Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
The Mustang was restyled for 1969
, gaining 3.8 inches of length, all ahead of the front wheels, and about 140 lbs in curb weight. The Mach 1 body style debuted in 1969 and came standard with a 351 cid V8 but could also be had with the 428 Cobra Jet, which now came in three states of tune.
The first was a non-Ram Air version, followed by the Ram-Air version which breathed through a shaker hood scoop. Topping the list was the new Super Cobra Jet which came with the Drag Pack option. The Super Cobra Jet used the shaker hood scoop, a modified crankshaft and stronger connecting rods. The Drag Pack also came with limited-slip 3.91:1 or 4.30:1 rear axles and no air-conditioning
All three engines were underrated at 335bhp. All this power overwhelmed the rear tyres, which suffered from a 59/41% f/r bias which also hurt handling. But then, these Mustangs weren't built for curves, just straight 1/4 mile lines. The circle tracks were reserved for the Boss series of Mustangs. Named after stylist Larry Shinoda's nickname for Ford president Semon "Bunkie" Knudson, the Boss Mustangs were built to qualify the 429 V8 for NASCAR.
The Boss 429 package came with a race ready 429 cid V8 with ram air induction, an aluminium high riser and header type exhaust
manifolds. Mandatory options included a four speed manual and a 3.91:1 Traction-Lok axle. Also included were an oil cooler, trunk mounted battery
, race suspension
, and the best interior Mustang had to offer. Although impressive on paper, the Boss 429s failed on the street where their dependence on high revs hurt their street starts and the initial batch had incorrect valve springs that would stop winding at 4500rpm instead of 6000rpm. Nevertheless, it had good handling
and would last through 1970
To combat Chevrolet's Camaro Z/28 in Trans Am racing, Ford built the Boss 302 which used a 302 cid V8 treated to the cylinder heads
from the racing 351 cid engine and Ford's largest carb. It was underrated at the same 290bhp as the Camaro Z/28's engine and was available with the shaker hood scoop. Shelby Mustangs were still available, though they were more luxury oriented then ever before.
To many, the 1969
Mustang was the best looking of them all. But there was one model without Ford or Mustang
badges to indicate its breed, one model where the front panel work was changed to accommodate the headlights in a wide, open-mouthed grille. Walk around the back and all would become clear - on the rear panel you would see the name - Shelby. Carroll
, Texas born and bred, Aston Martin works driver and long-time Ford performance specialist - he created the Cobra and with the Shelby Mustang added real performance to Ford's sporty looking pony car.
Like Colin Chapman's Lotus Cortina
in England, the Shelby Mustangs were built with the blessing of Ford. The 1969
model was one of the last to come out of Shelby's workshops in California - after that Ford started using the reputation of the limited production performance cars for some badge engineering of its own in its Detroit plants. But these wore a Ford badge. A true Shelby would be devoid of any mention of Ford, instead having Cobra motifs abound on the recessed grille, wheels centres, and inside on the door, steering wheel boss, door sills and dashboard. Only Shelby's finned alloy tappet covers, inscribed "Cobra - Powered by Ford" associated the car with its Detroit brethren.
Many Australian’s were first introduced to the 1969
Shelby Cobra by Allan Moffat
, who’s TransAm Coca-Cola car looked as though it was doing 200 km/h while it was standing still. But then the Cobra sat higher than you would have imagined, and this was because the Shelby was built for the road, not the track, even though some enthusiastic Americans used it to good effect in amateur club races.
Behind the Wheel
As you slipped in behind the wheel it was, even back in 1969
, like stepping into a piece of automobile
nostalgia. Into a car born and bred during the height of the muscle car era. In front of you a large rearward-facing extractor air scoop dominated the view over the bonnet while the dash, which was reminiscent of that in the TC Cortina
, had its dials sunk away in deep wells. The steering wheel would have been familiar to some, being the same as was used on the GT Falcons
, though this one had Shelby's Cobra symbol embossed in the centre. The seat was high-backed and comfortable, though it did not recline, and even at its most rearward position it was a little too close to the wheel.
But there was plenty of leg room, there being a comfortable distance to the pedals even if you couldn't get far enough away from the wheel. Within easy reach of your left hand was the chromed gear lever
, the large plastic knob emblazoned with the Shelby colors - white with blue stripes - and the pattern of the four-speed shift. In front of that were the oil pressure
and ammeter gauges, built into the console and angled toward the left of the car - testimony that it was originally built to be driven on the right-hand side of the road. Not so affected by the right hand drive conversion were the deep sunk dash dials for temperature
o (140 mph), tacho
(to 8000, no redline) and fuel.
Inside it was all black - black seats, black roof lining, black carpet, though this was broken up by some pretty ordinary looking red rubber mats. Behind the seats a hefty padded roll bar, a standard installation, gave emphasis of a competition background and behind that was the small rear seat. A feature of the rear seat area was that the back folded forward, station wagon style, to give a large carpeted area for carrying luggage that you were unable to fit in the small boot. Also on the roll bar, above each of the front seats, was a retractor belt reel, with a belt that came down over the shoulder to turn the original lap/sash belts into a four-point harness. But since Australian belts were fitted before to local registration this feature did not work on local cars.
Under the Hood
Under-bonnet was Shelby's own version of the Ford 289-302 small block V8, stretched to 350 cubes, 5.7 litres, but different to Ford's own production 351. It was topped by a large quad-throat Holley
carb that drew air through a filter fed through a scoop in the bonnet, and had a set of tubular steel exhaust
headers poking out each side. The engine fired with the low-pitched roar characteristic of muscled American V8s and then settled down with a no-nonsense under-floor rumble, shoving spent gases out the back through the free-flow exhaust
system and unique cast alloy tailpipes.
Around town the Shelby Mustang would give little evidence of its performance potential - the big V8 was well-behaved enough to idle through traffic (almost) as sedately as a 4 cylinder Morris. But things would change when you got out onto the open road - and thats where the car shone. Like a pent-up athlete allowed to break into stride the engine would burst into life and rocket the car up past the legal limit in a minimum of time. Sink the foot and there would be a great roar from under the bonnet as all four carb throats were opened wide. Getting to the legal limit would come up so quickly as to be academic, and backing off would still be pleasruable, with a wonderful burble from the exhaust
On the Road
In terms of flat out speed, the Shelby was not all that fast at 190 km/h. That was well short of the 238 km/h top speed of a Falcon GTHO Phase III
. But for the majority of owners a potential top speed remained only that. Regardless of its so-called limited top speed ability, the way the Shelby went about its work showed it to be more the veteran athlete - and one with a big heart. More heart than handling
as many test drivers found out. Those that had the opportunity for a fang through the hills were to discover the six-year-old suspension
was tired and badly in need of updating. The handling wasn't helped by square-edged Goodyear Polyglas tyres
, which tended to rear up on their edges whenever too much lateral load was applied - instantly robbing adhesion. This was most noticeable in sweeping bends, in tight stuff liberal amounts of throttle in second gear would help the back end around.
Lack of tyre bite made it a waste of time to dump the clutch at anything over 2000 rpm, even then the G70 x 15 tyres
would break loose and you would end up in a flurry of wheelspin as the accelerator was floored. A little steering
correction was needed as the Shelby snaked out of the hole, and as the tacho
swung around to the 4000 rpm mark. Get things right and the quarter would come up in 16.0 seconds with the needle indicating 4800 rpm in third. With practice you could shave a second off that time, and with some suspension
tweaks and better tyres
, things would get even better. We imagine simply dropping tyre pressures would have helped too.
We imagine the Shelby Mustang would have been tiring to drive hard for a long distance on a windy road. With its front wheels splayed out in a negative camber attitude not unlike that of the gleaming white Mustang raced by Pete Geoghegan
, and strong self-centring characteristics, the steering was downright heavy. But the heavy steering
did convey to the driver the brute of the car. The Shelby Mustang was never intended to be a boulevard cruiser. This was a car made for a driver, and arguably the biggest problem with the car was that only a very few came to Australia. As a collectable US muscle car - it is without peer.