Peter Procter Mustang
Geoff Carverhill discovers how two Englishmen and a Scotsman gave the Ford Mustang its European racing credentials…
In 1964, British racing and rally driver Peter Procter joined newly formed Alan Mann Racing, and together with Scotsman Andrew Cowan won the gruelling 6000-kilometre, 10-day endurance rally, the Tour de France Automobile, in a Ford Mustang. It was the first competition victory for the Mustang and the event which placed the still-new pony car from Ford in the limelight of international motorsports.
During the early Sixties, just as GM were outlawing corporate involvement with racing, Ford started to get serious about it. The ‘Total Performance Fords’ campaign did much to enhance the Ford Motor Company’s image, and therefore sales. In 1963, it was the big 427 Galaxies that first upset the British racing establishment when Jack Sears ended Jaguar’s supremacy on the track by winning two races on the trot, first at Silverstone, and then Aintree, both in a Ford Galaxie. Also in ’63, the compact Falcon started to collect European trophies, with class wins in the Monte Carlo Rally, the Alpine and first overall position in the ’63 Tulip Rally. A Ford of France-entered Falcon, driven by Henri Greder, would get a second overall position in the ’64 Monte Carlo in January, but it was an Alan Mann-prepared Mustang driven by Peter Procter and Andrew Cowan in 1964 that would knock the Mark 2 Jaguars from their pedestal.
Peter Procter’s competition career actually started on two wheels as a successful professional racing cyclist in the early Fifties, but it was in racing and rallying cars that he would go on to make a name for himself. It was while competing in cars of every shape and size that the young Procter would gain his experience in motorsport. As a privateer in a Sunbeam Rapier, Procter caught the attention of Norman Garrad, the Rootes Group’s competitions manager, who offered him a place as a works rally driver. His successful partnership as co-driver with Peter Harper would eventually see both him and Harper racing and rallying big Fords after they left Rootes. Procter’s co-driver, Andrew Cowan, was also part of the Rootes works rally team, and would go on to win the London to Sydney Marathon in 1968 in a Hillman Hunter, after achieving many class wins for Rootes in Sunbeam Rapiers and the mighty Ford V8-engined Sunbeam Tigers.
The 1964 season for Peter Procter started with the Monte Carlo Rally in January for Rootes, and then, in May, driving the Rootes works Sunbeam Tigers at Le Mans but, due to the short preparation time allowed for the cars to be properly prepared, it was a disaster as the engines in both cars blew up, by which time Procter had had enough. In between these events, he had been racing single-seaters for Ken Tyrrell and Colin Chapman, but was delighted to get the call from Alan Mann: “Alan was fantastic… Ken Tyrrell was too. I drove for Ken for a couple of years. I’ve always said that there are only two honest gentlemen in motor racing, Alan Mann and Ken Tyrrell. With Alan, I never asked for any money or signed a contract – he just gave me £10 more than I ever expected.
“I was doing the European Championship with Sir John Whitmore (in Cortinas) and I was still doing single-seaters for Lotus or Ken Tyrrell, and I was contracted for them and I couldn’t really agree to do every race (for Alan), but Alan accepted that. Peter did the Six-hour (Saloon car) race (’64) at Brands Hatch with Henry Taylor when Sir John (Whitmore) and I won in the other car (Cortina Lotus). Peter had already done the Monte with the Falcon and we were due to do the Alpine and the Liège.”
With their gentleman’s agreement in place, Peter Procter was introduced to the ’64 Ford Mustang. He quickly grew to like the Mustang as a race car, saying: “The Falcon was very tail-happy, but it was quick; but the Mustang was the nicest racing car I’ve ever driven!
It was fabulous.” Although they were ready with the Falcon and the Alpine Rally, the drive never materialised due to the car not passing scrutineering.
The first Mustang event for Procter was as co-driver to Peter Harper on the Spa-SofiaLiège Rally in August 1964, but the car had only arrived in July, which left little time for testing. Another Alan Mann Mustang, driven by Bo Ljungfeldt and Fergus Sager, was also entered and crashed shortly after Kranska Gora in Yugoslavia, but they weren’t injured. Procter describes what led to both cars being retired: “We lost the brakes and then we heard that Bossi had gone off in a big way – he went down about 30 or 40 feet into some trees and wrote the car off, so Alan Mann pulled us out and that was it.” However, Mustangs were deemed ready for the next event in September – the Tour de France Automobile.
The 13th Tour de France Automobile − 1964
In order to get the Mustangs into a competitive state, Alan Mann made various chassis upgrades, including a rear axle with a limited slip differential built by Detroit Automotive, stiffer springs and coils at the front, with Armstrong shock absorbers and Girling disc brakes. A 289cu in 290bhp V8 specially built by NASCAR engine specialist Holman& Moody and a four-speed manual box completed the set-up.
Three cars were entered, Procter and Cowan in one, Bo Ljungfeldt and Fergus Sager in another and Peter Harper and David Pollard in the third. The Tour de France entry is divided into two categories – one for Touring cars and one for Grand Touring cars. The previous few years, the Grand Touring category had been won by Ferrari 250 GT Berlinettas and 250 GTOs, and that situation would remain in ’64, but the dominance of the Jaguar 3.8-litre saloons, which had won the Touring Car category for five straight years, was about to end.
The Tour was made up of a series of road sections, with special stages, hill climbs and eight circuit races of up to two hours in duration. Before the race, however, the usual French obsession of creating problems in scrutineering for ‘foreign’ competitors prevailed, as Procter remembers: “We had great difficulty in getting through scrutineering. Alan had taken the speedometer out and put a rev counter in its place which they said you can’t do, so Alan took that out and put the speedo in and went back and they found something else wrong.
Eventually, Alan realised that we were never going to get it because we were on Esso petrol and the Tour was sponsored by Shell. Obviously Shell didn’t want an Esso car winning the rally and when Alan realised this he got Esso to release us from the contract and then I think we went with Shell.
The event and tyre troubles
“Our first race was at Reims, and our main opposition was a Ford Galaxie, a French-entered Mustang and several Jaguars. It was a very fast circuit and all we had was two laps of practice for each race of the Tour, but when I got it up to top speed it felt as if it was driving on marbles, and I came in at the end of the race and we finished 1,2,3 − nose to tail − but I said to Alan Mann,
‘There’s something wrong. I don’t feel like I’ve got control of it. It feels like it wants to fly off the road – it feels so touchy.’ So, we went back on the road section with Goodyear road tyres on… we’d taken the Goodyear racing tyres off, and it handled quite well there.
“We got to Rouen and I did a complete figure of eight at about 90 miles an hour, but fortunately I kept it on the road, carried on and finished the race. I told Alan what had happened. (When we went back over the circuit) we could see the black donuts on the tarmac, so Alan rang Goodyear up and told them about the tyres and they said, ‘What tyre pressures are you using?’, so he said, ’38-40psi’ and they said, ‘Oh, God no…18psi!’ So we dropped the tyre pressure down and after that it was magic.
“It was something as simple as that. Later on, although the road tyres were good, they were only good until it rained. We were in the Massif Central and we got in a downpour just before we came to a big town on the road section and I said to Andrew Cowan: ‘It’s just wanting to do what it was doing at Reims’, and I was going slower and slower, and it was touch and go as to whether we would make the next control on time. Of course, the other cars had the same problem. I got in with about two or three minutes to spare. Alan got back on to Goodyear and persuaded them to let us out of that contract. He had several vans with Michelin road tyres on, plus spares. So he took all the tyres and wheels off the vans and put them on the cars, so we drove the rest of the race with Michelins; that was a bit of genius on his part.”
Despite the learning curve with the tyres, the Alan Mann Mustangs finished 1-2-3 in the Touring Class, although third-placed Bo Ljungfeldt was disqualified for having ‘outside help’ when his car was given a push-start after an electrics failure.
Putting the Mustang result into context, and considering that out of 117 cars that started only 36 finished, an eighth overall position just behind the mighty Grand Touring class Ferraris, Porsche 904 GTSs and an Alfa Romeo Guilia TZ, proved beyond all doubt that the Ford Mustang was now a credible race car, thanks to Peter Procter, Andrew Cowan and Alan Mann Racing.