The First AWD Mustang Wasn’t Ken Block’s Hoonicorn

This was first published on the Oppositelock community on November 19, 2014. The site no longer exists, so I have republished it here.

Gymkhana 7 had just come out featuring the Hoonicorn, a wild all-wheel-drive Ford Mustang. I had recently visited the Saratoga Automobile Museum to see their Mustang exhibit, and learned about this early predecessor to the Hoonicorn there, so I wrote about it.

By now we’ve all seen Ken Block tearing up the streets of LA in his Mustang that turns all four tires into smoke at once. The title that appears at 1:10 proclaims the Hoonicorn to be “the only all wheel drive performance Mustang ever built.” This may be true, but it is not the first all wheel drive Mustang. For that, we need to go back nearly 50 years.

Harry Ferguson Research was an early pioneer in AWD systems for cars. In 1961, the Ferguson P99 became the first – and only – AWD Formula 1 car to ever win a race, the Oulton Park Gold Cup. (It was driven by some bloke called Stirling Moss.) But what Ferguson really wanted was to sell their design to a major auto manufacturer.

In 1965, Ferguson bought three new Mustangs, had them shipped to their factory in the UK, and converted them to all wheel drive. The 289 c.i. V8 remained the same, but the car gained center and front differentials, a forward output shaft, and halfshafts to the front wheels. The system added just 196 pounds to the car. Power was distributed 37% to the front and 63% to the rear. Those numbers may sound familiar to BMW fans – more than 20 years later, the 325iX, BMW’s first AWD car, would get the same torque split to maintain their familiar rear wheel drive handling characteristics, exactly as Ferguson did for the Mustang.

According to Motor magazine, Ferguson chose the Mustang in particular because it would demonstrate the benefits of AWD to “maximum advantage.” The writer followed one of Ferguson’s converted Mustangs in a standard RWD model on a “spirited” drive, and described “astonishing acceleration on a surface with very little grip and if you tried to stay with it on the corners you spun ignominiously.”

Despite high hopes by Ferguson, Ford had no interest in adopting their AWD system for the Mustang. But imagine if they did. Ford was competing in European rallies such as the Monte Carlo at the time, having recently replaced the Falcon with the Mustang. Ford could have dominated the world rally scene with AWD Mustangs, fifteen years before the Audi Quattro would bring AWD to rally in 1980.

Ferguson’s effort was not a complete waste, however. Two years later, in 1967, the Jensen FF (Ferguson Formula) would incorporate Ferguson’s AWD into a stretched Interceptor, along with Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes and traction control.