THE FORD MUSTANG THAT SAW THE START AND END OF GROUP A

Lawrie Nelson at the helm of the Capri Components Mustang at Winton in 1985 - the first ATCC round held to Group A rules. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

VARIOUS iterations of Ford Mustangs have appeared in different eras of Australian touring car and racing – but only one car can claim to have covered the start and end of the Group A era.

Lawrie Nelson’s Capri Components Mustang, available for sale now via the V8 Sleuth Showroom here, was at the very first race that Group A cars competed at – the 1984 Castrol 500 at Sandown – as well as the very last Group A event in 1992 at the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Adelaide.

Along the way it appeared in a range of Australian Touring Car Championship rounds, two Bathurst 1000s and six Sandown 500s.

Nelson, a long-time Capri racer, imported a Mustang GT from the United States in 1984 and built it up into a race car from there.

The Victorian privateer already held a special place in ATCC history by that point, given he had contributed to Ford’s list of race wins in the championship, albeit in a race often overlooked in history.

The-then Capri driver won the three-litre only race held as part of the Oran Park round of the ATCC back in 1979 when organisers ran separate races for the small and big cars.

So he therefore helped contribute to Ford’s milestone 400th ATCC/Supercars Championship race win achieved last year by Anton De Pasquale at The Bend, celebrated in a limited edition print available here from the V8 Sleuth Superstore.

Nelson’s Mustang made its first appearance in the Group A class of the 1984 Castrol 500 at Sandown, however a litany of problems with the new car meant he decided to withdraw it after practice and race his trusty Capri instead.

A rare site of the Nelson/Jones Mustang on track during practice for the 1984 Castrol 500 at Sandown. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

Nelson and Peter Jones took the ‘Stang to Bathurst to compete in the Group A class of that year’s ‘Great Race’, however they only completed one lap due to steering issues.

The Capri Components Mustang was a more regular presence in the 1985 ATCC, including at the first round of the Group A era at Winton. Nelson took in four other rounds that year with a best finish of sixth at the Winton season opener.

He teamed with Bill O’Brien for Sandown and Bathurst though the duo didn’t finish either of the endurance classics. As other Ford runners moved into Sierras, Victorian Nelson stuck firm with this Mustang, though its appearances from there largely continued to be limited to his home state.

Nelson and the Capri Components car appeared in the three ATCC rounds in 1986, two in 1987, four in 1988, three in 1989 and a final appearance at Phillip Island in 1990 and he and the car were regulars at the annual Sandown 500 every year through to 1989.

Given the car had such a long period Group A race life, it was able to take advantage of a range of homologation upgrades that made this Mustang the highest specification car of its type in the world.

In 1986 the Getrag gearbox’s internals were upgraded to the stronger Holinger gearset and CAMS allowed a fully floating Ford nine-inch diff with Harrop alloy centre to be fitted in 1987.

In 1990 CAMS permitted a range of freedoms to normally aspirated V8-engined Group A cars, so Lawrie used these changes to install a Ford Motorsport four-bolt Windsor engine block, Ford SVO aluminium cylinder heads and an aluminium single plain alloy inlet manifold.

Nelson’s Mustang among a pack of Group A cars in the 1990 ATCC round at Phillip Island. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

The very last appearance of Group A touring cars in Australia came at the 1992 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Adelaide and it was fitting that Nelson dusted off the Mustang and joined the field for a final ‘period’ blast.

Competing at that Adelaide event meant this historic Mustang holds the totally unique distinction of being the only car present for the very start and very end of the Group A era in Australia from Sandown 1984 to Adelaide 1992.

This piece of Ford motorsport history is now on the market from its third and current owner. The car was put through a full rotisserie restoration at Gunnedah Repairs with a new full steel roll cage installed as well as a new fuel cell and a complete engine rebuild by Brad Tilley Auto Garage.

The car has been a regular in Heritage Touring Cars and comes with a Motorsport Australia Certificate of Description, allowing it to compete in Historic motorsport in Australia. It’s also highly eligible for Group A Historic racing around the world.

The last Group A event in Australia was in Adelaide in 1992. Nelson’s Mustang was there, completing the circle of the Group A era in Australia. Photo: an1images.com / Graeme Neander.

Watch this Mustang in action below at Bathurst when it competed in the Heritage Touring Cars category at the Mountain:

With over 20 years in the Australian motorsport industry, Noonan is the head of V8 Sleuth. He’s held a range of roles including working in television with Seven and Ten, print media and public relations. With a specialty in Australian motorsport history, he’s known around racing paddocks as ’the Sleuth’ and started his motorsport media career in 1997.