When David McGorman drove his '70 Mach 1 into the parking lot at the MCA Nationals in Augusta, Georgia, this past Labor Day weekend, he caused a buzz among the troops. The light blue striping on the hood, rocker panels, and front valance certainly didn't look original, nor did the vintage Spyder rims from Motor Wheel Company. But the car emitted a certain air of authenticity. The owner, too, broadcast the same deportment. What, exactly, was this Mustang? And who was this man?
As the white fastback idled through the parking lot, the clunkety-clunk of the 4.30-geared Detroit Locker could not be heard above the unmuffled exhausts. Once parked and the hood opened, OEM-ophiles spied the engine oil cooler, which meant the 428 Cobra Jet was an SCJ. The Shaker, resplendent in blue, was factory passage to the R-code ram-air 428.
Inside, a B&M Dual Gate shifter was more evidence of a modified heritage, as were the tach and oil-pressure gauges mounted on the steering column. White Hooker headers and about 5 feet of "chamber pipe" gave the car a dragstrip appearance.
Rising out of the driver's seat was a man in his late fifties with a ruddy white complexion, hazel eyes, and a gray and black speckled moustache matching the color of a scruffy beard that blended into long sideburns. David McGorman wore blue jeans faded more from wear than fashion, a plaid pullover sport shirt, and a new baseball cap reading "Ford Motor Company Quality Care Masters."
We discovered David wasn't a collector. He had purchased the Mach 1, which had been part of the Lawman Performance Team, back in 1970.
"Al Eckstrand had the car. He took it around the world to tour Air Force and Army bases. And I think it was in Vietnam."
Most Mustang people have heard of the famous Lawman Boss 429s, a pair of supercharged and fuel-injected Mustangs that developed 1,200 hp. The Boss 429s were the centerpieces of the Lawman Performance Team. Lesser known are the six Lawman Mach 1s. They were used by the "American Command Drag Team," which was later called the "United States Performance Team."
This project was the brainchild of Elton "Al" Eckstrand, a lawyer from Detroit and one of the original Dodge Ramcharger drivers in the early '60s. In 1969, he got the idea to do something for the military. The war in Vietnam was raging. Cars were hotter than ever. Servicemen, no doubt, longed to see the hot cars.
Steve Strange, in his book Boss 429: Performance Mustang Style, says Eckstrand and Jack Watson headed the special project. Their mission was "driving clinics and performance exhibitions," primarily in the Pacific and European theaters. Locations included Japan, Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii, and Southeast Asia. One of the Boss 429s was driven on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Coral Sea.
David believes his car was last on tour in Sweden. At the time, in 1970, he was working at the Ford transmission plant in Livonia, Michigan. He heard that one of the Mach 1s was for sale. Al Eckstrand had the car at his house in Grosse Pointe.
"I went over, looked at the car, and drove it, but I really couldn't make up my mind to buy it. But eventually I did. About two weeks later, I went back and bought the car. I've had it ever since." Technically, David is the original owner because the car was first titled in his name.
David left Detroit in 1971. Originally from West Virginia, he went back home to take care of his parents. Once they passed away, he moved to Virginia, then to South Carolina. He now works in Greenville as a technician at a Ford dealership.
From 1970 through about 1980 or 1981, David competed on the dragstrip. We couldn't resist asking how fast the Mustang was. "In the eighth-mile, I could get it into the 6s. And it would run low 11s, high 10s in the quarter. I could run 10.90s with it at around 129 mph."
These numbers don't correspond to a stock SCJ, of course, because he had modified the engine to Super Stock specs and ran slicks. Later, he rebuilt the engine to stock specifications and pretty much let it sit in his garage. Only lately has he bothered to show the car.
The good news for collectors is this Mach 1 is a 4,500-mile original that remains pretty much "as-is" after returning from its world tour in late 1970. Eckstrand had removed the Lawman decals, but incredibly, the paint remains original. Basically, it's just been cleaned up. What you see here is what the military men saw in 1970.