There's an old saying that cautions to "be careful when meeting your heroes—you may be disappointed." So it was with a trace of careful trepidation that I approached the opportunity to drive this low-mile G.T. 500. Would it feel fast or slow? Would it drive like a tired old car on bias ply tires? Does legend outreach reality?
I needn't have worried. Although on close inspection, the car is a bit worn in a few places and a bit faded; the headliner wears some small tears in it, the dark navy blue paint is blotchy, and the black carpet is faded to a dark brownish gray. No matter; the chrome has held up well, the body gaps narrow and even, and while the Magstar two-piece wheels could stand a good buff and polish, the car reeks of honesty, use, enjoyment, and the patina that comes with age and experience.
Becker and I hop in and I nervously reach for the key. The solenoid and starter engage, but the battery doesn't have enough juice to spin the starter. My heart sinks. Someone attaches a battery booster box. This time the starter turns heartily and the engine lights with no hassle. I feather the throttle as the car warms up, mat the clutch, and select first gear with the slightly stiff factory shifter. A little throttle and we're away. Whoooooooooohooooooooooo!
I love super low-mile old cars; they usually telegraph what a car was really like when it was new, and no matter how many times you take a car apart, or how well you restore it, there's nothing quite like a car that's never been wrecked and fixed or otherwise disassembled and restored. They're only original once, of course.
And this Big Guy sounds marvelous. Nothing like a thumping big-block to start your day. This one exhales through a well-seasoned dual exhaust system, and the sound is everything you expect from a big-inch, non catalytic converter equipped American musclecar. It gurgles at low rpm, bellows deeply as the revs climb, and snaps and pops when you downshift and let off the gas (let's hear it for engine braking).
Overall, the car feels tight and rattle free (again the joy of a car that's never been apart). The ride quality is on the sporty side of firm, but not bouncy, showing good body control. Schedule and location restrictions limited us from anything approaching hard cornering, but no wallowing pig is this! Its coil/leaf spring combo and original shocks keep it on the straight and narrow and the brakes feel pretty good too. As mentioned, the shifter is a bit stiff and clunky, but the clutch is smooth and relatively light. With this much power on tap, we could easily haze the Goodyear Polyglas tires but have no desire to blow or ball this car up prior to its big date with the Barrett-Jackson auction block.
The biggest disappointment I falsely envisioned never materialized: With a car and a big engine that don't run much, I expected the dual quad carbs to make this car a stumbling, bumbling, black smoke belching handful. That's what I get for making unwarranted assumptions; it was so not the case. Throttle response, even at low rpm, never disappointed, and once I got my big toe even slightly into the second carb, the big FE answered the call with a rush of torque and that wonderful moaning, “vacuum cleaner sucking gas and air sound” that I had in-my-dreams hoped for. And it was there and it was real. And it was good. Under moderate load, the big exhaust pipes puffed out a few blasts of carbon smoke, the 428 clearing its considerable lungs and clearly enjoying some exercise. When we parked it and shut down, the odometer read 9,512 miles, and thank you Mr. Becker, for giving us these eight marvelous miles with your big blue car.
Depending on which mid-'60s period car magazines you read, 0-60 estimates for this car range from the mid-fives to the low-to-mid-six second range. Even though I had to play it careful with Becker's baby, I've no reason to doubt these numbers. Running on tires with just a hint of traction, I'm sure this car would crack off six second 0-60 runs all damn day without batting an eye. And so could I.
355 horsepower? Yah. Sure.
When the Nightmist Blue Meanie finally took to Barrett-Jackson's big stage that Saturday afternoon in Scottsdale as lot 5024, Becker looked nervous at the podium next to B-J president and noted Shelby and Mustang expert Steve Davis. Bidding opened at $100,000 and moved strongly and swiftly past $150,000. It slowed at $170,000, finally settling at $175,000 as the gavel cracked. Strong money for any '67 Mustang, no matter how Shelby or fabulous.
I'd call it money well spent, and if I had the dough, I'd have been up there waving my bidder's paddle high in the air for the chance to own it. No disappointment whatsoever in meeting this hero.