La­bor of Love

Gregg Gunta trans­formed this Twis­ter Spe­cial Mach 1 from a tired rat­tle­box into a su­per-tight cruiser

Mustang Monthly - - CONTENTS - Richard Prince TEXT & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Gregg Gunta trans­formed this Twis­ter Spe­cial Mach 1 from a tired rat­tle­box into a su­per-tight cruiser

When the re­designed 1971 Mus­tang was in­tro­duced, the days of fac­tory-sup­plied, Spar­tan, all-out street brawlers and thinly dis­guised off-theshow­room-floor race cars were largely a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean the new Mus­tang wasn’t a ca­pa­ble per­former and an all-around great car. The ’71s were larger than their pre­de­ces­sors in ev­ery mea­sure, with the wheel­base grow­ing 1 inch, the track grow­ing by 3 inches, the length by 2.1 inches, and the width by

2.3 inches. The ad­di­tional size meant ad­di­tional weight, but buy­ers got the longer, wider, lower look they wanted, and in 1971 the ad­di­tional weight could still be off­set by choos­ing the right com­bi­na­tion of per­for­mance op­tions.

The Mach 1 pack­age was, of course, a sen­si­ble start­ing point. Avail­able only with the Sport­sRoof body style and a V-8 en­gine, the Mach 1 op­tion in­cluded con­trast­ing black or ar­gent paint on the twin NACA­ducted hood, match­ing body-side stripes, spe­cial badg­ing, pop-open gas cap, heavy-duty springs and shocks, quick-ra­tio steer­ing when power as­sist was added, and sev­eral other fea­tures.

The per­for­mance ca­pa­bil­ity and stun­ning good looks of the ’71 Mach 1 are what led Gregg Gunta to seek one out. Though some 36,499 ex­am­ples were pro­duced that year, find­ing a good one to­day can be chal­leng­ing. “I found the car in Iowa,” he re­calls. “It was from a guy in­volved with a Mus­tang club that stopped func­tion­ing, and I bought it from a con­signor.”

The car was in need of a lot of work, but that didn’t dis­suade Gunta be­cause he planned to mod­ify it for en­hanced per­for­mance any­way. Also, he was par­tic­u­larly at­tracted to the Twis­ter Spe­cial pack­age

the car has. The Twis­ter Spe­cial was of­fered by the fac­tory in 1970 for Kansasarea Ford deal­ers, and a to­tal of 96 were made. Each started life as a Grab­ber Or­ange Mach 1, and each got com­pe­ti­tion sus­pen­sion, spe­cial graph­ics, and ei­ther a Su­per Co­bra Jet Ram Air or 351C en­gine. Though not a fac­tory of­fer­ing in 1971, a num­ber of Twis­ter Spe­cials were pro­duced by Kansas deal­ers to meet cus­tomer de­mand.

“Be­cause the Mus­tang was in sales trou­ble in 1970, they cre­ated the Twis­ter Spe­cial to lure buy­ers into the show­room,” Gunta ex­plains. “In 1971 some peo­ple still wanted a Twis­ter Spe­cial, and the deal­er­ship made a few on its own. My car came from Kansas City when new, and the dealer re­painted it Grab­ber Or­ange from its orig­i­nal Wim­ble­don White and trans­formed it into a Twis­ter Spe­cial.”

Though it was sorely in need of me­chan­i­cal work, Gunta was able to drive the car from Iowa to Mil­wau­kee. “The en­gine and driv­e­train were in re­ally bad shape. The sus­pen­sion was hor­ri­ble and it rat­tled like an old man. The tail­lights didn’t work and the gas tank was so gummed up I changed the clogged fuel fil­ter ev­ery 30 miles in or­der to get it home!”

To im­prove both ride qual­ity and han­dling, Gunta turned the car over to West Bend Dyno Tun­ing for chas­sis up­grades. Up front the wiz­ards at West Bend in­stalled a To­tal Con­trol Prod­ucts front end from Chris Al­ston’s Chas­sis­works, com­plete with Var­iShock sin­glead­justable coilovers, rack-and-pin­ion steer­ing, and strut tower braces.

Out back they re­placed the stock sus­pen­sion with a To­tal Con­trol Prod­ucts four-link setup that also uti­lizes Var­iShock sin­glead­justable coilovers. Wil­wood disc brakes with four-pis­ton calipers were added all around to im­prove stop­ping power.

For en­hanced power and re­li­a­bil­ity, Gunta com­pletely re­built the car’s 351C en­gine, and it now makes 460 hp and 493 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. It’s paired to a C6 au­to­matic from Au­to­matic Trans­mis­sion De­sign with a Hughes Per­for­mance ProStreet 30 Se­ries 3,000-rpm stall con­verter that West Bend Dyno in­stalled. The en­gine’s twist goes through a Ford 9-inch rear to reach 15x8 five-spoke mags shod with P245/60R15 BF­Goodrich rub­ber. Iden­ti­cally sized wheels and tires are used up front.

Though the car’s in­te­rior was in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion over­all, Gunta had Per­fec­tion Auto Trim in Mil­wau­kee do a few up­grades. They in­stalled new seat cov­ers and a 14inch teardrop bil­let de­sign Grant steer­ing wheel. Gunta added new seat and shoul­der belts, and power rear quar­ter-win­dows to re­place the Sport­sRoof ’s fixed win­dows with parts he bought from some­one in Aus­tralia.

To com­plete the trans­for­ma­tion of his Mus­tang, Gunta went through it from one end to the other, straight­en­ing out all of the elec­tri­cal prob­lems, restor­ing the hood’s ram-air sys­tem, and get­ting ev­ery­thing else work­ing like new. In keep­ing with his orig­i­nal in­tent, he drives the car as of­ten as time and weather al­low. “It has the beau­ti­fully ag­gres­sive ap­pear­ance of a clas­sic ’71 Mus­tang,” he rea­sons, “with dra­mat­i­cally im­proved per­for­mance that makes it in­cred­i­bly fun to drive!”

Clas­sic lines and ag­gres­sive pro­por­tions made the Sport­sRoof body style pop­u­lar when new, and make it a fa­vorite with col­lec­tors to­day.

The Mus­tang’s sus­pen­sion was com­pletely re­placed with To­tal Con­trol Prod­ucts parts from Chris Al­ston’s Chas­sis­works.

The Twis­ter Spe­cial pack­age, de­vel­oped to spur sales in the Kansas zone in 1970, was dealer-in­stalled in 1971.

Mag­num 500–style wheels and BF­Goodrich rub­ber main­tain a pe­riod look but de­liver su­pe­rior per­for­mance com­pared to orig­i­nal tires. The Mach 1 gained hood “pins” and func­tional ram air for the 351. The Mach 1 also got this racer-look pop-open gas cap.

The Mach’s in­te­rior re­tains OEM am­biance but has sev­eral up­grades, in­clud­ing new safety belts,Grant steer­ing wheel, and func­tional rear quar­ter-win­dows.

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