Remembering pony cars we’ve owned, or at least enjoyed
Editor’s note: April 17 is National Mustang Day and as part of the celebration of the car that gave the pony car class its name, we’ve asked our staff members to share their favorite Mustang memories. We’d also like to hear about yours, so please share them in the Comments section at the end of this article.
What Mustangs have you owned?
Larry Crane: In about 1978, while I lived in Santa Barbara, I bought a ’64 Mustang 170cid 6-cylinder with a 3-speed manual with a floor stick as a commuter for less than a thousand dollars. It was pure, unaltered bottom-line Falcon. It suffered all the awful driving issues that killed the cheapest Falcon. Actually, a few years earlier I bought a ’65 289 Falcon 4-speed convertible built by an experienced road racer that remains one of my favorite memories.
That Falcon gave me a clear vision for the direction the Shelby team took to turn my ’64 Mustang into a fabulous competition tool. (I recently found a ’64 Mustang 6 with a 3-speed in “great condition” for $12,500. Seems about the right value for today.)
Bob Golfen: A bright-yellow Mustang coupe came into our lives in 1980, mainly because my wife had fallen in love with the new Fox-body models. That was a fairly straightforward car with a straight-6 and automatic, but what I remember most was how great it was on cross-country trips. Sadly, that car got wrecked when it was T-boned by an inattentive driver.
Larry Edsall: 1969 fastback, Indian Fire, 302cid V8, automatic, fastback, purchased new as a college graduation present to myself. (Like Bob’s Mustang, mine was T-boned, by a driver who ran a stop sign.)
What was the best driving experience you’ve had in a Mustang?
Jim McCraw: I started test-driving Ford Mustangs in 1967, just as the Detroit muscle car wars were really heating up. We heard a rumor at the magazine I worked for that Ford was coming up with a very special package designed specifically for drag racing.
It was an idea put forward to Ford’s racing team by New England megadealer Bob Tasca, using mostly existing engine parts to create a high-performance 428 cubic-inch version of the 390 V8 engine with a single four-barrel carburetor and a fresh-air intake system and hood scoop. It was to be called the 428 Cobra Jet.
Since the project was born at Tasca Ford, it was only right that they got the very first production one. When they did, they called us to see if we wanted to test the car at Connecticut Dragway. Well, of course we did.
So we journeyed to Connecticut with our cameras and our notebooks only to be met there by Tasca mechanic and engine wizard John Healy and pro driver Bill Lawton. The white Mustang coupe was warmed up and after a few passes down the dragstrip in our hands, it was apparent that it was a torque monster. In Lawton’s hands, it recorded the quickest time we had ever seen by a Super Stock Ford, 11.87 seconds to cover a quarter-mile, with a terminal speed of over 112 mph. It was deliberately under-rated by Ford at 360 horsepower to fit into Super Stock/E, but it made a ton more power than that.
The Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet came and went in 1968, and won the Super Stock Eliminator title at the NHRA Winternationals first time out. There were other Cobra Jet-engine cars that followed, not to mention the Boss 302, Boss 351, and Boss 429, and I drove them all, but that Wimbledon White Cobra Jet remains my all-time favorite.
Rebecca Nguyen: I’m an import enthusiast and have owned a Subaru WRX for more than a decade. However, I can appreciate anything with wheels. I’m also the event coordinator for ClassicCars.com‘s Future Classic Car Show. For our first show, San Tan Ford displayed a 2016 Roush Mustang. After the show was over and nearly everyone had gone home, the San Tan rep handed me the keys and suggested that I “take it around the block.”
I had a big smile on my face as I felt the torque and heard “baby” tire squeak — I say “baby” because I was trying not to be too aggressive with the throttle. I remember the car feeling solid and my feeling confident behind the wheel and, yes, there was a definite “look at me” vibe to the experience.
Larry Edsall: Honeymoon trip from Michigan to the French Canada’s Gaspe Peninsula and then home by way of Boston.
Bob Golfen: As an auto writer, I’ve driven any number of Mustang test cars over the years, from four-cylinder economy models to V8-powered GTs and the hottest Shelby-induced cars. My favorite: the latest generation of Boss 302, which I thought was right on the button.
Of course, the most dialed-in Mustangs I’ve driven were the Roush-prepared cars used at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in the ‘90s when I went through its courses. These were so great on Bondurant’s tight, technical road course, where I learned the secrets of car control and heel-and-toe shifting from the man himself. I’ve always wondered how many Mustangs were sold afterward to Bondurant students.
What’s the best ride you’ve had in a Mustang?
Larry Edsall: I was a full-time student and part-time sportswriter when someone from Ford public relations called the newspaper office and asked if a reporter wanted to attend a press conference the following day in downtown Chicago. This was in the fall of 1968 and Mickey Thompson had just set a series of speed records in the new Mustang Mach I and was being flown directly from Bonneville to Chicago for the press presentation.
As it turned out, the only available Mach I to be displayed at the event was at our local Ford dealership and the front passenger’s seat would be available if we wanted to claim it.
As it turned out, the driver was a Ford retiree, but in his working life he had been a corporate chauffeur and the driver of a couple of presidential limousines. The man could flat drive! It was like riding in a race car, and he knew all the shortcuts and under-the-radar routes through the suburbs and into the Loop. And all the while he was driving, he was telling amazing stories about driving the presidents.
Bob Golfen: My Mustang memories go back to high school, when a close friend had a ’66 coupe with a 289 and automatic. We ran around in that car a lot, often with me at the wheel, during the late 1960s. This was fun stuff, having a sporty car during its heyday when we were just teenagers.
There were a lot of Mustang encounters back then, including with one lucky guy who drove a Shelby GT350 fastback, and a certain girl with a Mustang convertible.
What’s the best static experience you’ve had in a Mustang (and remember this is a family website)?
Larry Edsall: I had a Roush Mustang as a press test car one week and early one morning I went out, started the car, rolled down the driver’s window, called a co-worker, didn’t say who I was but simply held the phone out the window and revved the engine, loud enough and probably enough times to wake the entire neighborhood.1 comment