Romancing the Muscle Car

Back in the days when cars really were made in Detroit, Ford and Chevrolet dominated the market. By the mid 1960s, each company advertised furiously to maintain their competitive edge, no matter how similar the cars they built ultimately were.

Lee Iacocca researched and tried various design changes though Chevrolet always seemed to build a more powerful car. However, when he introduced the Ford Mustang in late 1964, with a straight 6 engine and a body based on the Falcon and the Fairlane, whatever alchemy existed between Madison Avenue and the car, as it came off the assembly line, turned out to be perfect. Over 22 thousand mustangs sold within the first week it was available. Over the years, the car went through various design changes, beginning with the hood to accommodate a V-8 engine, which by 1979, when the Middle East oil embargo raised prices at the fuel pumps higher than they had ever been before, was no longer practical. Customers again wanted the smaller, less expensive engines.

Race car fans will remember the GT-350H, designed by Shelby for Hertz, especially for those rent-a-car racers. This was Carroll Shelbys first rebuilding of the Ford Mustang, to be an honest contender in the Seebring and Nazcar races. His company did an excellent job of it, from expanding the hood to accommodate a high speed engine, reinforcing the gear box, so it would not be knocked out at high speeds, welding roll bars securely to the frame and across the top, in case the car flipped off the track, in fact rebuilding and reinforcing every part of the car that could conceivably malfunction on the race track.

Bob Tusca Sr, owner of Tusca Ford in Rhode Island developed the Cobra jet 428 engine, in response to his customers’ demands for a higher performance engine, popular in drag race courses. He is said to have made the Ford Mustang better than they were when the left the factory.

 

Gone in 60 Seconds

Eleanor was the trademark name given to a Mustang Mach I, the only Mustang to receive star credit in a movie. Toby Halicki wrote and directed the original film, said to be long on car chase scenes and short on plot. It was a movie made for and about cars, with a chase scene that lasted nearly the entire hour plus. But, what can you expect when a Shelby GT-500 is the star of the show?

The GT-500 was admittedly a beautiful car, even attracting the attention of people who didnt care that much about cars. The Mustang still has its faithful followers. That car is a product of the glory days, when US made cars were as good as almost any car in the world, and better than many.

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