2014 Holman & Moody 50th anniversary Ford Mustang

If you're a fan of Ford racing history, a Mustang worshiper or even just an avid follower of our yearly SEMA coverage, you may have heard the back story on the Race Red Mustang you see above. Back in 1964, Holman & Moody was tapped by the English Alan Mann Racing Team to race-prep three Mustangs for competition in the incredibly arduous 4,000-mile Tour de France Automobile rally. Competing mainly against Jaguar MkII saloons over 10 days and 17 stages, the H&M Mustangs took the top two places in the Touring class and the first-ever racing win for Ford's pony car.

Though the history of that first Mustang win hasn't been incredibly well known here in the States, the subsequent decades have seen plenty of racy versions of the car come and go. Last year at the SEMA show, we covered the brief debut of this living tribute to that piece of racing lore, the Holman & Moody 50th Anniversary TdF Mustang.

This limited-edition Mustang represents a kind of new venture for H&M, as the legendary racing shop has spent the last few decades earning its keep largely by restoring vintage racing cars. The urge to get back into the world of Ford and Mustang was powerful, however, what with the car's 50th anniversary looming and the current generation of 'Stang just about out the door.

We were excited to learn that TdF number 003 out of just 500 in total to be produced – and the very first customer car, to boot – was going to be in southeast Michigan just long enough for us to snake a quick test drive in it. We found the boldly painted and wheeled Holman & Moody nestled amongst a Boss 302 and some Mustang GTs at Jack Demmer Ford in Wayne, MI, and braved a slightly rainy afternoon to get our licks in.

Driving Notes
  • Before I even climbed behind the wheel of the TdF Mustang, I knew that this would be a car to polarize the viewing public, based solely on its striking looks. The Race Red paint with gold side striping and model-specific 19-inch gold wheels makes the car utterly unmissable. For those of us who grew up loving gold wheels, the bespoke TdF rollers are just the ticket – I think they're pretty killer, myself. For the sake of science, I polled the Autoblog crew, who tended to like the wheels and dislike the gold graphics. We can all agree that this isn't a car for shy folks.
  • Come to think of it, even if some shy-guy fast Ford fan would be willing to drive the blazing Holman & Moody creation, they'd likely balk at the car's healthy exhaust note. The racing shop has opted to use a stainless steel "x-pipe" exhaust from Ford Racing on the TdF, and the resultant sounds are a pleasure to hear throughout the rev range – as long as you like your V8 turned up a notch or three.
  • With the freer-breathing exhaust and a performance-minded reflash of the standard Mustang GT ECU, the TdF Mustang should be outputting just about the same 444 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque as the (now deceased) Boss 302. Even on a relatively tame test run, it's easy to tell that the tuning has given an already quick Mustang GT enough power to make the world spin by pretty quickly. The 5.0-liter V8 spins up with remarkable freedom, and alters the coupe's velocity with just a few degrees of change on the gas pedal.
  • Just for the record, other greasy bits that have been upgraded for the TdF (largely to back up the car's motorsports heritage and make it eminently trackable) include a beefed-up oil cooler and radiator, as well as a high-flow air filter. The 3.73:1 limited slip rear differential, a Mustang option, is standard kit on the TdF, too.
  • Again, like the Boss 302, the real magic of the Holman & Moody tuning is found in the underpinnings. Holman & Moody's own adjustable splined sway bars can be found front and back, and SVT shocks and struts can also be fine-tuned for racing or road applications. The revamped suspension (tuned especially firmly in my test car) worked wonders for dialing out a lot of the vertical float found in the standard Mustang GT, while also giving incrementally more feedback through the steering wheel and seat bottoms. You can certainly make your TdF a lot softer-riding than car 003, but I dug it just the way it was.
  • Since you can order up your very own TdF Mustang right through your dealer using the Ford-speak 54M code, you can also specify options as per normal, with a few exceptions. The TdF transformation requires a manual transmission (V8 only), is for the coupe body style only, and they'll only build you one in the red hue seen here. Tradition and all that, you know. Beyond that, the process is pretty easy. You can order a TdF from any Ford dealer and have said dealer install the H&M parts; bring your 2014 Mustang GT to the H&M shop in Charlotte, NC and have the car put together in a few weeks; or you can buy a turnkey TdF from H&M as long as they have supply. Basic cost for the TdF package is $9,896, plus the cost of the donor Mustang plus options.
I'd be remiss if I didn't give a quick shout-out to Mr. George Bidlespacher of Trout Run, PA, who is the proud (and brave) owner of the car that I snapped up for this test drive. It's not often that a private citizen lends out his or her own car for wacko journalists to drive and report on, and I'd say George's doing so is a pretty strong testament to the feelings he has about this 50th Anniversary Tour de France Mustang. You've got a hell of a nice machine, sir – please continue to enjoy scaring the pants off your neighbors with it.