Ford Mustang 1969
Work Hard, Play Hard
Like many of his peers, Pukekohe resident David Polwart has always had the fondness for the ’69 model. However, what with running a business and raising seven children, owning a ’69 was always just out of reach. For quite some time the dream was all but forgotten, until about three years ago. For some reason Dave decided there was no better time than the present to spend his kids’ inheritance. Although the thought of going all out and buying a rare exotic car like a Boss 302 crossed his mind, he really wanted a car he could drive, rather than one that needed to be wrapped in cotton wool. Dave decided to start scouring eBay and other websites to track down a suitable starting point, but neglected to tell his wife his intentions until just before the cash changed hands. Knowing he wanted a custom ride rather than a run-of-the-mill Mustang, he decided there was no point chasing a factory matching numbers vehicle. Instead, what Dave shelled out the family’s hard-earned cash on was just a standard, average condition ’69 with a tired motor. One can only imagine the look on Dave’s non-car-loving wife’s face when his beloved purchase arrived. Either, like most non-car lovers, she couldn’t see the potential in the car, or perhaps she knew it was going to take alot of time and even more money to turn the ugly duckling into a shining swan.
In 1964, when David Ash and John Oros penned the sketches for the first Mustang…
little did they know the impact their designs would have on the future of the American automotive industry. Almost instantly, the medium-sized car was a success, selling over one million units in the first 18 months and surpassing even Ford America’s predictions. Although Mustangs are still in production to this day, and currently include more options than ever in their 43-year history, it’s the 1969 version that is the poster car for the model. While essentially just a facelifted 1964, the proportions and lines of the ’69 coalesced to create an aggressive yet appealing stance unlike that achieved in any other year.
Crayfish Pots And Blown Proportions
I’m well aware that the name Matamata Panelworks appears in these pages regularly. It is with good reason, however. Dave was very familiar with the reputation the Panelworks guys have earned, and knew they were just the team to help get the car to where he wanted it. Although his purchase appeared to be in relatively good condition, the odd sign of previous repair work aside, it was decided to acid dip the shell so the team had a clean starting point. It was once the shell was returned from Rotorua’s Kiwi Dip Stripping that the Matamata team and Dave were in for the shock of their lives. Dave recalls: “I got and email from Malcom [part-owner of Matamata Panelworks] with the title ‘Holy shit’. It was the picture of the car after the stripping, and there were more holes than metal left. From then on the car was called the crayfish pot. It was that bad that none of us could believe it, so for the car to end up looking as great as it is today gives you some idea of skill Ian [another part-owner of Matamata Panelworks] and the boys have.” Thankfully, with the number of Mustangs restored these days, most body panels are available as off-the-shelf reproductions, though installing and fitting them is no job for the back yard handy-man, especially if you want it done right. Working with such highly skilled bodywork guys meant it didn’t take long for the mild repair/resto to turn into a custom bodywork bonanza. While many of the ideas were Dave’s, some were Ian’s, and thankfully the two agreed on every single modification.Once the new floor, rear quarters and roof panels were fitted and the panel gaps were perfected, the customisation began. I remember actually being shown the car when it was on the jig almost 12 months ago now, Ian pointed out the way the strut towers has been moved out 25 mm each side. Although Ian was telling me in his thick English accent, ‘We chooped ’em ‘ere ‘n’ coot aut on unch, but you canoot tell.”
I almost didn’t believe him, as the job has been made to look as if it was that way from the factory. The way the floor has been cut and raised around the gearbox tunnel was the same. If you knew, you knew, if you didn’t, you wouldn’t pick it for a million dollars. Obviously these modifications were made with serious driveline package in mind, as was the decision to add a firewall between the rear seat and boot, and the chasis connectors from front to rear. Looking at the exterior of the car, it’s obviously stunning. But the reasons why are not so obvious. At first glance the car’s skin may appear to be a perfect restoration job, but on closer inspection some very skillful craftmanship has been used. Both the front and rear bumpers have been cut and shut to sit closer to the body, and all the locks have been removed. These small and simple modifications play a great part in smoothing the exterior. The custom front and rear valances however, do exactly the opposite. Messing with the lines of a ’69 in such a way is a big risk, but one that has paid off by creating a super-staunch look. Once the Matamata lads were sure all the panel gaps were perfect, and every panel was straighter than when it left the factory, the car was sent to D&J Simon Car Painters. The paint job from D&J is every bit as fantastic as the bodywork, and Dave’s choice of custom PPG marron suits the car’s lines perfectly.
Old Dog, New Tricks
It wasn’t just the topside of the body shell that saw the PPG treatment, as both the underneath and inside are as flawless as the exterior. With the RRS three-link coil-over rear suspension arrangement that has been installed, the car can now out-handle almost anything on the road, Euorpean exotics included. The RRS setup is a neat bit of gear, and although it requires a decent amount of welding, it’s well worth the time, effort and cash to install it. Up front, RRS coil-over adjustable struts have been fitted, along with Total Control bottom arms and a one-inch sway bar. Dave also went to the extra effort of installing RRS racks and pinion steering, a move that further enhances the drivability of the vehicle’s character, and if by character they mean vagueness, then they are correct. There’s not doubting the car is a streeter through and through, but this didn’t stop the undercarriage from receiving many cusom touches. The brake and fuel lines are now run internally through the car to keep the underside clutter-free, and all undercarriage items not maroon are now gloss black. Sitting at each end of the deburred diff are now RRS discs and callipers which, just like the suspension package, are designed specifically to fit a Mustang of the generation. Up front a pair of Brembo callipers does the clamping on large slotted rotors. The brake package required few pedal box modifications, but again nothing too serious for the Matamata Panelworks team.