular Iron. There is a metal tag on the rear cover stamped with axle code, ratio and these will identify what you have. Since the tags are removable, don't rely on this alone. It's wise to check when the axle was made to ensure it was factory equipment.