Lawman Mustangs and the 1970 Military Performance Tour - Muscle Car

Lawman Mustangs and the 1970 Military Performance Tour

Ford Mustang


Written by Elise

9th November 2020

Lawman Mustangs and the 1970 Military Performance Tour
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Lawman Mustangs and the 1970 Military Performance Tour

By Charlie Fuller

When I was invited to write for Muscle Car UK, I wanted to start with a bang. When I think about classic Mustangs and American muscle cars, this extraordinary story of American wartime solidarity always jumps to my mind.

Picture the scene: it’s the late sixties and the Vietnam War is raging on with no end in sight.  At this time, there was a high number of accidents and fatalities on America’s roads, many of them due to their drivers—recently returned veterans of Vietnam—losing control over their new high-performance cars from lack of habit. Al Eckstrand, the Michigan drag racer and mastermind behind this story, had a plan to do his bit and boost the morale of US servicemen stationed overseas.

Al Eckstrand And The 1970 Military Performance Tour

Before we delve into the fantastic history of the Lawman Mustangs, we need to learn about the man behind the program. Eckstrand’s day job was a lawyer at Chrysler, but he had a deep and rich passion for drag racing. In his spare time, he went to all NHRA events, not only as a spectator but also as a successful racer. Eckstrand campaigned Hemi Chargers and Cudas during the early and mid-sixties; his vehicle of choice was a 1964 Plymouth SS/A, which he nicknamed “The Lawman”.

Lawman Mustangs

Concerned at the rising toll of road accident deaths, Eckstrand’s plan to help out in the war effort consisted of delivering safety exhibitions to outgoing Vietnam troops and teach them how to handle these new, feisty vehicles, for which he even secured presidential approval. Six Ford Mustangs were built for this tour, five of which had 428 Cobra Jets. The centre of these was the Boss 429, which had a blown 1200hp V8 engine. This was one of few Boss 429’s with an automatic transmission. Himself a lawyer at Chrysler, Eckstrand gave the Lawman name to all of these new race cars. 

In early 1970, this programme was announced at a press conference and it was given multiple names: The United States Motorsport Association, Motor Pool Mustangs, United States performance team and 1970 Military Performance tour. There were many sponsors involved but the main ones were Hurst, Hooker and Goodyear.  

Impact of the Lawman Tour

The programme and its group of cars was a resounding success. Race cars from home and a chance to try them out? God knew the US armed forces needed it. The flyer below was designed for the programme. The cars toured South Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 American servicemen saw these cars, with wounded and recovering military personnel reportedly insisting on extracting themselves from medical care to witness the tour.

Lawman Mustangs Flyer Lawman Mustang Boss 429 with US Troops

Lawman Mustangs Tour Lawman Mustangs

Due to the logistics and rush that this tour involved, most of the Lawman Mustangs did not make their way home. One of the early fatalities of this tour, the first Boss 429, was destroyed during loading when a container unit fell on the car.

Luckily, Ford had a replacement built immediately, but there are many stories on how these cars were destroyed and we cannot confirm the fate of all of them. The ones I’ve read say that they were run over by tanks or sometimes just ditched at bases. 

Lawman Mustangs Lawman Mustangs

Lawman Mustangs

Where Are the Lawman Mustangs Now?

I can only imagine being in the shoes of these soldiers. These Mustangs bought great joy to the troops and must have felt like a glimpse of home. Many photos of Al Eckstrand’s 1970 Military Performance Tour are still accessible, although sadly only the replacement Boss 429 lives today. With the current trends going on, I hope one of the remaining Lawman Mustangs is hiding in someone’s barn! 

After the tour, one of the Mustangs went on to have many owners. In the early nineties, Eckstrand bought the car and shipped her to Europe, where Dennis Collins from Fast N Loud bought it. Collins later sold the Lawman for $116,000 to Bill Goldberg, who is currently restoring her to its former glory. Goldberg also owns Angel Restorations who specialises in restoring Shelby Mustang GTs, Boss Mustangs and other special Mustangs. You can follow the Mustang restoration on social media.  

Author: Charlie Fuller

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