Mustang memory: Terrible handling

To the Editor:

As much as I appreciate the overwhelming coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang ("A nifty 50 for the Mustang," April 14), I'd like to add some sober notes.

First, it was all about styling, which then as now is what sells cars. The car itself, like most of the domestic machinery in the mid-1960s, was mediocre. I wrote about the first one in 1964. It was cobbled up from Falcon and Fairlane parts, had a 170-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine with a floor-mounted three-speed manual gearbox (with no synchro on first gear) and handling that mimicked its parent cars, which is to say it was miserable.

Over the years, I tried different Mustangs, and it was always the same. Even with automatic transmissions and V-8 power, they were always terrible, mainly in the handling department.

When Ford revived the Shelby name a few years back, it brought Carroll Shelby himself, then 84 years old, to the press preview in Dearborn, Mich., on a cold, rainy day in July. I sat with Shelby in one of the spare cars for about 45 minutes of conversation, and I told him that I had never liked Mustangs until Ford got serious about them with the new GT.

I said my disappointment applied to the Shelby GT350 and GT500 models back in the 1960s, as well as to other muscle cars of the 1970s.

Shelby's reply: "Oh, yeah. Great motors. Couldn't turn, couldn't stop."

True story.


Falls Church, Va.

Aukofer, who writes an auto review column, has served as a juror for the North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards.