A star in a reasonably priced muscle car
If there is one car that perfectly embodies the Rock and Roll vibe of the 60's it has to be the Ford Mustang. Already a common sight on US roads in 1967, it was still a relatively exotic car over in mainland Europe. Although it didn't take long for it to appear in the garages of the rich and famous.
That doesn't mean it was an exclusive item, sure it was more expensive than the average sedan but it was still relatively cheap for the amount of performance you got thanks to it's loud, big V8 engine. No wonder that it appeared in numerous movies and television series.
Keen to capitalize on the Mustang's rock and roll image was Henry Chemin, director of public relations and motorsport of Ford France. His main marketing campaign for the Mustang was to let as many celebrities be seen in it as possible. When Chemin got a call from photographer Alain Ayache in late 1966 he got the opportunity to work with a childhood friend of Ayache : Jean-Phillipe Smet. Better known by his stage name: Johnny Hallyday.
Johnny Hallyday was a rock star of epic proportions best described as France's Elvis Presley. During the sixties he sold millions of records and was France's number one performer. The eventual meet-up of Hallyday with Chemin lead to an entry in the 1967 edition of the most famous road racing event of the year: The Monte Carlo Rally.
This was good for both parties as Chemin could use Hallyday's god-like status to promote the Mustang, and Hallyday would better his overall image after suffering from the first two parts of "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll". An image that the press exploited, claiming his career was over.
During the months leading up the event the press went wild. Hallyday and Chemin refused to comment on the outragious behaviour of the press and focused on the task at hand. Specially prepared for the rally was the fastest version of the Mustang available at the time: the 390 GT Coupe. It's 6.4L V8 was good for a hefty 320 horsepower and 579 Nm of torque.
The number 105 Mustang quickly became the most looked after cars by fans who were all exited to catch a glimpse of it's main driver. Thousands of fans swarmed the mustang when it wasn't competing on a closed stage, often taking bits off the car that weren't screwed on. They'd do anything to get an item vaguely related to Hallyday.
At one point Hallyday had to hitch a ride in a competitors car to flee the mad crowd. On the closed mountain passes of Monte Carlo things were less hectic as Hallyday proved to be quite handy behind the wheel. The Mustang was competing for the top spot in class until the rear axle broke. The team managed to repair it during the night.
The fun was eventually cut short however as the notoriously unforgiving tech inspection could not find an identification number on the tires, this prompted the team to be disqualified from the rally.
The Mustang did not win the rally but it did complete it's initial task of gaining as much coverage as possible. The french press couldn't give less of a damn about the winning Mini Cooper and instead devoted all their attention to Hallyday's adventure in the Mustang.
Hallyday was bitten by the motorsport bug and appeared in a few other races with the mustang before finally returning to his singing roots, he would go on to become a true legend. Same with the 390 GT mustang as the fastback version could be seen one year later in cinema tearing up the streets of San Francisco in the movie Bullit.