Find Me Under The Batholith

It was with immense surprise that I discovered Ford marketed the Mustang in the UK in 1980. An advert indicating as such appeared in Motor, September 8 of that year.

1980 Ford Mustang UK sales brochure

I thought that the offering of the present Mustang was something of a novelty. It’s not, apparently.

The ceaselessly industrious team at carsalesbase declare Mustang sales of about 15,000 units in the Lord’s year of 2017 and about 13,000 units in the Lord’s year of 2018. It all goes towards making it possible for Ford to be able to declare the ‘Stang the world’s best selling sports coupé. How many did they sell, Mr Bowler-Hat? “Ford sold 125,809 Mustang coupes and convertibles in 146 countries last year,” is the answer from Koeln, Germany.

1980 Ford Mustang, UK-market version

Going back to 1980 now: according to the advert “your Ford Imported Car Dealer” could arrange a test drive of this, the one Ford Mustang officially type-approved for the UK market. I like the phrase “your Ford Imported Car Dealer”, which makes buying an imported car sound as routine and cosy as buying a bottle of your favourite red wine from a local wine merchant whose name you know.

Moving on. Ford presented the Mustang as “a subtle blend of the European car concept and top American car design.” That is an interesting concatenation. What is the European car concept, precisely? Under a section called “Mustang handling” it says “There’s special heavy-duty suspension which combines the best in strut-type with 4-bar link systems to go with its Michelin TRX tyres to give it the kind of ride you would want to experience.”

I was curious as to what that meant in reality. What did reviewers say? A look at eBay turned up no evidence (at the moment) of UK-based reviews of the car so at present I have no idea how the Mustang was received. I did find a brochure for the 3.3 litre Ghia coupe (title image), for 1980-1981 but there was no hint as to whether it was a type-approved RHD version or an LHD version. The fact the only Mustang listed by Motor was the Ghia turbo indicates other versions were grey imports.

Under “Mustang Power” we are informed that the Mustang Ghia was equipped with a 2.3 litre overhead cam turbo-charged engine which provides the best of both worlds – an efficient four-cylinder engine with performance comparable to bigger engines.” Wikipedia ominously says “A troublesome 2.3-liter turbocharged L4 was offered for a short time during initial production startup which reappeared improved for the mid-year introduced.”

Interestingly, Wikipedia does not allude to the sales of the Mustang in the UK.

Finally, “Mustang Equipment”. Exceptionally well-equipped, says Ford: “tacho, odo, fuel/temperature/oil pressure gauges and deep cushion front bucket seats, and front disc brakes”. It had digital clock too, I expect.

Ford asked £7,950 for the car, or £33,600 in today’s money. For the record, the 2.3 litre Ecoboost of 2019 costs almost the same: £37,645.

For the moment, I have no further information. It may mean some hunting about at eBay for some period reviews, if they exist, to see what UK journalists thought of the RHD Mustang.

1980 Mercury Monarch, UK advert

Interestingly, Ford also sold the Mercury Monarch for UK sale in 1980, one of the least impressive cars I have been in for a long time. It was listed with the other Ford cars in Motor’s price list: £9306. Today a 1978 example (much the same) is on sale in the UK for five grand.I can’t imagine why anyone would want one instead of a Buick or Cadillac from the same period.

Thus ends today’s peer into the past which, it turns out, is not as different from the present as we might think. What is the Ford Mondeo but a N American car on sale in Europe, just like the Monarch, only vastly better.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “Find Me Under The Batholith”

    1. Oh, that’s from one my favourite internet places in the whole world. It’s a cornucopia of now-obscure road tests dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. Want to know about Wolseleys and Rileys, some even fitted with one of those new fangled automatic gearboxes? That’s where to go.

  1. Seem to recall an article on Ford having plans for the Mustang III to directly replace the Capri during the mid/late-1980s and there allegedly being plans for a possible Group A homologation special (or European specific model) either featuring a 3.5 V6 or 3.5 V8.

    1. Found the following on page 32 in the June 2017 edition of Classic Cars magazine to put some context with the previous post, however some parts do not quite make sense.

      Ford Mustang GT

      ‘We’ve just finished rebuilding it – it’s Vince Woodman’s 1983 Spa 24 Hours Car,’ said mechanic Ollie Melliard of the Group A Ford Mustang GT, which stood out among the rows of Sierra Cosworths in the Group A Touring Car demonstration run. ‘We found it in a box of bits in Holland – it had been raced in Dutch Thundersaloons.’

      ‘It was built by Andy Rouse for the BSCC (BTCC?), but a 3.5-litre displacement limit meant it had to contest in the ETCC instead, where it ran in this Belga livery. However, the BSCC’s organizers lifted the limited at the last minute in order to admit the Jaguar XJ-S. In the UK it ran in Esso livery.

      ‘It contested the DTM with Reinhold Gropper in 1984, then was rehomologated for the BSCC with Ford USA intending to offer it in Britain with righ-hand drive because it saw the Fox-body Mustang as a “world car”. But then Ford Europe unexpectedly brought out the Sierra Cosworth so the Group A Mustang project was scrapped.’

      Anyway. It would have been interesting to see how Ford could have adapted the Fox-body Mustang (including 4th generation Mustang) to the British market as a replacement for the Capri.

      It would not be a stretch to say it would have likely utilized the Pinto-based 2-litre Cosworth YB used in the Sierra Cosworth (later Escort Cosworth) as well as the 2.9-litre Ford Cologne V6 (including related Cosworth BOA/BOB plus potential turbo/twin-turbo variants) engines, possibly the 2-2.3-litre Ford I4 DOHC (as base spec engines plus turbo variants) along with the Ford Duratec V6 (including potential fully-developed 3.4-4-litre Ford SHO V8).

      While other V8s would still probably include the Windsor and Modular engines (the latter also used in the unsuccessful Jensen S-V8 and MG XPower SV, etc), it is also possible the UK/Euro-spec Mustang would have make use of the Jaguar AJ-V8 from the mid-1990s as was the case on the 8th generation Ford Thunderbird in the early-2000s.

  2. Hi Angel and thanks for the pointer to this resource. I’ve just passed a lazy hour reading old Autocar road tests that I remember from the 70’s. One of my favourite references was to the “crash flash” switch, a.k.a. the hazard warning lights switch!

  3. My brother had a 1979 Mustang 2.3. The equivalent sedan was the Fairmont with the same suspension – my parents bought the 6 cylinder also in 1979 guise.

    No need for road tests! Bottom-of-the-barrel sums these two losers up. Both engines refused to rev, and sportiness was not in the least apparent in the Mustang – it could barely get out of its own way. Went across the Rockies in it, slowly enough on some grades that one became worried about the coyotes sitting expectantly on the roadside watching us putt-putt by foot to the floor at 20 mph in second! They were four-wheeled vehicles that happened to move reluctantly under their own power. On a vacation to the UK in 1980 to gang up with a crew of old university pals to drive to West Berlin, we had a 1978 Escort GT to carry four and it was loaded to the gills – it was a very nice car indeed that made the US product look like the rubbish it so undoubtedly was.

    The first Mustang 140 hp turbo engine actually had perhaps 75 (I see from the above scan it was 118 net). My Audi 100LS would put the boots to it with ease – the owner who was in my RC club always wanted a rematch, and he always lost. Goodness knows what tune Ford sent out into the wilds. It would rev and rev and get absolutely nowhere. Four years later the same basic engine properly done with fuel injection was in the 1983 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, and it cracked off 80 to 120 km/h bursts in 5 seconds over and over again in third – made us giggle. Not only that, the chassis underneath was the same as the Mustang, but it too had been transformed into more than acceptable. So you have to pick your old US Fords with care. The Thunderbird was definitely NOT Malaise era, cars from four years earlier were. The first 1980 Escort was also terrible with an engine that barely ran due to carburetted smog controls. (Just trying to cover all the bases for you!)

    The ’70s Monarch was the ultimate version of the 1960 Falcon that begat the original Mustang. It was, as you say, another example of the extreme rubbish Ford turned out for North America in the 1970s. The Monarch’s twin was the Lincoln Versailles, another leaf-sprung wonder with a style from the Zombie Gothic period but chromed. Of course any GM intermediate ate its lunch in the late 1970s! Their design was 18 years newer. But against a Dodge Aspen or Plymouth Volare, the Monarch dazzled with an actually acceptable interior and a front suspension that did not squirm – transverse torsion bars were not a good idea in anyone’s mind but Chrysler – the previous Dart was the superior car, dating back to the original 1960 Valiant and very robustly built unlike the papier mache Falcon.

    There’s your sum up. Over and out.

  4. Why did they ruin such cars by specifying engines woefully underpowered for the type of car, silly decisions at board level, if you want a proper American car you want the proper engine in it.

    My 71 Mustang had the smaller of the V8’s, 5.7 litre, which was surprisingly economical because the car weighed very little.
    It handled a lot better once fitted with decent european tyres than on the the dreadful US issue rubber, this situation exactly the same on my ’86 Camaro, very acceptable handling once well tyred but these were never going to be Golf GTi standard on the twisties, all sporting live rear axles.

    Interesting the mention of front disc brakes on the Mustang in the above brochures, my previous model sported drum brakes all round with no servo assistance which made stopping from high speed interesting, she’d change up at 65mph from first gear with the standard three speed auto in kickdown.

    1. It would be a case of damned if you don´t and damned if you do: if the importer decided to fit these cars with the V6s and V8s they may have had in the US then the buyers/press will jeer and say “stupid yank petrol sucker – no thanks.” And then there´s the other view: “Ha, an American car with a silly little engine – no thanks.” I suppose there is no way out of the impass except a) find a middle range engine designed for Europe that has a kind of American feel or b) not bother at all. Moreso than any other “national car type” the American car was made for a giant exception, the US market of cheap petrol and (sorry) enough buyers with low expectations. Just because Ford could sell eleventy million Mustangs a year in the US didn´t mean Europe wanted more than about 500 of them. So from the get go there was very little point in trying to sell these cars (and especially the saloons) except one at a time. Almost anyone with the money for a V8 went for Mercedes or Rolls-Rolls or bought a six from someone European. None of that is to say European cars were fault free – we´ve discussed this before and I think the case is well established. Neither Europeans nor American really solved the problem of selling their national cars into the other´s market, not in a way clear of major errors of one kind or another.

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