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Johnson’s first Mustang set for Adelaide

ONE of Dick Johnson’s Group A Ford Mustangs is the latest to join the list of machinery for the 2024 Adelaide Motorsport Festival.

Johnson and backer Ross Palmer imported a pair of Zakspeed-built Mustangs from Germany in 1984, ahead of Australia’s first season of touring car racing under international Group A rules.

The car that will feature at the Adelaide Motorsport Festival is the first car, which was originally raced by German star Klaus Niedzwiedz in 1983 prior to it heading down under the following year.

It served as DJR’s backup #71 entry for the 1984 Bathurst 1000 and was raced on the support card of that year’s Surfers Paradise enduro by John French, before it became Johnson’s green #17 steed for the 1985 ATCC.

Johnson also raced it in the Oran Park 250 enduro, in which an broken stub axle took him out of a comfortable lead with just 12 laps remaining.

Johnson behind the wheel during practice for the 1984 ‘Great Race’. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

A switch to the second, newer Zakspeed-built car for the rest of 1985 and the bulk of 1986 means this car never got to race on the Adelaide streets in support of the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Famously, Johnson piloted the second Group A Mustang to victory in the inaugural event’s touring car support race, having made a blinder of a getaway from pole despite not being able to see the starting lights!

This car was sold to New Zealand at the end of 1986, but was brought back to Australia and restored in the 2000s and has been a regular feature of historic racing in the hands of multiple custodians, including the late Bill Pye, Brad Host and Terry Lawlor.

Steven, Jett and Dick Johnson with the first DJR Mustang at the 2023 Repco Bathurst 1000. Pic: Ross Gibb

Most recently, it appeared in the on-track retro laps at the Repco Bathurst 1000 piloted by third-generation racer Jett Johnson.

The car will join several Bathurst-winning touring cars at the 2024 Adelaide Motorsport Festival, to be held on March 16-17, including the Nissan Skyline GT-Rs that won the 1991 and 1992 races, as well as the Holden Dealer Team’s 1982 and 1983-winning Commodore VH.

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