Story and photos by Brian Earnest
Kelly Graefe had plenty of good reasons to hang onto his 1970 Mach 1 Mustang. It was a really nice car, he had owned it less than two years, and he wasn’t dying to get rid of it.
But when he got a chance to trade up from his 351 Windsor-equipped ‘Stang to a growling 428 Cobra Jet beast, he only needed the slightest of nudges. “My wife said we deserve it, and that was all the encouragement I needed!” laughed the resident of Wausau, Wis. “It wasn’t that much!
“I liked my other one, but this one became available and, hey, a big-block is a big-block!”
So Graefe made the swap of Mustangs at Kuyoth’s Klassics, a collector car dealer and restorer in tiny Stratford, Wis., and he hasn’t looked back. The bright orange — officially called Calypso Corral on the Ford paint code charts — 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1 travels loud and proud wherever it goes with the Graefes in the front seat. As far as Kelly is concerned, a ’70 Mach 1 with a 428 is pretty close to the top of the pyramid when it comes to Mustangs, and with raised-white letter tires, rear spoiler, read-window louvers, CJ hoop scoop, fat black racing stripe, bright orange paint job and plenty of decibels howling out of the dual exhaust tips, the Mach 1 never lacks for attention. “At a car show, everybody comes past and then they go, ‘Oh, it’s got a big-block!” Graefe says. “Hey, that’s what attracted me to it.”
In Mustang enthusiast circles, the 428 CJ/SCJ Mustang is also known for grabbing the Stock Eliminator title at the 1970 National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Winternationals. This was the race of the year for high-performance buffs and the Mustang was the monarch that season. In his book Fast Mustangs, marque expert Alex Gabbard observed, “The 428 Cobra Jet engine has been called the fastest-running pure stock in the history of man.”
The 1970 Mustang had some distinctions to set it apart from the 1969 edition. The biggest change was a return to single headlights up front. The new headlights were located inside a larger new grille opening. Simulated air intakes were seen where the outboard headlights were on the 1969 Mustang models. The 1970 rear end appearance was also slightly restyled.
Standard equipment in the 1970 Mustang included wall-to-wall carpeting, bucket seats, belted bias-ply tires, a locking steering column, a full synchronized manual transmission, a sporty floor-mounted gear shift lever and a rear deck lid spoiler on SportsRoof models. Among the many muscle car options were power front disc brakes, a functional hood scoop, louvered sport slats for the rear window (which were very popular at the time), a Hurst shifter, a tachometer and a Drag Pack racing package.
In addition to the base sport coupe (two-door hardtop) and convertible, Mustangs came as the hot Mach 1 fastback, the luxurious Grande hardtop and the race-bred Boss 302 fastback. With different engine option selections, you could change the Boss 302 into a Boss 351 or a Boss 429. In total, Ford offered nine Mustang engines to pick from and the lineup was the same as 1969, except that the 390-cid V-8 was discontinued.
While the pre-packaged Boss models were the hit of the enthusiast magazines that season, the CJ 428 and SCJ 428 engines were both back. The former listed for $356 in all Mustang models except the Mach 1, which offered it for $311 over the price of its standard 351-cid V-8. The Ram-Air version was $376 extra in the Mach 1 and $421 extra in other models. A 2.32:1 close-ratio four-speed manual gearbox ($205) or a Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission ($222) was required with both of the Cobra Jet engines. In addition, on base Mustangs F70-14 whitewall tires were required over E78-14 black sidewall tires when either of these engines was ordered. On Mach 1s, Boss models and convertibles, E70-14 whitewalls were required.
The 1970 Mach 1 featured the new year’s front end styling and had its taillights recessed in a flat panel with honeycomb trim between them. Ribbed aluminum rocker panel moldings with big Mach 1 call-outs and a cleaner upper rear quarter treatment without simulated air scoops at the end of the main feature line were seen. A black-striped hood with a standard fake scoop replaced the completely matte-black hood. New twist-in hood pins held the hood down.
You could also get a shaker hood scoop on Mach 1’s with the standard 351-cid V-8. A redesigned steering wheel was the big interior change. A larger rear stripe, larger rear call-out, mag-type hubcaps, wide 14 x 7-inch wheels and bright oval exhaust tips were also new. Black-painted styled wheels were a no-cost option.
Motor Trend tested a 1970 Mustang Mach 1 with the 351-cid four-barrel V-8. It had a 4.002 x 3.50-inch bore and stroke. With an 11.0:1 compression ratio it developed 300 hp at 5400 rpm and 380 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3400 rpm. With automatic transmission and a 3.00:1 axle the car turned 0-to-60 mph in 8.2 seconds and did the quarter-mile in 16 seconds at 86.2 mph.
With new competition from the Dodge Challenger, plus totally redesigned Barracudas, Camaros, and Firebirds, the Mustang lost around 100,000 sales in 1970. A total of 190,727 1970 Mustangs were built. Ford ceased its official racing activities late in the 1970 calendar year. Before getting out of racing, Ford captured the 1970 Trans-Am title with the Mustang.
Graefe doesn’t know the complete life story of his orange Mach 1, but he did get a little surprise about its past when he acquired the title. “[Kuyoth’s] had done a dealer trade with someone in Southern California, and that’s where it came from. I thought it been somewhere in the Southwest all along, but when I got he title it was originally titled in Canada. I don’t know how much time it spent up there, hopefully not too much. It’s always a new experience when you send in for the title and you can see where it’s been.
“It’s still kind of a mystery. I don’t know why [the last owner] decided to get rid of it when he did … I’m thinking it was restored a few years before that, so I’m guessing it was restored eight to 10 years ago. I think the odometer was at 90,000 miles, and I’m guessing that was rolled over, but I don’t know.”
Graefe’s car is outfitted with the 428 four-barrel rated by Ford at 335 hp. That was a $376 upgrade and one of the few options that the original owner checked when the car was built. “It’s got an automatic and no air conditioning. It’s basically your 428 with nothing too special really. A lot of people don’t like the automatic, but when the wife conceded to having it, the automatic was important to her [laughs.] It didn’t have power steering when I first got it, and I think that was on it originally so I put the power steering on it. Other than that it’s pretty much stock, which is what I was looking for to begin with.
“The styling is what I like probably more than anything – the only other Mustang that I like probably as much is the ’67 and ’68… The older ones the fastback goes all the way back and doesn’t have that lip on it like this, and that really appeals to me. The big brother would have been the Torino — the ‘68 and ‘69 Torino, which is a nice body style, too.”
Graefe says he’s put less than 1,000 miles a summer on his ’70 Mach 1 since he’s gotten it, but any car show within about 100 miles of his home is fair game. Since Calypso Coral was only a two-year color choice for ’69 and ’70 Mustangs, Graefe’s car stands out even in a crowd of Mustangs and he’s easy to spot at car show gatherings. All things considered, though, he say’s he’d rather be out cruising than parked at a show.
“We do like to drive, but I’m super careful. When my wife is along, she makes sure I’m careful!” he jokes. “It’s got a lot of pickup out on the highway. You’ve got to wrestle with it, but it’s been a world of difference since I put the power steering on it. It’s been a long time since I had driven a car without power steering … I knew I needed to have that power steering back on it because it’s pretty easy when you are going fast to over-correct when you don’t have the power steering. And when you come to the car shows and you gotta make sharp turns … you know, it’s been so many years since you had a car without power steering.”
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