1982 Mustang - GT Rebirth
The performance heritage of today's Mustangs can be traced back to the summer and fall of 1981 with the launch of the '82 Mustang GT
The Mustang GT proved superior to the new Camaro in magazine acceleration testing. The Camaro was not available with a manual gearbox, so it was tested with the 305 four-barrel backed by a four-speed automatic. The Mustang GT set faster 0-60 times, 7.78 vs. 8.58 seconds, and beat the Camaro in the quarter-mile with an elapsed time of 16.26 @ 83.70 against 16.67 ET @ 81.00 for the GM competitor.
According to the '82-'93 Mustang GT Registry (www.mustanggt.org), Ford sold 24,799 Mustang GTs during the '82 model year. It was a solid testament to the "can do" spirit and hard work of Jim Clark and Jim Kennedy, along with Ford Division Marketing Plans Manager Edsel B. Ford II, Mustang Marketing Plans Manager Jack Witucki, and Powertrain and Forward Planning Manager George Lowe.
In the spring and summer of 1981, Edsel Ford had recently completed a tour as Assistant Managing Director of Ford of Australia before being named Manager of the Ford Division Marketing Plans department. As a "car guy," Edsel understood that performance sold vehicles, and one of his first tasks was to help develop future performance-oriented vehicles. He was involved in the Mustang GT program and stated during the launch that the car was the company's first shot at getting back into the performance market. A very astute marketer, Edsel was aware of fuel costs, insurance, and emission standards, but felt all that did not mean that Ford couldn't produce fun-to-drive cars. Today, Edsel has not changed; he is still a true enthusiast.
I remember reading the September 1981 Motor Trend with the '82 Mustang GT on the cover. I showed it to my wife--at the time her '73 Mustang Grande was getting tired--and said, "How would you like to have this Mustang GT?"
Being a good sport, she sold her Grande and we took delivery of a silver '82 Mustang GT. The first time I pushed the loud pedal to the floor, I could not believe how the new 5.0L H.O. pushed us back into the Recaro seats. I knew then that Mustang performance was back.
Later, during a visit to Ford Division, I walked by an office and noticed a lot of Mustang and Ford Motorsports photography. When I ambled in to look at the photos, a voice from the corner said, "Can I help you?" It was George Lowe, the Mustang, Thunderbird, and EXP Marketing Product Plans Manager.
Lowe had previously worked for former Lincoln-Mercury racing director Fran Hernandez, who was also instrumental in the '79 Mustang Pace Car Program. His knowledge of Mustang customers and ability to articulate these facts resulted in Ford Division's support of the '82 Mustang GT. The "Boss is back" marketing campaign was a direct result of the Mustang passion from George Lowe and his boss, Edsel B. Ford II.
The '82 Mustang GT was the first in a long, exciting line of Mustangs since the fall of 1981. All of us who love Mustangs owe a huge debt of gratitude to each dedicated Ford engineer and marketing person who contributed to the rebirth of Mustang performance in the face of considerable odds.MM
Editor's note: As a long-time Mustang and Shelby enthusiast who worked in the advertising business, Austin Craig found himself in the right place at the right time when he accepted a position in 1981 with J. Walter Thompson, Ford's advertising agency. At first, he worked on Ford Motorsport advertising campaigns, then moved to Mustang marketing and advertising where he met the "car guys" at Ford who wanted to put performance back into the Mustang, including Edsel Ford II, George Lowe, Jim Clark, and Jim Kennedy. This is Austin's "inside" story about the development and marketing of the '82 Mustang GT, the car that put Mustang back on the performance map.