Driving a Dark Moss Green four-speed '67 GT is probably about as close as I'm ever going to get to assuming the role of Detective Frank Bullitt. But that's OK, because for a brief half hour or so, I experienced firsthand the thrills of flat-out highway driving in a similar car.
The gorgeous '67 GT featured on these pages is the pride and joy of Ross Childers and his son, Brian, of Gladstone, Oregon. Ross is one of those super-fortunate guys who happened to be in the right place at the right time. After a relatively short search for the perfect Pony, Ross discovered this beauty tucked away in a heated garage in 1994. For Ross, it was one of those sad stories with a happy ending.
Sad, in that the car's original owner drove it quite hard for the first two years of its life-pushing it through the traps whenever he had the chance. Even the venerable 390 can take only so much abuse, and the Mustang's mill was finally pushed to the breaking point. The big-block was over-revved once too often, the rocker arms' shafts proceeded to break down, and the chain reaction that followed sidelined the GT from late 1969 until early 1994.
Although the original owner decided back in the late '60s not to fix the car, he did have the grace to stick the little Ford in the garage and keep it under wraps. When the car was taken off the active-duty roster, the odometer showed a scant 25,100 miles. Ross happened upon the car when a mutual friend tipped him off, so he caught the owner in just the right mood and cut a quick deal. The GT was trailered home, and the damages were assessed. With only two years' worth of road time, the car was in excellent condition and showed minimal signs of degradation, thanks to its 24-year, Rip Van Winkle stint. The motor was yanked, torn down, and totally rebuilt to factory specs. Ross had the chance to bore it over and drop in a killer cam and a big-bore carb, but being a stickler for originality, the 390 emerged bone stock. The body and the interior were already in beautiful shape, showing little wear and tear. To this day, in fact, the car has never seen a door ding or even a bad stone chip. Ross and Brian worked overtime, detailing the GT's every square inch to get it ready for the '94 cruise-in season. During the past six summers, the GT has taken plenty of trophies for best unrestored original. Since he's owned it, Ross has managed to restrain himself, adding only about 600 miles to the car's odometer. Luckily for me, though, he consented to a rather spirited testdrive on a rare, sunny spring afternoon in the Pacific Northwest.
I recently put a stock '67 GTA through its paces, so I kinda knew what to expect with the GT-the obvious difference being the presence of the beefy Top Loader. As with my previous experience, bottom-end performance is fairly tame, although the manual gearbox helps deliver a little more grunt straight out of the hole. Road tests of the day had these cars pegged with 0-60 times right around 7 seconds, and Ross' car seems to fit into that category.
Once out onto the freeway, however, this polite little ponycar quickly transformed into a rip-snortin' musclecar. As we all know, with 3.25 gearing and a whopping 427 lb-ft of axle twist, these cars were made for high-end blasts. I hit 60 in Third gear, pedal-floored it, and slammed the shifter into Fourth around 65. With the pedal still mashed, the Mustang charged ahead with stunning force, and the few other cars that were on the road suddenly became specks in my rearview mirror. I gripped the pencil-thin steering rim 'til my hands were sweaty, trying to keep this beast tracking in a straight line while I watched my mirrors for flashing lights from behind. The steady roar belching from the exhaust tips and the blurring scenery served as a reminder to glance at the speedo, which had just swept past the legal limit. At this point, I was half expecting to see a black '68 Charger climb right up the back end of the Dark Moss Green GT, but the bank of slow-moving rigs ahead forced me to snap out of it and back the Mustang down to a little more composed speed. What a blast!
With so many Mustangs being modified these days, it's a rare treat to drive a low-mile, pure-stock, all-original version of Ford's first crack at a purebred musclecar. Bone stock, these cars were capable of mid-14-second quarters. Up until we hit 60, I had my doubts. Cracked into Fourth gear, however, with the go-pedal mashed, the GT's astounding top end will more than make up for the bottom.
Ross still asserts that he'll never part with his pride and joy. Brian just says, "We'll see."