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Mustang V Camaro

Flexing Those Muscles Published: 9th Sep 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mustang V Camaro

What The Experts Say...

With a name like Mustang Manic you don’t need to guess which way this Hertsbased specialist steers towards… but owner Adam blows a few myths away. He likes the straight six engine and contrary to popular opinion sees nothing wrong with a three-speed for many owners. “When you’re doing 70mph in top it doesn’t matter what gearbox you have”, he says and also believes that for normal cruising, drum brakes with a servo are adequate. And rarer Mercury Cougars are nice underrated cars, Adam adds!

Mustang V Camaro
Mustang V Camaro
Mustang V Camaro
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When Ford of America introduced its new Mustang in April 1964 there was little doubt that opposite number General Motors would quickly fi eld a rival car. The two companies had been fi ghting each other for sales for over five decades. Five years earlier Chevy’s El Camino pick-up had been born to compete with Ford’s Ranchero, and Ford’s Thunderbird of 1955 was devised to take sales away from Chelltwo companies were generally neck and neck on the products they offered but this time Ford had something special. Is it still the case now though?

Which model to buy?

All sober saloons under their skins The Mustang was launched to capitalise on the baby boom of the early 1960s but where Ford played it clever was to ensure everyone could afford a Mustang on their driveway. In exactly the same way as the later European Ford Capri there was a long options list. You could buy a small-engined straight-six Mustang for shopping trips or a fi re breathing 271bhp race ready performance car. Ford saved huge amounts of money by basing the car on their existing Falcon model and hoped to sell 100,000 Mustangs in the fi rst year; it exceeded that within four months! Ford sold a million in less than two years and left the rest of the industry to play catch up. Chevrolet hurriedly began designing a rival. Launched in 1967 Camaro could also be had with a long list of options. Like the Mustang you could have your Camaro in coupe or convertible with a choice of engines. And like the Mustang, Camaros were based on existing off-the-shelf components – it was essentially a Chevy II with motors borrowed from the Chevelle. The Camaro’s F-body was one of GM’s fi rst to be evaluated in a wind tunnel.

Chevy’s 230ci straight-six was standard, with a 250ci six option. The V8s came in 210bhp and 265bhp 327ci up to a 396ci, 375bhp V8 with four-barrel carb. Mid 1967 brought an SS 350 (Super Sport) edition with a 295-horsepower V8 and ‘bumblebee’ nose stripes while the Rally Sport (RS) package featured concealed headlights. The hottest Camaro was the Z-28 coupe but only 602 were built for 1967. Despite the macho image, one in four Camaro buyers was a woman. First-year sales was 220,917 cars (162,109 with a V8) which was less than half the Mustang’s total, but Chevy sales were down in general.

The Camaro established itself as a contender but Ford hadn’t been sitting idle since 1964. The ‘65 Mustangs could be had in a fastback body in addition to the original coupe and convertible and there was now a GT package that included performance parts and racing stripes. Soon there was the option of a Mustang part-assembled by racing legend Carroll Shelby. The Shelby Mustangs would come in GT350 and GT500 guises as the 1960s progressed, there were relatively rare and remain some of the most desirable of all Mustangs.

For 1968 the changes to Camaros were minimal but for 1969 Camaro got an extensive lower-body facelift that looked far more radical than it actually was. New front and rear and squared off wheel arches made it look longer and lower. “Ask the kid who owns one,” declared one advert leaving no doubt about Camaro’s target audience. A long options list included four-wheel disc brakes and space saver spare tyre.

A pair of 350ci V8s were now available. Production rose to 65,008 sixcylinder and 178,087 V8 Camaros and included 19,024 Z-28s. The 1969 model had an extra long production run because introduction of the restyled ‘70 Camaro was delayed. Mustangs were also getting restyling tweaks every year; by 1970 it was putting on weight and becoming more cruiser than sports car. The ‘70 Camaro ushered in a new body that was to remain, with styling changes, throughout the decade although convertibles were no longer available. As the 1970s continued both Camaro and Mustang were developed for luxury over performance. From 1973 the Camaro was available as an LT (Luxury Touring) that essentially replaced the SS. Mustang had been steadily getting bigger and heavier so Ford shed some of that weight with the launch of the Mustang II, a luxury sub compact. By 1974 the Camaro’s top engine was a 5.7 litre V8 that put out just 155bhp. The muscle car was dead and the older Mustangs and Camaros became instant classics. Of course it’s now more a case of
what’s left and there’s a better choice of Mustangs in the UK and don’t overlook the Mercury Cougar which is more upmarket. And for Camero, read Pontiac Firebird!

What’s the best to drive?

Pepsi or Coke?

Although Mustangs and Camaros are often thought big to European eyes it is in fact modern cars that have grown. A 1965 Mustang takes up the same space as a Mondeo. Finding parts won’t be an issue with UK specialists able to supply service items off the shelf for popular GM or Ford cars. Bearing in mind most cars used a number of the same mechanical parts as others in the range. There’s no denying that economy is one of the downsides, a lazy fi ve-litre V8 will return perhaps 25mpg if driven very carefully, and don’t expect the straight-six version to do much better. But then you’re not planning on doing 20,000 miles a year are you? Both engines will have plenty of low down torque but the V8 burble is really what it’s all about. Manuals are going to be three- or four-speed (if you just want to cruise then don’t dismiss a wide-ratio three-speeder; second is like having an auto when you need it!) while autos are likely to have two or three gears only, as you expect given the age of their designs. What’s the best driver? Well, don’t run away with the idea that these are sports cars! In fact a Mustang feels a lot like a Capri. The Ford is softer and understeers more, the Camaro oversteers but of the pair corners better and generally provides a softer ride, too; Camaros were a hit on the UK tracks during the 1970s. Power steering on the Ford removes a lot of the feel, although power brakes have the edge over Chevy’s. It’s rather like comparing Pepsi and Coke but the Camaro is the better overall road car but only just.

Owning and running

Mussy by a mile

A number of Mustangs and Camaros were imported new to the UK during the 1970s and 80’s. They were popular cars to modify, especially when UK drag racing took off in a big way in the 1960s, so the chances of fi nding a non-customised model with matching numbers is lessened. Matching numbers means the car has the original engine block and gearbox it left the factory and can add a lot of value, as can desirable options like air con or factory spec disc brakes. The latter are recommended if you intend to drive your Mustang hard but power steering is useful although not essential. Many of the performance packages added minimal gains in acceleration or bhp so unless you really like driving these cars on the limit there’s little point in spending big bucks on a genuine Shelby or SS350 when a milder V8 with a few nice options delivers much of the same driving experience. Thanks to huge aftermarket support both sides of the pond the Mustang is as easy to keep as an MGB and new pattern bodyshells are even available for around £14,000 if you fancy making a ‘new’ one.

And The Winner Is...

We’d recommend fi nding a 1965-67 Mustang V8 with disc brakes, or a similarly equipped 1967-71 Camaro. We’ve seen restorable 1960s Camaros go for £5000 and up with nice cars asking £12-20,000. A usable unrestored but unremarkable Mustang can be yours from £7000 with decent examples from £10-20,000 but rarer versions will obviously command far more. And do shop around because asking prices for very similar cars vary dramatically – as much as £8000 difference. Push us for a winner and the 1969 Camaro with a four-speed 327ci V8 is the best mix of looks, performance and balanced handling. Certain if you want a 70s car then the GM product is better than the meek Mustang II!

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