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Prodrive-built rally Mustang will take on Paris–Peking

by Stefan Lombard
26 June 2023 3 min read
Prodrive-built rally Mustang will take on Paris–Peking
All photos courtesy www.ianskeltonphotography.com

The recent Bicester Heritage Flywheel event, held on 17–18th June, is a self-described “celebration of wings, wheels, and motion for the whole family.” What better place to give a wild 1967 Ford Mustang rally car its public debut?

Commissioned by vintage events promoter HERO-ERA, the 400bhp pony car has been in development for a year at motorsport giant Prodrive. Putting its meticulous technical expertise in race car construction to the test, the firm started with a rusting chassis and essentially rebuilt the car from the ground up, including bead blasting and reinforcing the structure in anticipation of the expected stresses of events like the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, a 37-day, 14,000-km trek across the world’s largest land mass.

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1967 Ford Mustang rally car under wraps at Bicester Heritage
What better way to disguise a blue Mustang fastback?

Prodrive chairman David Richards and HERO-ERA chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca were on hand to unveil the classic Mustang to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds.

“I am blown away by the car,” said a beaming Machuca. “I am so happy with the result.” It’s a project, he says, that nearly didn’t happen. In March 2022, he asked Richards if there was anything Prodrive could do with the Mustang, but the project seemed beyond the scope of Prodrive’s focus, which these days includes running Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Team in the Extreme E championship, as well as development and support for Aston Martin in the FIA World Endurance Championship. But Richards came around. “Since then, Prodrive’s enthusiasm, experience, and skill have transformed a ‘basket case’ into a historic motoring masterpiece, ready to take on the best in the desert and be the flagship vehicle on our Arrive & Drive fleet.” The Mustang is the first historic American car that Prodrive has taken on.

1967 Ford Mustang rally car with HERO and Prodrive chairman
The Mustang with (left to right) HERO chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca, Prodrive chairman David Richards, former F1 racer Jackie Oliver, and Prodrive senior engineer Richard Thompson.

To cope with long-distance events like Paris to Peking, in addition to chassis reinforcements, the Mustang’s suspension was carefully crafted to handle the worst that deserts, mountains, and forests could throw at it. The Windsor 302, a 5.4-litre V8, has been massaged to deliver 400bhp all while operating for long periods at high revs. It has been paired with a Tremec five-speed gearbox that puts power to the rear wheels through a nine-inch limited-slip differential.

Underbody protection runs the length of the car, including for the 70-gallon fuel tank, which will give the Mustang a 400-mile range. The car’s final specs conform to a mix of FIA Appendix K, Motorsport UK, and HERO-ERA technical regulations.

“This project started life a long time ago as a casual conversation with Tomas about my wife Karen’s interest in taking part in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge,” Richards said. “The Ford Mustang was a significant departure from our usual projects, but we have utilised all our rally experience, and the result is testament to everyone who worked on the car at Prodrive.”

With more than four highly successful decades in motorsport, including several World Rally titles to its credit, Prodrive was uniquely poised to deliver on a car of this Mustang’s calibre. “We loved every minute of getting into the DNA of a mid-’60s U.S. muscle car,” said Richard Thompson, senior engineer and general manager of Prodrive Legends, which provides technical support and resources for owners of ex-Prodrive works cars of the past. “HERO-ERA has created a superb platform of competition, adventure, and camaraderie that is missing in modern day WRC events, and for that reason we are all excited to accompany the car on these challenges.”

Following the unveiling, the Mustang joined the Club Des Autos Tour for a gentle shake-down run to France. Further testing will take place before the car’s first big test at the Badawi Trial in the Middle East. The 7,500-km event starts in Jordan on 10th October and traverses Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the UAE before its conclusion 16 days later.

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