Looking Back at 50 Years of Mustangs Imported to Australia
50 years of Mustang in Australia: A personal recollection by one of the country’s top Mustang restorers
The Ford Mustang celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. Although an American classic, the Mustang has had its own illustrious history in Australia. Vince Shervington, known throughout Australia as Mr. Mustang, has owned American Auto Parts since 1969. Mustang Classics was registered as a division of American Auto Parts in 1997 to focus on Mustang parts and restorations. Vince has been involved in purchasing and restoring Mustangs for nearly fifty years, as well as supplying parts to many local, interstate and overseas Mustang enthusiasts. His son Paul joined the business and has been working alongside his dad for many years. Readers might remember our feature on Paul’s K-code fastback that was published in the December 2014 issue. You can also read it on www.Mustang-360.com here: www.mustang-360.com/featured-vehicles/1412-1966-ford-mustang-australian-thoroughbred. In the following timeline Vince tells us what each Mustang generation was like in Australia, how they were imported (if at all), and how they sold. It is an interesting look at the Mustang through the eyes of someone that has seen it all in a country where Ford’s Mustang has had a strong following for decades.
The First Generation: 1964½ to 1973
Prior to the first Mustangs being imported into Australia, Exmouth in Western Australia and Pine Gap in the Northern Territory were where these classic cars could be sourced. American service personnel, who worked at the communications base in Exmouth and at the satellite station in Pine Gap, would leave their classic cars behind when they left for home, and they were selling for real cheap.
In 1965, the Ford Motor Company imported 200 Mustangs into Australia, which were then converted to right-hand drive at the Geelong plant in Victoria. A significant number of the leading Ford dealers around Australia received two or three of these cars each to display in their showrooms and sell. The Ford Mustang was then priced at AUD $6,000 or £3,000. At the time, they were called the Mustang-bred Falcon. The first generation Mustangs were very popular among enthusiasts and school kids of the 1960s.
Some of the well-known importers of the 1960s and 1970s were Priestly, Whitbread, Jane, Geoghegan, Williamson, Musgrave, Lewis, and Shervington. Back then, I was well-known by the then Department of Motor Vehicles, which suggested that I was using Perth as a dumping ground for these old cars! The importation of these cars opened up another industry—conversion from left-hand to right-hand drive—to make the imported cars legal to register and drive on Australian roads.
The Second Generation: 1974-78
The second generation Mustangs, unfortunately, proved to be very unpopular in Australia. The car was not seen to be as iconic as the first generation and the smaller design had upset enthusiasts. I refer to these cars as the “Ugly Step-Sister Car.”
The Third Generation: 1979-93
The third generation Mustang was also known as the Fox Mustang. These models were to be imported by Ansett Industries. However, research found that the engine was offset to the right for standard left-hand drive steering shaft clearance, and had to be moved to allow a right-hand drive conversion. This led to the abandonment of the project to import the cars. The Fox Mustang of 1984-1989 was privately imported in small numbers, although it proved to be still unpopular among Mustang enthusiasts. Between 1990 and 1995, more Mustangs were imported, but their popularity did not improve much in Australia.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Western Australian Government was lobbied by a Secretariat representing classic car enthusiasts to allow classic cars up to 1988 to remain as left-hand drive. Western Australia was the first State to implement this policy, although it was implemented with various conditions attached. The policy opened the floodgates, and imports of Ford Mustangs and similar classic cars increased rapidly.
The Fourth Generation: 1994-2004
In the mid-1990s, importers, namely Dean, Lond, and Trolio, were importing various models of Ford Mustangs in a big way. Between 2001 and 2004 there was negative press regarding the models and their spare parts were not readily available. During these years, Ford continued to import the Mustangs into Australia and struck an arrangement with the Federal Government to only allow Ford to import Mustangs of those years. Tickford Engineering in Victoria converted these imported Mustangs to right-hand drive. Ford dealers throughout Australia had these Mustangs in their showroom for preview and sale. The price for these cars were approximately AUD $98,000.
These models proved to be unpopular, as they were five-speed Cobras and changing gears proved to be difficult due to a very heavy clutch (by Australian standards). As a consequence, the Cobra Convertible was particularly unpopular amongst women drivers. All these, as well as lack of availability of spare parts, led to poor reviews in the press. These unfortunate events partly contributed to Tickford Engineering ceasing operations.
The Fifth Generation: 2005-2014
The fifth generation Mustangs were still being imported into Australia, this time by a boutique company in Victoria. This company had to obtain compliance to convert this generation of Mustangs from left-hand to right-hand drive. This model was very popular among the Mustang community, although it had an expensive price tag, as left-hand to right-hand drive conversions proved costly in Australia.
The Sixth Generation: 2015-
As part of its 50th anniversary Ford released the all-new 2015 Mustang, which has exceeded all sales expectations to date. Its stellar sales statistics has solidified the 2015 Mustang as America’s best-selling sports car since it was launched last year. Now known as a global car, a right-hand drive model will be made available in Australia by late November 2015. Those interested in the right-hand drive 2015 Mustang will need to pay a deposit before an order for the car can be made.