The 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 packed a 351 V-8 with dual exhausts, handling suspension with styled-steel wheels and white-letter Goodyear Polyglas tires, and a matte-black hood with simulated air scoop and NASCAR-style tiedowns.

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

1969 saw a new $3139 intruder into Shelby-Mustang territory, the Mach 1 fastback. This packed a 351 V-8 with dual exhausts, handling suspension with styled-steel wheels and white-letter Goodyear Polyglas tires, reflective i.d. striping along the body sides and around the tail, pop-off gas cap, and a matte-black hood with simulated air scoop and NASCAR-style tiedowns. A separate rear spoiler was available. So was a new "shaker" hood scoop, so-called because it attached directly to the air cleaner through a hole in the hood, vibrating madly for all to see. Also on the standard-equipment list were racing mirrors, high-back bucket seats, center console, the Rim-Blow steering wheel, and the Grande's pseudo-teak interior accents.

Ford said all '69 Mustangs were "The Going Thing," but the Mach 1 had "street cred" to spare. Most other '69s could be optioned to approximate a Mach 1 -- or a Grande. The GT Group was less promoted this year but included the Mach's stiff competition suspension (which was also a separate $31 option with 428 V-8s) and wheel/tire package, plus specific trim. A less aggressive handling option (also $31) was available with any V-8 except 428s. Also returning for regular models were an Exterior Decor Group ($32) and standard and deluxe Interior Decor Groups ($88-$133). Intermittent ("interval") windshield wipers were a new individual option. Hardtops again offered an incongruous front bench seat option.

The Mach 1's 351 V-8 claimed 250 standard horsepower via two-barrel carburetor or 290 optional via four-barrel and elevated compression (10.7:1 vs. 9.5:1). These, too, were available for other '69s. Developed to fill a yawning displacement gap in Ford's corporate engine lineup, the 351 was directly descended from the original 1962 small-block. Essentially, it was a 302 with a half-inch longer stroke (3.50 inches) on the same 4.00-inch bore. As author Phil Hall noted in his book Fearsome Fords, actual displacement was 351.86 cid, but Ford used "351" to avoid any confusion with its 352 Y-block V-8 of the 1950s.

The Mach 1's standard-equipment list included racing mirrors, high-back bucket seats, center console, and the Rim-Blow steering wheel.

Windsor vs. Cleveland

Note that we're talking here about the 351 "Windsor" V-8, not the vaunted "Cleveland" unit. The Windsor got its nickname from the Canadian plant that began building it in fall 1968, a full year before the Cleveland entered production (in Ohio). Both had the same bore/stroke dimensions and 4.38-inch bore spacing, but the Windsor boasted extra bulkhead strength, a 1.27-inch higher deck, and a different crankshaft with larger main and crankpin journals. It also used a drop-center intake manifold and "positive-stop" studs for the valve rocker arms. Once the Cleveland came along, the Windsor was relegated to mainstream Dearborn models, typically with two-barrel carburetors and mild compression.

Ford spent about $100 million to tool up the Cleveland V-8, which would power most of the company's 1970-74 high-performance cars. This 351 used a unique block cast with an integral timing chain chamber and water crossover passage at the front, plus an inch-higher deck than on the 302. Cylinder heads differed dramatically from the Windsor's, as valves were canted 9.5 degrees from the cylinder axis to form modified wedge-type combustion chambers. In addition, the intakes were angled 4 degrees, 15 minutes forward and the exhaust valves 3 degrees rearward for larger port areas that improved gas flow and efficiency. Toward the same ends, the valves themselves were made as large as possible. Intakes had a 2.19-inch head diameter, while the forged-steel exhaust valves had aluminized heads measuring 1.71 inches across.

Ford sixes got their own performance tech for '69: "center percussion" (forward sited) engine mounts for smoother operation. But competition manager Jacque Passino wanted to go much further: "We've been putting out [six-cylinder Mustangs] kind of artificially since '64 to fill up production schedules when we couldn't get V-8s. I think there is a real market for an inexpensive hop-up kit for the 250-cubic-inch engine." But that never happened, nor did a fuel-injected six he also favored. A pity. Either would have been very interesting. But neither was as interesting as the mighty Cobra Jet.

The 428 Cobra Jet engine made the 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 one of the world's fastest cars.

Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet

Developed by Ford's Light Vehicle Powertrain Department under Tom Feaheny, the 428 Cobra Jet made the 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 one of the world's fastest cars.

Even saddled with automatic transmission, Car Life magazine's CJ Mach 1 took just 5.5 seconds 0-60 mph and flew through the standing quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds at 103 mph. "The best Mustang yet and quickest ever," said the editors, who also declared it "the quickest standard passenger car through the quarter-mile we've ever tested (sports cars and hot rods excluded)." Yet Car Life found the CJ Mach 1 to be "a superb road car, stable at speed, tenacious on corners, with surplus power and brakes for any road situation…. By choosing the optimum combination of suspension geometry, shock absorber valving, and spring rates, Ford engineers have exempted the Mach 1 from the laws up momentum and inertia up to unspeakable speeds."

The Mustang Mach 1 came standard with the Grande's pseudo-teak interior accents.

That last statement partly references a new suspension wrinkle for big-block Mustangs devised by chassis engineer Matt Donner. Starting with the 1967 heavy-duty setup, he mounted one shock absorber ahead of the rear axle line and the other behind it, which reduced axle tramp in hard acceleration. Though gunning hard around corners still induced the same hairy oversteer as in previous high-power Mustangs, the '69 was more easily controlled with steering and throttle. "The first Cobra Jets we built were strictly for drag racing," Tom Feaheny recalled. "The '69s had a type of the competition suspension we offered in '67. Wheel hop was damped out by staggering the rear shocks. It was not a new idea, but it worked. Another thing was the [Goodyear] Polyglas tire. I really can't say enough about this.... In '69 every wide-oval tire we offered featured Polyglas construction."

Good comments about Mustang's handling by Car Life and Donner notwithstanding, the Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 handled even better -- and captured another Trans-Am championship in 1969.

  • Saddle up for the complete story of America's best-loved sporty car. How the Ford Mustang Works chronicles the legend from its inception in the early 1960s to today's all-new Mustang.
  • In 1967, the original pony car was up for its first major revamp. Learn how Ford retooled and updated the 1967-1968 Ford Mustang to meet public expectations and to keep pace with the competition.
  • With sales down and criticism abounding, the Mustang struggled in the early '70s. Learn what went wrong (and what went right) for the 1971-1973 Ford Mustang.
  • The 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet was the muscle car Mustang fans had waited for. Gallop into its profile, photos, and specifications.