Mustang Week has given me the chance to ponder what I was going to say about this fine CC ’67 Fastback I found just a couple of weeks ago. Earlier in the week, I started writing about how this was undoubtedly the most well-loved generation (’67-’68) of the blood line, at least up to the Fox Mustang. It’s certainly become an icon, thanks in part to a famous appearance in the movies. And it is a fine looking Mustang, a reasonably successful development and evolution of the original.What’s not to like?
But then sitting in the bathtub one night, I changed my mind; instead of praising it, I come to damn it. Ok; not the car itself, but the first fatal step Ford took with it towards what became the annihilation of the genre it created.
As is well know, the original Mustang used a modified version of the 1960 Falcon’s “platform”, with the same 55.4″/56″ front/rear track. The goal of the Mustang development program was to end up with a weight of 2500 lbs, so that performance would be adequate with the six, and sparkling with even a low-tune base V8.
The original Mustang was designed to appeal to multiple market segments: everything from the “secretary’s car”; a low-cost entry-level sporty coupe that was economical to purchase as well as to operate, and gave adequate performance with the base engine; Mommy’s stylish new errand-getter; a student’s graduation present; even a family-mobile with which to haul a camping trailer, and even a mini T-Bird.
But at its essence was the ability to be a genuine “sports car”. From the beginning, it had that capability, with the crackling 271 hp solid lifter 289, four-speed, Special Handling Suspension, and even some short-lived high-performance 15″ tires, with which Motor Trend set a new fast time for tested cars on Riverside Raceway. From day one, the Mustang was capable of being a genuine high-performance sporty coupe, one that could give the Corvette a run for its money, along with some change back.
The highest fulfillment of its potential arrived already in 1965, in the form of the brilliant Shelby GT350.
The point I’m getting at here is that the original Mustang was right-sized; in fact, just about the right size, forever.
Which of course Ford rediscovered eventually, with the 2005 Mustang, whose 107.1″ wheelbase is within an inch of the original. And whose roof line and other styling cues it carried forward into a new century. But the path it took to get there was hardly a straight line.
The equally-iconic Porsche 911 arrived almost at the same time as the Mustang, but Porsche never wavered once in its vision, and how the 911 evolved accordingly.
Instead of a steadily refined, lithe, agile and sporty Mustang, we got this instead. OK; amusing, but hardly in line with the original vision (obviously a lack of vision was a key factor here). Well, Porsche did contemplate replacing the 911 with the 928.
The Mustang could (and should) have become America’s Porsche 911, and followed a similar path of evolution. Meaning: staying true to its pony-class genre, and avoiding the Great Big Block Temptation; the sin that brought down the genre.
For the 1967 Mustang, Ford abandoned its original tidy width and adopted the same wide-track underpinnings that the 1966 Fairlane and Falcon adopted. Why? That move not only effectively killed the Falcon within a few short years, until it was effectively replaced by the narrow-body Maverick, which essentially rode on a shortened 1965 Mustang platform.
And what did the wide-body ’67 Mustang gain? A 390 cubic inch V8, rated at 320 hp. And one which utterly destroyed the Mustang’s reasonably good handling and semi-good balance.
Yes, Steve McQueen’s iconic car had a 390 under the hood, but the amount of work it took to make that beast fly is well known.Seems to me that a 306 hp Shelby-ized 289 with the optional supercharger would have done better on the air-borne scenes, with less ballast in the rear end.
And (in real life) the driver of the hemi Charger it was chasing had to ease off the throttle during those chases, lest it leave it the Mustang in the dust. That wouldn’t have looked right.
The reality is that the big block engines available in the pony cars starting in 1967 were a colossal mistake. Until the CJ428 came along, the FE-engined Mustangs were ponies in wolves’ clothes.
And the same applies to the 1967 Camaro SS396, which was only available in the very mild 325 hp version, and whose actual performance was rather embarrassing, never mind its handling. How hard would it have been to offer a hi-po 350, based on the 365 hp 327? With some 375 hp, it would have been much fatser than the 396, and handled much better. Well, that engine (the legendary LT-1) did come along a few years later (1970), and it did make the 396 essentially irrelevant, and it was soon dropped from the Camaro’s option list.
More pathetically, Chrysler felt it had to play in the big-block sandbox too, shoehorning the 383 in a body never designed for it, and one that performed superbly with the 340 LA engine. The 383 was such a tight fit, that power steering was not even available. So who are we pandering to? Leave the big blocks to the Road Runner and such.
It’s not like the ’67 gained any extra space inside, to go along with a wider engine compartment. The 1967 Mustang’s main body structure was largely carried over; the interior dimensions are all the same, and the windshields are even interchangeable. Maybe the doors are too?
The rear seat got an even bigger window, which was well on its way to morphing into a sunroof, as well as a highly effective solar collector.
The more I look at these two, the more I like the tighter and tauter roof on the original. If only they’d spent the money on other things, like a high performance version of the 200 six, or that independent rear suspension Ford was already teasing about back then. Fifty years later, it’s finally coming.
The more I look at this ’67, the more I see the beginnings of middle-age weight gain; or more like morbid obesity. Why was Detroit so obsessed with everything having to get bigger? Bigger is not better; how hard was it to learn that? The answer soon became obvious.
I can’t tell you exactly how the Mustang’s design would have evolved; that would be an interesting project if I had the ability and time, but we did already design a key evolutionary step; the 1974 Mustang. And no, this is not a “MUstang II”; it’s the 1974 version built on a somewhat shortened 103″ wheelbase version of the original platform, and improved with a completely new front suspension. Since its a bit smaller than the original Mustang, weight is kept about the same or so, allowing it use use the 2.3 L four as the base engine to compete with both the Japanese competition as well as the Camaro.
Enough daydreaming. Let’s end with paying our respects to this fine original survivor, which is becoming a rare thing to see on the streets.
I’d almost forgotten about this other ’67 Fastback I shot a while back, also in red, although a rather different shade. How can I say negative things about these iconic curbside classic Mustangs? Well, it’s not the cars’ fault; but their makers who couldn’t keep the original vision in sight. Or maybe they never really had it, and just stumbled into the Mustang’s brilliant success.
The Mustang and Ford’s splendid new little V8 were meant for each other (as well as a theoretical hi-po six), and the speculation as to how the Mustang might have evolved in a more direct and continuous line along with it is tantalizing.