Dick’s Mus­tangs

De­spite the Ford Mus­tang’s iconic sta­tus, in the mid-1980s it was an un­likely choice for an Aussie tour­ing car leg­end to tackle the brave new world of Group A. De­spite win­ning only a sin­gle race, this mo­tor rac­ing or­phan proved a vi­tal step­ping-stone on D

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

The stayer! De­spite the Ford Mus­tang’s iconic sta­tus, in the mid-1980s it was an un­likely choice for an Aussie tour­ing car leg­end to tackle the brave new world of Group A. De­spite win­ning only a sin­gle race, this mo­tor rac­ing or­phan proved a vi­tal step­ping-stone on Dick John­son’s re­mark­able jour­ney.

Dick John­son had ev­ery rea­son to be­grudge the in­tro­duc­tion of Group A in Aus­tralia. Af­ter years of strug­gle, he had fi­nally made the big time, pi­lot­ing big hairy-chested 5.8-litre Fal­cons un­der the home­grown Group C cat­e­gory that turned him into the poster boy of Ford fans across the coun­try. The hum­ble Daisy Hill me­chanic had in­deed done good, yet found him­self in a seem­ingly dire sit­u­a­tion. John­son sim­ply had to ac­cept the con­tro­ver­sial new for­mula – and em­brace it. Even though he had won three Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onships and the Bathurst 1000 in his beloved Fal­cons, he’d never been com­fort­able with the argy-bargy and back­room deals for con­ces­sions with the rul­ing body that were a nec­es­sary evil of tour­ing car rac­ing in the early 1980s. If ever there was a cham­pion racer who lacked po­lit­i­cal cun­ning, it was the plain-speak­ing Queenslander.

What Group A of­fered was a wel­come end to the off-track lob­by­ing, which was more the do­main of Al­lan Mof­fat, Frank Gard­ner, Howard Mars­den and the power­bro­kers at Holden. De­spite be­ing the Blue Oval hero, John­son had been left to bat­tle alone while Broad­mead­ows de­rived the ben­e­fits of his suc­cess with­out hav­ing to bother with the te­dium of ho­molo­ga­tion, or tip­ping in dol­lars.

At the time it seemed that John­son – and Ford – had been left out in the cold by CAMS’ love af­fair with any­thing French. Af­ter all, Group A ho­molo­ga­tion de­manded huge pro­duc­tion num­bers – much greater than pre­vi­ously re­quired in the small Aus­tralian mar­ket – and it had to be done by the man­u­fac­turer. And Ford Aus­tralia just wasn’t in­ter­ested.

Yet, Dick John­son knew what was com­ing down the line in Europe, and he could not wait to get hold of it. Trou­ble was, he had to wait. So, while Ford in the UK worked away de­vel­op­ing what would be­come the Sierra RS Cos­worth in 1987, back in Bris­bane Dick had to find some­thing else to tide him over for a cou­ple of years. What he came up with was an Amer­i­can car, ho­molo­gated in Europe, yet so out­dated and un­suc­cess­ful that even its mother had aban­doned it.

The Mus­tang had a great name, but no pedi­gree. Dick would have to take this bas­tard child of trans-At­lantic par­ents and on the sweat of his own brow turn it into a win­ner. It was never go­ing to be a world-beater against fac­tory turbo cars, yet it be­came an un­ex­pected fan favourite dow­nun­der. It cer­tainly did noth­ing to di­min­ish Dick’s stand­ing as the ul­ti­mate Aussie motorsport un­der­dog.

Dick would have to take this bas­tard child of trans-At­lantic par­ents and on the sweat of his own brow turn it into a win­ner

An easy de­ci­sion

When CAMS adopted the in­ter­na­tional Group A cat­e­gory in Aus­tralia for 1985 there was con­sid­er­able spec­u­la­tion that John­son could pos­si­bly race a tur­bocharged six-cylin­der Fal­con like the Tru-Blu-coloured XE road car that bore his name. How­ever, as we out­lined in AMC #82, the man him­self had vir­tu­ally noth­ing to do with the Dick John­son Grand Prix Turbo.

Other stum­bling blocks in­cluded Ford Aus­tralia’s lack of in­ter­est in rac­ing and the fact there was zero chance of any party build­ing the re­quired num­bers to be ho­molo­gated. Thus, a Fal­con Turbo was never a re­al­is­tic prospect.

John­son looked around the world and saw only two al­ter­na­tives: the US-mar­ket Merkur, an Amer­i­can ver­sion of the Bri­tish Sierra that was pow­ered by a tur­bocharged 2.3-litre four-cylin­der with just a sin­gle over­head camshaft; and the all-Amer­i­can Ford Mus­tang, which strangely had been ho­molo­gated in Europe (where it wasn’t even sold). Pow­ered by the al­ready an­cient 5.0-litre Wind­sor pushrod V8, this ‘Capri on steroids’ had en­abled Ford to ease into Group A rac­ing, which in 1983 was the do­main of so­called atmo cars such as the Rover 3500 and Jaguar XJ-S.

It was an easy de­ci­sion. The Merkur was new, un­proven and tur­bocharged, some­thing en­gineb­uilder John­son was un­fa­mil­iar with.

Be­sides, as he ex­plains: “The Merkur in­volved elec­tron­ics, which we had ab­so­lutely no ex­pe­ri­ence with at all, whereas the Mus­tang was just like a dis­trib­u­tor/ car­bu­ret­tor type thing, which we’d been used to, so for us the eas­i­est way was to go down the road of the Mus­tang. The two years with the Mus­tang was a learn­ing curve for us while we got our head around elec­tron­ics. We knew the Mus­tang was low-main­te­nance by com­par­i­son with try­ing to learn some­thing on the run with a Merkur or such, which we’d have to race and try to de­velop at the same time.”

So Dick opted for the low-tech, low-cost Mus­tang and spent the next two years plan­ning for the turbo car’s ar­rival, qui­etly as­sem­bling the peo­ple and re­sources re­quired to “make sure that we got our shit to­gether when the Sierra came.”

Ford’s ac­claimed Zak­speed op­er­a­tion in Ger­many had built a Mus­tang in 1983. This car was raced mainly in the Ger­man tour­ing car cham­pi­onship by Klaus Niedzwiedz, whose only prom­i­nent re­sult was sec­ond to Tom Walkin­shaw’s XJ-S in the Ger­man Grand Prix sup­port race at Hock­en­heim. How­ever, the Group A Mus­tang never met ex­pec­ta­tions and, with the Sierra in the wings and Zak­speed about to launch its own F1 team, the pro­gram was shelved in 1984 with a sec­ond car un­fin­ished in the work­shop.

When John­son and long-time spon­sor Ross Palmer came call­ing, Zak­speed was happy to clear out its two unloved Mus­tangs. Palmer did the deal, and Dick still does not know how much he paid for them.

The ex­ist­ing race­car was shipped off to Aus­tralia, while the Ger­man team com­pleted the

sec­ond car as promised be­fore shipping it off about six weeks later.

The first car ar­rived in Bris­bane in mid-Septem­ber, just in time for Bathurst where it was en­tered in the Group A class though never in­tended to race. John­son sim­ply wanted to as­sess the car’s com­pet­i­tive­ness; it qual­i­fied five sec­onds slower than the Mo­bil-backed works Rover Vitesses, which seemed a rea­son­able start given min­i­mal prepa­ra­tion.

“It had a done a fair bit of work and wasn’t ex­actly race-ready when we got it,” says John­son.

In­ter­est­ingly, he says that get­ting it ready for Bathurst af­fected prepa­ra­tion of the Palmer Tube Mills XE Fal­con, which was in con­tention for vic­tory un­til it stopped with a trou­ble­some fuel pump “which we should have paid more at­ten­tion to”.

John­son says he was ini­tially im­pressed by the de­sign of the Mus­tang, but not the build qual­ity. This was pos­si­bly a re­flec­tion of the low stand­ing of tour­ing car rac­ing for a team that com­peted in the World Sports Car Cham­pi­onship, Euro­pean Group 5 rac­ing, the Amer­i­can IMSA se­ries and was about to em­bark on F1.

“From a de­sign point-of-view it was pretty well done, but I don’t think the work­man­ship was up to the stan­dard of what one would ex­pect from some­one like Zak­speed,” John­son says. “I thought a lot of the engi­neer­ing was very av­er­age… (but) the ba­sics were pretty much there in the car when we got it.”

Search­ing for power

Back at the DJR work­shop af­ter the Bathurst shake­down, a full strip-down revealed that the sus­pen­sion and such was all quite le­gal, but the same could not be said of the en­gine. And it still pulled just 268 horse­power on Dick’s dyno – well short of its claimed 328hp! It would take quite some time to get up to that level, though “a bit of a play” had it at 290hp for the start of the 1985 sea­son. “It was a hot-rod en­gine… and when we pulled it apart I couldn’t be­lieve what was in­side it – it was nowhere near where what the rules were, so a lot of stuff had to change. They had Chev rock­ers on it and all sorts of won­der­ful things – and we knew damn well that was not go­ing to cut it be­cause out here they scru­ti­neer things a lot dif­fer­ently to what they do over there… “We just looked at the en­gine and won­dered how we were go­ing to make this thing work.” The Group A reg­u­la­tions al­lowed con­sid­er­able in­ter­nal en­gine free­doms, but the in­duc­tion and exhaust sys­tems had to be quite stan­dard. John­son tried for some time, with­out suc­cess, to get Ford to ho­molo­gate elec­tronic fuel in­jec­tion. He also had to wait un­til a model up­date in Au­gust to get a promised tubu­lar exhaust man­i­fold and roller-bear­ing camshafts. John­son’s big­gest chal­lenge for un­leash­ing power was the in­let man­i­fold. The rules al­lowed re­moval of metal, which was vi­tal to im­prove flow, but Dick could not get in­side the man­i­fold. “The only way we could do it was put it on a band-saw and I cut it through the guts hor­i­zon­tally so we could get in­side to port the thing out. You couldn’t add metal but gas­kets were free, so I just glued it back to­gether with Sikaflex and bolted it on.”

Con­sid­er­able work then went into the camshafts, which were lim­ited to an in­crease in lift of just 0.3mm over stan­dard. Dick laughs at the mem­ory of try­ing to get around that: “This is where we made a bit of grunt too! We were prob­a­bly one of the first ones ever to have a bit of a trick… the knob on the camshaft on the top was al­most flat – we mucked around with a lot of dif­fer­ent valve springs and stuff to get it to do this – we used to what you call ‘loft it’. To get the ex­tra lift, we used to slide a cam fol­lower off the top of the camshaft and land it on the other side, which gave it an­other 50-60 thou lift with­out it even touch­ing the camshaft. That gave us a lot more lift, which made the thing breathe bet­ter and made the man­i­fold work.

“The heart and soul of those en­gines is the val­ve­train. With any pushrod en­gine, when you get that un­der con­trol, you’ve got ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing for you.”

By the end of the pro­gram, the 302 Wind­sor pro­duced a re­li­able and le­gal 350hp. It drove through a close-ra­tio five-speed Ge­trag gear­box to an At­las dif­fer­en­tial – a Capri unit that Zak­speed had ho­molo­gated for the Mus­tang. The prob­lem for Dick was that it had only three fi­nal-drive ra­tios avail­able, and they were all too tall for short cir­cuits like Win­ton and Ama­roo.

“It was a pretty strange sort of a rear end, but there wasn’t too much wrong with it to be quite hon­est. It ac­tu­ally ended up be­ing a three-link rear end when you looked at it; they made a cou­ple of the arms in­op­er­a­tive, but ev­ery­thing they did was within the rules.”

The front sus­pen­sion con­sisted of fab­ri­cated up­rights con­trolled by tubu­lar fab­ri­cated wish­bones mounted with ball-jointed rod-ends. Big disc brakes all round pro­vided plenty of stop­ping power while the wheels – orig­i­nally gold-spoked BBS com­pos­ite units but later changed to white one­piece Mo­mos – were 10 inches wide at the front and 10.5 at the rear.

Com­plete, the car weighed about 1265kg, so it had to carry 60kg of bal­last to meet the 1325kg min­i­mum dic­tated for a five-litre car un­der the power-to-weight Group A for­mula. That was 140kg more than the JPS BMW 635CSi that dom­i­nated in 1985 and an in­cred­i­ble 290kg more than the tur­bos that re­ally took over from 1986. Hardly any won­der the big V8s strug­gled.

Two years on track

Decked out in fa­mil­iar Palmer Tube Mills/ Greens-Tuf colours, the fast­back Mus­tang looked like a baby ver­sion of the Fal­con when it ar­rived for the open­ing round of the 1985 ATCC at Win­ton, where the main com­pe­ti­tion came from Jim Richards and Neville Crich­ton in the works BMWs and Colin Bond and Alan Jones in fac­tory-backed V6 Alfa Romeos.

Cen­tral Vic­to­ria in early Fe­bru­ary can be bru­tally hot, how­ever, and the con­di­tions soon revealed short­com­ings in the Mus­tang’s cool­ing sys­tem, de­signed for more mod­er­ate Euro­pean cli­mates. Us­ing only two of the five speeds avail­able (sec­ond and third) due to the tootall diff, Dick qual­i­fied sec­ond-fastest be­hind Richards but had to make nu­mer­ous stops in the race be­fore park­ing the over­heat­ing car to pre­vent un­nec­es­sary en­gine dam­age.

That might have seemed a wor­ry­ing start to the sea­son, but it would be the Mus­tang’s only DNF of the year. Af­ter that it racked up nine solid fin­ishes – five sec­onds, three thirds and a fourth – to fin­ish a close though never re­ally threat­en­ing run­ner-up in the cham­pi­onship.

John­son even won the bat­tle for V8 hon­ours with Peter Brock, who joined the fray from round two at Sandown (and scored his cus­tom­ary de­but win) in the Holden Dealer Team’s new 5.0-litre Com­modore. How­ever, the writ­ing was on the wall with Rob­bie France­vic win­ning two rounds in a tur­bocharged Volvo.

The Mus­tang mostly raced on Dun­lop tyres that bulged to as much as 12 inches wide, but Dick also ex­plored the wide range of rub­ber avail­able from over­seas. “We tried Pirellis and Avons be­cause that’s what the Euro­peans were us­ing, but we didn’t find them to be any­thing spe­cial.”

Look­ing back, John­son must re­gard fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the se­ries, be­ing so re­li­able and clearly best of the rest be­hind Richards’ JPS BMW, as a pretty good ef­fort?

“Ab­so­lutely, when you con­sider that you’re up against the fac­tory teams. Brocky had the Com­modore, and you had BMW, which was a pretty slick op­er­a­tion with a lot of fac­tory sup­port. The Mus­tang used to keep go­ing, that was the main thing.”

It did let him down, though, in the first en­duro at Oran Park in Au­gust. Dick rates that as one of his most dis­ap­point­ing races. Armed with new ho­molo­ga­tion bits, the Mus­tang took pole some 0.8sec faster than the BMW and sim­ply romped away in the race, only to be side­lined 12 laps from home when a stub axle broke.

John­son had set aside the newer car for Sandown and Bathurst, when it would also ben­e­fit from a model up­date and the Au­gust 1 ho­molo­ga­tion. Out­wardly, it dif­fered only in hav­ing a then-fash­ion­able ‘let­ter­box’ grille, los­ing its bon­net bulge (which had no per­for­mance deficit be­cause “we were grab­bing the air else­where”) and, from Bathurst, gain­ing the white Momo wheels.

“It was a much, much bet­ter car,” John­son says. “In ev­ery area, too, in as far as sus­pen­sion, brakes, where the weight was and what we did with the weight; en­gine-wise it was a huge dif­fer­ence.”

Larry Perkins joined the team in mid 1985, hav­ing walked out on the HDT. It was only a short-term ar­range­ment as Perkins had set his sights on es­tab­lish­ing his own team for the fol­low­ing sea­son.

“Larry wanted to run Bathurst and he wanted to help pre­pare the car and all that sort of thing – as Larry does. He had the abil­ity and came up and worked in our work­shop while we pre­pared the car for Bathurst. It was a great re­la­tion­ship.”

John­son made a storm­ing start in the Sandown 500, leap­ing into the lead from third on the grid and driv­ing away, but a bro­ken axle and dis­trib­u­tor drive pre­vented a de­but win for the new car. It was also very com­pet­i­tive at Bathurst – clearly the fastest car be­hind the TWR Jaguars – but the race was a dis­as­ter; oil-cooler dam­age from the pit­lane speed bumps rel­e­gated the Mus­tang to an un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive sev­enth. The en­durance sea­son ended in di­a­bol­i­cal con­di­tions at Surfers, where Dick again led be­fore join­ing half the field in a storm-wa­ter drain.

The sea­son was not over; a week later the Mus­tang fi­nally scored its first – and only – vic­tory. It might have been merely a sup­port race to the 1985 Aus­tralian GP in Ade­laide, but the win was vi­tal to John­son’s fu­ture. Present at the high­pro­file event were big­wigs from Shell, who Dick was try­ing to woo. Ex­actly one year later at the same lo­ca­tion, they would an­nounce the big­gest spon­sor­ship in Aus­tralian motorsport.

Although the sin­gle-cam Sierra XR4Ti was now rac­ing suc­cess­fully in the UK, John­son elected to re­tain the Mus­tang for 1986 rather than the costly al­ter­na­tive of clear­ing out the work­shop – now based at Palmer Tube Mills in Aca­cia Ridge – for a sin­gle sea­son with the in­terim Sierra model. But it was to be a hard sea­son for DJR, now fac­ing an im­proved ‘evo­lu­tion’ ver­sion of

Main: John­son qual­i­fied ‘best of the rest’ at Bathurst in 1985, lining up an im­pres­sive third on the grid, with only the two lead­ing Jaguars ahead. In do­ing so, quick Dick went eight sec­onds faster than his best Mus­tang time in ’84. Far left: Who could have pre­dicted that reign­ing Bathurst champ Larry Perkins would be aboard a Ford for his DJR cameo in ’85. Right, top to bot­tom: Fruit­lessly chas­ing the Volvo Turbo at Sym­mons Plains 1985; This im­age sums up the Mus­tang’s lot in life in ’85 and ’86; Fruit­lessly chas­ing the Sky­line and Volvo Tur­bos at Ama­roo and Sym­mons Plains ’86. the Com­modore, an up­graded Volvo and the new Nis­san Sky­line turbo. Even the JPS BMW would strug­gle against that lot as Group A’s gen­er­ous 1.4 turbo equiv­a­lence fac­tor took hold.

Dick started the sea­son in New Zealand with the Mus­tang wear­ing JPS black thanks to a part­ner­ship with Neville Crich­ton. They fin­ished sec­ond in the Welling­ton 500 (to new HDT pair­ing Brock and Mof­fat), but re­tired at Pukekohe with en­gine fail­ure.

The rapid pace of Group A de­vel­op­ment ren­dered the Mus­tang im­po­tent in the ATCC. As France­vic edged out George Fury’s works Nis­san for the ti­tle, John­son was qual­i­fy­ing in the bot­tom end of the top 10 and had to set­tle for fifth and sixth plac­ings. Sixth in the cham­pi­onship was a des­o­late – but ac­cu­rate – re­flec­tion of the old Mus­tang’s stand­ing in 1986.

John­son couldn’t wait for the year to end. With Gregg Hans­ford join­ing the team for the en­duros, they fin­ished a dis­tant third at Surfers, broke a gear­box at Sandown, plugged around at Bathurst to fin­ish fourth (third ac­cord­ing to Jill John­son’s lap chart) and crashed out at Oran Park. Even the AGP meet­ing of­fered lit­tle, apart from the an­nounce­ment of that huge Shell deal for 1987.

The mus­cu­lar Mus­tang had man­fully served its pur­pose, but that nice red Sierra could not come soon enough!

Dick John­son Q&A

AMC: Af­ter get­ting to the top with the Fal­con, you can’t have been look­ing for­ward to Group A.

Dick John­son: CAMS used to con­tin­u­ally change rules, with­out con­sul­ta­tion a lot of the time. But they tried to do the right thing, which they thought was go to Group A.

AMC: Were you against it at the time? DJ: Mate, I just tried to deal with it – there was noth­ing I could have done to change it. The only one who would have got up­set was me, so I didn’t bother.

AMC: You didn’t re­ally have any sup­port from Ford by the end any­way, did you?

DJ: Well, I never had it. We had a lit­tle bit through Doug Ja­cobi at Mo­tor­craft, but as far as Ford it­self goes, no. In the Tru-Blu days they helped by al­low­ing us to walk down the line (at Broad­mead­ows) with a body shell and say I don’t want this, I don’t want that… but that and a bit of a parts deal was about it.

AMC: So you headed off over­seas to look for a po­ten­tial Group A car.

DJ: We knew the Sierra was com­ing, but that was a cou­ple of years away, so we needed some­thing to fill the gap. The only thing I could see that was Ford, that was ho­molo­gated, was the Mus­tang be­cause there were a cou­ple run­ning over there (in Europe) through Zak­speed. It was a pro­gram they did for a lit­tle bit and sort of walked away from it... So we went over and bought a cou­ple of Mus­tangs off them. They’d shelved them by then, so we said we’ll take them off your hands at the right price.

AMC: It seems un­usual that they had a new, com­plete car ready there if they’d stopped rac­ing them.

DJ: Yeah, well, you could say the same for us now, mate. Here we are build­ing brand new Fal­cons for 2018 and the car’s not even pro­duced any more…

AMC: The ho­molo­ga­tion for the Mus­tang was fairly dated wasn’t it? Didn’t it go back to May 1983?

DJ: Yeah, it was pretty old. There was noth­ing spe­cial about it, that’s for sure, and (the le­gal­ity) was fairly loose be­cause it was done over­seas – there were a lot of grey ar­eas, but once we had a good look at it we thought we bet­ter straighten all of these things up, oth­er­wise we’re go­ing to get sprung for some­thing dumb.

AMC: Wasn’t there meant to be an up­dated ho­molo­ga­tion be­fore you even raced it?

DJ: Well, we tried to get fuel in­jec­tion ho­molo­gated and Ford wouldn’t have a bar of it. It was through Ford US ac­tu­ally be­cause (Ford of Europe) knew the Sierra was com­ing and they couldn’t give two hoots (about the Mus­tang).

AMC: When you got the first car and took it to Bathurst (in 1984) just for prac­tice, pre­sum­ably you hadn’t done much to it be­fore you ran…

DJ: We’d done a fair bit to it prior to get­ting there, which prob­a­bly hin­dered the prepa­ra­tion of the Fal­con to be quite hon­est… But it was good to see what the Mus­tang would do.

AMC: Did you learn much from run­ning the first car that you then put into the sec­ond one?

DJ: It was all work in progress the whole time. We didn’t muck around, we sort of just de­vel­oped as we kept go­ing. I look back now and won­der how we ever sur­vived to be quite hon­est. AMC: I’ve seen you de­scribe the Mus­tang as “a shit­box” and “that old bas­tard of a thing”, but it was ac­tu­ally not too bad… DJ: No, all it lacked was… be­cause of Group A rules and be­cause it was a V8, it was pe­nalised dread­fully. The weight was 1325kg, and that’s what re­ally killed us. The width of the wheels, the tyres we could put on it, the brakes and the han­dling were bloody su­perb.

AMC: Were there any other chal­lenges with the car?

DJ: We had a lit­tle is­sue with the front upright be­cause to hold the whole thing to­gether it had big bolt through the mid­dle of it and that was fairly un­savoury, re­ally. It needed some­thing a lit­tle bet­ter than that. It nearly cost us in Welling­ton (1986) and if it wasn’t for the quick think­ing of Dyno (Dave John­son), my brother, we would have been on the side­line. The thing had come loose and we were get­ting pad knock-off and the wheel was wob­bling; he just got the big rat­tle­gun and a socket and for­tu­nately it grabbed and tight­ened it right back up again. Away we went and ended up com­ing sec­ond.

Top left: “Mate, it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pud­ding.” Bot­tom left: By the time of DJR’s third trip to Bathurst with a Mus­tang, 1986, the team had shaved al­most 10 sec­onds off DJ’s ’84 time in the first Zak­speed Mus­tang.

AMC: Are you sur­prised that many of your fans ac­tu­ally like the Mus­tang, even though it didn’t have much suc­cess? It’s a bit of a fan favourite.

DJ: Yeah, it was. It was just be­cause it was dif­fer­ent. It was one of those cars that lobbed with an iconic name, though Ford had gone away from the orig­i­nal con­cept of the Mus­tang and went sort of com­pact.

AMC: Do you feel more fondly about it now? DJ: I loved the car. It was great to drive, al­beit be­ing left-hand-drive. At cir­cuits where horse­power wasn’t a huge is­sue, it used to go re­ally, re­ally well – but even in say­ing that, it used to go pretty good at Bathurst, although you’d get killed go­ing up and down the hill. I had a pretty good race with JB in the Volvo, where he’d turn the boost up go­ing up the hill and look at me and laugh, the prick!

“I loved the car. It was great to drive, al­beit be­ing left-hand­drive.”

Where are they now?

Dick John­son’s pair of Greens-Tuf Mus­tangs have led very dif­fer­ent lives since they were first im­ported into Aus­tralia, though the good news is that both cars live on.

The first car he wheeled out for prac­tice at Bathurst in 1984 be­came his 1985 Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship car that took him to sec­ond to Jim Richards in the points with eight podium fin­ishes – though none of them vic­to­ries. This car then be­came the team spare and was en­tered as car #18 at Bathurst and qual­i­fied by Larry Perkins, though with­drawn from the race. An in­ter­est­ing side­bar to this was that Al­lan Mof­fat tested the car as part of a Chan­nel 7 story for that week­end’s tele­cast too.

Re­painted in JPS black and gold, this first car was run in the early 1986 Nis­san Mo­bil races in New Zealand by John­son and Neville Crich­ton and was un­raced for the re­main­der of the sea­son be­fore it was sold to Kiwi Rob­bie Ker and re­turned ‘across the ditch’. John­son joined its new owner for the early ’87 Welling­ton street race, where the car was crashed in qual­i­fy­ing and with­drawn. Ker raced the orig­i­nal Mus­tang for a few years, in­clud­ing as a Sports Sedan with big­ger wheels and tyres and flared guards. It then passed through the hands of a range of own­ers be­fore it was tracked down and pur­chased by en­thu­si­ast Ross Don­nelly in 2006. He com­mis­sioned Kiwi Ken Hopper to re­store it prior to it re­turn­ing to Aus­tralia.

Pur­chased and raced by the late Bill Pye, this car has con­tin­ued rac­ing in Her­itage Tour­ing Cars. Af­ter Pye’s pass­ing the car was sold on to Terry Lawlor and is now owned by Brad Host. [ED: We thank Brad for mak­ing his mag­nif­i­cent Mus­tang avail­able for this is­sue’s cover and story pho­tog­ra­phy.]

The sec­ond Mus­tang made its first rac­ing ap­pear­ance as car #17 with John­son and Perkins driv­ing at the ’85 Sandown 500. It was also driven by the duo to sev­enth place at Bathurst and to vic­tory in the in­au­gu­ral Ade­laide Grand Prix tour­ing car sup­port race by John­son. This turned out to be his only race win aboard the Mus­tang in the two years he raced these cars.

John­son used this ‘sec­ond’ car for the 1986 tour­ing car cham­pi­onship, fin­ish­ing sixth in the points, out-gunned by the emerg­ing turbo Volvos and Nis­sans. John­son and Gregg Hans­ford also ran it in the en­durance races, fin­ish­ing fourth at Bathurst.

The ar­rival of the turbo Sier­ras for 1987 meant this car was placed on the mar­ket and sold to Perth pri­va­teer Ian Love, who con­tin­ued to race it in se­lect tour­ing car and Sports Sedan events in West­ern Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing the ’87 ATCC round. It passed on to an­other WA owner in Ray Miles, who raced it at Barba­gallo for a few years.

Dick John­son bought it back to add to his per­sonal car col­lec­tion along­side the Tru-Blu Fal­con XD and Greens-Tuf XE. Fi­nan­cial is­sues re­sulted in him sell­ing his en­tire car col­lec­tion to David Bow­den and the car re­mains in the Sun­shine Coast col­lec­tor’s hands, oc­ca­sion­ally placed on dis­play at DJR Team Penske’s work­shop for fans to see.

Our of­fice dic­tio­nary de­fines a stayer as ‘a tena­cious per­son or thing, es­pe­cially a horse able to hold out to the end of a race’. Dick’s pony was a stayer in two senses: it held him over un­til the Sierra ar­rived; and it in­vari­ably was still gal­lop­ing on at race’s end.

Top left: The one on the left was 14 sec­onds a lap faster. Dick now says run­ning the Mus­tang in prac­tice and qual­i­fy­ing for 1984 James Hardie 1000 de­tracted from the XE’s Bathurst swan­song.

Main: Car #71 from Bathurst ’84, which also con­tested the ’85 ATCC, now re­sides in the NSW Hunter Val­ley. Top right: Zak­speed had more suc­cess build­ing a Mus­tang for IMSA in the US than Group A in its own back­yard. Above: Note the head­light treat­ment straight off the boat, which dis­ap­peared ahead of its first hitout in ’85.

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