We are living in an era when all-wheel drive cars are commonplace. Even performance cars have adopted the technology, while RWD sports and supercars seem to become a rare breed. The Ford Mustang is one of the very few performance vehicles that have remained loyal to the rear-wheel drive layout for more than 50 years. This may very well change in the future, but for the time being Detroit muscle car makers aren’t yet willing to make the switch.
However, that’s not to say that there aren’t any AWD Mustangs out there. Quite a few enthusiasts have modified the pony car and the latest, most popular example is Ken Block’s “Hoonicorn,” the 845-horsepower, heavily altered Mustang built for Gymkhana 7.
Block actually claims that the “Hoonicorn” is “the only all-wheel drive performance Mustang ever built.” While this statement may be true for the performance part, Block’s beefed-up ‘Stang is by no means the first to employ AWD.
Believe it or not, but the first all-wheel drive Mustang was built in 1965, just one year after Ford launched the iconic nameplate.
The Original AWD Mustang
The four-wheel drive ‘Stang was the creation of Ferguson Research, a company founded by Harry Ferguson, who was mostly known as the “father of the modern farm tractor.” He was also the first to develop 4WD system for road cars in the 1950s, and even created an all-wheel drive Formula One car that won a race in 1961, but his technology was mostly ignored by carmakers.
In order to better promote its patent, dubbed Ferguson Formula or FF, Ferguson purchased three 1965 Mustang notchbacks and converted them to 4×4. The ponies also featured an ABS braking system, a somewhat new technology back in the 1960s, as well as center and front differentials, a forward output shaft, and halfshafts to the front wheels. Power was distributed 37 percent to the front and 63 percent to the rear, a layout that was used by both BMW and Audi more than 20 years later. In total, the system only added just 196 pounds to the car.
Unfortunately for Ferguson, Ford had no interest in adopting an all-wheel drive system for the Mustang. And even though it’s safe to say that the pony car turned out just fine without one, an AWD Mustang would have revolutionized the muscle car market and even the motorsport scene. If Ford had used Ferguson’s FF system, the Mustang had become the first rally car to feature AWD no fewer than 15 years before Audi introduced the Quattro.
Thankfully enough, Ferguson’s effort didn’t go to waste. In 1967, the Jensen FF became the first production, non-SUV model to feature all-wheel drive and anti-lock braking using the same technology Ferguson planted in the Mustang.
The whereabouts of two of the three prototypes is unknown today, but one of the cars is known to exist. Kept by the Ferguson family for four decades, it changed owners for the first in 2007 and was advertised again in 2011 for $70,000. Needless to say, the Ferguson Mustang is not exactly an exotic pony, but it should definitely hit the annual Mustang Club of America meetings.