The Underwoods have a number...
The Underwoods have a number of original magnesium Americans from McComb's racing days, as evidenced by the stampings on the center flange. Teams would identify their wheels with such stampings so they wouldn't be lost when changing rubber at the tire trailers on race day. Other Underwood wheels indicate they were originally run by the Mercury Cougar team.
Despite big magnesium wheels and a hunkered-down stance, the shape gracing these pages simply doesn't scream "race car." Competition-bred Mustangs ought to have a sloping rear backlight and some kind of macho moniker such as Boss, Mach 1, or GT350, right? Wrong! Try this one on for size-'67 Mustang Group II. Even reasonably well versed enthusiasts may scratch their heads at that one, but indeed, these racing coupes were assembled by Shelby American in both 1966 and 1967 to field a variety of competitive entries in accordance with Sports Car Club of America racing rules.
In the SCCA's view, GT350s were two-seat sports cars, despite the fact that such a configuration only held true in their inaugural year of 1965. No matter, the GT350 was limited to the SCCA's B-Production class along with other two-seaters such as Corvette and Cobra, and couldn't compete in the sanctioning body's new sedan-based road-race series, namely A-Sedan and Trans-Am. In the throes of its Total Performance era, Ford wanted representations on all fronts, and looked to Shelby for something to fill the bill-the decision being the humble Mustang hardtop.
A Handful Built
A successful run of 20 '66 Group II hardtops (including four built for international rallying, and known as Group I cars), were followed in 1967 by 26 more. The Group II nomenclature was a reflection of the FIA regulations that governed such vehicles. Car No. 33 was the 10th of the '67s, handbuilt in the Shelby American Competition Department by the likes of Jerry Schwarz, Bernie Kretzschmar, and Bobby Boxx-just as the competition '65 GT350s (R-models) had been. In fact, many of the R-model tricks and hardware were parlayed onto the full competition Group II cars, some key differences being the rules mandate for stock sheetmetal, glass, and full interiors.
For all of its unassuming presence, this particular car will go down in history as one of the most competitive and most raced Mustangs of all time. It was originally purchased by John McComb of Hutchinson, Kansas. He explained to Modified Mustangs and Fords that after cutting his competitive teeth on MGBs, he was approached in 1966 to drive a Group II Mustang for a privateer racer. All it took was a single race for McComb to become hooked on the combination and after the car owner flaked out, McComb purchased his own '66 Group II and teamed up with Brad Booker to win the sixth race of the '66 Trans Am season-the Pan-American 6-Hour at Green Valley, Texas.
When the '67s debuted, McComb purchased the new model, and proceeded to race extensively for the next dozen years. An impressive record of wins and accomplishments followed, including SCCA Midwest Division A-sedan championships in 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, and 1972, as well as 16 Trans-Am appearances over the same time frame. Also in 1967, McComb won the National A-sedan title at the SCCA runoffs, and due to this success, was invited in 1968 to participate in NASCAR's new BabyGrand series. The only such race McComb participated in was the '68 Paul Revere 250, where he finished Second to Lloyd Ruby in a Bud Moore Mercury Cougar. Further appearances on a national stage occurred at the 12 hours of Sebring, 24 hours of Daytona, and more.
McComb gave his '67 a break in the early to mid-'70s, racing newer cars such as BRE Datsuns and Group 44 Triumphs-even winning the D-Production National Championship in a TR6 in 1975. In 1977, McComb returned to the Mustang, and with longtime mech-anic Terry Doty as chief wrench, updated the car to GT-1 class specs and proceeded to win that Midwest Division from 1977 to 1980.
The cockpit is clearly spartan,...
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.
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.
Quick-fill fuel tanks were...
Quick-fill fuel tanks were part of Shelby's Group II preparation, and clearly signify this as more than just a run-of-the-mill '67 hardtop.
Gary Underwood's '67 Mustang Group II Hardtop
- '70 Boss 302 block, 0.030 over
- Vintage Ford Trans-Am forged-steel crank, 3.00-inch stroke, prepared by Henry Velasco
- Carrillo rods, standard 5.155 inches
- JE forged pistons
- '66 GT40 iron cylinder heads, 1.90 intake and 1.60 exhaust titanium valves and retainers
- Custom Crower solid roller cam, roller lifters, roller rockers, and pushrods
- Original Ford dual four-barrel aluminum intake
- Twin Holley "SK" 615-cfm factory race carbs
- GT40 tach drive distributor
- Custom stepped headers by Joe Ellis, Burns collectors
- Aviaid oil pan and windage tray
- Iron-case T-10 close-ratio four-speed built
by Randy Gillis
- McLeod twin-disc clutch
- 3.70-4.57 gears (dependent upon race conditions)
- Detroit Locker differential
- Speedway Engineering 31-spline axles
- Front: Koni double-adjustable shocks, Vogtland springs, lowered upper control arms, Kar Kraft spindles, 15/16-inch sway bar with spherical bearings
- Rear: Koni double-adjustable shocks, custom King leaf springs, Watt's link by Terry Doty
- Front: mid-'60s Lincoln disc
- Rear: 2-1/2-inch Galaxie drum
- Front: American Racing magnesium, 15x8
- Rear: American Racing magnesium, 15x8
- Front: Goodyear Sports Car Specials, 6.00-15
- Rear: Goodyear Sports Car Specials, 7.00-15