Steven Van Cleve's 1969 Mustang Mach 1
(from Volume 28, Issue 335)

story by owner Steven Van Cleve, photos by Michael B. Kelly


This Mustang Mach One rolled off the assembly line in Metuchen, New Jersey during January of 1969. The Metuchen assembly plant was one of three plants building Mustangs in 1969. The other plants were Dearborn, Michigan and San Jose, California. This was the first year for the Mach One package and was featured in candy apple red on the Mustang sales brochure. The Mach One package included a 351 cubic inch V-8, improved suspension, unique luxury interior, blackout hood with hood pins, chrome GT style wheels, and side stripes. This Mustang was built with many additional options, including a 428 cubic inch Cobra Jet engine, shaker hood scoop, C6 automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, power disc brakes, factory tachometer, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

The original owner was a military man who bought it new in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He ordered the car and it was built as a retail order. Transfers for military personnel were common and the Mustang was on its way to Tacoma, Washington when it overheated during the summer of 1973. The engine needed overhaul and the owner began negotiating with the Ford dealership. He traded in the car and promptly drove away in his new Ford. The car had the usual door dings and paint fading from being a daily driver. The interior was in very good shape and the body was rust free.

The car sat in storage at the dealership waiting for reconditioning and eventually for sale. During that time the Arab oil embargo happened. The resulting gas lines and surging pump prices caused the value of a big block Mustang to drop quickly. Since it needed an engine rebuild and some paint work, it would have cost more to recondition the Mustang than it was worth at the time. My dad, Ladd Van Cleve, was a master mechanic at the dealership and he saw something special about this Mustang. He was able to take advantage of the times and bought the car for a very low price.

Once the Mustang was in my dad’s garage, progress was extremely slow getting the car to be up and running again. Dad was in no hurry to overhaul the 428CJ and was busy with his favorite car, a ‘57 Thunderbird. I pushed hard for dad to finish the engine, but it was over twenty years later before the Mustang finally ran again. Dad was a wise man and knew a young man driving a 428CJ Mustang with bias ply tires, and a lead foot wasn’t good combination. Dad’s wisdom is likely the reason why we are both still here today.

When dad retired, progress was finally underway. The 428CJ was overhauled using all original Ford parts. The cast iron intake was replaced with an aluminum police interceptor manifold. The original 735 CFM carburetor was rebuild and reinstalled. The original distributor was retained and converted to electronic ignition. Dad was a master with the C6 transmission and he rebuilt it, including a shift kit. The air conditioning works well and is still charged with R12. The candy apple red has been repainted and the front seats have been recovered. Otherwise, this is an original survivor car. It rides on the original wheels with the 1969 Goodyear Polyglas spare tire still in the trunk.

The car resides with me here in the Orlando area. It was shipped from Washington State when I moved to Florida. It shares a garage with dad’s 57 Thunderbird, which I inherited. Both cars are considered members of the family. CN