Chris Allen’s 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

Chris Allen's 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

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I remember not doing very well in High School English, so my dad, ever the disciplinarian, gave me extra curricular work at home to improve myself. He assigned me, each evening, to write 500 words on a topic of his choice before dinner. If he wasn’t pleased with my effort in applying better creativity, more thorough research, grammar and spelling, I wasn’t allowed dinner. I was mortified and appalled. This was abuse, or so kids would say today, but as the weeks wore on, I actually began improving the quality of my work. The initial drudgery started to entertain anticipation. My English grades developed dramatically and looking back, I appreciate my father’s concern, his participation, and his innovative way of getting through to me. He was a military man and taught me discipline, common sense, how to win graciously and lose with dignity, and how to be kind yet mentally strong. In other words, he taught me how to be an individual. I owe my success to my dad. I bring this up because this is a story about a man’s homage to his dad.

On his 39th birthday, November 15, 2022 at 7:30 a.m., Chris Allen drove his dream - a restored 1969 Mustang 428 Mach 1 - around his rural neighbourhood block as a tribute to the work he and his father started 45 years earlier. It’s incredulous, 45 years on a restoration. Of course, raising a family, a diversion of finances, and other side issues, contributed in delaying the process. Nevertheless, it’s an enormous accomplishment. “He was around 5’ 8” and stocky like a brick house,” is how Chris Allen describes his father, Ted Allen. “He was very humble, humourous, and housed a big heart. This car is just a small measure of who he was. He was my rock and my greatest influence.”

Ted Allen bought the 1969 Mustang 428 SCJ Drag Pack Mach 1 R Code straight off the dealership floor from Dilarwi Motors in Stittsville on May 6, 1969. The ’69 version was as cool as the underside of a pillow. It had grown in size to its predecessor (an extra 4” in length) and in stature (dressed with a protruding hood scoop, spoilers, and chrome wheels) with a cosmetic facelift giving it a more brutish appearance by introducing the “SportsRoof” fastback. It was becoming less pony and more muscle much to the irritation of Lee Iacocca, but not to the public or the press, who, like Car Driver magazine, gushed that it was the fastest-accelerating four-seater it had ever tested, though due to the overwhelming weight up front, it did suffer from understeer. By the end of 1969, the Mustang had a bewildering 11 sibling engines added to the family stable ranging from the six-cylinder boulevardier to the nose-bleed aggressive 428 Cobra Jet. Also included were the midyear track-induced Boss 302 and Boss 429, both an excuse for legitimate racing, particularly in the TransAm Series against such heathens as the Camaros, Firebirds, and Cudas. To make things even more complex, another two new models were thrown in - the Mach 1 advertised as having DNA matched only by the “speed of sound”, and the more refine Grande for wives of the Upper Management.

Since Ted bought it, the car had only experience the bitterness of winter once, otherwise, he drove it until 1975 clocking 76,000 miles. The only reason he stopped driving it was because it was getting too expensive to maintain. “He pretty much put a tarp over the car and left it like Rip Van Winkle,” Chris says in retrospect. “My older brother, Don, was born in September 1977 and then my twin brother, Brent and I came into the picture in November 1981. So now, there was no time for the car. Family became the priority.” Back in Motown the V8 power was installed in 82 percent of the 1969 models. Automatic transmission installations were running just over 71 percent, but the four-speed stick options secured nearly 66 percent of the ’69 Mustangs. As the motto goes, those who drive, drive stick-shift, everyone else just aims.

“Growing up I heard all the stories from my dad about ‘vulcanizing Carling Avenue’. Basically terrorizing the main boulevard with drag races. Of the numerous stories, there was one in particular I can immediately think of. He is at a red light on Carling Avenue below the steep hill at the Civic Hospital. While he was waiting, two other cars rolled up on either side of him. A quick glance, a nod of the heads and all three knew what was coming next as each throttle intensified. When the light turned green, in my dad’s words, ‘there was noise, screeching, and the distinct smell of rubber tattooed on the tarmac’,” says a bemused Chris. And to top it off, in one of Ted’s unmistakeable idioms, “the birds fell outta the trees!”

After Chris graduated from High School, he bought his first car, a 1965 Mustang Coupe. Together with his father, they rebuilt the transmission to accommodate a 5-speed, restored the body work and fitted the car with a new engine. Ted put the ’69 Mustang on hold until they finished with Chris’s car. The Mach 1 remained impounded under a tarp from 1975 until 1990 when Ted decided to take it all apart and start from scratch. “The garage looked like a garage junkie’s wet dream: fenders, bumpers, valances dripping from the ceiling, car seats hanging off the walls, and boxes of parts all labelled in paper lunch bags.” From 1990 to 2016 Ted and Chris slowly put together something that resembled an emerging piece of excitement. “In 2016 - 2017 my dad really started to make headway with the car with most of the body panels done and sent out for primer and sealer. Unbeknown to anyone there wasn’t enough time. Sadly, on January 14, 2018, Ted passed away in his sleep. “He never got the chance to finish the car and make it down to Carling Avenue. It breaks my heart,” laments Chris.

Ted realized how much Chris was dedicated to the car. During the reading of Ted’s will, Chris discovered that his father had left him the car. “I’ve devoted myself to finish it for him,” declares Chris. “Everything we worked on for the car was original, including the Raven Black paint job by Mike from 5-Star Industrial Painting. The transmission was handled by Fireball Transmission in Williamsburg. And my father-in-law, John Stacey, who is part owner of Stagra Automotive in Greely, helped with the assembly of the engine and the mechanics with the drivetrain. Out of the kindness of his heart, Graham Dunlevie, a mechanic from Stagra Automotive, came over to the house one day a week for a few hours to help assemble all of the rest of the stuff, such as brakes, fuel lines and some interior accessories like the heater box, dash, and the dreaded wiring,” recalls Chris. “A fond memory of my mom after my dad’s passing is that she would go and turn the furnace on in the garage when I would go over there to work on the car with Graham. She would come out and see how things were going. While we worked, she would tell us stories about the car. Once the seats were installed, she climbed her 5-foot frame into the driver’s seat and I could immediately sense from her glittering eyes that it filled her with memories. She looked down at the pedals and said, “How did I ever reach those pedals?” Six months later, on September 21, 2020, my mom passed away to be with my dad,” recollects Chris. “The best of what you want in a person, that was my mom and dad.”

“If anyone wants to restore a classic car, I recommend that you must have the passion to be committed to the task, for it is a task. It takes lots of money and time to do a good job. You’re rebuilding, completing and driving a piece of history and the satisfaction of achieving this is unparalleled. Driving a classic is like suddenly hearing one of your favourite songs on the radio after listening to endless nondescript music,” Chris states defiantly. Never a truer word was spoken.

 
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Chris Allen's 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

Chris Allen's 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

Chris Allen's 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

Chris Allen's 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

Chris Allen's 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

Chris Allen's 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

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About Clive Branson 49 Articles
Clive Branson is a photography graduate from Parsons School of Design in New York City and has since divided his career as an advertising creative director/copywriter and as a freelance writer/photographer. He is the author of Focus On Close-Up and Macro Photography and numerous articles for magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Britain. Clive lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario.

1 Comment on Chris Allen’s 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Mach 1: A Homage to a Father

  1. Man, this story brings a tear to my eyes.
    What a gorgeous MACH 1, and a wonderful story to go with it.
    I’m sure that Ted was riding along on that first drive, and very proud of the job you did.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    God Bless.

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