The very first Ford Mustang came off the assembly line in Michigan, in 1964. The public that attended the New York World Fair, caught their first glimpse of the Mustang, and it was viewed on television networks on 19 April 1964. The automotive industry would never see another product launch like this. Within the first 18 months, over a million Mustangs had been sold, and after revisions over the years, the Mustang is still in production today.
The years 1969 and 1970, saw the birth of the Ford Mustang Boss 302. Ford had attempted to combine the brute power of muscle cars, with the comfortable handling capabilities of a sports car. The press loved the Boss 302 Mustang, and even said that this car was everything that the GT-350 should have been. The Ford Mustang Boss 302 featured a 5.0 L V8 engine and cylinder heads that were used on 5.8 L engines. The combination of these parts, together with its manual four-speed gearbox,elevated the Boss 302 Mustang 290 hp into a class of its own. The Boss 302 Mustang was originally going to be named Trans Am, but that already applied to the Firebird by Pontiac.
Ford’s most competitive rival against their Mustang, was the Chevrolet Camaro. Ford had the lead in the “pony car” division, which was largely created by Ford, when they first introduced their Mustang in 1964. Unfortunately, the Mustang could not compete with the Camaro with regard to performance, which led to the development of the 428 Cobra Jet in 1968, and the design and production of the Boss 302 Ford.
The Boss 302 Mustang is also well known at drag racing venues. Ford made a Drag Pack option available, which was free of charge. All that was needed was to order the 4.3:1 rear axle ratio car. The conversion can be seen under the hood, with an oil cooler mounted in front of the vehicle’s radiator.
The Ford Mustang Boss 302 is still very popular with the reproduction of muscle cars, and can be seen in the diecast model toys available in the Matchbox, ERTL American Muscle and Hot Wheels ranges. The “hockey” side stripe on the car, the chin spoiler and the rear louvers distinguish this muscle car which is still popular and much loved.
Production vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, from family cars to off-road vehicles and much, much more. Each production vehicle manufacturer will create a number of models for mass production, thus providing people with a wide choice of vehicles to suit their needs and budgets. The auto production industry is a perfect example of market forces in action – successful vehicles sell in great quantities and for a long time, while models rejected by the market are soon withdrawn. The history of the automibile reflects the changing tastes of the buying public, whose demands are quickly met by the production vehicles designed and produced by automakers worldwide – and competition for consumer dollars is fierce.
In the United States, the main manufacturers of production vehicles are General Motors, Ford and Chrysler (now officially DaimlerChrysler) – traditionally known as ‘The Big Three’. There used to be many more independent automakers, but almost all have gone out of business or have been absorbed by their larger rivals. Some of these bygone makers of American production vehicles were Studebaker, Packard, Hudson, Nash, Willys and Kaiser. A few of these small independent manufacturers joined forces to form American Motors (AMC), but even this wasn’t enough to ensure survival and AMC was bought out by Chrysler in the mid 1970s.
Foreign production vehicles began arriving on American shores after the Second World War. Names like MG, Triumph and Jaguar (England), Volkswagen and Mercedes (Germany), Fiat and Alfa Romeo (Italy) and Renault (France) achieved varying amounts of success here. However, it was the Japanese who have made the biggest impact, and are now the largest foreign-owned manufacturers of production vehicles in the USA. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Subaru are the biggest names and most successful.
Many types of production vehicles are manufactured to directly meet certain automotive needs. Jeep specializes in off-road vehicles that are able to cope with rough terrain and are perfect for adventurous people who want to explore. Porsche and Lamborghini are well known for their powerful and luxurious sports cars. If there’s a recognizable need in the market, you can be sure the automakers will address it with a new production vehicle!
Born in 1955 in Dawsonville, Georgia, William Clyde ‘Bill’ Elliott is one of the most distinguished drivers in Winston Cup history. In his early days he started by helping out at his father’s shop which sold parts for racecars. His father, George Elliott, was an avid racing fan and he often took his sons along to work where they would help fix up different cars. Bill’s two brothers, Ernie and Dan, also did some racing in their youths, but it was young Bill who had the biggest passion for the sport – a passion which his father encouraged after Bill started converting a road car into a race car. According to George, it was his way of keeping Bill off the back roads of racing. He bought his son a 1963 Ford Fairlane and before long, Bill was whizzing around the racetrack.
Bill Elliott started racing regularly in 1974 when he took to the Dixie Speedway in Georgia. When he started winning, with his father’s support, Bill’s career reached new heights and just two years later, Elliott made his first Winston Cup start at Rockingham. His first Winston Cup win came in November 1983 at Riverside and in 1985, he clocked up eleven wins and 11 poles. He took the chequered flag at the Winston Million and his success led to him being garnered with several nicknames such as ‘Million Dollar Bill’ and ‘Wild Bill’. He also became the first NASCAR driver to be featured on the cover of Sport Illustrated – an accomplishment which boosted his career even further. Amazingly enough, even though Elliott had enjoyed numerous successes by this stage in his career, he had not won the Winston Cup Championship. He eventually accomplished this feat in 1988.
With a career going back to 1975, by March 2010, Elliott had clocked up 810 NASCAR starts and 44 wins. He had won the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Series, placed in the Top Five 175 times, and 320 times in the Top Ten with a total recorded winnings exceeding US$37million. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on 15 August 2007. On Memorial Day in 2009, Bill Elliott became the 7th member of the so-called “800 Club” by taking his 800th career Sprint Cup start at the Lowes Motor Speedway. He was also the first NASCAR Driver to be featured in a video game. No doubt his reputation as a unpretentious and friendly person had endeared him to thousands of fans and, when combined with his brilliant racing ability, will continue to hold him in good stead as he continues onward with his racing career.
The Champ Car World Series, which was formerly known as Championship Auto Racing Teams or CART is the name of an Open Wheel World Championship auto racing series. It replaced CART in 2004 after the Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc. filed for bankruptcy. Roger Penske, Pat Patrick and Dan Gurney originally founded the organization in 1978 along with several other team owners who had been regularly participating in various CART and IndyCar events.
Originally CART oversaw the sanctioning of Champ Car racing in the US, Canada, Mexico and Australia. Today the Champ Car World Series performs this task. Championship Car racing differs from Formula One (or F1) racing in many ways, although the cars themselves may appear very similar to the casual eye. For example, Champ Car racing usually takes place on oval tracks, cars are permitted turbocharged engines and the cars use methanol for fuel rather than gasoline. In addition, Champ Cars are about 15% heavier than F1 cars and have sculpted undersides that produce ground-hugging forces – a practice banned by the Formula One governing board in 1982. Perhaps the main difference in the two types of racing is the expense: Formula One being a much more costly endeavor due to the requirement that teams build and prepare their own chassis. Champ Car teams source their cars’ chassis from a number of independent suppliers, which fosters competition and keeps costs down.
Most modern Champ Cars use turbocharged engines built by Ford Cosworth. Although only displacing 162 cubic inches, these methanol-fueled powerhouses put out an astonishing 850 horsepower in full racing trim – enough to propel the 1,550-pound Champ Cars to a pavement-blistering 240 mph!
The 1 200 acre Las Vegas Motor Speedway complex is situated along Las Vegas Boulevard North, and is home to four racing tracks. Speedway Motorsports Inc. are the owners of the entire complex, and have their head offices in North Carolina.
Several racing teams are based here and since 2005 the track opens twice a week for local drag racing. It provides a safe environment for drag racers and assists the authorities by discouraging drag racing in the streets. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway also hosts the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during their driving training courses. The Las Vegas Speedway has a 600 meter paved oval that is called The Bullring; a clay oval 800 meter Dirt Track; the 1/4 mile drag strip that is known as The Strip; and the D-shaped oval Superspeedway that is 2.41 kilometers in length.
Plans to reconfigure the Las Vegas Motor Speedway track was announced in 2006. This would include “progressive banking”. Banking means the angle that you are driving at on the track. To increase this means that drivers will be able to drive higher up on the track, and can drive side by side. Also included in the new construction was a new pit road and a fan zone. The new Las Vegas Motor Speedway track was opened on 8 August 2006, and stock cars were first on the track, together with Kurt Busch. Busch is a NEXTEL Cup Champion and is always seen behind the wheel of the #2 Miller Lite Penske Dodge Charger. He was the very first NASCAR Nextel Cup Driver to test a stock car on the new reconfigured and reopened Las Vegas Motor Speedway track.
Just like any other speedway, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has also received some nicknames. Most of the Nextel Cup Series races that have been held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway were won by drivers behind the wheel of a Ford. It was therefore often called “The Blue Oval”. The only drivers who have won here and not been driving a Ford, are Sterling Marlin, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Roush has also seen many successes here at the Las Vegas Speedway track, with drivers such as Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin. Thus, the track was known to many as “The House of Roush”. For a few years, the Winston No Bull 5 Million Dollar Bonus was held at the Las Vegas Speedway. This race would award one million dollars to the race winner and was won twice by Jeff Burton, while Jeff Gordon walked away with the prize money in the 2001 race.