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Wraps Come off Unique Historic Desert Challenger at Bicester Heritage

First historic American car to receive world title winning Prodrive engineering treatment

A first as rusting 1967 pony car transformed into state-of-the-art desert rally machine

HERO-ERA, world’s premier historic events company commission flagship, HERO-ERA 1

Wraps Come off Unique Historic Desert Challenger at Bicester Heritage

The wraps are off after 12 months of undercover activity. The world’s premier historic rally events company, HERO-ERA, who commissioned global world championship-winning motorsport and advanced engineering company Prodrive to transform their rusting 1967 Mustang Fastback, have today launched the result of their collaboration. A state-of-the-art historic desert rally machine to take on major endurance events like the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge.

Launched to the applause of hundreds of historic motor sports enthusiasts at the Bicester Heritage Flywheel event (17th June) attended by some 15,000 weekend visitors, David Richards CBE (Chairman, Prodrive) and Tomas de Vargas Machuca (Chairman HERO-ERA) were watched approvingly by ex F1 driver and Le Mans winner Jackie Oliver as they pulled the wraps off the 400 bhp V8 long-range rally challenger. The stunning car is a result of a meticulous build by Prodrive, a company with World Championship winning pedigree across all motorsport categories.

The muscular rally machine has been painstakingly constructed to cope with the rigours of HERO- ERA’s endurance rallies including the world-renowned Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 14,000 kms and 37 days, across the world’s largest landmass (June 2024). 40 years of Prodrive competition experience are infused in the total ground-up restoration.

In a departure for the Prodrive Legends team within its Motorsport operation in reconstructing an American car, even the tiniest detail of original circlips has been produced. The rusting chassis was rejigged, bead blasted and strengthened with full forensic detail of the anticipated stresses. The suspension and struts have been carefully crafted to absorb the worst pummelling expected over any desert, mountain, and forest tracks. The 5.4 litre 400 bhp Dart Ford 302 V8 engine is designed to run for long periods at high revs whilst the Tremec TKX five-speed (with overdrive) gearbox is tough, mated to a robust rear axle with a 9” limited slip differential to transfer all that power to the rear wheels.

Dakar-style thought has gone in to produce full under-body protection for the Mustang designated HERO-ERA 1. The under body skin will also afford protection for the 70-gallon 400-mile long-range fuel tank required for great distances between refuelling points.

The Prodrive Legends engineering team, led by Senior Engineer Richard Thompson, have restored and rebuilt the car down to the finest detail, including making sure HERO-ERA 1 can operate at an altitude range of 300 to 3500 metres and at temperatures from -10 deg C to plus 40 deg C. The car specification conforms to a mix of FIA Appendix K, Motorsport UK and HERO-ERA technical regulations.

Tomas de Vargas Machuca, Chairman of HERO-ERA who commissioned the build said; “I am blown away by the car, I am so happy with the result – although it nearly didn’t happen! I originally asked David Richards to see if Prodrive could do anything with our old Mustang, at first he wasn’t sure as it was a bit of a departure, but then thankfully he came with a positive reply. That was fifteen months ago, since then Prodrive’s enthusiasm, experience and skill have transformed a ‘basket case’ into a historic motoring masterpiece, ready to take on the best in the desert and be the flagship vehicle on our Arrive Drive fleet. It is a big thank you to David, Richard, and the team, it is a world first for Prodrive as this is their first historic American car restoration, and if it is successful as we expect, we may produce more!”

David Richards, Chairman Prodrive:

“This project started life a long time ago as a casual conversation with Tomas about my wife, Karen’s interest in taking part in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. The collaboration between Prodrive and HERO-ERA has resulted in a unique classic rally car specifically designed for the rigours of long- distance events. The Ford Mustang was a significant departure from our usual projects, but we have utilised all our rally experience and the result is testament to everyone who worked on the car at Prodrive. I’m very confident that Tomas and his team at HERO-ERA will enjoy the Mustang as much as we have enjoyed working on the project.”

Richard Thompson, Senior Engineer and Prodrive Legends General Manager

“Over four decades of motor sport, Prodrive has won multiple world championships and events over a wide range of disciplines. When we got the chance to prepare a rally car for HERO-ERA with the target of winning classic events like the Paris to Peking, we leapt at it! Although it is a bit of a departure for us, we loved reviewing the specs of cars already competing, immersing ourselves in the varied challenges the crews and cars undergo, and applying our know-how from rallies like the East African Safari, Hong Kong Beijing and the Acropolis, to ensure we built a quick, reliable and most importantly a safe car.

“We loved every minute of getting into the DNA of a mid-60’s US muscle car – from the detail build to hearing the beautiful rumble of the 302 Windsor V8 on our engine dyno. HERO-ERO has created a superb platform of competition, adventure and camaraderie that is missing in modern day WRC events and for that reason we are all excited to accompany the car on these challenges.”

Jackie Oliver, Le Mans winner and Can Am Champion, ex-FI driver and Arrows team owner

who attended the launch commented; “I am a big Mustang fan. I used to race them in period, winning races in the British Saloon Car Championship and latterly in Historic events. This car has been beautifully engineered and will be quick on the tarmac tests as it should be on the gravel due to the Prodrive magic.

“I don’t have any rally experience as such, but I do remember a Shelby Mustang finishing in the top ten of the Tulip Rally against the odds in 1966, crewed by John Kennerley and Digby Martland. That was quite a feat for a big American muscle car at the time, but I’m sure the HERO-ERA 1 will be at the top again 58 years later.”

The collaboration of the best engineers and skills of Prodrive with the foremost historic events company HERO-ERA, represents a partnership of experience and achievement on a global basis. Both parties are looking forward to the next steps of the relationship as testing continues.

The car will join the Club Des Autos Tour for a gentle familiarisation run to France on Sunday 18th June, leaving from the Flywheel event at Bicester Heritage. Further testing will lead to the first big event test for HERO-ERA 1, the Badawi Trial in the Middle East. The 7500 km 16-day event starts in Jordan (Oct 10-26 2023) and traverses Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE.

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