The year was 1971 and 21-year-old Larry Tamburino was ready for a new car to replace his used-up '64 Hi-Po Comet. It didn't help that his drive to work took him past the Ford dealership in Bradenton, Florida, where he'd ogle the new Mustangs and Torinos as he drove by. One day, he noticed a new addition to the front row lineup.
"A Grabber Blue Mach 1 jumped right out at me," Larry recalls. "I made an immediate U-turn, thinking, 'I need this car!'"
The four-barrel 351 Cleveland engine and four-speed made the Mach even more attractive, but one look at the window sticker put Larry into shock; it was loaded with A/C, power steering and brakes, console, Ram-Air, Instrumentation and Convenience Groups, AM/FM radio, and other options. "I thought to myself, '$4,953 is a lot of money.' I drove home and counted my cash. With the trade-in, I came up $2,000 short and I wasn't old enough to get credit. I considered taking a different route to work so I wouldn't have to drive by the Mach 1 every day."
Three weeks later, with the Mustang still sitting at the dealership, Larry's father offered to co-sign for a loan. "He told me that I would have to make payments of $92 a month," Larry says. "I told him that worked for me!"
Over the next 25 years, Larry drove the Mach 1 daily, paying off the loan in two years and then resisting the temptation to replace the Mach 1 with something a little thriftier during the oil-embargo days of the late-'70s. His drive to work was short, so the mileage stayed low.
In 2001, Larry delivered the Mustang to Kim Marzinske at After Hours Racing in Sarasota for a makeover that included fresh paint, new glass, and replacement stripes. Even though the 351C engine had only 48,000 miles, Larry asked his brother, Mike, to rebuild it to original specs. The white upholstery had turned yellow with age, so Larry replaced the seat covers himself.
A proud Larry Tamburino took...
A proud Larry Tamburino took this snapshot of his new '71 Mach 1 shortly after his father co-signed for the loan.
At a glance, Larry's Mach 1 appears to be concours ready, but there are a few surprises. A Tremec five-speed transmission, installed with a kit from Pro-Motion Performance, has relegated the original four-speed to storage. An original-looking Hurst handle has been adapted to the modern tranny, so you can't tell by glancing inside. Other upgrades include Hooker headers, Flowmaster mufflers, Mallory distributor and ignition, 3.89 gears in a Detroit Locker differential, and a Griffin aluminum radiator. "My car may not be concours but it's the way I want it," Larry explains.
Even though much of the car has been restored, Larry is proud of the many still-original components, including the Wide Oval spare tire, which Larry won't say has never been on the ground. "There was a time when I didn't have the money to buy a new tire," he says. He doesn't know why but says for some reason he kept all the paperwork, including the window sticker, sales invoice, owner card, and even recall notices.
Larry's Mach 1 isn't the only horse in the Tamburino stable; his wife, Terry, competes in professional barrel racing with her registered quarter horses. "I prefer my horses to be sleek, shiny, fast, and on four wheels," Larry says with a laugh. "She prefers hers on four legs."