Huey Vanderford’s ‘69 428 Cobra Jet Mustang Mach 1

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I love the way hot rods look, the sound of an overhead valve V8, and the smell of tire smoke. But the thing that’s always impressed me most about our sport are the people.

One day after I talked with Huey Vanderford about his 1969 Mustang Mach 1, his wife Rhonda sent me this email:

Hello Glenn,

I would like to tell you a few things I’m sure Huey did not share with you.

First, all the money used to build his car was acquired either by Huey working overtime or working extra jobs. No “house” money was used for his build.

Second, Huey painted his (originally black) Mustang Meadowlark Yellow because I asked him to.

Finally, Huey kept his car an automatic instead of converting to a manual so I could drive it.

The best word to describe Huey is: “ALTRUISTIC” (showing a wish to help or bring advantages to others, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself).

Thank you for speaking with him.

Rhonda Vanderford

Huey and Rhonda’s relationship, and how hot rodding plays such an important role in that relationship, tells you all you need to know about our sport.

I’m tempted to stop this story right here.

I’m tempted… but I’m not going to because Huey’s Mach 1 is a very, very cool hot rod.

Huey’s always been a Mustang fan. “I’ve had one since I was in high school,” he told me. This is his third 1969 model, having previously owned a 351 and another 428.

He’s had this one since April 12, 1990. It’s an original 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1, but when he acquired it, it didn’t have an engine or transmission.

And it didn’t have too much else going for it either. “It was rough,” Huey recalled. “It had been banged up. We had to put a lot of sheet metal on it.” Check out the pictures below.

But Huey wanted to keep things as close to factory stock as possible so he purchased two more ‘69 Mustangs to act as donor cars. He found them sitting in an open sided barn, with hay all around them. “We’d been driving by it for years,” Huey said, “and one day I told my wife ‘I’m going to ask him what he wants for them.’” Three hundred dollars later, Huey had his parts cars.

Body panels from the two barn find Mustangs, and a perfect floor pan he found in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, brought new life to the unibody. Keeping with his factory stock goal, Huey carefully welded that floor pan into his Mustang using the original spot weld locations.

He was able to locate an original 428 Cobra Jet engine for $1700. When he checked it out prior to purchasing it, it seemed to be in good shape. The oil pressure and water temperature both gave good readings during the test. But when Huey finally got it up on an engine stand and pulled the oil pan, he saw that two connecting rods were on the verge of spinning their bearings. That led to a complete rebuild.

The 428 still has the original crankshaft and rods, but now has forged pistons that produce an 11:1 compression ratio. A Crane hydraulic roller cam activates Harland Sharp roller rocker arms on top of the stock Ford Cobra Jet heads.

The intake features all Edelbrock components: an 800 cfm AVS carburetor sitting on top of an RPM dual plane intake manifold with the EnduraShine finish. MSD electronic ignition lights the mixture, and the spent gases go out Ford Powertrain Applications Tri-Y headers that connect to 2 ½” straight through dual exhausts.

A Be Cool radiator and dual fans keep the big block at the correct temperature. Huey built the custom hoses for the coolant system. A Concept One belt system drives the accessories.

Rhonda gets to enjoy a TCI C6 automatic transmission, and the TCI 2800 RPM stall speed torque converter makes sure Huey enjoys driving too. The C6 spins 3.90 gears in a traction lock differential. The rear end also features a Daytona pinion bearing and retainer and 31 spline axles.

The horsepower of the 428 calls for a strong suspension and Huey’s Mustang has one. He installed a Total Control Products coil-over front suspension. Global West leaf springs with Del-a-lum aluminum bushings lower the pony car 1 inch in the back.

The Mustang has power rack and pinion steering and four wheel power disk brakes – 13” up front, and 11” in the back. Seventeen inch American Racing Torq Thrust wheels carry 235-45 tires up front and 245-45s in the rear.

Huey’s completely redone the interior. TMI bucket seats provide some additional bolstering all around. There’s a new reproduction steering wheel on an aftermarket tilt column, new door panels and carpet. He’s also installed very cool power windows, with switches that are activated by slight movement of the manual window cranks.

The woodgrain on the dash is stock, as is the center console. The original radio is installed in the dash for looks, but is not hooked up. Sounds and communications are provided by a remote control Secretaudio system in the trunk. Huey installed Dynamat insulation throughout the car to keep the sound and temperature under control in the cockpit.

The highest tech in the interior is the Dakota Digital HDX gauge system Huey installed. The gauges, whose appearance can be customized, look great in the Mach 1’s dashboard, but the HDX does much more than just show oil pressure. Keyed from a GPS system located just in front of the windshield, it tells Huey almost anything he’d want to know: speed, location, temperature, 0-60 time, ¼ and ⅛ mile elapsed times, and top speed. The system also turns off the radiator fans at a pre-set speed.

The new body panels Huey pirated off his two parts cars have been supplemented by NOS front fenders, gas cap, and trim pieces for the rocker panels and hood. The bumpers have been re-chromed.

Halogen headlights with color rings liven up the front end, with sequential turn signal lights in the back. Huey also installed sequential indicator lights that replace the static factory lights the back of the Cobra Jet hood scoop.

We’ll have to take Huey’s word for those hood mods because he didn’t install the hood prior to heading to the Braselton Bash car show. He was too anxious to get on the road. At the show, he’d put the first 50 miles on his Mustang.

The classic Mach 1 rear window louvers and front and rear spoilers are there. Right now, Huey and Rhonda are enjoying the Meadowlark Yellow paint without the Mach 1 striping. He says he plans on putting those on “sooner or later.”

Huey’s goal was to bring the car up to date with new technology, but still give it a vintage feel. “I tried to do it so that if someone wants to return this car to a fully original car, it won’t take much,” he said. “I didn’t cut it up.”

And you can see from Rhonda’s email that he didn’t do it the easy way. Huey did almost all the work himself, as he could afford it. He’s got thousands of dollars invested in parts, and as he said, “There’s no telling how many hours I have in it.”

“It took a long time, and it’s been worth it,” Huey told me.

I suspect that applies to his life with Rhonda as much as it does to the Mach 1.


Photos by GHR and courtesy of Huey Vanderford
Click here to see the photos of Huey’s Mach 1


One Reply to “Huey Vanderford’s ‘69 428 Cobra Jet Mustang Mach 1”

  1. What a fantastic read. Huey and Rhonda are truly great people. I am so happy that they finally are realizing the dream of the Mach 1.

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