Car Show Classics: 2018 Carlisle Ford Nationals – Part Four – Mustang, Cougar and Thunderbird

We are nearing the end of my Carlisle Ford Nationals coverage, and I haven’t covered the Mustangs, Cougars and Thunderbirds yet.  As I mentioned in my first post in this series, the Carlisle show is loaded with Mustangs.  And while I didn’t take a ton of photos of them, I did capture a few of the nicer ones.  The show also had an excellent showing of first generation Cougars, and there was a decent showing of late-model Cougars.  Of course there were a fair number of Thunderbirds, and many of them were the less collectible cars from the late 1960s and the 1970s.

The Mustang made its debut on April 17th, 1964, but only as a convertible and a 2-door hardtop.  In September 1964, the Mustang received a number of updates, including the base engine being upgraded to a 200 six and a switch from a generator to an alternator.   At this time a third model was introduced, the Mustang 2+2 fastback.

In April 1965 a GT package was introduced for Mustangs 1 year anniversary.  Unlike some other GT packages, this one actually included a number of performance upgrades, including a 289 4-bbl engine, either the A-Code 225 hp or the K-code 271-hp version.  GT’s also had a handling package with stiffer springs, heavy-duty shocks, a larger front anti-roll bar and a quicker ratio steering box, front disc brakes, dual exhaust, GT emblems and a GT stripe (deletable option).   This red ’65 Mustang GT 2+2 fastback was in the for sale tent.

Many of the Mustangs at the show were more performance oriented models, or modified cars.  This ’67 Mustang was not one of those, which made it more interesting.  This car was for sale on the swap meet side of the show and was a low mile California survivor car.  It had 23,000 original miles and was owned by the original owner for 20 years.  It was equipped with a 289-2V “C-code” engine that produced 200 hp @ 4400 RPM (gross), automatic, A/C, console, and power steering.  It had all original engine and driveline, interior and mostly original paint.

The Mustang saw a significant update in 1967, the styling exaggerating the Mustang’s features making it appear larger, despite relatively little actual growth.  One area where the car did grow was under the hood, where the engine bay width increase to accommodate Ford’s 390 FE engine.  There were only very minor changes in 1968, with the easiest difference the added side marker lights.  This 1968 fastback commanded a significantly higher price than the aforementioned 67 hardtop, mostly because of the more desirable body style.  The previous ’67 was a more original car, and in my opinion, nicer overall.  This Acapulco blue Mustang had a 289, an automatic and power steering was listed at $39,900, compared to $24,500 for the red Mustang above.

The Carlisle show was celebrating 50 years of Torino, but 1968 also marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Ford’s 428 CJ engine.  Ford had installed the 390 in the Mustang beginning in 1967, but the performance of the 390 Mustangs was lackluster compared to the competition.  Tasca Ford had installed 428 PI engines in Mustangs to remain competitive at the drags.  After their success, Tasca lobbied Ford to install the 428 in the Mustang.  As a result, Ford developed the 428 Cobra-Jet, which was introduced April 1, 1968.

The 428-CJ used unique hi-po heads with enlarged intake and exhaust ports, a cast iron intake similar to the 428 PI aluminum intake, high flow exhaust manifolds, a Holley 735 CFM 4-bbl carburetor, larger connecting rod bolts, and a specially balanced crankshaft.  It was only rated at 335 hp (gross), but this widely known to be underrated.  The 428 CJ was significantly more powerful than the 428 PI engine, despite the 428 PI 360 hp (gross) rating.  The Shelby Mustangs that were equipped with the 428CJ were called GT500KR, like this one, for King of the Road.  The 428CJ powered GT500KRs were quicker than the earlier ’68 428 PI GT500s.

Also part of the Cobra-Jet cars on display, this 1969 Mustang fastback has 428CJ, special order Petty Blue Paint, traction-lok differential, power disc brakes and competition suspension.  This one of 50 Mustangs built for the Cleveland district that was a special promotion of Mustangs painted Petty Blue.  This car was in very poor shape and has had a full very detailed restoration.

With 71K original miles, this 1969 Mach 1 was said to be a survivor car that still sports its original paint.  It was listed for $38,500 in the swap meet side, and did appear to be an unmolested car.  It was powered by a 351W-4V engine, which produced 290 hp @ 4800 RPM (gross).

Don’t let the stripes fool you on this car, it’s just a grocery-getter.  This 1973 Mustang is powered by a 250 six and was a very clean original car.  The 250 six was pretty neutered by this time, and only put out 88 hp @ 3200 RPM (SAE net).  This Mustang was for sale on the swap meet side.  Unfortunately, I didn’t record the price, but I recall it being reasonable.

And for the polar opposite, Ford Motorsports had several resto-mods at the show, including this Mustang was modified to include a modern 5.0L Coyote engine, and a six speed tranmission.  Of course it was top-notch work, but I think I know which to the two Mustangs most CCer’s would prefer.

The Mustang II is ignored by Mustang many enthusiasts, but like I said there is no discrimination at Carlisle, and there was a healthy showing of these malaise-era Mustang.

Many of the Mustang II’s were modified, but this one appeared to be relatively stock.  While not loved by many, an argument can be made that part of the reason the Mustang still exists is because the Mustang II kept it alive in the mid 1970s.

I am a big fan of the Fox era Mustangs and there were lots at the show.  Almost all of them were modified to one degree of the other.  It seems finding a stock Fox Mustang is pretty tough these days.

This was 1990 GT was of the few stock ones I found, listed for sale.  It was a nicely preserved original one owner car with only 40,000 miles.  It was listed at a reasonable $12,500.

Here is another unmolested original GT.  These fox Mustangs seem to be gaining value with time, but there seems to be very few of them were kept original.  I foresee original cars to see significant value increases with time.

However,  this was my favourite of the Fox Mustangs I found, a genuine Special Service Package (SSP) Mustang.  I spoke with the owner of the car and she has owned numerous Mustangs over her life, but she says this one draws the most attention.  In the late 1970’s CHP began experimenting using Camaros as pursuit cars. After a relatively successful program, Ford ended up winning the CHP business and the 1982 Mustang SSP was the first to see active police duty.  These Mustangs were produced until 1993 and were discontinued with the SN95 Mustang.  By that time, the Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Crown Victoria police cars performance had improved significantly and it made a high performance pursuit cars somewhat redundant.

The car was obviously refurbished because no police car would have serviced service in such nice condition.  The owner took great pride to have the car equipped with all the correct equipment and even had a Florida State Trooper shirt hanging in the back window.

There were lots and lots of late-model Mustangs, but with all the old iron to see, I didn’t give them more than a passing glance.

There was also a special display for Bullit Mustangs, since it was also the 50 year anniversary of the movie.  I had assumed this meant there might be a bunch of 1968 Mustangs in highland green, but it was all late-model factory editions.

Saleen also had a tent in the vendors section and had several high performance Mustangs on display.  Some of them had modified styling including this convertible above.  While I know Saleen does great performance work, I can’t say that I am a fan of the styling changes on this particular car.

There were lots of nice first generation Cougars at the show and I find them more interesting to see than the Mustangs of the same era.  As we know, the Cougar was introduced in 1967 as Mercury’s entry into the pony car segment.  Unlike the others in the category, the Cougar was both sporty and luxurious.  While it used the Mustang body shell, the Cougar had its own unique sheet metal along with a 3″ longer wheelbase, at 111″.

Powertrains were basically the same as Ford Mustang, with the exception of the V8 being standard equipment.  The base V8 was a 289-2V engine rated at 200 hp (gross).  Optional engines included the 289-4V rated at 225 hp (gross) and the 390-4V rated at 320 hp (gross).  A GT performance package was available which included the 390, handling package, wide oval whitewall tires, low-back pressure dual exhaust, power disc brakes and GT emblems.  This particular ’67 is powered by the 225 hp 289-4V.

These early Cougars had covered headlamps and sequential rear tail light signals.  The headlight doors were vacuum operated.

Few changes occurred to the Cougar for 1968, but the most obvious change was the addition of side marker lights. In addition, the base 289 was replaced by the 302 engine.  That said, some 1968 Cougars did receive 289s.  Also added to the engine line-up was a  390-2V rated at 280 hp and a 427-4V rated at 390 hp. The 428 CJ was also added on April 1,1968.

In January 1967, Mercury introduced the XR-7 package, which included a walnut applique dashboard, additional gauges, a 6000 RPM tachometer, toggle switches on the dash, an overhead console with map lights, and leather upholstery.  This 1968 XR-7 also had an optional sunroof.

The interior was definitely original, and had lots of Patina.  The XR-7 package was inspired by European cars, and was considerably more luxurious than any other pony car.

The Ford 427 was the pinnacle performance engine of the 1960’s, and it was listed as being available in numerous 1968 Ford products, include the Mustang, Torino, Montego and Cougar.  However, of those cars, only the Cougar was actually produced with the 427, but in very low numbers.  This is one of those Cougars.

The 427 was only offered for part of the 1968 model year production run and was replaced by the 428CJ. Unlike the more race oriented 427’s, this variation used a hydraulic camshaft.   Listed at $908, the 427 used a 650 CFM Holley and an automatic transmission was a mandatory option.

The 427 was only available with the GT-E package.  The GT-E was available on the standard Cougar or the Cougar XR-7, like this example.  The GT-E included blacked out grilles,with two horizontal chrome, competition suspension, a power dome hood, and quad exhaust tips.  There were only 394 GT-Es built, 357 with 427s and 37 with 428CJs.  This car was an XR-7 package, making it one of 256.

Cougar was restyled for 1969 and like its Mustang sibling, grew a bit bigger and heavier.  With the introduction of Ford’s 351W engine, the engine line-up was shuffled.  The base engine upgraded to the 351W-2V rated at 250 hp (gross), while a 290hp 351W-4V was also added.   This example has a 428-CJ with ram air.

The interior was in excellent shape, with the white upholstery in excellent condition.

The 1970 Cougar saw a few styling revisions, but was mostly carry over from the 1969 model year.  The engine line-up was shuffled again, with the introduction of the 351C.  The base 351C-2V engine could be a 351W or C, but once upgraded to the 351-4V it was always a Cleveland.  The more powerful 351C made the 390-4V redundant, and it was dropped, while the 428-CJ/SCJ remained the top engine options.

The Cougar Eliminator option was added to the Cougar line-up mid year 1969. It included one of four bright colors with special decals and stripes, high back bucket seats, a front and rear spoiler, a blacked our grille, a hood scoop and styled wheels.  This was a beautiful restored 1970 model.

In 1969 it came standard with a 351-4V engine, and had the 390-4v and the 428-CJ as options.  At the end of the model year, the BOSS 302 was also added to the line-up.  The BOSS 302 special heads with canted valves and large ports, that were later used on the 351C-4V.   It was (under)rated at 290 hp @ 5800 RPM (gross).

As you can see from the pictures, this example was restored to better than new condition.   A lot of time effort and money went into this car.

Introduced for the 1989 model year was the fully redesigned MN12 Cougar.  The new platform saw the wheelbase increase to 113″, a nearly 9″ stretch over the previous generation, while the length actually decreased by about 3″.  The platform also introduced an independent rear suspension system.  There was a decent showing of MN12 Cougars, but this 1989 Cougar XR7 was one of the nicest.  Fellow CCer’s may recognize this car as contributor MD Laughlin’s Cougar, which you can read about here.

There were plenty of nice T-birds at the show, and this ’57 was one of the nicest early Birds.  The ’57 T-bird was slightly restyled for 1957, with the biggest change being the extended rear deck.  The original ’55 T-Bird had a small trunk and with the spare tire inside there was little usable space.  A continental kit was added in 1956 to increase the trunk space, but the chassis had to be beefed up to support the tire causing additional weight. The extra weight and the revised softer rear spring rates caused the ’56 to handle poorly in comparison to the ’55.  So for ’57 the trunk size was increased so that it had decent luggage capacity with the tire inside.

Also revised in 1957 was a switch back to the stiffer 5 leaf springs that had been used in 1955.  As was the trend.  wheels were downsized to 14″ for a lower stance. These changes resulted in the ’57 T-Bird having improved handling.

While the red ’57 was very nice, it was nice to see  T-bird in a less common colour.  This one is willow green, which looks quite sharp the matching interior and the black top. For ’57 the dash was also revised and updated to be more stylish.

There weren’t a lot of Square Birds or Bullet Birds, but there were lots of Flair Birds at the show.  The 1964 T-Bird may have looked all new, but underneath its new sheet metal, the substructure was essentially unchanged from 1963.  The ’64 T-Bird used some of the biggest tail lights of its time.  The original intention was to have sequential turn signals for 1964, but due to trouble getting approval from several states, it had to wait until 1965.  This ’65 T-Bird is powered by the ubiquitous Ford 390-4V FE engine making 300 hp @ 4600 RPM (gross).

There were few changes to the styling between 1964-66, but the 1966 is probably the easiest to spot.  The large bumper used in ’64-65 was replaced by this small slim unit for 1966.  This particular ’66 Thunderbird convertible was one of 5,049 cars.  It originally listed at $4845.  These Thunderbirds were no lightweights, and with a shipping weight of 4496 lbs.  However, to counter the weight, front disc brakes became standard equipment for 1965.  Motor Trend tested a 390 powered ’66 Thunderbird and it ran 0-60 in 11.4 secs and the 1/4 mile in 18.4 seconds @ 77 mph.

Thunderbird under went a major redesign in 1967.  It moved away from the unitized construction that it had used since 1958 and switched to body on frame construction.  These T-birds used a chassis that was essentially a variation of the full-size Ford chassis, no doubt reducing production costs.  This 1969 Thunderbird is a Landau model, which used larger C-pillars.

The styling was heavily revised for 1970 and of course the infamous “Bunkie Beak” was added at the request of Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen.  The car was little changed under the skin for 1970 and the Landau models looked fairly close to the 1969’s just with a new nose.  The above car is an all original car that has original paint and interior and was in excellent shape.

There were several “Big Birds” at the show including the ones shown above.  When Thunderbird was redesigned in 1972, it grew to its largest size yet.  The T-Bird shared its body shell with the equally large Lincoln Continental Mark IV.  The silver T-Bird above was a ’76 that was powered by a 460-4V engine, and had optional dual exhaust and a power sunroof.

In 1977, the Thunderbird was downsized to the smaller intermediate chassis, reducing the wheelbase form 120.4″ to 114″, while losing 10″ in length and over 900 lbs.  The Thunderbird moved down scale to a lower price class, to compete with the Monte Carlo and sales took off. Over 300,000 cars were produced for both 1977 and 1978 which was three times the previous sales record.  The interest in these T-birds seems to be increasing with time and there were a few nice ones there like this 1979.

The Fox-bodied Thunderbirds were well represented, well at least the Aerobirds.  There were no 1980-82 T-Birds.

And like the Cougars, the MN12 cars were out in full force. They are clearly well loved by their owners.

I hope you enjoyed looking at and reading about these Mustangs, Thunderbirds and Cougars.  I will be doing one final installment in this series that will cover off some less common Fords, well at least for this continent.  Stay tuned.

2018 Carlisle Ford Nationals Series

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Five