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Wild Rides I Have Known

The move “Road Warrior” introduced the world to Mel Gibson and his wild ride, the Ford Falcon “Interceptor.” After seeing that movie a dozen times, many a youth tried unsuccessfully to reproduce that marvelous, totally Australian creation. Australia today may be the last bastion of the innocence of hot-rod automobiles, sort of like the USA was in the fifties and sixties, but with a very modern flair and mechanicals. There isn’t any vehicle available in Australia that hasn’t felt the hands and wrenches of tuners looking to extract the maximum from the running gear. There are probably more websites here that promote performance modifications than in any other part of the world.

I grew up in the USA during the heyday of performance enhanced cars and I have owned and driven a few wild rides myself. Some of the most fun cars I have owned or had available for my driving pleasure were during the era of 1960-72. Exceptions were the five Ford Mustang Cobras that graced my garage, from 1996 to 2003, all very exceptional vehicles; fast, fun and good handling.

Several cars come to mind when I think about my automobile past:
1968 Mercury Cougar XR7G – To create a Mercury version of the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, Mercury Division built 619 special Cougars. Most of these included a 390 CID 4V Interceptor engine of 325 horsepower, special styled steel wheels, an electric sunroof, huge exhaust stacks coming through the valance under the rear bumper, racing type of bonnet pins and identification badges on the B pillar and low on the side of the front fender. My employer, a major car rental concern, had 22 of these limited production cars in their Los Angeles fleet and I drove one for the better part of a year. Awesome.

1968 American Motors AMX – A shortened, two-seat version of their Javelin, V-8 powered; 290, 343 and 390 CID, with automatics or four-speed transmissions. My same employer had several hundred of these little speedsters. They were very quick, but the very short wheelbase made them a little “squirrely.”

1964 Ford Fairlane “Thunderbolt” – This was a special order car assembled by Ford’s Racing Division, specifically for drag racing. The power was supplied by a 427 CID 8V engine with a rating of 425 horsepower. This rating was understated because we dyno’ed one and it hit over 500 horses with no modifications. The car had fiberglass front fenders and bonnet, no heater or rear seats, fixed front racing bucket seats, competition lap belts and shoulder harnesses and rubber floor mats, no carpeting. One of these sponsored by a Los Angeles Ford dealer won the 1963 and 1964 National Drag Racing competition for the A-Factory-Experimental class. I was a sales manager for that dealer and got to drive one of these on occasion.

I’m sure that someday I will be rocking on the front porch of the old-folks-home, smiling as I recall my auto adventures. It’s been a fun ride so far.

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