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Moffat's Mustang: Never look a gift horse in the mouth...



31 MAR - 03 APR 2016

An extraordinary vehicle described as ‘the greatest touring car Australia has ever seen’ will be reunited with its equally extraordinary driver – four-time Australian touring car champion Allan Moffat – over the weekend of this year’s Formula 1™ Qantas Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park from 24-27 March. 

Moffat acquired the Boss 302 Mustang in early 1969 and though it never carried him to an ATCC title it did win 101 times in its 151 starts. Small wonder, then, that Allan describes this as his favourite car. But there is another reason, and a particularly good one: the Mustang didn’t cost him a cent…

The story begins early in the Swinging Sixties, the decade in which the Ford Motor Company developed two of its most successful and best-loved cars. One was the Mustang, the other the GT40 sportscar which would go on to end Ferrari’s domination of the fabled Le Mans 24-Hour classic.

The link between the two and Allan’s car is an Englishman by the name of Roy Lunn, a former Aston Martin engineer who migrated to America in 1958, took citizenship in 1962 and worked on both the Mustang and GT40 projects.

Born in 1964, the Mustang was later aimed squarely at a new racing category in its North American home: Trans-Am. That was the abbreviated version of the Trans-American Sedan Championship, a hugely popular series in which Ford and General Motors went at it hammer and tongs from 1966 through 1970. In that era of muscle car mayhem, it so happens that Canadian-born A. Moffat Esquire was also a Trans-Am driver.

“At the end of 1967,” Allan recalls, “when I had been driving a Bud Moore-prepared Cougar in a number of Trans-Am events, I was having lunch in the Ford cafeteria and in came Roy Lunn. He was kind enough to say he had been hearing good things about me and asked me how I was doing. I said that I was eating well at that particular moment but in a more general way I was starving to death! So he said they had better find me a job as a test driver. You see? Occasionally guardian angels do come along…

“I got race drives with (Ford stalwart) Carroll Shelby and did Daytona, but my main job was as a genuine test driver through 1968. During my time in America I was able to see the 1969 Mustang, as it were, on the drawing-board.

“Remember that those were the days when Ferrari had refused to sell out to Ford, so Ford had decided to throw everything at Le Mans – in 1967 there were 18 Fords in the starting line-up! And of course Ford started winning, and kept winning. The French organisers were so incensed by these Americans and their seven-litre engines that they announced a three-litre limit for 1968.

“Henry Ford said they were leaving – and they were never coming back. Trans-Am was by then into its third year and all that energy from Ford’s Michigan-based preparation specialists Kar Kraft went into the Trans-Am cars so that Ford could hit back at Roger Penske, Mark Donohue and the Chevrolet Camaro. I wanted to bring one of those Mustangs down here to Australia because I knew it could do some damage!”

The only thing the car did not damage was Allan’s bank balance. He went to Detroit to secure a deal – and the Boss Mustang, one of seven ordered in December 1968, was given to him. It was so called because of its ‘Boss’ 302 cubic inch engine, ‘boss’ being an American West Coast synonym of ‘cool’. But the small-block five-litre V8 proved red-hot when it raced in Australia – Allan won three 10-lap races first time out at Sandown in 1969!

While it never did win an ATCC crown, the car became legendary for its ferocious battles with even more muscular beasts like Bob Jane’s Camaro and Norm Beechey’s Monaro, the climax perhaps being an epic confrontation with Jane at Oran Park in 1971. The last time Allan raced it in anger was at Christchurch in New Zealand in 1975 when he had another ding-dong battle with Jim Richards.

In 1995 the car was sold to Australian collector David Bowden, whose 80-plus vehicles are kept up at Buderim in Queensland. The Mustang had been in storage in the States, where Allan had originally hoped to sell it, and David bought it sight unseen. He calls it “the best muscle car Australia has ever had” and has reputedly refused offers of up to two million dollars for this prized piece of American-Australian racing history.

“David’s been the caretaker of that car ever since,” says Allan, “so let’s hope it’s got oil pressure and everything like that! I’ve only driven it once since its racing heyday, and that was 10 years ago, so it will be very pleasant to get back in.” With its aggressively low aerodynamic profile, its distinctive red livery and the sound of that 485-bhp Boss engine, the Mustang is a sight to behold.

Allan will do a familiarisation run round the Albert Park track on Thursday March 24 then proudly show off the Trans-Am Boss Mustang in demonstration laps on Friday March 25 at 11:45, Saturday March 26 at 16:05 and race day, Sunday March 27, at 15:10.

The 2011 Formula 1™ Qantas Australian Grand Prix Albert Park 24 - 27 March
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