Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
April 14, 2014
Photos By: Source Interlink Archives, Ford Archives

The names are legendary: Shelby, Holman-Moody, Tasca, Bud Moore, Roush, and Saleen; and those are just the builders. Famous racing names like Jerry Titus, Hubert Platt, Gas Ronda, Parnelli Jones, Tommy Kendall, John Force, and Vaughn Gittin Jr. have all had their names on the roofs of Mustang race cars. Since the first win at a European road rally in 1964, Mustangs have visited victory lane and hoisted championship trophies in road racing, drag racing, drifting, NASCAR oval track, and other forms of competition. Here’s a look at some of Mustang’s greatest moments in racing.

The First Win

With the need to establish a “sports car” reputation in Europe, Ford launched a campaign for the Mustang to compete in European road rallies. England’s Alan Mann Racing was enlisted to build three hardtops with engine help from Holman-Moody. In September 1965, drivers Andrew Cowan and Peter Procter drove their Mustang to victory (eighth place overall) in the Touring class in the Tour de France Automobile rally, a 10-day race through France, marking the first-ever racing victory for Ford’s new Mustang.

Shelby to the Rescue

With Ford and Chrysler tied for the Trans-Am points lead with one race remaining in the inaugural 1966 season, Ford enlisted Shelby American to enter a Group II hardtop to beef up Mustang’s chances. Shelby’s ace driver Jerry Titus drove the number 1 Mustang to victory at Riverside, winning the first Trans-Am championship—one of many to follow for Mustang.

Long-nose Drag Cars

They were wild and funny—hence the nickname “funny cars.” Piloted by top Ford drivers like Gas Ronda, Hubert Platt, Dick Brannan, and Bill Lawton (pictured in his Tasca-sponsored car), the Mustangs built for the NHRA’s new A/FX class were called “long-nose” because of their altered wheelbase. They jumped, bounced, and flew down the quarter-mile as they entertained drag race enthusiasts at match races around the country.

Terlingua Racing Team

The Terlingua Racing Team was little more than a joke between Carroll Shelby and his hard-partying buddies, who often frequented Shelby’s “ghost town” in Terlingua, Texas, for a little R&R. But the team was no joke to other 1967 Trans-Am competitors when the name appeared on a Shelby-built ’67 Mustang hardtop driven by Jerry Titus. Painted in what Shelby described as “God-awful Yellow,” the Terlingua Mustang won four races in 1967 to help nab the Mustang’s second straight Trans-Am championship.

Cobra Jet Wins

Driver Al Joniec was the man of the hour when he won the 1968 NHRA Winternationals Super Stock Eliminator in his ’68 Mustang fastback powered by Ford’s new 428 Cobra Jet engine. It was a great start to a new era of Mustang performance.

Boss of Trans-Am

After a dismal showing in 1968 and an accident-filled 1969, Mustang returned to the top of Trans-Am in 1970 with a dominating performance by Bud Moore’s ’70 Boss 302s. Drivers Parnelli Jones (pictured) and George Follmer won six of the season’s 11 races to nail down a third trans-Am championship for Mustang.

Drag Team

With grassroots drag racing’s increasing popularity at strips around the U.S., Ford took its show on the road with the Ford Drag Team. Using CJ-powered Mustangs and Torinos loaded onto Ford haulers with trailers, the Drag Team consisted of drivers Hubert Platt (pictured) and Randy Payne on the East Coast, with Ed Terry and Dick Wood covering the West Coast. Along the way, they visited Ford dealers to hold drag racing clinics.

Back on Top

After more than 10 years of racing inactivity, the Mustang returned to the top of American road racing in 1985 with an IMSA GTO championship for the Motorcraft-sponsored Mustang driven by Wally Dallenbach, Doc Bundy, and 19 year-old John Jones.

Showroom Stock

In 1987, Steve Saleen quantified his Saleen Mustangs by winning the Escort Endurance championship with a pair of Saleen Mustangs. One of his drivers was Rick Titus, son of 1960s Shelby driver Jerry Titus.

Roush Takes Over

Ford’s decision to turn its road racing activities over to Jack Roush resulted in a number of championships in the 1980s, including 1989 Trans-Am championship by Dorsey Schroeder in a 25th anniversary Mustang.