Brian Perras’ 1969 Mach 1 is hardly a gem of automotive high tech, but he loves it just the same.
Every extended family has that certain member. The one with obvious shortcomings, but possessing an overpowering charm that makes him irresistible.
Caledon landscaper Brian Perras has a child like that. The kid is boisterous and gets hot under the collar all to easily. Yet, he’s one strapping handsome lad to look at.
He’s a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 stick car.
“When you’re driving, you just feel the power,” explains Perras. “It rumbles. You hear the noise. When you kick it in, it kicks you back.”
Today’s automobile is in an age of reason and intelligence. The new car is all about fuel efficiency, aerodynamics and GPS systems that provide pinpoint directions to every Starbucks from here to Pluto.
The Mach 1 hearkens back to simpler times when gorillas roamed the streets, roared out their challenges and got down and dirty in an automotive street fight.
It was the time of the muscle car.
Unfortunately, as the muscle era reached its zenith, the Mustang couldn’t keep up with the other kids on the block.
Even though the ’67 Mustang featured an imposing Big Block 390 c.i. engine, the Fords was getting smoked off the line by competitors like the Chevy Camaro’s 396 c.i. V-8 and the 6.6-litre Pontiac Firebird 400.
If one wanted a comparable performer in a Ford, one had to mortgage a vital organ or two and opt for the expensive 428 Shelby Mustang.
Then, in 1969, the Cobra Jet Mach 1 rumbled out of Dearborn and Ford was back in the street race.
Did it dominate the competition and send industry analysts into ecstasy? Hardly.
While it had impressive torque and an imposing sound, the engine design was imbalanced and the Mach 1 was a relatively sloppy car when it came to handling.
Nevertheless, it captivated a 15-year-old ball hockey player in New Bordeaux, a suburb on Montreal’s north shore.
His first sight of that fast-backed fortress of raw power gliding down the road is still imprinted in Perras’ memory. “It was an awesome car right out of the box,” he recalls. “I love that style.”
Perras’ zest for power has led him to modify an already powerful engine to a point where it puts out 550 hp.
“I don’t buy cars to take them to car shows, park them, sit around and look,” says Perras. “I get them to drive them.”
Yet, he will be the first to admit that the Mach 1 is “not a comfortable car.”
For one thing, its miles-per-gallon fuel consumption is in the single digits. “Even my Chevy Tahoe pickup truck gets 29 mpg,” sighs Perras.
In fact, the Mach 1 was often criticized as an infamous gas guzzler; and that was back in the day when gas cost about 45 cents a gallon and fuel consumption was near the bottom of a driver’s priority list.
It has the stiff “arm strong” steering and an interior, devoid of air conditioning, that reaches boiling point.
“I don’t know how guys drove these cars in the 60s. They get so hot!”
In conclusion, though, Perras says it’s all about the “raw power.
“When you’re on the highway with all that sound, you feel like you’re driving a rocket until,” he admits, “a (late model compact Chrysler) Neon goes screaming by you.”
Ah, but what the heck! The kid may be a little rough around the edges, but he does make you feel young again when you’re around him.
Written by Dan Pelton