Brad Bowling
November 1, 2007

Since the introduction of the retro-style '05 Mustang, Ford's enthusiast community has been awash with memories of past models, all freshly minted from a new car that amazingly resembles its '60s ancestor.

Nostalgic designs and recycled ideas have become valuable marketing tools for automakers in the 21st century. Volkswagen certainly made a splash with its new Beetle, and the BMW-built Mini Cooper found a rich vein of Brit-loving nostalgia among Americans. Ford Motor Company gets the prize, however, for mining the past most successfully with its time-machine '05-'08 Mustang and all the spin-off models that have followed or are still to come: Mach 1, Bullitt, Shelby GT500, GT-500KR, and California Special, to name a few.

In that same spirit, R&A Motor-sports in Lee's Summit, Missouri, recently began converting a series of GT coupes and convertibles into Twister Specials. It has its followers, but the Twister regional edition is perhaps the least-known of the Mustang specials, even though there have been two versions of the tornadic Ponies.

At the request of the Kansas City District Sales Office, Ford geared up for a special batch of 100 '70 Mach 1s and 100 Torinos to be displayed on November 7, 1969, when Ford's Total Performance Day traveling exhibit visited the area. The original request was that each of the Twister Special Mustangs would be outfitted with the Super Cobra Jet 428 engine and the Torinos would carry the SCJ 429. Due to some supply problems, those numbers fell short by a few units and engine choices were compromised, but each Mustang SportsRoof wore Grabber Orange with special tornado-inspired decals. Of the 96 Mustangs produced, exactly half were delivered with Ford's 351 four-barrel engine. C6 automatic transmissions found their way into 24 of the 428-equipped cars and into 39 of the 351 Mustangs. Manual four-speeds accounted for 24 428 cars and 9 351s. Other than transmission choices, the Twister Mustangs were identical, Dearborn-built cars with sequential VINs that began with "118."

Fifteen years later, the Mustang was recovering from the stigma of low-performance years that had begun, coincidentally, shortly after the '70 model. Ford was about to make good on its promise to deliver more than 200 hp from its 5.0L V-8 in 1985, the first time a Mustang would reach that milestone since '73's Q-code 351 with a four-barrel carb. Getting an advertised 210 horses was the result of old-fashioned hot-rod tricks and new technology: low friction roller tappets, a high-performance camshaft, stainless steel headers that replaced high-flow cast-iron manifolds, and twin exhaust pipes purging the hot exhaust gases through individual catalytic converters. Lost horsepower was reclaimed through a new accessory drive system that reduced the air-conditioner compressor, power steering pump, and alternator to half-speed.

When mated to the four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, the 5.0L lost its carburetor-along with 45 hp-and claimed an output of 165 horses. GT upgrades included a T5 transmission with shorter gear throws, a quad-shock system in the rear, a larger rear stabilizer bar, and Goodyear Eagle P225/60VR 15 "Gatorback" unidirectional tires mounted on new alloy wheels.

The 3.8L V-6 with electronic fuel injection soldiered on with 120 hp in 1985; the 2.3L four-cylinder with a single-barrel carburetor was rated at 88. For comparison, realize that today's smallest Mustang powerplant, the 4.0L V-6, produces 210 hp. That's the same output as '85's GT V-8.