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Dick Johnson’s Ford Mustang

Submitted by on February 25, 2010

In 1984 Dick Johnson was in a bit of trouble. The new Group A racing rules were coming the following year and Ford Australia was not at all interested in helping him racing their local product, so he needed to look elsewhere for an eligible Ford race car. He realised the Ford Mustang was something he could race and tracked two down in Germany, built and raced in the 1984 DTM series by the Zakspeed outfit.  The Germans told him the cars were perfect, race condition with very strong 302 engines, so Johnson brought them both in and found out in practice at Bathurst that this level of preparation was far from the truth. Johnson’s comment of “They would not pull a sailor off your sister” came from his first run up the mountain. The engines were very under powered, about 40% down on what he had been quoted, so back to the Queensland workshops they went for an engine rebuild and thorough race preparation.

In the 1985  ATCC, Johnson was the main contender to Frank Gardner’s relatively untouchable JPS 635 BMW operation.  The BMW team was spearheaded by New Zealand ace Jim Richards, who blew the opposition away, winning seven of the 10 rounds and thus sealed the championship for the German marque. Johnson scored a variety of second and third places to finish second in the championship, in front of Peter Brock’s Holden Commodore. Johnson did however win one race, at the non championship Australian Grand Prix round that year.

Although Johnson describes the car as one of the best handling and braking cars he has ever driven, the lack of engine power (just 260kw!) meant that by 1986 the car was far from competitive.  Johnson only continued campaigning the Mustang that year, as he knew something a lot better was just around the corner; the mighty Ford RS 500 Sierra’s.

Johnson sold the Mustang off when the Sierra arrived in 1987 and the Mustang continued racing in Group A and then the Sports Sedan series until  he decided to buy it back, joining his most revered racers in the DJR racing museum. In 2007 a financial crisis with Johnson’s V8 Supercar race team meant the entire collection was bought by the Queensland based collector David Bowden. The Bowden collection has recently announced their plans to get it back to the track, fully restored with the correct Group A running gear. From there it will again be raced as part of the great Group A category, against a full grid of original cars from the period. We look forward to being able to see this legendary Mustang back on the track, hopefully with the equally legendary Dick Johnson once again at the wheel.

More on the Bowden Collection of Australian race cars can be found here www.bowdensown.com.au

Dan Bowden

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