Ford Mustang as a Race Car
The Mustang's position as a cultural icon can be credited to several factors, such as its affordability, performance and style, as well as its amazing screen presence. However, for a different segment of the car market, its stellar history began on the track, and grew more and more dominant as the years progressed. The newest Mustang concept, the 440 hp GT-R, seeks to continue the model's racing dominance. Here, you will learn more about the Ford Mustang's rich racing heritage.
In the first part of the 60s, American car makers were not permitted to involve themselves in racing, due to restrictions imposed by the Automobile Manufacturer's Association. Wanting to bolster its image, Ford created a program that still thrives to this day. The original Ford racing program included the GT40, the AC Cobra, the 427 and 429 Boss engines, the DOHC Ford Indy motor, the F1 Ford-Cosworth engine, and of course, the Mustang.
Barely a month after it debuted in April 1964, the Mustang was hitting the track as a pace car for that year's Indy 500. Before the end of 1964, it was doing well, finishing first and second in its class at the Tour de France rally. The first American impact was felt in drag racing, both by privateers and sponsored teams. Racers shoehorned huge high-riser V8s into their cars, and the rest, as they say, is history.
By 1965, Ford was involved in the NHRA's AFX class, as the aforementioned 427 V8 saw great success in Holman & Moody Mustangs. Ten cars were built, and five qualified for the Factory Stock eliminator at the 1965 Winternationals. Mustang Driver Bill Lawton won on his first outing in the car.
Not to be outdone, Carroll Shelby introduced the GT350 in 1965. It was a stripped Mustang with highly modified shocks, steering, brakes and a 289ci V8, and it was intended to compete in SCCA events. That year, the GT350 won the first of three consecutive SCCA national championships. 1966 was the first year Mustang competed in the Trans-Am series, and Jerry Titus won at Riverside. Altogether, Mustang drivers won 4 out of 7 races, and Ford won the manufacturer's title.
Today, Roush and Saleen Racing are the most well-known privateers who are still successful in competition. The GT-R concept takes the Mustang's forty years of racing heritage and combines it with world-class performance to make a truly dominant racing machine.