An Old Mustang with Plenty of Kick

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With so much attention focused on the rampaging late-model Cobra Jet Mustangs, NHRA Super Stock competitors might be tempted to dismiss earlier models of the original pony car. Racers would do so at their peril, particularly if in the other lane is a certain 1964½ Mustang.

Old Mustang

It’s hard to believe this little ’64 1/2 notchback Ford pony car ushered in a new era of car design. Hill’s is a beautiful example.

Perhaps more than any other season, the distinctive blue-and-silver Ford owned by Everett Hill, 66, and driven by his son James Hill, 29, both of Fayetteville, Georgia, is primed for an outstanding 2012. The year would be one of the best in Everett’s ownership that dates back to 1974.

 

That year George “Red” Givens, Everett’s long-time friend and crew chief, was phoned by a friend who owned a junkyard. He told Givens about a Mustang with a blown engine that had been driven by a little old lady from South Carolina. Hill bought the Mustang, and he and Givens transformed it into a stick-shift race car that first hit the track in 1976, ready to take on all competitors, many of them with automatics. The car continued Hill’s racing career that began in the early-‘60s with a ’53 Chevy coupe.

 

He has raced the car more than 30 years, scoring 70-plus class wins and setting numerous national records. Hill has made thousands of passes, in the past, racing up to five times a week at Southeastern tracks. He was fourth in Division 2 in 1991, ran the first 10.20s in SS/K in 2001 and the next year was the first in the 10.30s in SS/L.

The engine bay has been home to 289 and 302 engines. The current combination spins at a rapid 9,800 rpms in the lights.

The engine bay has been home to 289 and 302 engines. The current combination spins at a rapid 9,800 rpms in the lights.

Hill had long been racing when James was born in 1982, and he has accompanied his father every year since then. At 10 he started working on the car, cleaning valve covers and spark plugs.

 

At 16, Everett urged James to make a pass in the Mustang. Having never driven a stick-shift car, his initiation lasted just one run. “The car had way more power and was a whole lot more radical than anything I had driven,” Hill said. “I wasn’t necessarily afraid of it, but it definitely got my attention. I decided it was not something I wanted to do right now.”

 

Throughout the next several years, Hill concentrated on earning a degree in finance from Auburn University. During that period, Everett bought an O/SA ‘64 Comet station wagon for James to get accustomed to class racing. The 3,200-pound car has a 289-inch engine putting out 300 hp and has run a best of 12.30 at 107.

James Hill lights 'em up on the U.S. Nationals launch pad.

James Hill lights ‘em up on the U.S. Nationals launch pad.

After competing with the Comet several times, James returned to the Mustang under unusual circumstances. Everett fell 19 feet from a deer stand in late 2008, injuring his shoulder, knee and ankle, which required surgery. Upon his release, he roofed an outbuilding.

 

“You’re not going to keep that man down!” James said. But, initially he could not drive the Mustang, so James began racing it in early 2009 at age 26. He was much more prepared than he had been 10 years earlier. The car was different, too. It underwent a rotisserie restoration in 2005-07, the most extensive work on the car since a 1997 chassis update and a 1985 revamping. The new paint was designed and applied by Jim McClellan.

 

Engine problems plagued James’ Division 2 driving debut, and one of his few highlights the rest of the year was winning a local five-speed heads-up shootout event. He rebounded to finish tenth in the division in 2010, he won the shootout again, and his father set the GT/L records at 10.51 at 124.06 in November 2010 with a new combination based on a 1985 302-inch engine.

The cleanly executed, no-nonsense interior features a Long shifter attached to a Jerico four-speed trans.

The cleanly executed, no-nonsense interior features a Long shifter attached to a Jerico four-speed trans.

2011 could have been a breakout year. Instead, it was a breakage year, as the 302 was beset with problems, forcing a return to the reliable 289. “We want to be back in the GT classes to battle with the Chevy IIs. We want to start a rivalry the way it used to be,” Hill said, indicative of his preference for heads-up class racing over bracket-style eliminator competition. He aspires to race in Pro Stock, Pro Mod or Competition Eliminator.

 

As for his driving, Hill has improved with more seat time and practice-tree use. “But the challenge is pretty simple: Don’t beat yourself. Then you can be pretty successful at racing.” Besides Hill, the team consists of his father, Givens, 68, and Art Lowery. Wherever the team races the Mustang “there’s always a pretty good crowd around it,” Hill said. “It’s different, and people say a lot about it.”

 

Text by Fred Noer

Photos by Richard Brady

 

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