Weird Mustang Facts
Hype, Myths, Urban Legends, Lost and Found Lore, Rare Finds, And Generally Weird Stuff
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Stories tend to become so bent out of shape as the years pass that separating fact from fiction is tougher than enforcing a dress code at Waffle House. Urban legends are unverified stories that might have started out as humble as cafeteria macaroni and cheese, but years of embellishing can turn them into marinated filet mignon at a four-star restaurant.
With a hot car such as the Mustang, you can bet after 35 years we are faced with many mysteries--some solvable, some easy to explain, some downright lies, and others that can only be classified as weird. These mysteries make up what we call Mustang science, fact, and fiction.
These accounts stem from the enthusiasm for the car. We'd like to go to this outer edge and look at the fun underpinnings of the hobby. Investigating the history is part of what makes owning and collecting vintage Mustangs such an enjoyable pastime.
Science Fact: The Original Mustang Was Styled After...
If youll look at the side view, the original Mustang is nothing more than a scaled-down Continental Mark II, says Charles Phaneuf, who in 1962 was exterior stylist for the Ford Advanced Studio, which came up with the winning design for the original Mustang. Nobody has really picked up on this, but thats basically what the proportions are. The actual modeling of the car took 11 days. Some unsung heroes are Walter Amrozi (retired to Florida); George Shoemaker, instrumental in the original small mouth on the front end; and Max Kruger (retired), the studio engineer.
Lee Iacocca, according to Phaneuf, never saw the model until it was done in clay. He approved it and became the financial father of the Mustang. Iacocca, in fact, liked the design so much that he went to the board and got money to tool a second assembly plant in San Jose, California, which proved a second great financial victory.
Fictional Science: Market Research Okd Production
Ford made up the market research to justify the dollars to produce the first Mustang, just in case it failed. Market research was enlisted after approval, so its findings were baloney, finely sliced, and ready to eat.
Ford came up with such platitudes as the 18-34 age group would account for about half the increase in new car sales during the 60s and the number of families earning more than $10,000 per year was expected to expand 156% from 1960 to 1975.
Myth: Naming The Mustang Was A Long, Arduous Procedure
Fords story is one of intense research to name the car. A long list of possible names was researched, which set off fights. Henry Ford II wanted to call the car Thunderbird II, while Joe Oros fought for the name Cougar and made up Cougar emblems. The name Torino was another favorite.
However, from initial first meetings to produce a small, sporty car, the chosen name was Mustang, says Donald Frey, senior product planning manager. That little group of car people included Lee Iacocca, Donald Frey, Hal Spurlich, Donald Peterson, and some stylists.
We picked it out of our heads sitting around, says Frey, referring to the people in those first small groups. Right from the very start, we intended to call the car Mustang.
Lost Lore: 64½ Pace Cars? Where Are They?
Would you believe the Indy Pace Car Registry of Mustangs currently doesnt have a single 64½ registered? Fritz Dowe, one of the members, knows of a hardtop that sold last year for $3,000. Although it was a rust bucket, it had full documentation, which is what made it valuable.
Do any of you readers have an authentic restored 64½ Pace Car? There were 190 hardtops and 35 convertibles, according to Volume 1 of the Mustang Production Guide. Also, there were 3 289 Hi-Po convertible cars built to actually pace the race (2 for backup). To date, none of these cars have surfaced. If they did, theres no telling what their value would be. Imagine a 64½ Hi-Po convertible, built months before the Hi-Po was available in the Mustang, which paced the race with special graphics and beefed-up mechanicals for high speed. We have lost an exciting part of Mustang history if one of these cars cannot be located.
Science Fact: The granddaddy Of Them All
Donald Peterson, who became president of Ford and retired a couple years ago, told us that he owns the granddaddy of them all, a 64½ six-cylinder hardtop. Thats the car with the 13-inch wheels and the 170-1V six-cylinder engine. It has no power options or air conditioning.
Peterson counted his Mustang experience as the highlight of his career, acting as a liaison between management, engineering, and marketing to produce the sporty new Ford. Until his retirement, he kept in his desk a metal nameplate inscribed with Torino and checkered flags as a memento of the program.
Science Fact: Ford Sells Mustang Number One!
Many veteran Mustangers know this, but we feel it is still a fun and interesting fact, especially for newcomers. Mustang Number One (VIN 5F08F100001), a convertible, was accidentally sold when it was brand-new. Ford intended to truck the car across Canada on a tour of dealerships. However, a salesman in St. Johns, Newfoundland, accidentally sold it to airline pilot Captain Stanley Tucker. He drove it about 10,000 miles and then traded it back to Ford. In fact, he traded up for the 1,000,001 Mustang builta 66 model assembled at Dearborn, Michigan, on March 2, 1966. Today, 5F08F100001 is on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.
Hype: Ford Tells Us Wild Stuff And Keeps A Straight Face
The Mustang was one of the hottest new cars in history. Buyers swarmed dealerships to buy new cars. How-ever, many of the stories that Ford passed out in 1964 to the press surrounding the Mustangs introduction are quite difficult to believe. Have you heard the one about the man in Arlington, Texas, who slept in a 64½ Mustang until his check cleared the next morning, fearing someone else would get the car? Who was the guy? Where is he now? Does anyone have any leads?
Then theres the story about the truck driver in San Francisco. Apparently thrown into a trance by the sight of the Mustang, he could not take his eyes away, and drove his truck straight through the showroom window. Surely, there is an old police report on that oneor is there?
Wed like to hear from the people in the above stories, especially the truck driver who drove through the showroom window. Was it hype or did it really happen?
Science Fact: The Way It Really Was!
Jim Wicks, famous for his support of the Mid-America Shelby show, tells us the way it really was in the heyday of the great American ponycar. In 1966, he worked at a service station down the street from Archway Ford in the Baltimore area. This dealership sponsored famous racers, such as Phil Bonner in his Daddy Warbucks Mustang and Mark Donohue in a competition GT350. Looking over the inventory of high-performance Mustangs at Archway Ford is where Wicks caught the fever for Shelbys. He remembers looking at GT350s on the lot at night, when nary a one had a tachometer, horn button, gas cap, or Cobra emblem. A sign explained that these cars came with these missing features, but were pulled as a deterrent to theft and would be reinstalled on purchase.
Lost Lore: Ford Of Australia Did Sell Some Early Mustangs!
Its common knowledge that Ford of Australia did not go into Mustang production. However, in a letter from reader Brett Hay of Aldgate South, Australia, we have learned that Ford of Australiato help promote its new XR Falconimported 48 brand-new hardtop, automatic 65 Mustangs. They converted each car to righthand drive using local Falcon/Fairlane steering components. The completed cars, fitted with a Ford Australia ID plate on the driver-side inner fenders, were a mix of mostly six-cylinders and a lesser number of 289s.
Ford of Australia also imported 161 new 66 Mustangs and converted these cars in a similar manner. Hay is not sure if these Mustangs were all hardtop/automatics.
We attended the Mustang Owners Club of Australia national show in 1991. At the time, we didnt know about these special Mustangs, but wed like to see one of these cars. Perhaps an Aussie contact could send us a picture. How many of these Australian Mustangs still exist? Are any of the 66 Mustangs convertibles or fastbacks? Are any of the 289s the K-Code Hi-Po? Were some cars GTs? What special features did the cars have other than the righthand-drive conversion? Was there an Aussie Roo Special? (Sorry, I couldnt resist that one.)
Weird Science: ET350
Is there a Shelby on the moon? Its possible. Shop foreman Bob Wyatt, in an interview in The Shelby American, is quoted as saying, We worked on the moon buggy to the east of the production shop. That has never been made common knowledge. Security was tight.
Wyatt never learned if the buggy they worked on was the one that landed on the moon and is still up there today.
Mission Control missed a good opportunity. They could have painted it with blue LeMans stripes and called it the ET350.
Urban Legend: Shelby American Helped Develop The Lunar Landing Module
With security so tight on the buggy, it makes us wonder if the craft that landed Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin Jr. on the moon in 1969 didnt have some Shelby American roots. This is a story that might be more than urban legendit could be true.
Bernie Kretzschmar, a race shop mechanic at the Shelby American facility on Imperial Highway at Los Angeles Airport, told us this story.
One day, while working in the race shop, we spotted a strange craft in the lot over the fence to the west of us. The Air Force or whoever it was, towed in this kind of thing that had a jet engine, a seat, and four legs. The Air Force fired it off a couple times. It was being tested. The Air Force finally got it off the ground about 10 feet, and it did fly over our fence and over the race area.
Kretzschmer remembers the craft was quite unstable and they were waiting for it to crash. The pilot got control of the contraption, landed, and it caught fire. He believes it was the mule for NASAs lunar landing module, but the race shop where he worked did not build or test it.
Lost Lore: The 68 Tunnel Port
Its a fact that Ford agreed to homologate the 302 tunnel port for Trans-Am Racing, which meant it had to build the car for showroom sales. Were any made? Car and Driver magazine did a comparison road test with a 68 Z/28 Camaro and a 68 tunnel port Mustang. This Ford even had a factory sticker price of $3,719.69. It ran 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds and the standing quarter-mile in 13.96 at 106.13 mph.
Meanwhile, race teams cried out for standard 302s because the tunnel ports were blowing up. The only reason to offer a tunnel port for the street was to sanction it for the track. Ford was obligated to do so, but when it flopped on the track, Ford just kind of let it slide. The Fédération Internationale de lAutomobile (FIA) sanctioning body didnt say much, and neither did the public.
One reader told us he dropped by Holman-Moody one day and spied a set of these heads. Days later, he called the shop and asked to buy a set. Holman-Moody played dumb and denied knowing anything about the heads.
TP 302s occasionally surface. Bob Perkins told us that several years ago he bought the smog system off a brand-new, in-the-crate 302 tunnel port. Apparently, smog parts interchange with the regular 302.
Whenever we run across a 68 Trans-Am Mustang, it has always had a 302 with regular heads, not tunnel port. As far as we know, not one single production 302 tunnel port Mustang has survived or has been restored with this big-valve engine. The ones that were built were probably mules from the Ford test track. They were taken apart and scrapped later. Likewise, it appears none of these cars got out to the public. Their ignominious racing history has not cultivated a legendary heritage. This is too bad because no matter what was said about the car, it was exotic and fast and should be a part of Mustang history and lore.
The Car and Driver test car came with a tall aluminum, eight-barrel intake manifold with a pair of 540-cfm Holleys. The heads feature huge intake ports because they dont have to be crowded between the pushrods. Pushrods simply run inside tubes inside the ports hence the name tunnel port. Sadly, there is nowhere to view this Mustang history.
The 68 tunnel port 302 was supposed to be a production motor to qualify for the Trans-Am. Was it ever given an engine code? Ford race teams did use these engines, so what happened to them? Did the Car and Driver test car survive?
Urban Legend: I saw a 68 427 Mustang!
Sightings of W-Code Mustangs are quite common. We regularly receive letters (one in particular from Australia) of 68 Mustangs powered by a factory original 427. So far, weve yet to document a car or even receive a picture of a VIN and trim tag with a W code.
In the early years of the hobby, enthusiasts assumed that Ford produced a W-Code 427 Mustang. Ford announced that the hydraulic lifter 427 would be optioned in the 68 Mustang. The 427 did make production in the Cougar, though. Ford dropped the engine from the lineup, but there is still a faint hope that a few made production. Listed above are a couple of late stories about W-Code 68s. You can make up your own variations of them, but we like the first story because it exudes the most confidence, since it tells of not just one, but two 68 W-Codes.
Urban legend: 427 Mystery Solved?!
If Kevin Marti has all the facts from Ford, then no W-Code 427 Mustangs were built. According to his new book, Mustang by the Numbers 1967-1973 [copyright 1999 Kevin Marti, El Mirage, AZ (623) 935-2558], which takes information from Fords computer archives, the W-Code did not existat least where the Mustang is concerned. There is, however, a caveatthe 72 options list does not show the rear deck spoiler as an option, even though it was shown in 1971 and 1973. Marti even backs up the what-if theory: Ford might have built them in such small numbers that they never showed up as a Code, kind of like the 67 Shelbys that had an S engine code (390) and were, in fact, packing the 428. So, either they are or they arent, but so far we still have no graphic proof one way or the other.
Science Fact: Four-lug 15-inch Wheel
It seems that Ford built at least one 65 Mustang sporting a four-lug wheel and Galaxie hubcaps. From what owners Linda and Harland Lippold of Benton City, Washington, say, the option was an orderable one in 1964. This car also has a trunk-mount antenna.
Myth: Itll Bring A Fortune In California!
Oh, no! Dont take eight grand for your Mustang here! Itll bring thirty thousand in California!
How many times have you heard how much a Mustang will bring in California? One reason people in the Midwest, East, and South cant buy early Mustangs from certain owners is that they have heard wild stories of how much money their cars will bring in the Los Angeles area.
Lets say its an unrestored 65 convertible with a little rust in the rear quarters and worth about $8,000. The owner, after hearing the California Gold stories, is afraid to sell. The truth is the Mustang market is nationala car in Illinois sells for about the same price as a car in California.
In fact, since cars on the West Coast are much more likely to be rust-free, they are more likely to bring more money in the Midwest than they do in California. We know dealers in California who regularly sell early Mustangs to clients in the East. Bring a Mustang with even a little rust to California and itll probably sell for less money. One of our dealer friends in Los Angeles told us, And how are they going to sell it? Stand on the street corner with a sign?
Found Lore: Special-Edition Mustangs
If you see a Mustang that looks modified at a concours show, the owner says it is real, and you are smitten with the urge to call him a dunderhead because youve never seen a Mach 1 with side stripes such as that and a picture of a tornado on the rear quarters, youd best keep your mouth shut. In all likelihood, it is real.
Ford built oodles of special-edition Mustangs, some of which even the most seasoned experts have never seen, such as a 68 Red Bird (Cardinal) Special, built for the states of Virginia and North Carolina, where the cardinal is the state bird. Bill Weaver told us these cars came with rear quarter badges that were gold with a red cardinal. Apparently, none of these cars have been restored. Weaver has three of the badges and the instruction sheet on how to install them, though.
Probably the most commonly known special edition is the 68 California Special. Colorado dealers had a High Country Special for 1966, 1967, and 1968. The Mustang with the tornado on the rear quarters is the 70 Twister Special from Kansas. We could name more than a dozen special-edition Mustangs. Texas had a Blue Bonnet Special. Did you ever hear of the 68 Gold Nugget Special?
Some of the special editions are one of a kind, such as the 68 in Jeff Kreugers garage. Most people think he is making up his own Playboy Pink Mustang. At a show, one lady exclaimed, Thats not real! Oh, but it is real. His hardtop is Passionate Pink, one of the Color of the Month Mustangs offered through the Denver sales district in the first four months of 1968. Passionate Pink made sense for February and Valentines Day, and Emerald Green was perfect for March and St. Patricks Day. Kreugers car is the only one of its color to surface, although at least 10 were built.
Rare Finds: 69 Ford Mustang Boss 429, 10.5 miles, $1,000
Weve all heard stories about low-mileage, rare Mustangs at ridiculously low prices. They are legends. Usually, they are false. When they are true, there is an interesting history behind them. What makes early Mustangs so interesting is their heritage. Heres a typical bizarre true story.
KK 1279, a 69 Boss 429, didnt quite make it to Organ Ford in Compton, California. The truck driver fired it up and backed it off his convoy truck. Realizing it was a specialty car, he left it idling, and ran inside to ask where he should park it. When he walked back outside, the car was gone. They recovered the car two months later under a Los Angeles freeway. It had 10.5 miles on the odometer and was like new except the engine and transmission were missing. After the insurance company made a settlement, the car stayed on the back of the dealers lot under a tarp until it was sold in 1972 for $1,200. In 1974, still with the 10.5 miles, it sold for $1,000. Today, it is in the hands of its third owner, Denny Altridge, a Portland, Oregon, collector who has owned 15 Boss 429s and 37 Boss 302s. The cars current mileage is under 3,000. The motor and transmission have never been recovered.
Urban Legend: Tales Of Mustang Finds
Did you hear the one about the 66 Mustang advertised for sale that turned out to be a Shelby? The stripes were painted over and the buyer discovered a Shelby tag under the hood! Wow, what a deal that was! Dont we all wish we could be so lucky? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, these stories are not true, but they sure get attention.
In each of these cases, the buyer is simply looking for a certain model-year Mustang, only to find a rare, specialty Mustang. So any of the 65-70 Mustangs can turn into Shelbys, the 69-70 Mustangs into Mach 1s, the convertibles turn into super-rare Cobra Jets, and so on.
Mexico Rare Finds: Big-Block Mustangs
When gasoline prices skyrocketed in the States during the early 70s, the price at the pump stayed about the same in Mexico. In the States, prices dropped on big-engined American musclecarsresulting in many of them going south of the border to Mexico.
Today, its still quite common to find high-performance Mustangs in Mexico. Prices can be dirt cheap, and cars can also be in extremely poor condition.
One of the most interesting examples of a rare find was the Doghouse Boss-Nine, which Mike Lightborn discovered in Juarez, Mexico, in 1989. It was so named because it became a doghouse after it was parked.
Science Fiction: I would have bought that car!
We all like to look back decades at cheap prices for historic Mustangs and think we would have bought that car and kept it all these years. The truth is the price at the time seemed a bit pricey to everybody.
Science Fact: You Have Reached the End?
Well, There you have it. Of course, as with any of these, wed like some more. If you have a bit of urban legend youd like to dispel or perhaps a bit of fact youd like to dispense, wed like to hear from you. Please write to Science Fact and Fiction, Dept. MM, 3816 Industry Blvd. Lakeland, FL 33811.