By on July 10, 2011

When a first-time 24 Hours of LeMons team finds some ancient hooptie that’s been rusting in a field for a decade and makes a “race car” out of it, most of the time that team spends the entire weekend thrashing on fuel-system components, shriveled transmission seals, and rodent-gnawed wiring. This did not happen with Team NASA’s Space-Shuttle-themed 1978 Ford LTD wagon.

The old Ford was quite slow, what with its original shocks and Malaise-grade 400M engine, but its drivers kept out of the way of the faster cars and never once visited the Penalty Box. Other than an hour-long pit stop to deal with a vapor-lock/dead-starter problem, the wagon never broke down; the team rebuilt the entire fuel system with fresh parts and thus avoided the bad-gas adventures of the Tunachuckers’ ’75 Ford LTD Landau that we saw last month. In the end, the NASA LTD finished in 34th place (out of 56 entries), a miraculous performance from a dead-stock Malaise wagon. Congratulations, Team NASA!
Note: For more B.F.E. GP adventures, check out Longroofian’s coverage over at Hooniverse.

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12 Comments on “And the Real Winner Is…...”

  • avatar

    It’s a Station Wagon – an old one! Educator Dan will be proud!

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Two states long and a time zone wide: it’s the reason I consider driving the big wagons a privilege and never a right. And I don’t know which parent had greater responsibility for permanently infecting me with the big wagon bug (I’ve never been happy driving anything with less than 5 doors) but it always warms my heart to see any of these behemoths come out on top.

  • avatar

    Ancient Panther Love, baby, ancient Panther Love!!

    Was a cool car then, is still a cool car now!

    p.s. If one turns the air-cleaner cover upside-down on those old 400M engines, and rev them up, they make a wonderful turbine-like whine that is a nice prelude to a hell of a neutral-slam! (Don’t ask me how I know…)

    p.p.s. And the old Ford, just a couple of years older than the Space Shuttle, but very-much its contemporary, has it all over the Shuttle, since it could seat 1 more passenger, and had the magic 3-way tailgate !!

    • 0 avatar

      This isn’t a Panther though…

      • 0 avatar

        Yes it is. The Panther designator has been around since the time that dinosaurs roamed the earth.

        In that time, FMC used “cat-names” to designate projects, to wit: Minx (IIRC, this was the other name for the Minimax, or something related), Linx (also became a nameplate for the Mercury derivative of the NAAO Escort), Bobcat (was both a project, the original EAO Fiesta, and a nameplate for the Mercury derivative of the Pinto), etc.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, the codename for the Escort was ERIKA.

        You’re confusing two things here – project codenames and platform names. According to a quick google search, Panther and Fox are the only two platform names that Ford has ever used, which confirms everything I’ve ever read. The others have nifty names like D3 and CE14, MN12 DEW98, etc. I’m sure that even Panther and Fox (later SN95) have platform numbers originally.

        As far as I know, Ford actually didn’t start naming their platforms until the late ’70’s.

  • avatar

    The 79 F250 I drove a lot in high school would do an indicated 53 mph in first gear with its 400M C6 auto. My father said he’d put a 460 in it if the 400 failed…it didn’t, and I beat the !$#%@ out of that truck. I wish I knew about the air cleaner cover noise trick back then…although you could do a helluva backfire by winding it out in first or second and popping off the gas quick when you upshifted the auto by hand.

    • 0 avatar

      We had a ’78 F-250 with a 400M and a four-speed…that truck would haul a&!, even fully loaded with 2500 lb of camper and three people in the cab. You’d have to be careful and watch your speed, otherwise you’d be running 90. I’ve always wondered if because it was in an F-series it had lest restrictive exhaust and higher compression…

  • avatar

    Way to rub it in about our fuel system, Phil!

    Nice job, NASA guys. Did you steal our wheels? I swear those look awfully familiar. And what tire size/ type did you run?

  • avatar

    “There’s nothing funny about vapor lock.”

    Broadway Joe Namath

  • avatar

    I believe it was a 1969 model, maybe 1968, Country Squire wagon with a mighty 390 the old man sold to the neighbor.

    It burned to the ground while traveling the I-580 freeway outside Livermore, CA.

    Neighbor stomped over and demanded, vociferously, that the old man return the money paid.

    Old man just looked at him.

    Ex-cop, ex-Marine, left Nebraska to avoid prosecution for pummeling a man until extensive medical care required (the guy touched his wife inappropriately, old man paid him off later to drop charges so he could get a government job), and was a fireman at the time.

    The HULK versus the corporate cubical dweller.

    A few minutes of old man staring and the cubical dweller swearing (and threatening)and the neighbor turned and stomped off.

    The old man turned to me and, with a laugh, declared that the neighbor seemed to be a bit upset and that, often, it is best to allow them to rant and rave and to just listen with no reply.

    Seemed to work; neighbor never talked to us again.

    That was a nice Ford, though.

    Before it burned to the ground.

  • avatar


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