5. Ford’s Free-Wheelin` Models
Back in the late 70s, the automotive world was swept by special editions featuring crazy graphics, flashy wheels and details. The typical models of the period were Ford’s Free-Wheelin’ editions, available on numerous models, such as Bronco, Econoline vans, the Courier compact pickup truck and the F-150.
The first thing that set those editions apart was the graphics. Each Free-Wheelin’ model had five colors in a rainbow stripe suited to the lines of the car. Since this option was available for four years, from 1977 to 1980, each year had its own style, so it was different than the previous model. Ford also prepared numerous other styling details as optional extras, so you could get special wheels, white letter tires, additional lights mounted on the roof, side pipe exhausts, bull bars and a whole lot more aftermarket details.
Since the Free-Wheelin’ package was available on so many models, and for four model years, no one knows exactly how many have been made, but it must have been thousands.
Today, those vehicles are not particularly expensive or rare, but they are cool to own, especially if you can find one with all the details and paint job intact.
6. Ford Pinto Rally Cruising Wagon
You have probably heard about the Ford Pinto. It was Ford’s best-selling economy car from the ’70s. It was the object of many jokes and serious government inquiries about its safety and a possible spontaneous combustion problem that caused many injuries.
Despite all potential problems, not-so-inspiring design and low power, the Pinto and all its variants were popular, sold in the millions and helped Ford survive the financially-tough 1970s. Since it was such a common car, Ford decided to spice things a bit by introducing a Rally Cruising Wagon. It was a Pinto wagon, but with a panel, van-style rear end and bubble rear side window often used on custom vans in that period.
Other than that, the Pinto Rally Cruising Wagon got blackout trim and bumpers, script graphics on the side and rally gauges on the dashboard, not to forget the special wheels and interior details.
However, the power was the same as in regular versions. Most Rally Cruising Wagons got a 2.3-liter engine with a measly 88 hp – not exactly racing performance, as the name suggested.
7. Ford Torino Talladega
In the late 60s, Ford was fully dedicated to racing, not only in America, but all over the world through its Total Performance Program. This meant that Ford was investing in Formula 1, Touring Car Championships, Drag Racing, Trans Am racing, rally racing and NASCAR. However, to win in NASCAR, it needed a special weapon and in the late 60s, the competition was fierce. Ford`s success in NASCAR was based on stock car bodies, but in 1969 the rules changed, allowing manufacturers to introduce special, more aerodynamic bodies that could achieve higher top speeds on oval tracks.
In 1969, Ford presented a new engine, the Boss 429, which they installed in the Mustang Boss 429, but the NASCAR officials said that they wouldn’t accept a pony car and that Ford must enter a bigger car with that engine. The Galaxy was too big, but the Fairlane and Torino series were the perfect size. In just a few weeks, Ford engineers had to transform a regular-looking Torino Fastback into a Talladega special model, named after the new NASCAR track, the Talladega Speedway in Alabama.
To make it less slippery at high speeds, Ford installed special lower front end, full grille and tucked the front bumper. A lower suspension and lighter weight did the rest, and the Torino Talladega came close to the magical 200 mph limit straight from the box.
The NASCAR rules stated that manufacturers needed to build at least 500 of those special racing models and sell them to the general public in order to participate in racing. Ford managed to sell exactly 743 copies. Also, the Talladega managed to be dominant in the 1969 NASCAR season, which was Ford`s main concern in the first place. Today, those cars are extremely popular and valuable.
8. Ford Mustang McLaren M81
The late 70s and early 80s were a bad time for muscle cars, but they released some special versions in that period. One of those is the famous M81 McLaren Mustang. This interesting car was built with the help of the well-known McLaren racing team in their American operation office out of Michigan.
The whole idea behind the project was to take the 2.3-liter turbo engine from the regular Mustang and transform it into a street racing beast with race-tuned suspension, a lightweight body, and a host of other modifications. McLaren and Ford did that by installing the tuned turbo engine with 190 hp, a big number for the day, especially coming from 2.3-liters and totally changing the looks of the Ford Mustang.
The result had a better performance and driving dynamics, but also a high price tag. They offered it for sale at the price of $25,000, which was roughly three times the price of a regular example. Despite all the interesting items installed in the M81, it was a tough seller. Only about 10 were sold before Ford canceled the project.
9. 100th Anniversary Models
In 2003, Ford Motor Company celebrated its 100th birthday. To commemorate this big jubilee, Ford decided to offer special editions of its most popular models, including the Focus, F-150, Explorer, Taurus and Mustang. The idea was to paint all the cars black because it was a special homage to famous Henry Ford’s saying: “The customers can choose any color they like, as long as it is black,” and to the legendary Model T, which Ford only produced in black.
Ford created 3,000 cars for each model, only in black and they added better equipment, badges, and a couple of extras. The owners received a special key chain and written proof that they bought one of “Centennial Edition Fords,” as well as a limited edition book on the first 100 years of the Ford Motor Company. Today, when some of the Centennial Edition Fords come on sale, the first thing everybody asks is if they come with all of those goodies. Of all models included in Centennial package, the Ford Mustang is the rarest one with only 2,094 made.
10. Lee Iacocca`s 45th Anniversary Mustang
Every Mustang enthusiast knows the name of Lee Iacocca. Rightfully named the “Father of the Mustang,” Iacocca was a Ford executive who liked the idea of an affordable sports car and he pushed the project to the production line. He took a big gamble by putting his professional reputation on the line for the Mustang, but in the end, it paid greatly since he created the global automotive legend and one of Ford’s best-selling models since 1964.
For the 45th anniversary of the Mustang, Lee Iacocca prepared a special model. It was based on the regular 2009 Mustang GT V8, but with totally revised mechanics and design. In fact, this car looks more like the 2003 Mustang concept rather than the regular production 2009 model. Practically, every panel of the car was different, and that also included the engine. The familiar 4.6-liter V8 got a supercharger and delivered 400 hp. The interior was also modified and the total production was 45 units.
Despite the $90,000 price tag, each one of Iacocca’s Mustangs was sold within hours after the presentation and are prized collectors cars that rarely come up for sale.
The Ford Motor Company has a long, rich history and continues to produce the top-selling vehicles today. It will be interesting to see what they do for their 200th anniversary.