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Ford’s Mustang Mach 1 – rally champion?

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Ford Mustang Mach 1 magazine ad courtesy

Introduced in August 1968 as a 1969 model, Ford’s Mustang Mach 1 was intended to be the Swiss Army Knife of pony cars. With a matte-black hood, hood pins, and a “competition suspension” as standard issue, it looked the part of a road racer, and the available Cobra Jet V-8 made it a contender on the drag strip. Nearly lost to time is the fact that the first Mach 1 was also a competent rally car, earning Ford the 1969 SCCA Manufacturer’s Rally Championship title after 8,000 miles of all-weather competition.

To be clear, the time-speed-distance format used by the SCCA in-period favored precision over horsepower and speed, and it isn’t likely the Mach 1s of the Ford Rally Team spent much time airborne over jumps, nor crossed-up sideways in an icy corner on studded tires. Time-speed-distance rallies have always been a cerebral sport, as crucial points are deducted for arriving at a checkpoint too early or too late.

Under the SCCA’s 1969 regulations, Class A rallying permitted the use of full electronic-navigation equipment, including primitive computers that calculated speeds necessary to arrive at the next checkpoint on time. Class B banned such electronic devices, requiring the navigator to make calculations on the fly and effectively communicate them to the driver.

Ford fielded five Mach 1s for the 1969 season, all finished in Meadowlark Yellow. As details, three cars were equipped with the 290-horsepower, M-code V-8, while two ran the 335-horsepower, Q-code 428. All were delivered to Lamb’s Garage in Medford, New Jersey, a Ford dealer with previous experience setting up cars for rally competition.

Four teams ran in Class A, while one team, consisting of Jack Chidester and Bruce Gezon, ran in Class B. All drivers and navigators (or co-drivers) were experienced veterans of the series, and the remaining teams consisted of Ed Crocket (the team leader) and Mac Cornforth, competing primarily in New Jersey; Allan White and John Bain, competing in western Pennsylvania; Roger and Kathy Bohl, the 1967 champions, competing in the Midwest; and Nathan Jones and Russel Brown, the defending 1968 champions, competing in the Southwest.

Following the successful 1969 season, Crocket recommended that the Bohls (generally considered the most competitive team) run the 1970 24 Horas de Mexico Rally in Baja. The pair won the event, and a film was produced of their efforts, although the footage never managed to find a buyer.

All Ford Rally Team Mustangs were later offered for sale to their respective teams, and at least two were purchased.  Bruce Gezon bought his Mach 1 at the end of the 1970 season, and continued to rally in Class B until 1972; Nathan Jones purchased his 428-powered car and, shortly after, loaned it to a museum for display. In 2008, Jones’ championship-winning 1969 Mustang sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction for $53,900.