Eric English
August 1, 2008

Step By Step

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The cockpit is clearly spartan, though Group II rules did require a full interior save for carpeting. Custom instrument panel and steering wheel are as delivered in 1967, while gauges are close facsimiles of the originals. Close inspection reveals a wrinkled floorpan, a proud battle scar from an accident that occurred during the 1967 Trans-Am at Marlboro.
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Among the many stories that occurred over a remarkable history, McComb related a particularly interesting tale about the last race of the '67 Trans-Am season at Kent, Washington-the manufacturer's championship being on the line between Ford and Mercury. Shelby team driver Jerry Titus was widely viewed to have the best shot at winning for Ford, but when Titus mangled his Mustang during practice, a deal was struck to have him drive McComb's car. Despite finding himself in the odd position of sitting on the sidelines, McComb says the arrangement was to his financial benefit. The deal stipulated that after the race, the Shelby team would install a fresh engine and prep the car for the SCCA National Championships. "We were mostly limited by financial resources, none of us had any money back then," McComb says, putting the agreement in perspective. As it turns out, Titus DNF'd due to an engine failure at Kent, but the Second-Place finish by Shelby team driver Ronnie Bucknum was enough to earn the championship for Ford. As well, the subsequent post-race freshening seemed to work out for McComb, who went on to accomplish exactly what he'd hoped-winning the SCCA's '67 A-Sedan national title.


Dusting It Off
During the mid-'80s, McComb and Doty returned this historic car to its early appearance, and popped up again on the club and vintage racing scene. Finally in 2002, after 35 years of full throttle ownership, McComb sold his car to a man who knew it well-SAAC Trans-Am registrar Gary Underwood. Underwood tells us he first encountered the McComb juggernaut at Daytonain 1969, while he crewed for Bob Allen's B-production 289 Cobra. For years, he watched McComb work his mastery at the wheel of the Mustang and describes the Midwest racer as the kind who either broke, hit, or won. "This car impressed me as much as anything in the era, and I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have it today," Underwood says. The change of ownership seems a good match all the way around, for McComb wanted the car to continue to race and be seen in the public eye. "Gary is a racer, and that's what this car was meant to do," McComb says. "I didn't want it sitting in a museum."

As if to prove the point, Underwood and his son/frequent driver Terry wouldn't stand by and be content with the level of power generated 41 years ago. In the day, McComb and his FoMoCo cohorts cranked their 289s into the vicinity of 390 flywheel horsepower, and in fact, Underwood retains one of the original engines used during the '67 season-replete with cast crank and two-bolt main block. While the underhood scenery is much the same today-right down to the original competition valve covers and dual quad intake-power production is clearly in a different league. Among several various combinations they may run from race to race, the Underwoods' "big" motor is a 306-incher churning out a whopping 536 hp at 7,{{{300}}} rpm, and 422 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Parts and technology make the difference, the big items being a '70 Boss 302 block and Trans Am forged-steel crank, Carrillo rods, 13:1 compression, vintage ported GT40 heads, and a big Crower solid roller cam. Expertly machined and assembled by Larry Mollicone and Randy Gillis respectively, this vintage legal powerhouse flat-out gets it on.

These days, the Underwoods do their best to keep appearances on pace with the car's tradition, meaning racing at virtually every opportunity. In recent years, the McComb '67 has run storied tracks throughout the United States, competed regularly with the Historic Trans-Am Group, and run major vintage events such as the Wine Country Classic and {{{Monterey}}} Historics. Setup is circa 1967, though all involved acknowledge the car was hardly the same from one week to the next-such was its constant evolution. No matter, hitting a moving target isn't the point; rather, the car is true to its original roots and a shining example of the rarest of the rare being used as it was intended. So here's a big thumbs-up to the men who've kept this warhorse on the road, and long may they continue to pound the pavement with this legendary quarter horse.