WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – The International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen is honoring the historic first public appearance of the Mustang brand 50 years ago at Watkins Glen by featuring a 2013 Boss 302 as its fund-raising raffle car.
Each year the Center staff selects a car emblematic of the Center’s mission to preserve and celebrate the history of motorsports. The car must also appeal to the Center’s supporters and the general public.
The staff could think of no better selection for the 2012 fund-raising effort than the iconic Mustang: 50 years ago, the Ford Motor Co. determined that race fans gathered at Watkins Glen for the 1962 U.S. Grand Prix would be the first to see the company’s newest concept car.
The Center is selling just 1,962 raffle tickets for this iconic production vehicle, valued at $44,900. The raffle is the major annual fund-raiser for the non-profit facility, a leader in the collection of materials representing the documentary heritage of amateur and professional motor racing worldwide and especially at Watkins Glen. The Center is located just minutes from world-famous Watkins Glen International.
The Center receives no public funding and is solely supported by fund-raising and donations.
The winning ticket will be drawn on Dec. 1, 2012, at the Center. The price of the ticket is $60 for one or $100 for two. The winner does not need to be present to win and will be notified immediately after the drawing.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Center at 607-535-9044 or by using a form posted on the Center’s website at www.racingarchives.org.
A month before the October 1962 U.S. Grand Prix weekend, a reporter for Competition Press wrote that “the wraps have come off” a new car that Ford was building.
“A pretty impressive piece of work,” but it didn’t appear to be a production prototype, the story read. “A production version might be developed, of course, should public acceptance demand it.”
On Saturday, Oct. 6, 1962, racer Dan Gurney was behind the wheel as Ford introduced the Mustang to the world. Stirling Moss, recovering from race injuries and appearing as honorary starter, helped show off the car on race day.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Art Peck wrote in his Competition Press column a week later, “the car is startling.”
The 1962 Watkins Glen unveiling of the Mustang reflected a partnership between Ford and the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corp. that had started a year earlier and would continue through 1967 and then be revived in later years at Watkins Glen Int’l.
“It was an exciting day in October 1962 when Ford presented the world debut of their Mustang prototype at the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen,” said J.C. Argetsinger, president of the Racing Research Center. “On the 50th anniversary of the now iconic Mustang brand, it is fitting and appropriate that the Research Center presents for its fund-raising raffle the Boss 302 – the latest and most exciting Mustang in Ford’s arsenal.”
The 1962 concept Mustang was a mid-engined, two-seater. It was built on 90-inch wheelbase with 48-49 track front and rear. It had independent suspension all around, front disc brakes, built-in rollbar and 13-inch cast magnesium wheels.
The 60-degree, V-4 1500cc Cardinal engine was located forward of the rear axle, the power was delivered through a 4-speed, all-synchro transaxle to the rear wheels.
Automotive writers across the nation had a lot to say about Ford’s “toe in the water” of racing. And they agreed that, as first presented, the Mustang needed some serious changes to be competitive.
Ford knew that, too, and continued to work on the design.
Another Mustang concept was presented to race fans at the 1963 U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, and then the third version rolled off the production lines in April 1964, defying standard practice at the time of releasing new models in the fall and earning the nickname “1964½.”
“All summer long they were virtually unobtainable,” said Michael Argetsinger, award-winning motorsports author and a member of the Governing Council of the Racing Research Center. “They were the hottest thing around.”
The launch of the Mustang was Ford’s most successful since the Model A, with a million cars sold in less than two years.
“A lot of us enthusiasts knew that this was the thing to come when Ford pledged that they would be racing in all forms,” said renowned race historian Bill Green, who serves as historian for both the Racing Research Center and Watkins Glen International.
“It was a new and exciting era. America was going racing again. Ford was putting out the message that they were back in the performance business, while at the same time making these cars affordable to the average person,” Green said.
The Mustang is now in its fifth design generation.
The new Mustang was the pace car at the 1964 Indianapolis 500, and the very same car that led the pack at Indy served as the pace car at the 1964 U.S. Grand Prix.
For the next three years, Mustangs were the official cars of the Glen. Each year, Ford would send 23 Mustangs to be used by Grand Prix teams during their visit and two Mustangs that were used throughout much of the year by Grand Prix Corp. staff.
Not only did the top cars come to the Glen, the top men did, too, Argetsinger said, recalling visits by Lee Iacocca and Don Frey, “fathers” of the Mustang, and other Ford executives.
The racing history of the Mustang at the Glen is extensive, appearing on entry lists in Trans-Am, SCCA and SVRA events over the decades. Storied drivers such as Mark Donohue, Parnelli Jones and George Follmer drove their Mustangs at the Glen.
Nationally, Mustang won several manufacturers’ championships in the Trans-Am series and the IMSA GTO class. Its drivers have earned several drivers championships as well.
NHRA, NASCAR and racing series in Europe have also seen Mustang wins.
Off the track, this hugely popular car has won multiple Car and Driver Ten Best awards, including 2011, and Motor Trend Car of the Year twice. In 2005 it was runner-up to the Chrysler 300 for the North American Car of the Year award.
The 2011 Ford Mustang was awarded Consumer Reports’ 2011 Top Pick in the Sporty Car category.
For the past three years, including 2012, Popular Mechanics has selected the Mustang as the Top Performance Car in its annual Auto Excellence Awards.
MotorWeek named the Mustang Boss 302 as Best of the Year in its 2012 Drivers’ Choice Awards.