1973 Mach 1 Trans Am Inspired Daily Driver Build

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Chris73

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I'm in the process of turning my 1973 Mach 1 into a reliable daily driver with Trans Am racer style. I've always loved the looks of the cars from the late 60's and early 70's trans am racing series. For those not familiar with the style, here are some examples of my inspiration:

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At first, being a broke 20 year old, I wasn't able to make this happen. The first stage of the build was a ratty looking but mechanically sound daily driver, and surprisingly it got compliments absolutely everywhere I went. I'll copy and paste the post from my introduction thread below to show how I got to that point.
 

Chris73

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I've been a longtime user of this site, but this is my first time posting. I appreciate all the knowledge shared here that has helped me many times working on my very first car, my 1973 Mach 1. Figured I'd contribute a little to the site instead of just being a silent observer as I have in the past, and to be honest I could use a little bit of inspiration as life has seemed to get in the way every time I try to work on my oh-so-close to being finished car. For a little background, I'm currently 23 so this has all happened in the past few years. Back in 2014, my uncle bought this 1973 Mach 1 after going to look at the Galaxie next to it:

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It had a 351 Cleveland 2V and a C6, and seemed all stock aside from an Edelbrock performer, Holley 600, air cleaner, and possibly valve covers? Still not sure on them.

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The next day we got the engine running on a boat tank, drove it around the yard a bit to make sure the transmission worked, and left it there with my uncle as the perfect start to a project. Unfortunately, he didn't have the time or motivation for it, and it sat for a couple years. After me bringing it up at every family gathering for the couple years, when he decided he wanted to sell it he gave me the first crack at it, and that's how I ended up with the very first car I ever purchased as a 17 year old being a 1973 Mach 1 back in 2016. After spending every penny to my name on this car, I had to let it sit a while as I finished high school and started college. It never left my mind though, as i planned and plotted with painters tape how exactly I'd paint the thing one day:

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Chris73

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1973 Mach 1
Life happened, as it always does, and it was 2019 before I made any progress on the car. I stuck the car in my father-in-law's barn, threw what little money a struggling college student could at it, and spent all the time I had between going to college days and working nights to make this car into something. With a roof, plywood sheets on the ground as a floor, and (kinda) walls I could finally get the car in the air to do all the basics:

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The interior was in pieces laying inside the car when my uncle got it, and it was still that way when I started. There were several extra parts from other mustangs and other old fords which added to the confusion putting it all together. After cleaning out the car and somewhat organizing parts I was surprised to find no rust holes.

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With all the help I could ask for from my Dad, we dug into it. We started with the brakes, new pads and a new master cylinder, and after that was working we had a caliper sticking so we replaced that. We replaced all 3 rubber brake lines as they were very old and brittle. I had to make hard lines for the rear end, they were missing for whatever reason so I put new wheel cylinders and shoes in at the same time in hopes that I'd never have to tear into the drums again. My first mod that wasn't out of necessity was a set of Hedman headers, as there was no exhaust in the car when I got it so I didn't want to make exhaust all the way up to the stock manifolds when I wanted headers eventually anyway. As we tried to make the thing run a little better, we found out the distributor had fused itself to the intake, and ended up having to break it to get it to seperate, so I threw a cheapie HEI in it to get me going. Found some old turbine wheels with Hoosier drag radials on the backs for $100 on craigslist and I was running and driving on an old Holley that tried to die every time you came to a stop, with rear tires that rubbed the fenders every time I hit a bump, and in a bare interior with a half bolted down seat and no working gauges, but boy was I happy about it.

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Chris73

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Now that I had a running and driving car, my biggest issue was getting it reliable enough to be able to drive to work and college. I had big plans for this Mustang one day, so instead of going my usual route of finding a cheap used carb and making it work, I ate mac & cheese every night to save up for the biggest purchase of my life so far: A holley sniper stealth, as well as a matching Hyperspark distributor and ignition box, along with new tank, electric fuel pump, regulator, and everything else I needed to make EFI work. At the same time I painted the engine bay, valve covers, intake, and accessory brackets which really stepped up the look of the whole package from this:

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To this:
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At the same time we were working on the wiring and plumbing for the EFI conversion, I found a killer deal on some torq thrust lookalikes that were being discontinued. I got a set of 17x8s for the front and 18x9s for the back for $380 total, brand new straight from summit racing.

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I had my fiance make the stickers for the center caps with her Cricut vinyl cutting machine she made t-shirts with, I had 2 versions but I ended up going with the ones with the silver surround and black horse.

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At the same time as the EFI I wanted functioning gauges and at least a little bit of an interior, so I started with new carpet. I just used generic black carpet by the yard since it was a lot cheaper than a real carpet kit. Next there was a lot of time spent on the forum and looking over shop manuals to see how exactly the interior went together. It may not be concourse down to correct fasteners, but it's all together and I'm happy with the way it came out.

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So then I finally had a car that was reliable, everything mechanical worked, was street legal, and had a halfway decent interior. Next I drove the hell out of the thing for about a year, including a few trips out of state, cruised just fine whether it was 45 around town or 80 on the interstate. It really gave me an appreciation for how good these cars are even at 50 years old.

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Then I daily drove the car like that for a year. Driving 30 miles to college every day, then 20 miles to work, then another 10 miles back home, and it never missed a beat or left me stranded.
 

Chris73

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After a year of saving up, I was finally ready to tear into the car and make it as nice as it deserved. I borrowed a space in my father-in-laws shop for "a couple weeks" that turned into a couple months of my Dad and I learning how to do body work with no experience. A few days of my hands going numb with a palm sander and the easy part of stripping the car down to bare metal was done.

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We were surprised to see just how many layers were over the original Saddle Bronze Metallic paint:

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There were more than a few spots that needed some attention, but surprisingly no rust. We found that someone had put new quarters on the car and done a pretty decent job at it. After some time with a hammer and dolly set and learning how to use bondo (thin coats, nothing over 1/8" thick on the whole car) we attacked the thing with high build primer. I had heard epoxy first was the correct way, but I was also on a budget and had heard also heard several say they were fine without it.

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Next was a rattle can to the low visibility areas that I wanted protected but didn't need perfect.

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And next I was ready for my paint job I'd been planning for the last 5 years
 

Chris73

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1973 Mach 1
I was still a kid when I bought this car and was deciding what to do with it, and even at 23 I still consider myself a kid sometimes. I grew up with video games, unlike a lot of members here, and my favorite were always the racing ones where I could customize whatever car I wanted. I used them as a tool to channel my creativity into making something unique, and I did the same thing with this car and a game I found had a 71 Mach 1 in it. I used it less as a game, and more as a 3D modeling software for my car, and I came up with several iterations of how exactly I wanted my car to look. The one I decided on was heavily inspired by the 1969 Boss 302 raced by Parnelli Jones in the SCCA Trans Am series in 1969. Here is his car:

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And here's what I had decided I wanted to do for my car:

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With this concept in the making for several years I was ready to paint.
 

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Chris73

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I know a wrap would've been the easiest way to get the livery look like those old cars had, but it was cheaper to buy paint than to pay someone to design and cut out the graphics I was wanting so I decided to just do it myself. I started by spraying a silver where all the pinstriping separating the two tone and where the roof, hood and trunk stripes would be. No taping off, nothing special, just learning how to spray without making it run with my harbor freight paint gun (third time was the charm).

Next was the blue. I had always loved the blue on the newer model Ford trucks, every time I see one on the street I gawk at it. In case anyone else likes it, it's called Blue Flame Metallic, the Ford paint code is SZ. Here's an example:

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So I taped off what needed to stay silver and started with the blue:

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After that I had good silver pinstripe lines, they just don't pop yet against gray primer.

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Next was taping off everything painted so far to spray the black. I don't have any good pictures until after I'd already removed the paper, but here's what I ended up with ready to clear coat:

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Since I was using factory 73 trunk stripes and slightly modified 71-72 side stripes I decided to just use decals for them, but I did paint all the striping on the hood, roof, and trunk. Here's my final result, after clear but before wetsanding:

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The hood and trunk were done separately, but they came out just as nice and the stripes do line up:

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The hood is my proudest piece of the entire car, it took about as long as the rest of the car combined. I again borrowed my fiance's vinyl cutting machine to make a stencil for painting on the Mach 1 script, and taped off the rest of the stripes by hand, with more measuring than I'd like to do in the rest of my lifetime. The silver was sprayed before masking, then black was painted on after, then when the masking was peeled off it left me with the finished result.

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Chris73

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Before the paint process was started, we pulled the engine and trans, as well as the center section out of the 9 inch. After driving the car for about a year, it was apparent that while the Mach 1 sounded like a muscle car, it was all bark and no bite with a mostly stock 2V Cleveland and 2.75 open rear end. Just didn't feel right that it didn't even want to spin the tires. I was still in college and all my money was quickly eaten up by paint and thinners and reducers and hardeners and all the things needed for a paint job I never knew about. However, I did what I could.

A family friend let me pull a Lunati 10111 cam out of a 400 that was in an old derby car. From reading all the George Pence I could trying to learn how to build a Cleveland, I knew this was a replica of the D1ZZ-6250-BX Ford cam used in the 1971 Cobra Jet.

I knew from reading forums that the best bang for my buck would be rear gears, but I wanted to be able to cruise on the highway, so rather than throwing my budget at the motor, I found a 9 inch center section with a full spool and 4.30 gears used from a dirt track racer. I also found a dirt cheap AOD out of a mid 80s Crown Vic, and calculated that with a .67 overdrive and 4.30 gears it would cruise like the C6 with 2.88 gears, perfect for the highway. Used a guide on this forum to know I needed to swap flexplates with the swap, and I ended up modifying the linkage to my factory automatic shifter to make it work for an AOD.

I completely rebuilt and repainted the motor, with all new gaskets, bearings, and a new (used) crank because whoever built the engine before me had put the center main bearings in upside down and starved the thrust bearing for oil for the year I hot rodded around, eating up my crank. I'm surprised it never made any noises or gave me any problems over the year I daily drove it, especially with more than a few trips to 6k RPM. Here's how the engine turned out rebuilt and ready to slap back in the car:

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Before I dropped the engine in, I wanted to do the engine compartment correctly. The first go around I had sprayed over all the old paint just to make it all one color, but this time I sandblasted it bare to remove where you could see lines of layers of paint.

Before:
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After media blasting:
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And finally done right:
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Chris73

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After we dropped in the motor, swapped to the AOD, and got it fired up again, I drove it the half mile back home, still mostly disassembled, no glass, bumpers, lights, etc. I started wet sanding the clear, realized just how easy it is to sand through the clear if you don't know what you're doing, and haven't touched the thing in a year in a half since. Now it sits in my garage 90% finished, with all the parts there to put it back together. I have a brand new headliner, all new glass, all new weatherstripping, we've already put new upholstery on the stock seats, new dash pad, I polished all the exterior chrome, new marker lights, a new 73 grille, new front lip spoiler, new chrome bumper and brackets since I want to convert it, new sway bars, everything to rebuild the front suspension with poly bushings, it all just needs put together. I've been putting it off and finding other projects to work on because I have so much time into it I don't want to mess it up myself with the wet sanding and polishing and I don't trust anyone else to do it either.

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This video may help. I've only done it once but, it worked. Use repair clear, not overall clear and choosing the right blending solution can be tricky. Best of luck. Chuck
 

Chris73

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Thanks all for the kind words and thank you for the advice Chuck.

The places I sanded through were all on body lines like in the video, I'll have to give it a shot. It doesn't have to be perfect for me to be proud of it, but I'd like to do the best job I can. Internet research and youtube is what has gotten me this far, but there's some things it would be nice to be able to just ask a body guy. Here's an example of what I need to fix:

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I feel a little ashamed to admit it, but there's about 4 or 5 areas that are messed up like that between me and my Dad sanding on it. I tried to be careful and did it all by hand wet sanding starting with 1500 grit, but there's no way to know you've gone too far until it's too late. I probably should've just left the orange peel and been happy with it.

When we first sanded through, after some research I bought a touch up pen in my correct blue color to try but I never got around to it. It is supposed to contain both base and clear. Anyone ever try and have any luck with one of these?

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I'm sure the correct way to do it is respray like the video posted, and I do have extra paint leftover, just trying to weigh all my options and I know a pen would be a lot harder to mess up than respraying and blending.

I made sure to start my wet sanding on the bottom half of the car, because I was afraid I'd screw it up and the top half took a lot more time taping off the stripes. Worst case I can just redo from the line dividing the two tone down. Would a total respray of the bottom half of the car be easier for a complete beginner than trying to blend in spot repairs? I used regular PPG Omni from Oreilly's, so its nothing too expensive, I think I spent about $800 in paint products between all three colors and I have leftovers of each.

Again, this doesn't have to be perfect, I plan on driving it every day when I'm done. I just want to be proud of it.

Again thanks for the support, and thank you in advance for any assistance.
 
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Fantastic Post! Great work, love your color scheme! I have done a lot of sanding in my day, it's easy to sand through. The key is lots of clear coats. Watch the pro's on TV like Foose and Kindig and you see in some of the shows they really lay down the clear. Of course they also try to minimize the orange peel. I had a black and silver '94 2500 Suburban Diesel that came from the factory with quite a bit of orange peel, which always bugged me. The roof and lowers were silver and the black was in the middle. It was my pride and joy at the time, had a little lift and 33" BFG All Terrains. One day when it was about 7 years old, my 16 year old son borrowed it to go dirt bike riding, took it down a farm road towing his trailer, and the silt on the leaves of the trees scratched one side going in, and the other side going out. When he came home and washed the Sub, he was so upset at what he had done to my truck. when he came and told me, I looked at it and I told him, "That's OK Charlie, now your going to learn how to color sand" and we color sanded all the black on the truck, first with 1200, then 1500, then 2000. That truck never looked so good as it did after we color sanded it. It came out like show paint.
 

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Sheriff41

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I'll defer to others on the paint touch up. For future reference, when color sanding and buffing, my technique is to use 3M 471+ vinyl tape in 1/2" on the edges and high lines of the panels. The paint usually flows smooth on these areas and is thinner than the rest of the panel. Once the buffing is done I remove the tape and use a DA polisher to do any blending of the cut/buffed area with the areas that were taped. I learned this technique after cutting through a few spots on a paint job. It has worked well for me since.
 

Chris73

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@Sheriff41 Thanks for the tip, I hadn't even considered taping it off. After cutting through, I made an effort to stay away from the body lines, and I started to notice that most of those high lines didn't even need sanding to be smooth. I'll make sure to do that next time.
 

Chris73

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@Marks1 That's a great story and I wish I could've learned on something like that that was a little less of a major project. It's been a couple years since I've done it so I'm not entirely sure, but I believe we did 3 layers of clear. There were no runs but orange peel similar to a new car finish.

When I was preparing for paint and asking everyone I could for advice, someone told me the last place I should cheap out is the clear coat. With that in mind I didn't buy the absolute cheapest clear they had at O'reilly's, I spent a bit more money to get one that was supposed to contain higher solids and be bit higher quality. I really thought it would've been thicker than it was, but maybe I should've counted on using more since it was a cheaper product.

At least I learned something to keep in mind the next go around. As long as I'm continuously learning from my mistakes and improving I try not to let it get me down too much.
 
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Fantastic post. Fantastic transformation. Congrats for your determination. The car is looking beautiful. You took your time and the final product shows it. Keep the good work.
One word of caution in case you don't know, but I thought to mention it since you talked about rebuilding the front suspension with poly bushings. Do not use poly bushings for the strut arm. Use the standard rubber ones.
 

Chris73

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I have the Prothane 6-2001BL kit I planned on installing. It seemed to have nothing but positive reviews, and it says it includes:
- Lower Control Arm Bushings
- Strut Rod Bushings
- Front Endlink Kit
- Rear Leaf Spring and Shackle Bushings
- Tie Rod Boots

Just did a quick search on them and now I see why people recommend not to run them. Never knew about that, thanks for the tip. I'll get regular rubber ones.
 
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