Remaking a 1969 Mach 1

Jan. 1, 2008
The car is one of 4,200 made by Ford

Apparently, a Mustang Mach 1 is the kind of car that, once you’ve got it, you don’t want to let go.

That hasn’t always been the case for autobody shop owner Chuck Horton, who’s begun a handful of muscle-car restorations for himself, including a couple of Chevelles, other Mustangs and a classic Camaro. But as he restored them in his Estacada, Ore., body shop, a customer or passer-by would see it and say, “I’ve got to have that car,” even before the projects were complete, says Horton. “And so off it goes. That’s what kept happening.”

Until he got hold of the 1969 Mustang Mach 1, that is. The limited-edition fastback was parked in the garage of a house across the street from his body shop, where it had sat, untouched, for far longer than the decade that Horton had his eye on it.

“I asked him for 10 years to sell it to me and he wouldn’t, saying, ‘No, no, I’m going to redo it one of these days,’” Horton recalls. “Then he finally came over and sold it to me.”

Seldom driven and never wrecked, the car was entirely rust-free and in good shape when the man finally handed over the keys—really it just needed a new paint job and upholstery.

But Horton “went clear through it; I tore every nut and bolt and screw out of the car, replaced everything that needed to be replaced, rebuilt the motor, transmission and rear end,” he says. The car had “all the original tin on it—all original fenders and doors, hood, quarters, trunk lid and all that stuff.”

To complete the project, Horton used a combination of new, old-stock genuine Ford pieces as well as reproductions; he also souped up the engine “a little bit, not a whole bunch;” and put a cam in it, too. “I wanted to be able to drive it without having to work on it all the time.”

Having taken the vehicle directly from the first owner’s garage to his own house, Horton did about 90 percent of the work there, bringing it to the shop only for paint, then reassembling it back at home. This he did specifically to prevent poachers who would make him an offer on the Mustang that he couldn’t refuse. “I said, ‘I’m going to do it here—that way nobody can see it until it’s done.’ And then it’s too late, they can’t have it,” he says.


Horton finished his prized Mustang Mach 1 about five years ago and since has taken it to 250 or 300 car shows, where it wins first place in “Ford Muscle” categories virtually every time. The vehicle also has joined a couple hundred other restored beauties on the annual “Cruise Oregon,” a weeklong, 1,500-mile road trip that his car club undertakes every year.

“And I probably get 15 or 20 jobs a year because of that car,” he says. “They say, ‘Who did your car?’ and I tell them I did, and I give them my card and they bring out whatever old car they want me to do, and I redo it for them.”

He makes sure to tell these auto enthusiasts that the restoration work takes a back seat to insurance-paid collision jobs at Estacada Body & Paint, which is a full-service autobody shop in the town of 2,500 people.

“I like all old muscle cars—if they’re done right,” Horton says. “Some people make them look ungodly.” He took exactly the opposite approach with his 1969 Mustang Mach 1. “I just wanted it to look like when it rolled off the showroom floor.”

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