Gordon Gaub hardly has to imagine what it would've been like if he'd taken a different approach to the restoration of his '70 Cobra Jet Mach 1. Both of the cars spread across these pages are owned by the North Bend, Washington resident, and both were restored with markedly different emphasis. For as great as it may be to possess the pink slips to two of Ford's premier muscle Mustangs, Gordon wasn't interested in twin restorations.
In this case, two stock efforts would surely have resulted in nearly identical cars; other than color, these '70 CJs came equipped remarkably similar. For starters, both obviously share the substantive Mach 1 package, and both were built at Ford's historic Dearborn Assembly Plant. Furthermore, each car consisted of an identical drivetrain, including the ram-air 428, close-ratio four-speed, and 3.00 geared Traction-Lok 9-inch rear. Of course, both share the Mach's deluxe interior along with the optional fold-down rear seat, though from there, there are a few small deviations. One car has a factory tach, the other has factory tilt steering; one was originally equipped with Styled Steel wheels, the other with full hubcaps.
Quite by accident, Gordon acquired both R-code Mach 1s within nine months of each other in 1990. The Bright Gold Metallic car came first, and the process of a concours restoration had already begun when the green twin joined the stable. After stripping the original paint via plastic-media blast, the bare body was turned over to the skilled hands of Randy Sargent for necessary metalwork and a flawless new topcoat in PPG Delstar.
When Gordon purchased it, the original 428 drivetrain had long ago been replaced by a 351C/automatic combination; thus began an extensive search to run down the myriad of necessary parts. Local FE enthusiast Craig Johnson had the majority of engine components, while the close-ratio Top Loader came from yet another source.
As Gordon continued to accumulate bits and pieces from across the nation, he scratched an insatiable itch for speed by embarking on the green CJ project, an easier process due to its restomod nature and one which surely slowed progress on the concours effort. In the end, Gordon finished the gold car in 2002 and has already done the trailered-show thing to his heart's content. The results are an impressive seven Mustang Club of America Gold awards at both the regional and national level. Are you impressed by a first-rate trailer queen? It doesn't get much better than this, and yeah, we know the 15-inch Magnum 500/ Goodyear combination seen here isn't factory correct. Gordon has another set of wheels for MCA judging.
Gordon initially planned to use his second purchase as a frame of reference for assembling the gold car, yet as the parts accumulation for the latter took time, Gordon found he couldn't wait for his hot rod. The modified rehash was finished in two years, almost light speed compared to the factory-correct project. Brad Elliott got the call for the paint this time around, and when stripping the body in preparation for the new coat of Dark Ivy Green Metallic, Gordon realized this one would have been the preferable body for a perfectionist effort. It was that good. No use crying over spilled milk, however. The course was set, and the projects proceeded as planned.
In short, the green Mach was built purely for fun, not only as a regular Saturday night cruiser, but also as an occasional and enthusiastic strip performer. Under the Shaker hoodscoop is an engine that propelled Gordon to a best e.t. of 12.66 on drag radials and laid down 366 hp and 452 lb-ft of torque on a Dynojet chassis dyno. The short-block is mostly stock save for aftermarket forged pistons, but the top end is considerably changed via Edelbrock heads, an aluminum Police Interceptor intake, and a Holley 750 double-pumper. Other aids to strong performance include a Comp Cams hydraulic bumpstick, an Accel distributor, a Crane spark box, and metallic-ceramic Hooker headers feeding 3-inch exhausts. Wes Everson and Mike Roy were instrumental in the machining and assembly of the healthy FE, which is now hooked to a Tremec five-speed and 3.70 gears in a nodular 9-inch case.
On the outside, the look is classic early-'70s muscle with 15x7-inch Cragar S/S mags. Gordon also added sports slats and a rear-deck spoiler. Hidden from view are some thoroughly modern mods such as Total Control upper and lower control arms, strut rods, a Flaming River steering box, and 800-pound front coils. The rear is much more traditional with just a pair of Lakewood slapper bars helping plant the 275/60-15 tires to the tarmac.
At the track, Gordon had loads of fun competing in car-club drags, where his local strip pitted Mustang clubs against like organizations for Mopar, Camaro, and others, with the Mach 1 waving the Blue Oval banner proudly until an unfortunate mishap in 2004. While making a 2-3 upshift at mid-track, something inside the stock bellhousing let go (believed to have originated with the pressure plate), wreaking havoc and broken parts all over the track. Fortunately, Gordon was unscathed and brought the car to a safe stop, but the carnage included a destroyed clutch and pressure plate, bellhousing, headers, steering column, and a broken starter ear on the block. The steering shaft was so damaged that Gordon says he could barely steer the car, so it's fortuitous that the chosen venue was limited to a straight line.
Repairs were made in short order, and the green Mach was as good as ever during our photo shoot, though Gordon reports he no longer runs the car on the 1,320. While a blow-proof bellhousing would have resolved most nagging fears, Gordon has opted to step it up considerably with a purpose-built '68 fastback that currently runs 10.50s-with an automatic.
In the end, diverse interests within the Mustang genre have led Gordon to build his cars with different natures, spelling trouble for the competition whatever the venue. The gold Mach 1 transports us back to Ford showrooms circa 1970, while its stablemate simply begs to be driven with gusto. With Gordon getting the choice any time he wishes, it seems like nothing less than Cobra Jet bliss to us.