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The Going Thing: Special-Edition 1969 Ford Mustang SportsRoof
Special-Edition Ford Drag Team Lookalikes
In the spring of 1969 Charlie Crouch was a 21-year-old with a brand-new job (Ohio Edison) looking for a new set of wheels, and a Mustang was top on his wish list. Little did he know that he would soon purchase a Ford Motor Company “Special Promotion” 1969 Mustang SportsRoof made to resemble Ford’s factory drag team cars. Incredibly, Charlie and his wife, Carole, still own this 1969 model today.
All of us have seen Mustang special editions, such as Twister Specials, California Specials, High Country Specials, or even something as esoteric as a Mustang E—Ford built scores of different special-edition Mustangs throughout the years, but after more than 30 years of photographing Mustangs, Crouch’s ’69 was the first special promotion version I had ever run across of a series known as The Going Thing. This car is extra special for two reasons. We have an original owner, and Charlie’s car not only looked like a race car, it ran like a race car with a 428 Cobra Jet under its hood.
In 1969, Charlie knew nothing about Ford’s special promotion at Thompson Drag Raceway in Thompson, Ohio, about 100 miles from his home in Sandusky. Ford set up this “drive and buy” event for its Cleveland sales district, featuring The Going Thing special-edition vehicles. The idea was for Ford to rev up interest in its performance cars. As part of this event it created a regional special edition called The Going Thing. Ford’s factory drag team for the East Coast—Hubert Platt and Randy Payne—showed up to drag race their cars, exhibition style. Participating dealers would either sell the cars they had pre-ordered for this event, or drive the cars back to their dealership for future sales.
Charlie tells a recent story about a man walking around and looking at the car at a show in Sandusky. “He was going crazy. He said back in 1969 he was a kid. His dad took him to Thompson Raceway. He told me, ‘I saw your car there! It was the best one there! It was the only one with blue wheels!’” The man referred to the painted blue steel rims, as seen in these photos. Apparently, the car was on display in a row of The Going Thing special promotion Mustangs and Torinos, and Charlie has old photos of this event.
Charlie’s car was top of the line, having a 428CJ and a four-speed transmission. The number floating around the Internet and in print is 103 The Going Thing Mustangs for 1969. However, this figure should be 109, according to Kevin Marti. With Ford production records, Marti added that 22 of those 109 Mustangs (all SportsRoofs) came with a 428 Cobra Jet. Having Ford production records through Marti Auto Works is a great advantage. Marti explained to us, “There were four batches of Mustangs ordered for The Going Thing promotion. The first batch was all six-cylinders. A week later they ordered two batches that were a mix of 351-4Vs and 428CJs. The last batch was a mix of other engines.”
Other cars might have had The Going Thing cosmetic treatment to resemble the Ford Drag Team, but dealers equipped these cars with an assortment of engines, including 351s, 302s, even inline-sixes. Sandusky Motor Sales ordered just one car and it didn’t sell at the promotional event at Thompson dragstrip so they drove it back to the dealership. The timing was just right for Charlie. He recalled a Sunday in May of 1969 at his parents’ house when his friend, Mel Silcox, dropped by for a visit. Talk turned to cars and Charlie mentioned a Mustang he was thinking about buying on the Ford dealer lot. “He told me that was not the car I wanted.”
Silcox knew about this very special Mustang at the Ford dealership so Charlie wanted to see it and brought along his nephew and brother-in-law for a testdrive. Charlie hit 100 mph on back roads and was impressed enough that he bought the car. Charlie and Carole married in 1970 and she soon expressed a desire to drive the Mustang, so he taught her how to shift the four-speed and she eventually road-raced the car.
The couple really utilized this car’s racy looks and R-code (after all, R is for race!) 428 CJ. They drove the car in autocross, hill climbs, road racing, and rallies. There was no need to add stripes to make the SportsRoof look like a race car. Ford had handled the stripes, while the dealer had ordered this car with the Cobra Jet engine and four-speed Top Loader. Inexplicably, Sandusky Motor Sales specified a 3.50:1 open rear axle.
Every account I’ve read of The Going Thing cars refers to the color Grabber Blue, but Charlie, being an original owner, knows better. The paint was actually called Petty Blue, which makes sense—the paint code on special-order paint cars was left blank—sure enough, Charlie’s trim tag is blank. “That was the only year Richard Petty ran a Ford. He ran a Talladega. And if you look at that Talladega, it is painted the same color as my car, and it’s got the same lug nuts and centers, but the wheels are painted a little darker blue.”
Charlie can’t remember exactly when they stopped driving the Cobra Jet, but probably about 1979, the time of the second gas crisis. Many people sold their factory muscle cars in exchange for econo-boxes, but Charlie’s father-in-law had a barn at his farm so, “I put the car in the barn and let it sit. I thought ‘well I’ll get back with it,’ but I never did and it sat for 24 years.”
When his in-laws died Charlie lost his barn space so he invited Kyle Munk (Munk’s Restorations in Sandusky, Ohio) to have a look and the two of them worked together for 6½ years to restore the car. Finally, The Going Thing was going again and like new. Charlie put the car on the show circuit, which is where we found it at the ’14 All-Ford Nationals, filled with many other Mustang special editions, thanks to the efforts of Don Hughmanick and Fran Cosentino, both of whom own special editions Mustangs of their own.
Our thanks go to Charles Gilchrist for digging up photos from his immense files of Ford’s promotional event at Thompson Drag Raceway, May 2-3, 1969. Gilchrist’s website (http://charlesgilchrist.com) includes a treasure trove of photo files of drag cars from the 1968-1975 era. Viewers seeking vintage drag photos may very well find the photos they are seeking from Gilchrist.