2015 Ford Mustang GT: A History of Competition
July 15, 2015
"Competition has been an integral part of the Ford Mustang lifestyle since its earliest days 50 years ago," says Steve Ling, Ford Car Marketing Manager. And you don't have to take his word for it.
Back in the 60s, Ford used an advertising campaign it called "Total Performance." Like other manufacturers, it followed the principle of "race on Sunday, sell on Monday." Ford hyped up everything. From Galaxies to GT40s, anything that ran a Ford badge or a Ford motor was fair play. So when the Mustang came out, you guessed it.
And now, with the 2015 Ford Mustang's trick new rear suspension and bonkers FPC V8, the Mustang might be at the crux of a return to truly international competition. Let's see how this all went down 50 years ago.
Ford wanted to make sure that, no matter where in the world you lived, or whatever kind of motor sport you followed, you could see a Mustang win a race.
Starting in late 1964, Ford sent three Mustangs to Alan Mann Racing with the intention of winning the Tour de France road rally Touring division. Englishmen Peter Procter and Andrew Cowan won for Ford, Alan Mann Racing and Mustang.
Drag racing was big too, and Ford wanted the Mustang to get a piece of the action. Ford dropped some Fastbacks off at Holman/Moody and one of those cars, complete with a monstrous 427 SOHC, won the Winternationals in 1965. Bill Lawton - that's Mr. Factory Stock Eliminator to you - was the driver.
And then there were sports cars. The SCCA had a class known as B Production and it was dominated by Corvettes. Ford wanted it owned by Mustangs, so it tapped Carroll Shelby to build up the hot GT350 for competition. Fiberglass and plexi replaced metal and glass, and with a hot cam and some suspension tweaks, the GT350 R-Model was born. Guys like Jerry Titus, Ken Miles and Mark Donohue assured Ford dominance and a national championship.
Jumping ahead to 1966, the SCCA, on a roll, formed the Trans-American Sedan Championship based on the FIA's Group 2 rule set. Ford wanted that crown, too. They tasked Shelby with building some Notchbacks to the rule set, made them available to privateers and guys like Titus, and won that championship too, two years on the trot. Essentially GT350 R-Models in coupe form, those notchbacks are now some of the rarest Shelby-built Fords around.
Over 50 years, the cars and the rules have changed quite a bit. When Mustangs first hit the track, most race cars were still required to be registered for the road and bore more than a passing resemblance to their road car brethren, as evidenced by the race-prepped 1966 Notchback in these photos. Minimal and clean, it's hard to imagine the 2015 Mustang looking anywhere near as uncomplicated as this '66.
No doubt any new racing Mustang will bristle with aero aids, gauges, scoops, switches and everything that makes a modern race car modern. But looks are always secondary. It's got big shoes to fill and it's going to have to win. A lot.
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor