Ford felt that the success of the Mustang was their claim to fame with the Muscle Car crowd. But they also knew that in the world of cars you are either leading or you are just in the way. The real hardcore performance cars were the European models coming out of Italy and Henry wanted to put them in his pocket. When he flew to Italy to talk with Ferrari about buying them up he was laughed out of the room. He made it his mission to beat Ferrari at their own game and the Ford GT40 was the result of that mission. It was top to bottom built as a race car to beat the dominance of Ferrari and to prove that Ford knew how to build a world-class race car. He succeeded. Even with its original 289 it outright beat everything in its class and when Henry’s engineers upped the ante to its race proven 427 they were in a class by themselves.
The number 40 in its name comes from the fact that the car was 40 inches tall at the roof. Although not a Muscle Car by anyone’s imagination, it proved that the American Car Companies were the leaders in performance.
The 1966 Mustang GT with its 289 was selling well as all Mustangs were, and with the Shelby 350 and now Shelby 500 versions coming out the image at Ford was getting a boost. Other car makers were copying the Mustang Fastback style.
While not a particular good-looking car in my opinion, the Fastback was gaining acceptance as a good performer. But it needed more power and that meant bigger engines. Ford was working on the next generation Mustang with that goal in mind.
The midsize Ford Fairlane received a GT option for 1966. The engine choice was Fords new 390 cubic inch engine and a model known as the GTA was also added which designated an automatic transmission added to the GT. Some of the GT and GTA’s received a dealer installed 428 Police Interceptor engine to further enhance the available power. The 428 was a new engine for 1966 that had been created to smooth out the radical behavior of the race created 427. Everyone who drove the two engines agreed that the 428 had similar power, without the aggressive power band of the 427, in short, a streetable race engine. It was further enhanced with heavy-duty cooling and oiling for use as a Police Interceptor engine for the Galaxie Police vehicles.
The Mercury division also got a version of the Fairlane GT package which was called the Mercury Comet Cyclone. The Cyclone had dual hood scoop cutouts compared with the Fairlane’s single intake. Some versions used a hood with the intakes at the front edge of the hood as well to catch and force feed more air into the engine.
Over at American Motors they trudged along with their new for 1965 Marlin with minor styling changes. They did not have the budget of the Detroit automakers and were not in the position of going toe to toe with them. But they were paying attention and working on future models to make a run at the “Detroit Big Three” meaning General Motors, Ford Motor Corporation and Chrysler Motors.
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