GARY BLONDER’S CAR STORIES
1967 Ford Mustang
When people hear “big-block Ford,” they usually think “428 Cobra Jet.” This, after all, is the big-thumping 4-barrelled piston chucker, which at 5400 PRM is throwing pistons around at speeds that would make f1 engineers go pale, whose piston walls were so thin that coughing loudly in the room they were being honed in during manufacture would render the whole block unusable, whose nodular cast-iron craftshaft seems like a piece better fitted in a diesel than a performance engine… but I am not looking at a Cobrajet car today. No, what sits caught in the early-morning sunlight is something much rarer: a 1967 390 FE Mustang Deluxe.
Gary Blonder: 1967 Mustang Hunter
Why is the 1967 Mustang so special? As the amber effulgence dances across that iconic bubble roof, the answer seems obvious: this was the year Ford realized they created not just a new car, but a new care genre (the Pony Car), and that they were all the sudden neck-deep in serious conpetition. Of course, rumors were circulating as early as 1965 that the General was scheming on creating his own Pony Car in the form of the Chevy Camaro. That rumor proved true, as the beautiful and brilliantly-designed Camaro appeared for the 1967 model year sporting a 396 Big Block, “SS” badging, and an altogether more cohesive package.
1967 was the year the Mustang Engineers attempted to head off the Chevy boys at the pass with a variety of changes that pulled the car out of the early sixties and toward what would become the Muscle Car Golden Age, a wonderous period in American motoring history that was abrubtly squashed by 1974 by the power of high gas prices. The 1967 Mustang was built long before any of this even lurked on the horizon, and the 390-equipped were both the thirstiest and most enjoyable.
The 390 Ford Big Block is no 428, but it’s no slouch either. In very little time, the 390’s reputation for down-low torque and reasonable reliability for the time found it installed in a wide variety of Fords, as well as Murcurys and Lincolns. In a big, heavy sedan, the 390 provided the sort of motivation you need to move around more than two tons of Union-made American steel at a reasonable pace. In this petit, sprintly coupe, that same 390 turns into a fire-breather. There were faster Mustangs, and, after the Camaro started issuing special trim levels with fanciful alphanumeric designations, more exclusive special-trim-level Mustangs. But the 1967 held a special designation: it was the first.
The 1967 Mustang represented a move away from a lightweight, sporty vehicle toward a heavier, more powerful GT car. The Mustang was positioned to carve canyons with the Europeans, not put creases in the asphalt with great waves of torque. The Great Ones, the second-gen cars with the storied engines and fancy trim names, did turn into GT cars and drag racers, with only the vaunted 302 Boss grabbing ahold firmly of an as-yet-imagined road racing heritage and making it real. As it stands, as I cruise in the warmth of a late summer morning, jabbing the throttle just for the kick down, relishing the feeling of the nose rising up off its springs, the rear hunkering down for another sprint, I think perhaps a GT car is not that bad after all.