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Area club helped Ford stay on track with the Mustang

Old 05-27-2007, 03:20 PM
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Default Area club helped Ford stay on track with the Mustang

Reference to a 425 HP Challenger below.


Area club helped Ford stay on track with the Mustang


12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, May 27, 2007
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If a few empty suits at Ford had prevailed 18 or 19 years ago, we might be driving Maztangs today.

We wouldn't be happy about it. In fact, if Ford had put the Mustang on a front-wheel-drive Mazda platform as the company fully intended to do I am sure the car would have died years ago.

But thanks to the North Texas Mustang Club and others like it, we have a vibrant, V-8-powered, rear-wheel-drive Mustang today that remains true to its tire-smoking pony-car heritage. In another year or so, it will be joined by two healthy new entrants: a 2009 Chevrolet Camaro that's expected to have 400-horsepower V-8 and a 2009 Dodge Challenger that might have a 425-horse Hemi.

Both are re-entering a market they left years ago decades ago, in Dodge's case purely because of the new Mustang's success. We're about to see more muscle on the streets of America than on that goofy beach in the People's Republic of California.

It almost didn't happen.

"There's no question the company was headed that way with the Mustang," recalled Jim Bright, a former Ford spokesman in the Southwest region who later became executive director of Ford automotive public affairs. "Look what Ford did with the Taurus badge. We are so fortunate that we didn't go too far with the Mustang."

Can you even imagine Ford without a real Mustang? Even worse, can you fathom a front-driver Mustang with a sewing-machine four-banger under the hood where once resided a mighty 428 Super Cobra Jet?

Is that devolution or what? Wasn't the Mustang II punishment enough?

I'm not a member of the North Texas Mustang Club which celebrates its 25th anniversary this month but Mr. Bright and others told me years ago that the club was a leader in storming the walls in Dearborn, forcing Ford to reconsider.

As a Mustang owner, I'm sure glad they did. At the time, Ford was building the unfortunately named Probe, a decent midsize coupe with a mildly interesting V-6 in its GT. Most Probes, however, were powered by sleepy four-cylinder engines, and all rolled along leisurely atop Mazda platforms.

They were not bound for glory. Nonetheless and this underscores how big, relatively smart car companies can do some really dumb things someone at Ford decided that, hey, we oughta make the slow-selling Probe a Mustang.


Bombarded with letters

When the North Texas Mustang Club got wind of the plan, "we bombarded them with letters," said Tommy Moore, 72, of Sunnyvale, a charter member who owns a 1968 Shelby GT 500. "Nobody wanted a Probe for a Mustang."

The club even dispatched president Ed Gerloff to Dearborn to personally deliver a proclamation to Ford officials condemning the plan.

"Those guys were so wired into Ford," Mr. Bright said. "I don't know who came up with the proposal or why they wanted to put a Mustang badge on a Probe. But thank heavens they didn't."

"The car would have died like the Camaro and Firebird," said Ralph Perkins, the club's current president.

With 300 members, the club (www.ntmc.org) is one of the largest Mustang organizations in the U.S. About half the members own vintage Mustangs and the other half more modern cars, Mr. Perkins said.

Here's a factoid for anyone still at Ford from the Probe era: Interest in the current retro-styled Mustang is still so high that it brings in 10 or 12 new members a month, Mr. Perkins said.


A new fight awaits

Now that the Probe is back where it belongs, some club members are preparing for a new skirmish. This time, Ford is aggressively pursuing auto-related businesses that use the Mustang name, Mr. Perkins said, threatening some with lawsuits.

The problem is that Ford no longer produces parts for vintage
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