We almost didn't get a Ford into this year's Muscle Car of the Year competition. Technically speaking, we didn't. It was a Mercury, and we only got that one through a vastly disproportionate amount of effort. I have to thank RideTech's Bret Volkel for coming through on that one; when his latest creation under construction (a first-gen Camaro) missed our MCOTY deadline, he pitched in and located for us Herb Stuart's immaculate DOHC 1968 Cougar at one of the events that RideTech attends. (Thanks Bret, and maybe we'll see you at next year's MCOTY!)
After fending off last month's beatdown from the Mopar community, which I kinda deserved, I was afraid I'd have another one coming from Fordnatics for not having Dearborn steel at MCOTY. (The jury's still not back on that.) Nevertheless, having a Mercury Cougar instead of another belly button Mustang was huge—sort of the automotive equivalent of affirmative action. Riddle: If nice Mustangs are so common, how come we couldn't find one willing to come?
Herb Stuart's Merc wasn't the fastest or the hardest-cornering car of the lot, but it made all the right noises, looked bitchin, and is an honest-to-Pete street car. (You can check the MCOTY coverage starting on p. 26 and watch the Cougar's in-car video on PopularHotRodding.com.) We liked Herb's Cougar so much, we made it our Editor's Choice. Still, you're wondering where all the Fords went. Last year, Detroit Speed & Engineering and their 1966 Mustang fastback test car showed the world its taillights. Is it possible that the various suspension camps are skittish about DSE's dominance and are scared to lose? I can't say, but I always thought Ford guys loved a good knife fight.
We started pounding the drum about MCOTY last December when we ran the coverage of the 2012 event. Then we sent out an open casting call in the May 2013 issue, which ironically had Christopher Campbell's 1968 Mustang on the cover. We kept up the campaign with multiple Facebook and PopularHotRodding.com posts, but still no serious Fords stepped forward. Worried, I started approaching Ford owners at some of our Goodguys events. Some of the Fords we asked are well known, the most publicized example being Poteet's 1969 Talladega which has been on virtually every magazine cover in the last two years, including PHR. No dice—it was unavailable on that day. Meanwhile, I did my best to beat away the legions of first-gen Camaros, which were thick as a swarm of Tanzanian Tstetse flies. We tried to hold open some space for the Fords, but they never came. We ended up cherry picking the coolest Camaros, which turned out to be a good move. They also have some of the most fun owners you'll ever hang with.
Meanwhile, I did my best to beat away the legions of first-gen Camaros, which were thick as a swarm of Tanzanian Tstetse flies.
At the end of the day, the Camaro guys just get the concept of MCOTY—our three-way test of straight-line acceleration, braking, and handling. You'd never know that more Mustangs than Camaros were built and sold in those early years—the Chevy guys simply wanted to play hard and didn't mind getting a little sweaty in the July heat. Pontiacs were well represented also with Jeff Schwartz's winning 1981 Trans Am, Damion Campbell's 1963 LeMans, and Travis Hartwell's 1977 Trans Am. Heck, even Chrysler came to the party with Eric Wracker's 1971 Duster and Kevin Wesley's all-bolt-on 1970 Plymouth taxicab. A four-door leaf-spring Mopar, for crissakes. I guess the competitive Mustangs decided to crawl under a rock somewhere. That's the competitive spirit. (Maybe I better back off a tad before my face runs into somebody's fist!)
I guess if others can't bring the Ford heat, we're gonna have to do it. Tech Editor Christopher Campbell is gearing up to complete PHR's 1967 Cougar, the one we call Max Effort. Once it's done, it will be the quickest magazine project car to turn a corner around a racetrack while still being street legal. Not just the quickest Ford, the quickest magazine project car, period. As you read this, Max Effort is headed to Wild Wes Paintworks (www.WildWesPaintworks.com) in Dover, Ohio, for finishing bodywork and paint. The goal is to have the Tavis Highlander–rendered paint scheme ready for our annual body and paint issue this spring. We promise to put Campbell's extensive Bondurant training (as well as the durability of new paint!) to the test as soon as Max is ready.
Want more Fords for next year's MCOTY competition? We're with you on that, so our call-out officially starts now. We'll have another more formalized announcement in a few months, but if it raises your hackles that your favorite brand was a no-show, feel free to tell us right now what's in your garage that can get the job done. (Other brands can get in on the action too.) Just send a short note and one good photo to email@example.com, subject line, "2014 MCOTY." Trust us, the Camaro guys are already lining up.