FORD’S iconic Mustang pony car is officially returning to premier touring car racing in Australia after a 33-year absence.
Despite its long absence from Australian motorsports’ premier category, the Ford Mustang has a long, successful history in the Australian Touring Car Championships (which later became what we know as Supercars).
Here are three of the toughest ’Stangs to have campaigned Down Under.
1985 GREENS-TUF FORD MUSTANG
The last Mustang to compete in the ATCC was Dick Johnson’s 5.0-litre Group A third-gen ’Stang that campaigned the 1985 and ’86 seasons.
Johnson bought two Mustangs from the German Zakspeed team in mid-1984 after Ford Australia didn’t homologate the XE or XF Falcon to race under Group A regulations.
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Wearing the iconic #17 and dressed in Greens-Tuf paint, the Mustang made its race debut at the ’85 season opener, which was the first under Group A regulations following the demise of Group C in ’84.
However, the car’s first entry was the ’84 Bathurst 1000, where Group A cars were permitted. Johnson added the car to the grid as a back-up vehicle in case he encountered problems with his XE Falcon. The Mustang qualified 48th, but didn’t race.
During the ’85 ATCC season, Johnson finished runner-up to Jim Richard’s BMW, with eight podium finishes across 10 rounds – but no victories. Sixth was the best Johnson could manage in the ’86 championship, with his Mustang suffering a lack of power compared with its rivals.
1967 FORD MUSTANG GTA
Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan and his ’67 GTA notchback Mustang are one of the most competitive combos in ATCC history, sweeping three consecutive championships (1967, ’68 and ’69).
Even with only three wheels on his wagon its likely Geoghegan would have hosed his opposition; his Mustang was often seen sliding around the track with the inside front wheel wagging in the air.
Geoghegan and the GTA Mustang quickly became a crowd favourite due to the spectacular slides that ‘Big Pete’ would perform each lap.
Geoghegan’s engineer, John Sheppard, was responsible for tuning and maintaining the GTA, which was fitted with a four-speed gearbox and 302-cubic-inch engine from a ’67 fastback. The engine was hotted up with four Weber carburettors, before eventually being converted to fuel injection.
But the GTA’s party trick was its unique three-wheel cornering style, which was due to a modified suspension geometry.
"We were limited to standard bodywork and 8.0-inch rims, but there was nothing to govern the rim offset," Sheppard told Unique Cars.
In order to widen the track, and fit fat rubber under the flared arches, the top wishbones were shortened by an inch to allow the unladen wheel to lean in and clear the mudguard.
"Most of the circuits then were stop-start affairs and it was more important to get off the line and out of the corners fast, than to carry speed through them. So we left the rear springs pretty soft, so that the car would squat and get its power down," Sheppard explained.
"I suppose if Pete hadn't been so naturally talented we might have gone testing and developed the suspension more, but he could drive around any problem and rarely complained. And if the driver was happy, then so were we!"
1969 TRANS-AM MUSTANG
No Mustang in Australian racing folklore is bigger, badder, and more fearsome than Alan Moffat’s 1969 beast.
Nicknamed the Moffstang, the Boss 302-equipped 1969 Trans-Am Mustang was all-conquering, and considered by some to be the greatest touring car to race Down Under.
The car, built to dominate Chevrolet’s Camaro in the Trans-Am series in the US, arrived in Australia box-fresh for the ’69 series.
During its racing career, which spanned from May 1969 until December 1974, Moffat and the Boss 302 scored 101 race victories from 151 starts, along with a bevvy of qualifying and lap records.
Despite the 302 cubic-inch (5.0-litre) engine, Moffat’s Mustang was often outgunned on the track, competing against the likes of Bob Jane's 7.0-litre Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1, Norm Beechey's 6.0-litre Holden HT Monaro GTS and Pete Geoghegan's 5.8-litre GTHO-badged Super Falcon.
Despite the incredible two-out-of-three win rate over a four-year period, Moffat and the Mustang never won the ATCC title.