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30 Ultra-Fast Fords That Drivers Forgot About

Vukasin HerbezFebruary 22, 2020

In all of car history, there hasn’t been a bigger, more comprehensive racing and performance program than Ford’s, “Total Performance” project during the ’60s. In those days, Ford produced, raced and promoted numerous performance cars, all of which have become legends and winning championships all over the world. After Ford discontinued the Total Performance program and the recession killed the company’s racing aspirations, they continued to produce performance cars for various markets.

Ford never abandoned the idea of affordable performance cars. For the next few decades, they introduced some inexpensive yet exciting models that captured the imagination of the public. Drivers may know about the infamous Mustang and similar models, but there are a lot more performance cars from Ford that drivers forgot about. So here are 30 ultra-fast Fords that got lost in the corridors of time.

  1. Ford Escort RS1600/RS2000

When Ford introduced it in 1968, the Escort Mk1 was a compact, rear-wheel-drive saloon aimed at family buyers. The basic version used the forgettable 1.1 and 1.3-liter engines. But for those who wanted more, Ford offered the 1600 RS and RS 2000 models.

Those cars had special suspensions, special engines, lots of power and low weights. They were capable of defeating much more expensive cars, as well as some proper racing monsters. The RS Escorts were perfect rally cars, battling on the muddy back roads during the ’70s and ’80s.

  1. Ford Mustang McLaren M81

Ford built this interesting car with the help of the well-known McLaren racing team. The idea was to take a 2.3-liter turbo engine from a regular Mustang and transform it into a street-racing beast. They added a race-tuned suspension, lightweight body and a host of other modifications.

On top of all that, they tuned the turbo engine to produce 190 HP, which was a big number for the day, especially coming from 2.3-liters. Thanks to McLaren, they transformed the looks of the Fox Mustang.

The result was a good performance and driving dynamics but also a high price tag. The Mustang McLaren M81 had a price tag of $25,000, which was roughly three times the price of a regular Mustang. Despite all the interesting features in the M81, it was a tough sell, In fact, Ford sold approximately 10 before canceling the project.

  1. Ford King Cobra

Ford wanted to attack those fast and victorious Aero Mopars, including the Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird. So, for the 1970 model year, they designed the Torino King Cobra. Apparently, the Torino Talladega with its modest modifications was not enough to beat those wild-winged warriors from Mopar.

The King Cobra was a regular Ford Torino with a special wedge-shaped front end and 429 engine. Although the car did well during its initial testing, at the last-minute, Ford canceled the project. In the end, they only made three cars that are incredibly expensive today.

  1. Ford Mustang Boss 351

In 1971, the Mustang received its final restyle for the first generation. Once again, the car again grew in size and weight. Also, it featured a new, sharper look and a much wider track.

Unfortunately, the Boss 302 and Boss 429 versions were gone, but the Grande and Mach I stayed, albeit with lower power ratings. However, another interesting model Ford introduced in 1971 was the Boss 351.

The 1971 Mustang Boss 351 was one of the rarest Mustangs Ford produced. In fact, they only offered it for one year, building just 1,800 of them. It was powered by a highly-tuned version of the 351 V8 engine that produced approximately 330 HP. It was faster, better-looking and more expensive than the Mach 1 of the same model year. Today, the Boss 351 is a true collector’s item.

  1. Ford Sierra Cosworth

Introduced in 1985, the Ford Sierra was Ford’s typical family sedan they produced in numerous versions. The car featured rear-wheel drive and an independent rear suspension. However, when Ford decided to contract the Cosworth tuning house for a performance model, a legend was born. Cosworth added a special body kit with spoilers, unique wheels and colors.

Under the hood was a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produced 225 HP. It propelled the car to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. For 1985, those were fantastic numbers. Soon, the Sierra Cosworth became one of the hottest Fords at the time. It was also quite successful on the tracks, winning many races.

  1. Ford Mustang 41X

No one knows how many Fox-body Mustangs Ford built or how many there are now, which is a big part of its appeal. Also, not many people know about the 41X because it’s the rarest, most interesting part of Fox-body Mustang history.

The 41X is the trim code for stripped-base LX models with 5.0 HO engines and manual gearboxes. When the 5.0 HO became available, most serious drag racers wanted even lighter cars for drag strip duty. So, they ordered their base models with the top-of-the-line engine and no equipment. Ford even removed the mandatory features, like the sun visors, sound deadening, speakers and seatbelts.

  1. Ford Capri RS3100

Because they designed it in the UK, the Capri was a European Mustang in every way. Using the “long hood-short deck” formula and semi-fastback styling, the Capri had a fantastic stance. Even though Ford based it on the standard Cortina floorpan with the same engine, the Capri looked like a thoroughbred sports/muscle car.

In fact, people often confused it for a U.S.-built Ford. However, most Capris came with slow, four-cylinder engines. However, even the six-cylinder versions were sluggish.

So, in 1971, Ford UK presented a limited edition Capri they called the RS 3100. It had a 3.1-liter straight-six engine delivering 145 HP, so it could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds. The rear spoiler, unique wheels and graphics made the RS 3100 a highly-desirable British Ford.

  1. Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe

Ford unveiled the tenth generation of the venerable Thunderbird in 1989. It came with a redesigned platform and a more elegant, sleeker body. The Thunderbird was a luxury coupe with no sporty ambitions. But soon, the Ford engineers transformed it into an interesting performance model more like a muscle car: the Thunderbird Super Coupe.

Like the Turbo Coupe, the SC had a smaller engine. But this time, Ford supercharged it for higher performance. The 3.8-liter V8 got a supercharger and an intercooler, as well as a high tech motor management system.

With all that, it delivered 210 HP and went from 0 to 60 in just 7.5 seconds, which was impressive. Soon, the SC became famous for its handling and braking capabilities. Also, it had high top speeds courtesy of the aerodynamic shape and clever engineering.

  1. Ford Torino Talladega

Ford was always a successful brand in the NASCAR championships. So when Dodge started moving in with its specially-prepared Chargers, the company had to react. Soon, Ford unveiled its own Aero-warrior model they named the Torino Talladega, after the iconic NASCAR track.

Ford gave the standard Torino a unique front end and other updates to homologate it for the superspeedways. The company built just 754 Talladegas in a short time, using most of them for racing. Unlike the extreme Charger Daytona, Ford modified the front and back of the Torino without any wings or pointy front end. This approach was successful, helping the Torino Talladega win many races.

  1. Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt

In 1963, Pontiac, Chevrolet and GM were done with factory-supported racing. While Mopar dominated the drag strips with the Max Wedge engine, Ford was lacking the firepower to compete with Dodge and Plymouth. However, that changed in 1964 when Ford introduced its new factory-built drag racer, the Fairlane Thunderbolt.

Ford used a plain Fairlane two-door sedan body and removed all but the essentials. That made the Thunderbolt lighter in weight with big power.

Under the hood was the new 427 V8 FE with a factory output of 425 HP. However, most experts think the real output was closer to 600 HP. The high numbers were due to the special intake manifold and pistons, as well as the high-performance heads.

Ford only made 100 Thunderbolts in 1964, selling them to professional racers for one dollar each. The Thunderbolt was so successful, it won the 1964 NHRA, despite the fierce competition.

  1. Ford Cortina Lotus Mk1

At first glance, there’s nothing special about the Cortina Lotus Mk1. However, during the better part of the ’60s, it was Ford’s main touring car. The Mk1 won numerous races throughout Europe and America. But the Lotus Cortina Mk1 started life as an ordinary economy, two-door sedan. That was until Ford sent the car to Lotus for some thorough modifications.

The Ford Cortina Lotus Mk1 came with a small 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that delivered approximately 105 HP. But, with its small weight, nimble handling and precise steering, it could beat those much bigger, more powerful cars on the racetrack.

  1. Ford RS200

Back in the mid-80s, motorsports were all about the famous Group B. Group B was a part of the World Rally Championship. It featured factory prototypes they loosely based on production cars with turbocharged engines and all-wheel-drive systems. The cars were fast and dangerous, yet loved by fans all over the world. But eventually, the FIA canceled Group B.

However, for a few years, car manufacturers battled each other for supremacy on the mud of those rally stages. Group B provided the market with many interesting and fast road cars. That was because all the car manufacturers were obligated to produce a certain number of road-going vehicles for homologation purposes.

One of the most outstanding models was the Ford RS200 they introduced in 1984. A mid-engined, turbocharged, sports car, it featured a lightweight body. Also, it came with a 2.1-liter engine producing 250 HP, and two seats. Thanks to its all-wheel-drive, the RS200 was capable of jumping from 0 to 60 mph in just five seconds. Ford made 200 road versions the company detuned from 500 in the race version down to 450 HP.

  1. Ford Mustang SVO

The Ford Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department unveiled a special Mustang SVO for 1984. It featured a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivered 175 HP; a high power output for a small engine. In the light car, that engine gave the ’84 Mustang SVO an impressive performance.

The package included four-wheel disc brakes, a stiffer suspension and sharper steering, transforming it into a capable sports car. For 1985, the SVO upped the power to 205 HP. That turned the eyes of the motoring public to the third-generation Mustang because not all Mustangs had a V8 engine.

  1. Ford Capri Perana

Basil Green was an accomplished South African racer-turned tuner and dealer. So when Ford introduced their affordable, attractive Capri coupe in late 1969, Green realized the potential. Soon after that, he introduced the Capri Perana.

Green installed the 5.0-liter V8 from the Ford Mustang in the 3.0-liter V6 Capri. However, to make the car handle properly, his engineers had to modify the suspension, chassis, brakes and steering. So, after a lot of work, the Ford Capri Perana was born.

The power output was around 280 HP. However, in the Capri’s lightweight body, the Perana was able to reach 60 mph in just six seconds. Because of that, during the 1970s, the Capri Perana dominated the South African racing scene.

  1. Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

Most people wouldn’t consider the Ford Thunderbird to be a muscle car. However, in the ’80s, Ford introduced a couple of interesting Thunderbirds to the performance car scene. Although the T-bird was available with a V8 engine, the best-performing version was the Turbo Coupe that debuted in 1987.

The Turbo Coupe received a Mustang Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a manual transmission. It produced 190 HP with a top speed of 143 mph due to the relative lightness and aerodynamic shape of the ninth-generation Thunderbird.

  1. Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Built from 1992 to 1996, the Ford Escort RS Cosworth was one of the best British muscle cars of the ’90s. Ford used Sierra RS Cosworth parts to build this smaller Escort. Also, it featured an updated 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivering 227 HP.

The exterior was attractive with the flared wheel arches. Ford installed a special hood with cooling vents and a massive easily-adjustable rear wing. One of the main features was the rally proven all-wheel-drive system.

In fact, it was necessary since the car developed over 230 lb-ft of torque. The Escort RS Cosworth was fast with a 5.8 second 0-to-60 mph time, so it could beat most sports cars of the day.

  1. Ford 7-Litre

Ford introduced a new full-size model for 1966 they named the 7-Litre. The “7” stood for displacement and the “Litre” spelling provided charm to the ordinary Galaxie. Under the hood was a 428 V8 providing a respectable 345 HP and a convincing performance.

Ford put everything into the 7-Litre, such as A/C and bucket seats, which were standard. They used a heavy-duty suspension and added power everything. Buyers had a choice of special colors and the 7-Litre badges that identified the model. This became a one-year-only car because, in 1967, the 428 was back. However, Ford only offered it as an option on the Galaxie, not as a standalone model.

  1. Ford Falcon Sprint

Debuting in 1960, the Falcon was the first compact model for Ford and an instant bestseller. With a modern-looking body and economical six-cylinder engines, the Falcon was an affordable, high-quality product appealing to a lot of customers. Soon, Ford introduced some powerful versions and V8 engines, as well as a convertible, making the Falcon even more popular and interesting.

Buyers could even get the Sprint version with a 260 or 289 V8. Since the Falcon used the same platform and drivetrain as the Mustang, it had the same performance, power and driving dynamics. However, it didn’t have the same appeal as the Mustang did.

  1. Merkur XR4Ti

During the ’80s, Ford made several attempts to revive its performance image. That included the introduction of the Merkur XR4Ti model. This was basically a British Ford Sierra with a special aero package. They added a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-banger and various other improvements.

Ford envisioned it as a hot hatch with rear-wheel drive. They gave it racing credentials and better driving dynamics than its front-wheel-drive competitors. Unfortunately, the Merkur XR4Ti was unsuccessful since it was expensive. Also, American buyers didn’t understand what Ford was attempting to prove with this car.

  1. Ford Fairlane 427 Lightweight

When Ford presented the new Fairlane in 1966, the car was an immediate hit with customers all over America. To make sure the Fairlane continued the tradition of the massively-successful Thunderbolt, Ford produced 57 specially-designed R-Code Fairlane 427 Lightweights, selling them to drag racers nationwide.

The 427 was the final evolution of the Ford venerable FE block. The real output was around 650 HP. However, this version of the 427 Medium Riser had a 13.2:1 compression ratio. While it insured big power, it had questionable street manners. Also, the 427 Lightweight had a fiberglass hood with a functional hood scoop, as well as lightweight fenders, bumpers, and a stripped interior.

Thanks to all that power and the low weight, the 427 Fairlane set a new B Class record with a 11.2 second-quarter-mile time. That proved Ford had made another drag strip monster after the legendary Thunderbolt.

  1. Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II

Ford had the Talladega, so Mercury wanted its own Aero Special. The Mercury designers copied the design cues from the Talladega, creating the Spoiler II for 1969. The Cyclone Spoiler was mechanically-identical. However, Mercury sold it in two packages, the Cale Yarborough Special and the Dan Gurney Special.

The packages had different color schemes but otherwise were the same. The only difference between the Talladega and the Cyclone Spoiler II was the standard rear spoiler, front grille, and rear lights.

The official rule was that manufacturers must produce 500 or more copies of homologation specials. But, there was some confusion on the exact number of Cyclone Spoiler IIs Mercury produced. Although the official literature states 503 examples, most experts claim the actual number was approximately 350 cars.

There was a rumor that the Cyclone Spoiler II production was running behind. So, when the NASCAR officials came to check the cars, they added some regular Cyclones they painted in Spoiler II colors. This way, they made it look like they built 503 cars when in reality, they made far fewer of them.

  1. Ford Falcon GT HO 351

One of the most famous Australian muscle cars was the mighty Ford Falcon GT HO 351 they introduced in 1971. Despite its performance portfolio, it was still a four-door sedan. But, it came with all the proper muscle car equipment.

Under the shaker hood was a Ford 351 V8 with a beefed-up suspension and brakes. The power output was 300 HP for the standard version, but Ford offered the Phase II and Phase III options. The car looked the same except that Ford upgraded the mechanicals. Also, in the ultimate Phase III version, the Falcon GT HO produced over 350 HP.

  1. Ford Racing Puma

In the late ’90s, Ford UK presented the Puma. It was a small compact performance model the company based on the Fiesta. The Puma looked fast but in reality, it wasn’t much faster than an economy Fiesta. So, in 1999, the Ford rally team prepared a limited production model they named the Racing Puma in just 500 examples.

The Racing Puma had special paint, bodywork and wheels. They added an updated suspension setup while retaining a slightly-modified stock 1.7-liter four-cylinder. The power output was modest at 150 HP, but because the car was light and nimble, drivers got an exhilarating experience.

  1. Ford GT70

If you think this car is the Le Mans-winning GT40, think again. This is the GT70, Ford Britain’s special project, a purpose-built rally racer that looked like a scaled-down version of the famous Ford GT40 race car.

The GT70 had a 2.6-liter V6 engine from the Capri RS2600. Ford included a special lightweight chassis, an aerodynamic body and a host of other racing components. Unfortunately, it never got the chance to prove itself on the track because the FIA changed the rules. So after building just six cars, they axed the project.

  1. Ford OSI 20M TS

Back in the ’60s, Italy was full of small design houses that built interesting variants of regular production cars. Many small body shops signed lucrative contracts with big car companies for financial backing. They also got the opportunity to showcase their creations in front of a worldwide audience.

One of those small firms was OSI, which stood for Officine Stampaggi Industriali, meaning “Industrial Stampings Workshops.” They concentrated on producing bodies based on the Fiat chassis. However, their best-known model was a Ford. Back in the mid-60s, OSI teamed with European Ford to produce a limited run of sports cars using a mid-size Taunus chassis.

They named the car the Ford OSI 20M TS. It had a gorgeous and elegant coupe body and a 2.3-liter V6 engine producing approximately 110 HP. Even though the horsepower wasn’t much, since the OSI 20M TS was so light, the performance was satisfying.

  1. Mercury Cougar Eliminator Boss 302

Despite being the twin brother to the Mustang, the Mercury Cougar gained a cult following. It even created a name of its own in the late ’60s. But for the 1969 muscle car wars, Mercury unveiled something special: the Cougar Eliminator.

The Cougar Eliminator was a top of the line model with several interesting engine choices. You could get the Boss 302 with a high revving 5.0-liter V8 in a slightly bigger body with more luxury features.

However, more buyers optioned for the bigger 351 or 428 Cobra Jet engines, making the Eliminator Boss 302 quite rare. In two years, the 1969/1970 Mercury made only 638 of those great machines.

  1. Shelby Europa

When Shelby introduced its line of powerful Mustangs, European enthusiasts took notice. Soon, the cars were popular on the continent, as well as in the States. One of the first Shelby dealers was the famous Belgian racecar driver, Claude Dubois.

After they stopped producing the Shelby in 1970, Dubois asked Carroll Shelby for the rights to produce a special line of European spec 1971/72 Mustangs under the Shelby name.

In two years, they only produced about 14 cars, which makes the Shelby Europa an incredibly rare muscle car. Most of them got a 351 V8 engine, but some received the 429 Cobra Jet.

  1. Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet Convertible

Ford presented the legendary 428 Cobra Jet in 1968, and immediately Ford put it in the Mustang. The Mustang 428 CJ was a mid-year introduction Ford mostly intended for drag racing. That’s why they only sold it in modest numbers.

Apart from the 50 Fastbacks with the CJ engine and other versions, Ford did offer the Cobra Jet in convertible form. They only built 34 cars, which makes them one of the rarest Cobra Jet models in automotive history.

  1. Ford Mustang HO

In 1972, Ford discontinued the Boss 351 and Cobra Jet Mustang while killing the Shelby models two years prior. However, the performance Mustang buyers weren’t left without a choice because Ford offered the HO model. The “HO” stood for High Output and it was like a Boss 351 for 1972.

It featured a performance 351 V8 they rated at 275 HP, which was quite healthy for the early ’70s. But in the end, Ford only made approximately 60 of those interesting machines, in all three body styles.

  1. Ford Galaxie 406

Ford was present on the drag racing scene, but in the early ’60s, the company was losing ground to those powerful Mopars and Pontiacs. The biggest “Blue Oval” engine was the 390 V8. However, it wasn’t enough compared to the mighty 421 Super Duty or 413 Max Wedge V8. So, the guys from Dearborn bored the venerable 390 to create the new 406 V8 for the 1962 model year.

The new engine delivered 385 HP in standard trim, but with the optional “six-barrel” intake system, it pumped out a respectable 405 HP. Although those G-Code cars were rare, they found a way onto the race tracks, showing that Ford was capable of defending its turf against those powerful Mopars and Pontiacs.

These are the 30 ultra-fast Fords that drivers forgot about for a variety of reasons. But even though they fell under the radar, each of these vehicles made an impact on automotive history. These are important cars that paved the way for the future.

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