Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

Complete, no-expense-spared, nut-and-bolt rotisserie restoration done very correctly with attention to detail. This is a true 23,000-mile car and comes fully documented with all of its options on its full Marti Report. 351 M-code V8, 4-speed transmission, Ram Air hood, power disc brakes, stripes and in-dash tach. Fully loaded car. Finished in Grabber Yellow with black interior, this car is a true head-turner. Underside done in factory-correct red oxide.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Years Produced:1971
Number Produced:36,449
Original List Price:$3,268
SCM Valuation:$11,500–$20,500
Tune Up Cost:$220
Distributor Caps:$15.97
Chassis Number Location:Plate on driver’s side dashboard, tag on driver’s side door, partial on rear of block near head
Engine Number Location:Casting number and date code above starter motor near freeze plug
Club Info:Mustang Club of America
Alternatives:1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, 1971 Plymouth ’Cuda, 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 341.1, sold for $27,500, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas sale on September 25–27, 2014.

Mustang evolved

For the ’71 model year, Ford’s design team faced intense pressure from two groups of executives who wanted Mustang to go in very different directions. One group wanted the car to continue in the sporty, light-car nature true to its 1965 roots, while another wanted Mustang to go larger, with a longer wheelbase and more luxury features.

Design team leader Gale Halderman tried appeasing both groups with zaftig designs full of slits and scoops as they started their clay model concepts in the spring of 1967. Ford gained a new President in 1968 when Bunkie Knudsen accepted the position after leaving GM. Ace GM stylist Larry Shinoda joined Ford the same year. Knudsen pushed for large and muscular and won out — Bunkie had a grudge with GM and it showed with the Mach 1.

The Mach 1 fastback model was completed first. Bunkie walked into the design studio one evening and gruffly pointed out that he liked the fastback. Halderman said they had a couple of other designs being completed if he wanted to look at those as well. Bunkie shook his head and said, “I like this one.” The Sportsroof was locked in by June 1968, with the convertible and hard top following soon afterward.

Knudsen had insider information about what was being planned over at GM, and the Mach 1 switched to hidden wipers and a body-colored front bumper to match GM’s plans for their pony cars. The engineering department sweated the details, too, with major changes to the suspension. These included staggered rear shocks on all cars equipped with 351 or larger displacement engines and variable-ratio power steering.

Bigger, if not badder

Size was up and horsepower was down for ’71, but there were still options for muscle car buyers with a need for speed. Although the base engine on a Mach 1 was a 302, the 351 was offered in flavors from mild to wild, including a special Boss 351 model.

The M-code 351 was a high-performance engine. Equipped with closed-chamber heads with big ports and a matching intake manifold, it liked high-rpm operation but wasn’t a solid-cammer like the Boss 351, so it endured city traffic well. It made 285 horsepower with a 10.7:1 compression ratio and used two-bolt main bearings. This was Ford’s hot small block, topped only by the Boss.

Ford gambled on trading raw horsepower for luxurious features, and the bet paid off. Mach 1 held the lead in ’71 sales, with 36,499 cars sold — the Camaro Z/28 was a distant second. On the street, the M-code 351 4-barrel was a mid-pack runner, averaging 0–60 mph in 6.6 seconds and doing the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds. When it came to a street battle, the Z/28 and Plymouth ’Cuda could beat it. If winning was your bag, you got a Boss 351 or 429 SCJ and endured the endless high-octane refills.

1971 was the last year to get a Ram Air 4-barrel Mach 1. That high-compression 351 was accidentally given a tune-up during the government-mandated 50,000-mile emissions test run, which voided the car’s result. Ford had the lower compression and less powerful Q-code Cobra Jet on board and certified already, so the Ram Air 351 4-barrel simply disappeared from the order sheet, replaced by the CJ. Today, the higher-spec M-code is a plus for buyers.

Values today

Average Mach 1 prices reached a high of $36,471 in 2006 before bottoming out at $19,764 in 2009, with dips and swings in between. It’s a textbook example of how muscle cars fare in a volatile market and why sitting out a storm if you have a good car is wise. Examples with a few needs sell for high-teens range, while cars with rare options and excellent condition can cross the $30,000 threshold.

The good news is the average sale rate from 2006 to present is at $29,000, which is the sweet spot for casual collector and dealer alike. That price will get you a good, no-stories car. It takes $30k for a car with some cool options. To trade up to either a Boss 351 or a 429 version, you’ll spend double that amount.

Our profile car looks very good in desirable Grabber Yellow paint, and it has the Ram Air hood, stripes, rear spoiler, and instrument group options. It has been recently restored, so all the major stuff has been done. That said, some minor work will still be needed to bring it up to show-standard, including a proper air cleaner decal, valve covers, pedal dress-up trim and engine-bay work, among other things.

This car was a good deal at the price paid — I’ve seen more expensive M-code cars and without this car’s options and condition. And at the end of the day, you simply couldn’t restore one of these cars for the price paid here — and that makes this one well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.

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