First Mustang Club Of Germany 1964 - 1973 e.V.
Updated Version 15.06.10


"Tour de France" - Mustang

Driver’s report : Through central France with Ustinov and camera

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Original report from Sports Car Graphic January 1965

By Bernhard Cahier

Thanks to the efforts made by Ford in the competition field, motor racing has suddenly become much more exciting! We can now see European cars being directly challenged by the American cars on circuits which have been Europe's almost exclusive property ever since automobile racing started, more than 60 years ago!

Yes, the Americans are now very active in every form of racing but, as some people may think, money is not everything in racing - Ford has found this out since they have started openly in the competition field, particulary in GT and rally-type racing. Experience and patience are very much needed as well. We had an excellent example of this when the mighty Ford team failed to finish in the first group of thirty cars in the 1963 Monte Carlo Rallye. More work and patience, however, brought significant results and in the Monte Carlo Rallye of 1964 one of the Ford Falcons finished second overall, only beaten by a short distance by that "Mini Hero," the Irishman Paddy Hopkirk! This fine achievement was very highly exploited by Ford and when, last Spring, the new Mustang came out, this car was able to benefit of all kind of improvements learned in the hard field of rally-racing.

The Mustang, which is using most of the components of the "289" V-8 Falcon, proved right away to be a big sales success in America and, since it was a "Sport Minded" automobile, it was logical to try them under the hard conditions of racing. At the Liege-Sofie-Liege rally, the first International competition for the Mustangs, the two cars entered had the misfortune of crashing, but they soon came back with a vengeance in the Tour de France, as described in last month's SCG. Almost 4,000 miles long, with 17 pure competition tests along the way, the Tour de France is a tough event, one of the toughest of its type, with three-fourths of the cars usually breaking down or crashing before the "show" is over! Four Mustangs were entered in the Tour de France, three by the Alan Mann racing team of England, and one by Ford of France. These cars were the sensation of the Tour where they simply walked away from the other competitors in the Touring class. Two Mustangs survived the long, hard pace brilliantly to take the first two places, with an immense lead over their nearest competitor, a Jaguar 3.8 prepared by the factory and driven by French rally champion Consten.

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Beautiful car preparation by Alan Mann, rally experience by Ford and superb driving by the winning Peter Procter and Peter Harper were paying off in a spectacular manner, and was suddenly putting the Mustang on the top of the list of competition touring cars in Europe. Only a few months after its presentation the Mustang was making the great name for itself in racing, a first class achievement, even with all that money behind the effort!

Naturally, I was very curious to see how those "hot American compacts" would drive and behave, and perhaps also find out why they so completely dominated the Touring class in the Tour de France. Thanks to the kindness of Alan Mann, I was able to have my curiosity satisfied and more, as Mann generously loaned me the winning Mustang for 10 days right after the end of the Tour de France.

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Compared to the standard Mustang with options, meaning the 289 engine, stiffer suspension, etc., the Tour de France car was not that much different but:

  1. the carefully prepared engine (still fitted with a single four-barrel carburetor) was now giving a true 285 SAE horsepower instead of 271.
  2. the car had been lowered and the suspension further improved with bigger shocks and torsion bars.
  3. the back axle (with limited slip differential) was a strong "Galaxie" type.
  4. the steering was quicker, with less than four turns from lock to lock.
  5. the interior had been lightened and carefully arranged for long, fast driving (new instruments, bucket type seats, and full rally equipment).
  6. the car was fitted with six large lights (Cibie and Marchal), four of which used powerful iodine vapor bulbs.
  7. large disc brakes with special racing pads were fitted in front.
  8. the car had two gas tanks, totaling 35 gallons.
  9. the 15-inch wheels were fitted with Goodyear racing tires, the Stock Car Special, using a special compound for wet weather.
  10. the large exhausts were routed out on each side of the car ahead of the back wheels.

From the minute you start the engine you are "in another world," and you suddenly realize that you are far from dealing with a "peaceful" touring car. You are, in fact, dealing with a racing machine with all its noise, smell, rough ride, brute power and all its excitement!

The driving position is very good, thanks to the excellent Raystall bucket seats, which give you perfect support, as well as being fully adjustable. The vital instruments, rev counters oil and water temperature, oil pressure gauges, are all there in front of you and, since the speedometer is partly hidden behind them, you promptly forget about that nonense of the speedometer.

The car starts always easily and the powerful sound of the V-8 and its very direct exhaust nicely fills up the cockpit - a point which has the advantage of not stimulating too much conversation between driver and passenger.

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The clutch action is very direct but not as bad as some of the sports racing cars. With all that power only a little throttle is needed to take off, and it's no problem to make perfectly smooth starts with the car. Normally you can start off by using a thousand rpm, but for fast take off, 3,000 seems to be the right amount. The surprising thing when you want to make a very quick start is that at 3,000 or 3,500 rpm you have no wheel spin. This is great, as you can always make some terrific starts with a minimum of time lost. This is due mainly to the fantastic adhesion of the very large 670 x 15 Goodyears racing tires. Those tires surprised me at first in the way that you get the impression that the car is on wide rails and the way the steering feels more direct. You have to be careful at first, as these tires bite as if the car were strongly understeering. The car is actually quite neutral in behavior but you must first get used to the reaction given by those tires to the steering. I liked the steering very much and found it to be not nearly as heavy as it should for a car of that size, fitted with those wide racing tires.

When going fast on a curvy road, the proper manner to go around a corner rapidly is to slow down sufficiently so that you are "comfortable" when setting the car into its line. Once you are in position and "in" the corner, just hit the throttle hard end you will shoot out of the turn like a cannon ball. Watch the rather brutal action of the self-locking differential when you do it, though, as it emphasizes the line you have given to your car. By this I mean that if your line is too wide, for example, you will find yourself even wider. The moral of the story is to take the right line, with a big enough safety margin, when you are new to the behavior of a competition Mustang!

Once you are familiar with this it's great and you can have many exhilarating moments with the car. After a day at the wheel of the Mustang, I felt very much at case and was really amazed, not only by the general handling of the car on just about any type of road, but also by its agility around corners, even the tight ones.

With all that power always available, fast driving with the competition Mustang is an exciting experience and yet I was surprised to see how docile and smooth the car could go around town in heavy traffic. Naturally, heavy traffic is not the right sort of thing for the car, as it has a tendency to overheat if you are stopped for too long in a jam. Because of its power and perfect distribution of this power on the road, the performance of the competition Mustang is quite fantastic. I was able to record zero to 60 mph in just under seven seconds, zero to 100 in 18.5 and the standing quarter mile in 15! The standing kilometer was done in 27 seconds, and for top speed I was able to clock the car at 150 mph, which is indeed not bad at all for an American compact! Except for a rather long first gear, the gear ratios were fine, with first going to 65 mph, second to 94, third to 117 and top to over 150. At 150 mph the car felt very steady but concentration was needed at high speed on rough roads. With a maximum speed of over 150 mph, and acceleration figures as good as those of a four-liter GT Ferrari, the Mustang is in a class of its own. I know now why that car so completely outperformed the 3.8 Jaguar, which is certainly not considered a slow car!

When you add to that speed and performance a remarkable road handling, fully supported by powerful, lasting brakes, you cannot loose! The brakes were first class I had no fading from them the only sign indicating that they were very hot was a longer pedal travel. At no time, ever, was I left with weakened brakes and the stopping power remained always high. I frankly don't understand why the car is not fitted with those disc brakes as standard equipment, especially since the drum brakes normally used on the Mustang are quite mediocre!

Racing experience and beautiful preparation of the car have made of the competition version Mustang a most desirable high performing GT machine, capable of outrunning and outdriving most of the finest European GT machines of two or three times its price. It's a rough, brutal machine in many respects, but it's strong and I couldn't believe how "fresh" it still was after the Tour.

Not a refined car, the competition Mustang is, on the other hand, exciting to drive and to dominate! It has "charm", if you see what I mean. It's a very safe, very fast car and ten days at the wheel of the "Mustang Tour de France" were too short for my taste. I really grew fond of the great red beast.

For further information about the 3 TDF Mustangs and the spare car see other sections on this website at