Shortly after we ran a piece about driving a 9,000-mile ’67 Shelby G.T. 500 (“Drive Report: Low-Mile ’67 G.T. 500,” July 2013), a reader fired off an e-mail to needle me about driving yet another survivor Mustang. But apparently he composed and sent the e-mail before reading the article because, for once, the drive report was done by someone else, not me. Although I took the photos...
So, yes, this month’s issue includes another low-mileage, survivor muscle Mustang drive report thanks to the on-going efforts of my longtime friend Jim Wicks, who heads up the Mid America Ford and Shelby Nationals in Oklahoma. A top Shelby authority, Wicks has bought and sold hundreds of vintage Fords over the past 40 years, and he is frequently recruited by collectors to verify Shelbys and other high-performance Mustangs at the high-profile auctions. You’ll often spot him on the auction block during the TV coverage for the Barrett-Jackson and Mecum auctions. As such, he knows where the good ones are. Over the past few years, Wicks has either loaned me a car from his own collection or somehow convinced other owners to hand over the keys to their ultra-valuable survivor Mustangs during Mid America, where I’ve driven them on the Thursday evening cruise and flogged them on the way back to the hotel.
If someone offered you the keys to a Mustang survivor, would you turn down the opportunity?
We all dream about stumbling across an unmolested, low-mileage Cobra Jet or Shelby Mustang in a barn or backyard, which helps explain why Jerry Heasley’s “Rare Finds” column is so popular. There’s something fascinating about nearly 50 year-old Mustangs that remain in mostly original condition. I also find that unrestored ’65-’73 Mustangs drive better than Mustangs that have been taken apart, rebuilt, and reassembled, although some will argue that point.
While today’s concours restorations show us what Mustangs were like right off the assembly line, survivors serve to remind us what Mustangs were really like in the 1960s, which included dents and dings and popular hot-rod performance modifications. A Mustang is new only once; after that, the ravages of time, abuse, accidents, and hop-ups take their toll.
Although I vaguely recall driving my grandfather’s new ’66 Mustang GT around his circular driveway when I was 13, I have more vivid memories of climbing into my brand-new ’70 Mustang SportsRoof in the fall of 1970. I remember the smell of new vinyl, perfect factory Meadowlark Yellow paint, shiny hubcaps, and doors that closed with a perfect “thunk.” Over the next four years, the Mustang and I racked up nearly 100,000 miles, including a few quarter-mile passes down the old Spartanburg Dragway. I added mag wheels, air shocks, mud flaps, a Muscle Parts’ intake with Holley carb, cheap headers, and a variety of loud mufflers, including the Thrush side pipes that earned me an “illegal equipment” ticket from the South Carolina Highway Patrol. In 1974, I traded my first Mustang for a four year-old “survivor” Boss 302 with worn-out arm rests and faded Grabber Blue paint.
When compared to today’s modern cars, vintage Mustangs can seem dated. But when new, they were… well, new, with the latest convenience technology like automatic choke, front window defroster, and three-speed automatic transmission, all relatively new innovations in the mid 1960s.
My grandfather talked about “the good old days,” which to him were the 1920s. For me, the good old days are the 1960s, a time when dealerships hid new models until the official fall introduction and musclecars didn’t have power steering and air-conditioning. Sure, today’s Mustangs boast more power, reliability, convenience, and safety; they just don’t have that vintage vibe and patina.
So when I get the chance to drive a survivor Mustang, it takes me back to those good old days when we had four-speed transmissions, the wail of four-barrel (or eight-barrel!) induction at wide-open, and hard-launching 3.91 gears in a Traction-Lok differential.
You can make fun of me as much as you want.