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Muscle Car Madness - 1969 Ford Mustang

Muscle Car Madness - 1969 Ford Mustang


It is fascinating how car brands evolve through the years. Some improve with such fluidity: straight becomes curved, single becomes double, power became beast. Others tended to lose sight and perish under a maelstrom of weighty issues, restrictions, and being subjected to the mentality of the herd. Even for a brand like Ford Mustang, with a benchmark in longevity and sales, it seemed to be a victim of its own success. From 1974 to 1998 it was as if their designers were all on Prozac, bored by emission restrictions, plying out a diatribe of nondescript, bland, banal models more apropos for the likes of Mary Kay cosmetic sales reps - seemily non-confrontational, almost invisible in character. Fortunately (and hopefully), that is in the past. The Mustangs of today are more reminiscent of those in the '60s. Jeff owns such a clasic - a 1969 Mustang - a car where there isn't a line out of shape.

We met at a Railway Museum for the shoot. Jeff is a young, affable individual. Before I began taking shots, we stood and admired his Orange Crush-colored car. "I've always thought it would be cool to live back in the time when my car was new and it was the norm to see muscle cars cruising around town," he siged with slight regret realizing the thought was impotent. "Cars seemed to have more character back then. You could look at a classic car and at least know who made it. Today, it can be hard to do that as a lot of new cars look identical and have about as much personality as road kill."

Mustangs have always been a DNA threat in the Lott family. His father had a 1984 Mustang GT when Jeff was very young and two of his cousins owned Mustang Mach 1s. "I remember seeing the cars when I was a kid and even at that young age, I liked what I saw," recalls Jeff. "When the time came for me to buy one, I wanted something where the body work and paint was already completed but the drivetrain would need work or restoration. I quickly found a 1985 Mustang GT Cobra in an online classified ad, but Christina, my wife, wasn't too keen on the models of that era." He brings me a bottle of water. "I am more of a fan the bigger Mustangs, but the '71 to '73s are a little too big so that leaves the choice of a '69 or '70. We continued our search and finally we found this one in 2010."

The car is beautifully compact, sexy and streamlined. It is like a magnet from every direction. It is like nicotine in the bloodstream - addictive. "I like the '69 best because it has the four equal sized headlights. When I'm sitting in the car with a classic rock song cranked barely over the exhaust, it makes me think of what it must have been like back in the muscle car days. Driving down the road looking out over the long hood, listening to the exhaust is the best part and being lucky enough to be able to do that means a lot to me." And that sound can convey anger without resorting to histrionics.

"It's nice to see there's a connection with your dad," I comment. Jeff nods. "When my dad was out with his friends working on cars, he would always take me with him. When he would go to the drag races in Shannonville or Luskville, he would always take me. I think the car hobby runs in our genes as my three-year-old seems to like cars as well." We move the car in various positions to avoid the harsh lighting. "I'll never forget the day my dad and I picked up the car. I remember as we loaded up the car onto a trailer and drove away, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the seller standing in the center of the road watching us drive away. It was like we were taking a part of his life away. It was previously owned by a school teacher who had stored it in his garage for 20 years before he bought it and restored it."

"Did your dad help you with the restoration?"

"The short block was machined and assembled by Steve Chambers at Lockhart Machine in Toledo, Ontario. The transmission was built by Fireball Performance Automatics in Williamsburg, Ontario, and the differential was worked on by my best friend, Beau Patenaude, who works at National 4Wheel Drive Center in Smith Falls, Ontario. My dad, Steve, and I did the rest - cleaned and painted the engine bay, installed the cylinder heads, all the valve train, replaced all of the suspension components, brakes, steering, and installed a new ignition, and an electric fuel pump and cooling system. It's been a labor of love for 5 years and my wife has been very supportive and understanding with the build, so I would say that she has helped, too. I tell my wife that the work is finished but it will likely never be truly finished."

"What was the state of the car when you bought it?" I ask.

"Although the odometer only read 27,000 miles, the gauge only had 5 digits. Those numbers don't seem realistic for a '69, so it is probable that it was rolled back. The body had already been completed along with the paint that is Competition Orange. The drivetrain however, was in need of some major TLC."

"What about the engine?"

"We switched the original 302 ci with its 2-barrell carburetor to a 351 Windsor, bored to 358 with Keith Black pistons, AFR aluminum heads, Lunati valvetrain and an Edelbrock intake with a 4-barrel carburetor. If adrenaline could sing, this is it."

"How does she perform now? Is it more difficult to drive?"

"The car actually drives pretty well," confirms Jeff. "I changed the original power steering to a manual rack-and-pinion setup. On the highways it steers great, however; at low speeds I wrestle with the steering. The engine needs to warm up quite a bit before it will idle on its own due to the long duration camshaft, so that's quite a difference from today's fuel injected cars that will idle immediately. The majority of time was the researching for parts, the calculations in determining clearances and the installation of the engine."

"It may have been 5 long years of work, the results are probably worth it?" I inquire.

I can see the pride stretch a smile across his face. "There is nothing better than driving it on a nice summer day with the windows down and the exhaust note as my radio," he says. "I also enjoy working on it and taking pride in the fact that I had a hand in building it. This car has definitely increased my knowledge of classic Mustangs, that is for sure. I have researched more about Mustangs than anything else. It's like it has become a part of the family."

"And the future?"

"I intend to keep it for a long time and someday hand it down to my kids. When I'm too old to drive, I will make them drive me around in it."

"Do you think they'll want it?"

"I've always wondered what the hobby will be like years from now with the price of gas, environmental concerns, and electric vehicles becoming more popular. I plan on passing the hobby down so I'm definitely doing my part to keep the passion going."