Driving the Moffat Mustang
14 April 2011
Perhaps the greatest car in our collection, with looks to die for, an exhaust note that brings grown men to their knees and a set of race stats that most cars and drivers could only dream about, the Allan Moffat Mustang is an Aussie racing Icon.
This photo just says pure Muscle Car.
We bought her from Moffat about 14 years ago and have been it?s custodian ever since, known affectionately in our family as the Moffstang, it is a responsibility that we do not take lightly.
For years David (Dad) never let us drive the car, allowing only Moffat and himself to that task, but with his health battles he now allows Chris and myself to drive this mighty machine in a few selected events each year. Having driven it at a variety of events at Queensland Raceway, Eastern Creek, Surfers Paradise street circuit, Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Longford Revival and now Symmons Plains I thought I might quickly explain what this grand old beast is like behind the wheel.
At Goodwood Festival of Speed 2009.
Getting into her is a real work of art that most contortionists would find a challenge, a real effort for us normal humans, but learn the way and you never forget. It was never built for Lemans style starts with the low steering wheel position and raised floor being the main reason for such a hard entry. The seat itself is quite tight, even for a superbly fit example of a male like myself (not), but once you?re snugly in her you know you will not be going anywhere. In front of you is all race, with a grouping of gauges for oil and water temp, oil pressure, fuel pressure and the big tilted 10 000rpm tacho ideally located dead bang in the middle.
Note the accelerator pedal, well worn indent from Moffat's touch.
Peddles are a nice arrangement with the mesh covered brake and noise pedal both close enough to allow easy heel and toe action. The shifter is just an arm?s reach and behind that is a unique little box next to the seat which is the starter, lights, wipers, fire bomb and kill switch for the car. It?s all pretty simple and efficient in the layout, as much as you could expect from any race car. The unique seating of a high seat and low steering wheel makes it feel more like an open wheeler racer than a touring car, and is quite a tight fit between the wheel and your right leg, which we were always thinking about adjusting it for us, till we saw Moffat fit in it perfectly at the recent Australian Grand Prix event? As it is so important to us that the cars reflect how they were when raced by each specific driver, it will be staying this way forever!
Little rachet is for tightening the seat bealts, as used in Jet Fighters in 1969.
We recently were fortunate to be given the chance to do a few demo laps at the fantastic Symmons Plains in Tasmania, a good mix of super slow and fast corners, with a fun back sweeping straight. The Moffstang is not ideally set-up for the track, but it is such a forgiving car that it still felt pretty good. So here is a lap, by and absolute punter, the best I can describe.
Starting is a simple flick of the ignition switch, then the starter with a small dab to the loud pedal to feed the Webers. It?s a pretty dramatic start-up roar, which vibrates right through the car, letting you know she is something quite serious. After letting her warm up, it?s time to depress the heavy clutch, put her in gear and do your best not to stall her as you take off. Clutch and lightweight flywheel work against you here, but you do work it out after a few years! Steering is as you would expect, bloody heavy, but once moving it is quite direct and reasonably precise. She is a bit fluffy down low, so as you pull out on the track it is a bit understated till you get over the magic 4000rpm.. and she comes alive?
In full flight at Symmons Plains
The roar from the engine is overpowering, as you plant your foot, past the pit entry in second gear around a left then faster right powering the Moffstang comfortably through and down the straight heading to the hairpin, it always amazes me just how quick and precise it gets through the gears as the race close ratio T-10 transmits the power down to the rear. You change into third and that great gearing means your right on the engines power zone and your away, as it throws you down and backwards into the tight seat as you get all tingly as the noise is just plain glory! Each gear quickly winds out to 7000rpm, so you?re in top gear before you know it.
The big Lincoln brakes are not too flash initially as you need to apply them pretty hard, but they slow her up well enough for the first gear hairpin. The solid brake pedal gives you the confidence that they will never fail you, but if you by chance hit them hard when still cold, the rears will come on a bit too much and some quick action at the steering wheel is needed to stop the car coming in like your a rally star sideways, but it?s nothing too unmanageable and once warmed up, that issue is far forgotten. As you approach, plough down on the stoppers and heel and toe with a few nice sharp throttle blips all the way down to first gear. The steering lock is pretty bad and if you don?t hit the hairpin with a wide angle you will find yourself having to do a three point turn to get around, not a real good look!
Mmm race spec Boss 302 Trans Am... Nice.
Leaving the hairpin it is all on again and you hurtle down the back straight, the rear end gets the power down amazingly well, those big Good Year tyres transmit the 480 odd horse power with good effect, even though it is very easy to get wheel spin in the first and second gears if your too aggressive on the gear changes. With each change its really hard to explain the feeling you get, that noise plus those lovely vibrations from those solid engine mounts just go right through you, it?s every racers dream feeling as they build to a big crescendo bellowing out in top gear as your lining up the fastest corner of the track, absolutely flat out. The G-forces move the car out to the edge as she softly floats her way through the fast corner. The Kar Kraft developed chassis really gives you great confidence and allows you to enjoy the game between the slightly softer front suspension and tighter rear which feels to be a lovely balance, the tyres larger profile creating a bit of movement but still giving a great amount of grip. Then it?s time to get focused as you hit the brakes, a little bit early here as you do not want to be too much of a hero for the tightening left hander.
Pushing hard to stay in front of Alan Hamilton's Porsche.
Take it in third, winding the lock off as she naturally likes to progress into oversteer and then a short bit on the load pedal till you bring it back to second and again playing with the oversteer slightly through an opening left hander that leads onto the pit straight. Using the engines great torque, make an early change back up to third along the straight past the pits, so you approach a sweeping right with both hands on the wheel, preparing for it to get light over the late rise and braking, a real unsettled feeling in the car if you come in too hot! Finally there is the slower double left, taken in second, playing with the throttle, making sure not to stab the accelerator pedal too quickly in the mid corner as it will give a few pops through the Webers as she protest?s your impatience with her. These last series of corners do showcase the Moffstang?s amazing balance, actually very similar to the Brock A9X?s we own as well. Then it?s back off to the right on full noise and you?re heading back down the straight, grinning like crazy as you?re off towards the hairpin once again.
Leading Geoghegan, Moffat pushing harder into the apex than we ever will!
The one thing that always hits me when I drive in the Moffstang is the originality of the car, all those gauges, switches, seat etc are the ones Moffat actually used in all those great battles he had over the years against a variety of opponents. You can almost feel how it would have been for him as you do the spirited demo lap, I say almost as I have to note that Moffat still holds the Improved Production Lap record with the Mustang at Symmons Plains at a remarkable 60.4 seconds from 1972, we were lapping some 10 seconds from his times!
Two wheeling around Lakeside, again with Pete Geoghegan hunting him down.
We always have to remember when getting in these cars that we do not have Moffat?s driving talent to achieve his race speed in these "spirited demonstrations". To genuinely RACE a car means that you have to be prepared for it to be damaged. As they say: "That's motorsport". We are not prepared to place the Moffstang in the way of any harm, for the simple reason that it means a lot more to Australia's motoring history than we as the drivers/owners, could selfishly attain through stepping past our driving limits. The Moffstang has won its races and proven its worth. We cannot add anything to its history, unless the unthinkable was to happen, we crashed her?It is an absolute honour to be allowed to drive this icon of Australian racing and something I nor our family would never wish to lose, But as you can see by our video from the Gold Coast 600 Legends event below, you do not have to be going at full race pace to show how much of a great car this is to the majority of motor racing enthusiasts.
This is one iconic machine that is going to be around to amaze and give this current generation an idea on why the racing in the 1970?s was so exciting. I dare say a lot of these kids will even fall in love with her. The Moffstang?s shape, noise, and aggressive stance still resonates with people as much now as when she was new and first seen back in 1969. By showing and using the car as we now do, we are going to make sure the love affair with Australian racing enthusiasts will continue for years to come.
Really love the Moffstang,