Neil Bell isn't a bragger-he just likes nice cars. And he didn't seek us out during the Northwest Mustang Roundup near Seattle-we went looking for him in order to share his pristine '70 Cobra Jet Mach 1 with our readers.
Neil and his wife, Bernadine, found the Mach 1 in Denver, choosing it for its dazzling combination of Grabber Blue and underhood CJ power. Once Neil got past the color and Cobra Jet engine, he found a nicely appointed SportsRoof short on options yet equipped with everything necessary to make it an authentic CJ Mach 1. In fact, it still has its complete Thermactor air-injection emissions system, something most owners tossed in the trash when the cars were new.
Inside, the Mach still has its factory AM/eight-track and the attractive white Knitted Vinyl Sports Interior. Outside, the Mach 1 came from the factory with the rear spoiler and sports slats.
What makes the car decidedly different from most of today's CJ Mach 1s is the absence of a Shaker hoodscoop. While the R-codes with functional ram air grab all the headlines, this one carries the Q-code Cobra Jet with the nonfunctional scoop on the hood. It boasts the same 335hp rating as the R-code, but it just doesn't have the vibrating scoop poking through the hood like most '70 CJ Machs. According to Kevin Marti's Mustang: By the Numbers book, only 755 '70 fastbacks, which includes Mach 1s, came with the Q-code engine. Nearly 3,000 had the R-code.
Although the Mach 1 had already been restored when Neil purchased it in 2003, it needed a lot of work to bring it up to standards for concours MCA National Show competition. That first winter, Neil looked at '70 Cobra Jet Mach 1s that were national competitors to improve his enough to meet the MCA's stringent judging rules. It continues to be a challenging, never-ending process of reworking the obvious-and often the not so obvious. With each MCA judging experience, Neil learns something new.
Neil's Mach 1 was equipped more for cruising than racing with its C6 Select-Shift transmission and modest 3.00:1 highway gears in a conventional 9-inch with 28-spline axles. It's a far cry from a Drag Pack with 3.91:1 or 4.30:1 gears in a nodular case with 31-spline axles. However, the Mach is cool and smooth for the open road, with abundant torque for walking away from nosy admirers at 65 mph.
It's hard to believe today that the Cobra Jet Mach 1 came standard with manual four-wheel drum brakes. However, this Mach 1 has the optional power-assisted front disc brakes along with a heavy-duty sway bar and brute coil springs to improve handling. But Neil never kids himself: This car is more about straight-line performance than cutting apexes.
Ford's 428 Cobra Jet arrived in showrooms in many varied forms, ranging from Fairlane wagons to Mach 1s in Super Cobra Jet form. Neil's Mach offers us something in the middle of the road.