1970 SCJ MACH 1

AND A PACE CAR TOO!

Mustang Monthly - - FRONT PAGE - Rob Kin­nan TEXT • Peter Lin­ney PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

We all have that one mo­ment when we be­came gear­heads. Maybe it was read­ing car mag­a­zines in school. Per­haps you were born into a car fam­ily and ab­sorbed the pas­sion from a fam­ily mem­ber. Or maybe, such as the case with Steve Magee of Irvine, Cal­i­for­nia, you were a “fringe” car guy as a teenager, but there was one car in the neigh­bor­hood that fully ce­mented your feet in the quick­sand of car­guy heaven.

The year was 1975 and Steve had grad­u­ated high school in Ann Ar­bor, Michi­gan, the year prior. He had a 1965 Mus­tang that was cool, but his neigh­bor had a 1970 Mach 1 Su­per Co­bra Jet, Grab­ber Orange with de­cals and stick­ers all over it, and Steve fell head over heels for that car. When he re­al­ized that the owner was think­ing of sell­ing it, Steve had to have the Mus­tang, sav­ing ev­ery nickel and dime to his name un­til he even­tu­ally snatched it up.

The Mach was a spe­cial pre-Twis­ter pro­mo­tional Mus­tang used as a pace car at Michi­gan In­ter­na­tional Speed­way (MIS) in 1970 as part of the Amer­i­can Race­way In­cor­po­rated

(ARI) Pace Car pro­gram, and it still had all the stripes, stick­ers, and “428 CID” painted on the hood, NASCAR-style. His neigh­bor had orig­i­nally bought the Mus­tang from Hen­der­son Ford in Ann Ar­bor in 1970.

As out­lined on Twis­terSpe­cial.com, “In De­troit, Ford’s Spe­cial Pro­mo­tions Di­vi­sion was ap­proached by the Pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Race­way, Inc. (ARI), a close per­sonal friend of “Bunkie” Knud­sen, Ford’s pres­i­dent. He re­quested pace cars for use at five of his ex­ist­ing or planned race tracks.

Ten 1970 Mus­tangs were built. Five Mach 1s and five con­vert­ibles. All 10 cars were sent to a spe­cial Ford garage in Dear­born where the driv­e­trains were com­pletely balanced and blueprinted for high speed re­quire­ments for pac­ing NASCAR races.

All were equipped with

428 SCJ en­gines and C6 au­to­matic trans­mis­sions. Dis­tinc­tive side stripes and rear quar­ter de­cals hav­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate track logo were de­signed. Plans called for color co­or­di­na­tion of the tracks and pace cars. Later dis­as­ter struck and ARI went bank­rupt with only two of the five planned tracks ac­tu­ally built.”

The ARI cars were built as part of Ford’s Spe­cial Pro­mo­tions work that also built the Twis­ter Spe­cials, but none of the ARI cars were con­verted into Twis­ter Spe­cials, though they’re “re­lated.” The Twis­ters were in the 118,000 VIN se­ries, while the 10 ARI pace cars were in the 120,000 se­ries. With­out the 1970 Twis­ters be­ing pro­duced to de­fray the cost of the ARI project, there never would have been any ARI pace cars pro­duced.

Steve only owned the car for two years when the cost of keep­ing it run­ning forced him to sell, and he al­ways re­gret­ted let­ting this spe­cial car go. He’s cer­tainly not alone in hav­ing those feel­ings for a car that “got away”—we’ve all been there. Then years later, af­ter los­ing track of the car in the mid-1980s, Gary Pe­tra­niac, the pres­i­dent of the De­troit Area Mus­tang Club, bought the car and con­tacted Steve won­der­ing if it was used at MIS as a pace car, so­lid­i­fy­ing the car’s his­tory.

That sick­en­ing feel­ing of let­ting the Mus­tang slip through his grasp was eating at Steve by the 2000s, when the In­ter­net was just get­ting in­ter­est­ing, so he started search­ing for the car to see about get­ting it back. That search took him 15 long years, un­til late one Fri­day night he lo­cated the Mus­tang in In­di­ana. The car had been in stor­age for al­most 20 years and needed a full restora­tion, but the paint and body were in sur­pris­ingly good con­di­tion, so Steve sent it off to Steve Steeb Ser­vice in

Ann Ar­bor in 2016 where the car was re­stored. Since the 428 Co­bra Jet is not your nor­mal ev­ery­day en­gine, it was sent to Hol­brook Rac­ing En­gines in De­troit, where famed CJ racer Dave Lyall him­self had a hand in build­ing it; when the dyno day was over, the mighty CJ cranked out a healthy 630 hp and 610 lb-ft of torque—quite a bump from the stock

335 hp.

In 2016, with the en­gine in­stalled and all other me­chan­i­cal work com­pleted, the Mus­tang was shipped from Steeb’s shop to Magee’s house in Cal­i­for­nia where he then fin­ished the paint and in­te­rior work, with some help from Mus­tangs and Fast Fords in Santa Ana, Cal­i­for­nia. We saw it at the 2018 Knott’s Berry Farm Fab­u­lous Fords For­ever show in April, and we were im­pressed with not only the work per­formed on the car, but also its his­tory and the fact that the same car Steve owned 40 years ago (as proven by the Marti Re­port) is back home again in his pos­ses­sion.

And that’s a story we can all re­late to.

The de­cals that were too far gone to be used were care­fully re­pro­duced dur­ing the restora­tion.

We re­ally dig the NASCAR-style hood graph­ics show­ing the world what’s un­der that Shaker scoop.

Steve Magee with his Grab­ber Orange SCJ pace car, 40 years af­ter he first owned it.

Mag­num 500 wheels and Goodyear Poly­glas tires are cor­rect for this car.

The car’s orig­i­nal owner run­ning the Mus­tang at Mi­lan Drag­way near De­troit, Michi­gan, in 1970.

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