The legend of Moffat and the muscle of a Mustang

By Andrew Clarke
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The Tickford Mustang ‘Bathurst 77 Special’ isn’t perfect, but then again, it is

This is a story in two parts. Because if I don’t tell you about the legend, the Bathurst 77 Special by Tickford won’t make much sense. Actually, it does in its own right, but you really need to understand why it is what it is.

The first legend is that of Allan Moffat, a gruff Canadian born racer who built a car racing team that dominated the 1977 Australian Touring Car Championship, and then the famous Bathurst 1000. Moffat and teammate Colin Bond were not beaten in the Championship, in fact only once was the result not first and second and headed to Bathurst hot favourites despite a September resurgence from Peter Brock.

They dominated The Great Race, running one-two for most of the 163 laps and seemingly in total control with 15 laps left. Then Moffat lost the brakes in his two-door Falcon and that set up the most iconic imagery in Australian motorsport. He drove those laps without brakes, which if you have seen the track is pretty impressive in itself. By the end of the race the two Falcons were side by side, number 1 heading number 2 down Conrod Straight and then across the finish line. The TV was amazing.

As a young kid, this blew my mind. I was a Moffat fan. Which fitted well with the other part of this story.

My first automotive love was the Ford Mustang, which when it came about in the 1964 (before I was alive by-the-way) was a Ford Falcon with a stunning body. After those first cars, Ford was not kind to the Mustang, and from the early 1970s to just a few years ago it was an ugly duckling pretending to be something special.

But that has changed. The new model has captured everything about the original that made it special, and that fact the car is a runaway success tells you they nailed it. There is a mid-life facelift coming soon which will improve that even more with some more up-to-date safety devices and dealing with a couple of other issues.

Ford in Australia can’t sell enough of the base car, and that is where Tickford comes in. Tickford wanted to do something special to announce its return (arrival really) on the scene as a builder of fast cars, so 40 years after that iconic it tapped Moffat on the shoulder and took the two legends and merged them into one very obvious statement. In much the same way as Mr Incredible and Elastigirl combined to give us Dash, a superfast kid, Tickford has taken Moffat circa 1977 and combined it with the Mustang to make one of the world’s great muscle cars… complete with race paint and numbers exactly like the 1977 Bathurst winner.

People will stop and talk to you when you drive a car like this and kids do stop and look. But that is not what makes you feel good when you drive this car, it is the experience that does that. It is not a perfect car, but that also is not the point.

The Package

Essentially you buy a base car and head to Tickford before you have driven it too much, and then the team that builds Bathurst and Championship winnings cars goes to work. Obviously there is the paintwork—including either number 1 or 2 as a delete option, but I would guess no-one will opt for number 2 unless your name is Bond—and the bespoke interior, but the real work is under the skin because anyone can stick racing stripes on a car.

The power train cops a working over, and then the suspension, tyres and brakes are all upgraded. So let’s have a look at what $65,000 buys.

We’ll start with the power. The big 5.0L V8 is supercharged and supplied with a new exhaust system. The supercharger is what is known as a Ford Performance Roush stage 2 unit, and it is fully ADR compliant meaning it has no legal, insurance or warranty issues. The exhaust is designed by Tickford, and adds to the drama and speed. It is not ear splitting loud, but it makes itself known and helps push the power from around 300kW to more than 540kW—which is a very big number.

Let’s put that into perspective for a second. It is as much power as I can ever remember having on the road and is only just a fraction short of the (V8) Supercars that are built in the next building. The tuning has tried to make it as driveable as possible, but on Melbourne’s wettest weekend of 2018 it always felt threatening. Tail slides were easy and sometimes not asked for, but eventually your brain tunes into what lies beneath your right foot.

A day on the track is needed to full understand, that’s for sure. Even a weekend with no rain. Hint.

The suspension tweaks run deep too. The car runs 25mm lower, and for my old frame with wonky knees you are most certainly aware of that, but it also cuts an amazing visual treat too, so long as you don’t scrape too much coming in and out of the driveway. I’d have to modify my driveway!

For those interested, there are H&R coil-overs and dampers. The strut towers have extra bracing for stiffness and to cope with the power, and then brakes are pushed out to the sort of stoppers a car this fast needs. They work beautifully with amazing feel and power. The 10-spoke alloy wheels are 20 inch jobs with Michelin Pilot Sport 45s on, wider on the rear that the front providing a little offset and plenty of grip.

It comes with either a manual gearbox or an auto which has a proper sequential setting. We had the auto and it worked well, you just had to pay attention to the sport mode which alters the traction control settings, taking it out of wet weather mode. With the auto, aside from the look, you can be subtle and just trundle around. That got boring though.

A quick note on the interior and the safety features. The seats are specially trimmed for the car and look the part, they retain the heating and cooling functions and a partially electrically adjustable. They are super comfortable. The rest of the interior though is pretty much pure Mustang, and that is both good and bad. The dash itself is simply yet flawed, you can change the colour of parts but not all, and you can’t customise the trip screen as much as you can in something like a Ford Focus, given the speedo was not always easy to read it would have been nice to have added the speed in big numbers.

My tip is to wait for the next model, which fixes this problem in a major upgrade that deals with some inadequacies without altering the soul.

The infotainment system is Ford Sync 3 and that means it works well, albeit the screen being a little low to help navigation. The stereo, however, lacked any real punch and I reckon I’d be off to see a sound place soon after ownership commenced.

The Safety Rating for the base car is not all that good, which doesn’t mean the car is not safe it means it just doesn’t tick enough boxes. I have thought the current rating system to be massively flawed because it doesn’t measure the ability to avoid a crash via a good and responsive chassis, just the ability to survive. It is the tick list of features where it falls short, there are no blind spot monitors for instance, which is amazing in 2018 on a $60k base car.

Driving

Let’s get through my first issue. I can’t understand why this car has a McPherson strut front end when the Falcon that was built here in Australia had such a magnificent set-up. If Ford, had decided to build the Mustang on that platform, the base car would have been amazing instead of just good. But we can’t change that and we just have to make it work, the only really obvious time this was an issue was trying to get into a car parking spot or doing a three point turn when it just didn’t have a decent turning circle.

I thought the Federal Government should have pitched the Falcon as the base for the 2015 Mustang to the people at Ford in the States and maybe that could have saved our car industry and helped Ford to build a better Mustang.

Thankfully people like Tickford exist. The Bathurst 77 Special is the peak of the range for Tickford in Mustangs, and there are a host of different modifications you can have to make your Mustang better, and all are worth a look! But I digress… back to this one.

The grip from those big tyres is astounding and you can just keep going deeper and faster than you think, even in the wet. On the open and twisty country roads, it just kept going. Yes, if you are not delicate with the accelerator it will snap, but if you start to press progressively it just hunkers down and races from corner to corner.

Pushing the accelerator is actually quite exciting. You push it down and think wow, this thing is fast. Then you realise there is more, and bury it to the floor and double wow, it goes. The amount of throttle play is a good thing, it really allows you to toy around with the power and to feed it in nicely. When the rear does break away, it is a subtle play that brings it back into line, especially with the gentle intrusion from the traction control.

If you push the right pedal hard you will get to 100km/h in way less than 5 seconds, for a bigger buzz you push the left one even harder. The tyres chirp away gently as the speed is washed away with alarming force. I wish I had enough time and dry weather to load the Driftbox up for readings, I reckon the peak G on the brakes would have been big numbers.

This is most certainly a muscle car than can define the range. As my son says, if the 77 Special was a person it would have muscles as big a building. It has machismo, and it is not subtle about it.

If you want subtle, go for all the gear but don’t get the 77 paint scheme…

Conclusion

The Tickford Bathurst 77 Special is not perfect, but perhaps because of that it is. It is not bland and efficient like other fast cars that really only have a noisy exhaust for excitement. It is quick, seriously quick, but you have to work it to get the speed where say and Audi Quattro just delivers.

For me, the personality is what makes it special. The Moffat Ford Dealer Team paint relives my childhood and sparks the part of me that loves cars and motorsport. It makes this car something of a Superhero.

In the wet you had to be very careful, but I think in the dry it would just tick every box in terms of fun. The grip levels are staggering and both the grunt and the stopping power are out of this world. For mine, the only real drawback is the limitations from the base car, so hopefully when the updated Mustang lands there’ll still be some numbers remaining… I forgot to tell you that only 77 will be built.

So here’s the plan. Order your 2018/19 Mustang now to get one of the first off the boat, and sorry I don’t know when that is, and then book your spot with Tickford for the upgrade. Best of both worlds.

The Range

From Tickford, check out the Ranger if you want a ute that makes a statement. But also spend some time checking out the various Mustang packs, you can even juice up the 4 cylinder model.

See Also

Herrod Motorsport also do some Mustangs, so have a look there.

Otherwise, there is nothing like this. You are either a Mustang person or you ain’t, so no point talking about BMW M4s and the like. Just go and drive one of these in either 77 Special guise or otherwise, and if you’ll be as convinced as me.

Next Up—Holden Commodore

 

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Madmimi


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