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Discussion Starter #1
I've seen this before in posts, and have seen the "tank armor" advertised in various magazines, etc. Until I read this article, however, I never really thought too much about making the fix.

I have decided to add the tank armor to my car as well as a metal barrier between the trunk and passenger compartment as soon as I get it back from the shop.

Hopefully this article will entice some people into doing the same.

(CBS) Last summer, 16-year-old Harold Gielow fell in love with a 32-year-old--a classic Ford Mustang. On July 15, Harold was driving his beloved 1966 Mustang in the rain. The car hydroplaned and spun across the center line into the other lane, where an oncoming vehicle hit the Mustang in the rear. Gielow's car exploded into flames.

Another driver, Craig Jackson, swerved around the skidding Mustang. A professional firefighter who has seen many car fires, Jackson was startled by the size of the exploding fireball in the Mustang.

"The car was fully engulfed in flames," he says. "I mean, the flames were coming out the front window, the side windows."

Continues Jackson: "I was going, 'Why is this accident all of the sudden turning into a catastrophe like this?' I mean, I still don't know what really happened."

Harold Gielow was incinerated. The police say Harold was going faster than conditions would allow. Ford Motor Company says Harold panicked and that he was killed on impact. Harold's parents dispute that, and are troubled by a coroner's report saying their son was burned to death in the Mustang fire. 60 Minutes II Correspondent Dan Rather reports.

"This is going to happen again, unless people know about it," says Harold's father, Harold Sr.

In looking into the accident, the Gielows learned a secret about the classic Mustangs, the ones built from 1964 through 1970. For more than 30 years, fires that erupted after crashes in the trunks of some classic Mustangs have spread into the passenger compartment. This American icon has left a trail of suffering and death.

All across America these old Mustangs are treasured so by so many people that they just won't let them go. In addition to the amazing number of classic Mustangs still on the road --up to 1.5 million--there are many thousands off the road just waiting to be restored. From fields, from garages, from junkyards, classic Mustangs are being reclaimed, reconditioned and returned to the nation's highways.

And every one of them carries in the trunk a potentially deadly defect, says San Francisco attorney David Rand. He's representing the parents of Harold Gielow, and sued Ford before on the gas tank design. Because the top of the Mustang's tank is also the floor of the trunk, Rand says, terrible car fires can erupt after even modest rear-end crashes.

"The gas tank is right here, inches away from [the driver]," Rand says, showing a reporter the layout of the car. "And the gas has a very wide opening to come right from the tank directly into where the people are."

Ford has been sued more than 70 times by people burned in rear-end collisions in classic Mustangs. Most suits have been settled out of court, without publicity.

"I guess they felt that it'd be better to pay people off, give them money, than to recall the car," says Marlo Aragon, who was in a Mustang accident 14 years ago. She was then 15, a princess at her high school prom. The fire in a 1967 Mustang burned away her fingers, much of her skin, her ears and her hair.

The fire in Lisa Hutchinson's 1966 Mustang burned her vocal chords. Peggy Viel's 1965 Mustang exploded in fire in 1972, leaving her with deep scars. Says Viel: "It's a classy looking car but it's a death trap."

In 1995 Ben Hodges survived a rear-end crash in a '67 Mustang. He would have walked away without a scratch--except for the burning gas that came into the passenger compartment and nearly killed him. "Before I was born they knew about this car," says Hodges. "Before I was born there was people getting burned in this car."

Ford has refused repeated requests to appear on 60 Minutes II to discuss the history of fires in the classic Mustangs. Ford says these were all high-speed crashes, and in a letter, insists that "the fact that there are so many registered Mustangs is unassailable evidence of the design integrity and performance of this car line."

In fact, there are no reliable statistics on fires erupting in classic Mustangs. We requested our own expert analysis of U.S. government data on highway fatalities. The result: the death rate where fire occurred in rear-end Mustang crashes is more than three times higher than for all other cars of the same period.

While Ford chose not to speak with us on camera about the classic Mustang, Lee Iacocca did. A former president of Ford Motor Company, Iacocca was known as the father of the Mustang when it debuted in 1964.

"People said, 'wow, that's such a great buy, I'll go in and I'll buy air conditioning, I'll buy a V-8,'" Iacocca remembers. "Before you knew it, we were making nothing but money. I mean, we were rolling in it. We were lucky."

Safety, he admits, was not as big a factor in car design as it is today: "It was part of the specifications you laid out to the best of your ability," he says. "But it wasn't front and center. It wasn't the priority."

Iacocca says he doesn't remember any discussions about fuel tank safety when the Mustang was designed. "Not one," he says. Iacocca says he is stunned by the suggestion that rear-end fires in classic Mustangs indicate the car is seriously flawed.

"The reason I'm stunned is you don't have that many successes in your life," he says. "To tell me that the Mustang had more problems or severity of problems than any other car in its class, or maimed or killed more people, to me is poppycock."

But it's not just poppycock to some of Ford's own safety engineers, who concluded early on that there was a problem with the Mustang's fuel tank design. One of those engineers is Peter Bertelson. He has never before spoken publicly about his years at Ford, when the Mustang was marketed as a sports car Americans could afford.

Says Bertelson: "It would clear the air to say, 'look, we goofed'."

"It was supposed to be a low-price car. And it was. And in order to make it lighter and less expensive, they did come in with this drop-in fuel tank."

Ford was the only American manufacturer to use a drop-in fuel tank before abandoning the design in 1971. On Mustangs built from 1964 through 1970, the gas tank was simply dropped into a hole in the trunk. If the tank is ruptured in a rear-end collision, there is no solid barrier--just a flimsy seat back--between the passengers and the gasoline.

"It's not a safe way to put fuel into an automobile," Bertelson says.

To this day, Ford calls the system "reliable and safe." But Bertelson remembers there was early and widespread recognition at Ford of the dangers of the Mustang's fuel system. In 1966, he is absolutely sure that "all the engineering executives were aware of the -- problems of the drop-in tank."

Plans were made to change future models. But the danger in the classic Mustang was never publicized. Mustang sales soared, especially among baby boomers. Even President Clinton owns one. Style sold cars, not safety, says Lee Iacocca, who insists he tried. He calls himself the "Father of Safety," and notes that he was criticized for it at the time.

Iacocca was criticized when he tried to sell cars that wouldn't start until the seatbelts were fastened. Congress passed a law against that. But Iacocca also pushed all the way to the White House for a delay in federal safety standards. In a meeting with President Nixon, he was recorded on the President's secret taping system, saying safety was killing the American car business.

"I didn't know I was being taped at the time--how the hell would I know that?" Iacocca says when reminded of this. In talking to President Nixon, Iacocca said: "Shoulder harnesses and head rests are complete wastes of money. Safety has really killed off our business."

"We wanted to make sure we survived. So we talked differently then," Iacocca says now.

In building a case against Ford, Rand, the lawyer, discovered film of a decades-old Mustang crash test--Ford Crash Test 301, which he says shows unambiguously the danger of the drop-in gas tank.

Ford says this 1966 test was very severe--on a modified car--and was designed to study occupant movement, not to evaluate the gas tank. But the camera looking from above down into the trunk shows the tank being crushed and gasoline spewing onto passengers.

"Very clearly this dummy's head is just being saturated with gasoline," says Rand, showing the tape to CBS News. "All of this gasoline, if it had been ignited, would have definitely killed all of the people in the car."

Another element in the case against Ford: 30 years before Harold Gielow's fatal accident, a young Ford engineer named Sherman Henson wrote in 1968 warning his superiors: "a fuel tank rupture during a rear-end collision would result in gasoline inside the vehicle."

"Ford knew this accident was going to happen," says Rand, who flatly accuses Ford of suppressing the information. "They knew it 30 years ago. And they know it's going to happen again."

That charge has yet to be decided in court. Ford violated no laws or federal safety standards on the classic Mustang. But there was no safety standard on rear-end crashes back then, recalls Joan Claybrook, formerly the nation's top highway safety official. Says Claybrook: "There was no government standard that covered it. It met all government standards, but there wasn't one that dealt with that problem."

In 1976, a year before Claybrook took over, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported classic Mustang fuel tanks "present no fire hazard which does not also exist in...other fuel tank systems." But Claybrook, now a consumer advocate, believes Ford passed by withholding from investigators its own crash test 301.

"Ford knew and never told the Department of Transportation during the course of this investigation that when the car was hit in the rear and the fuel tank came forward fuel could spew out into the passenger compartment," she says. She says that Ford withheld the crash test they had done from the Department of Transportation. Department records show Test 301 was not submitted. But Ford officials maintain that they were fully responsive, and that Test 301 was not designed to test fuel tank integrity and not relevant to the safety of the drop-in tank.

Why would Ford not fix the problem? Claybrook has an idea: "They hated recalling cars, particularly then. And Lee Iacocca, who was president of Ford, loved that car. He helped to design it. And so they didn't ever want to admit that they had a problem with their best car on the road."

Iacocca insists he was never told of problems with the drop-in tank, and says: Don't blame the auto makers because old cars do not have the same safety equipment as new ones.

Says Iacocca: "To me it's almost asinine to say, 'Anything that grows old you gotta turn back the clock and make good on that. But what the hell would you do with a black and white TV set today? You'd throw it away."

But there are repairs that could be made, say Harold Gielow's parents, and Ford could inform people of dangers learned about in the classic Mustang: "They did know there was a problem with the car. They knew that based on their own test, based on their own safety engineers. And they did nothing about it. They didn't warn people."

Liz Gielow wants Ford to warn people now. "Maybe some other little boy or girl will grow up, go to college, get married, have children," she says. "Harold never will do that. He'll never do that."

The family has not yet sued Ford, but is on a safety campaign to get people out of classic Mustangs. They may find an unlikely ally in Lee Iacocca. At 74, he's out of the car business--and into the business of selling electric bicycles. His advice today to owners of classic Mustangs who are concerned about safety: "If you really want a real safe one, trade up. After 35 years it's time to dump that old Mustang."

Houston, TX 67 Fastback in restoration. A-code, C-4, 9" Traction-Loc rear. Other than the engine I don't know what is original!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe" - Carl Sagan
 

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Why install Tank Armor and a Seat divider plate when you can upgrade to a much more modern saftey device - a Fuel Cell. Besides, you drive a vintage car their are risks associated with it.

Mustang Parts makes a great addiction.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Of course there are risks associated with it but I see every reason to minimize the risks involved.

Tank armor and a metal barrier are SIMPLE and CHEAP to the point where I think there is no excuse not to install them... at least not for me.

-Aaron

Houston, TX 67 Fastback in restoration. A-code, C-4, 9" Traction-Loc rear. Other than the engine I don't know what is original!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe" - Carl Sagan
 

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I am sorry but I get sick of this continuation of crap.

Cars made back then are not safe "period" compared to modern cars.

The position of the gas tank is only but one of many safety deficiencies that are part of our Mustangs and most old cars.

The steering in an early Mustang is called "spear-o-matic" for a reason. No safety crumple zones, no air bags, no abs, no side impact beams, no bumbers, no head restrints, no shoulder belts. Man, this list goes on a lot longer.

Get real ... if you want safety buy a modern car but don't perpetuate this kind of fear. Not only that but 70 or what ever examples over 37 years and 7 million cars is nothing.

It is bad enough my parents are scared silly my Blazer will roll over and kill me. Kill the reporters and not the cars

I drive my old Mustang with a tremendous amount of respect because of these safety deficiencies and the love for the beauty of the car.

Paul
1965 Mustang 2+2
1989 Mustang GT Convertible
MCA #27261
MCA certified judge for 65's and late models
 

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I don't know much about the tank armor but I fabricated a divider/shield last weekend, took me about 1 hour to make and install and cost me about $15 in parts, I used that galvanized sheeting used in A/C vents, easy to cut and cheap. I know it isn't fire proof but it will deflect the gas some in a bad rear-end accident. Also make the trunk a whole lot tidier!

69 Sportsroof, 351C, 4spd toploader, Restomod BOSS 429 clone - the one and only (?) 1969 BOSS 351

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Discussion Starter #6
pprince, perhaps I didn't make my point clear. I'm not claiming that it will make a classic mustang a Volvo. But like I said it is a simple and cheap fix that could save lives. You can't deny that.

If you have a problem with the thread, it is easiest to simply move along...
 

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Hi Aaron,
With your background, I understand your concerns...

My wife's brother is a shuttle payload specialist and engineers all think alike...*G*

I posted on a similar topic when first coming to the VMF last year and got soundly pasted...

I'd say, do what's best for your peace of mind and that of your family...

Personally, I haven't modified my D-coder and still run a plain, baffled aluminum tank in the race car but I guess I'm an accident waiting to happen *G*

I hope you are more expedient in putting your intentions into action than I've been....does getting married make one lazy?? hehehe

Can't wait to see that space station online....Ray has been telling my wife and I about some of the details he's involved with in that area...very interesting stuff...

Good luck!

Pat
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With 50,000 brothers of ours killed in Viet Nam for reasons still unknown to me. I
think it is terrific for the gov't and the media to look at the 1960's mustang. I will
wager that ten times more people have been killed on bicycles.
jimbo

M.C.A.# 50000
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Uh, I think if you check, this is only an issue with coupes, not your fastback... there is already a metal barrier in place in a FB via the trapdoor.

Fuel cell would be best, but you still have to deal with the filler neck pulling out of the tank on impact...

My 1965 Restomod Shelby Clone
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I have to agree, although I will also never fault someone for trying to make their car safer. But vintage mustangs will never be SAFE. You also have to consider the way the media sensationalizes everything. My mom still cringes when I drive my '77 chevy truck because "you're going to get killed in that thing!". Remember that one? One of those idiot news programs strapped model rocket engines to the fuel tank and left the filler cap loose. They then ran a car into the truck broadside and ignited the rockets - Gee, I wonder why it exploded? I was a professional wrench in the late 70's-early 80's and worked on a lot of similar vehicles. There is nothing different about the chevy truck fuel tanks. They just did some research and found some statistic that they thought could support their theory and get some people to watch their show. It cost GM millions as a result. I won't even get into Audi!
 
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sure mustangs have a fuel problems, but what is with all of this plastic in cars these days. Surely a plastic car isn't safer than a metal one. And with firestone tires. That was just another mistake made by a company. If you want to buy a classic car it is common sence to know that they are probably not as safe as cars today that have many tests they have to pass before they are allowed to go into production. Cars and trucks back then didnt even have rear seatbelts, the ones from the 50's didnt even have them in the front.
Just like an air bag. If you have one it could kill your kid. If you dont it could kill you. If you are worried about this, you might as well go buy a PT cruiser or a VW bug.
 

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This is something that comes up time and time again. Nothing is perfect, and everything has its risks. I don't see the Mustang any more prone to a large accident than any other car from the period. If every car from that time period was researched I'm sure they could find a good reason to take them all off the road. 30 year old cars will never be as safe as new ones. We all know the risks, and we choose to live with them.

1968 J code fastback
302 c4 (soon to be toploader 4 speed)
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Fuel Cell - Summit - 'Nuf Said. Like so many posts before, sure its a concern, but you go into it with the knowledge of the level of risk. That is the first step, where you choose to go from there is up to you.

For myself, the money spent on a fuel cell and the time spent fabbing the divider, is enough for me. I'm building a driver, and I want to be able to drive-her. /forums/images/icons/smile.gif

Just be safe!

http://my67heven.tripod.com/emsm.gifI was looking for a restoration of fantasy. I do not want my car to be as it was in 1967. I want it to be as I imagined it in 1967. -John Baird
Got Rust? 1967 A-Code Coupe
 

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Discussion Starter #14
"Get real ... if you want safety buy a modern car but don't perpetuate this kind of fear."

You mean the very real, very serious, and very plausible kind of fear? Please, I'm doing a service by, at the very least, letting people in on an issue with their cars. Sure, most probably know but surely many didn't.

I find the allegation that I'm "perpetuating fear" an insult. If the fear weren't real I'd be at fault. It is real however. Not likely given the few incidents vs. the many cars that are on the road but tell that to the lady with no hair or the parents who's son was burned alive. What's the difference between you, me, and them? Circumstance and maybe $15 worth of metal.

Next time you take a look in the mirror, take a second to appreciate your eyebrows. Nuff said.

-Aaron


Houston, TX 67 Fastback in restoration. A-code, C-4, 9" Traction-Loc rear. Other than the engine I don't know what is original!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe" - Carl Sagan
 

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Can anyboy confirm or deny which models have this problem? I was looking at
my vert that last time this subject came up, and it has a metal cross member
behind the rear seat back.

As for "perpetuating fear" How about we just say that you are concerned for your
safety, and you wanted to share those concerns with your friends on VMF. Okay?

Let's let everyone else make their own determination of the risks
they want to take.

Thanks


'66 289 2bbl. Sauterne Gold Connvertible

Shaummy
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thank you Shaummy66. Yes my concern is simply for the safety of my friends on VMF :) . I agree that it it's up to the owner to make the final determination and if I implied otherwise, I didn't mean to.

I do have the trapdoor on the Fastback that another poster mentioned but there is still a sizeable gap between the bottom of it and the top of the frame. All that's in that gap is part of the fold down rear seat. Fastbacks may be less prone to this issue but I'd still like to see a complete metal barrier on MY car.

Houston, TX 67 Fastback in restoration. A-code, C-4, 9" Traction-Loc rear. Other than the engine I don't know what is original!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe" - Carl Sagan
 

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What has the greatest risk?

1/ Being engulfed in flames
2/ Severe wiplash from being rearended at 30 mph
3/ Rear ending someone at 30 mph without shoulder restraints and a spear-o-matic at your chest
4/ 30+ year old parts on your car giving out at a bad time causing an accident
5/ Your drum brakes fading away quickly when you are trying to do an emergency stop from 70mph
6/ Someone t-boning you when you go through an intersection
7/ You have a 68 that did not go through the recall and you get rearended or stop quickly putting a lot of stress on that seat back. Do you know if your 68 seat has the repair?
8/ Your single reservoir master cylinder gives out on you or a brake cylinder or ....

Do you fix one or do you fix the risk associated with them all?
Which ones do you fix if you decide you cannot fix them all?

I think the risk of being in engulfed in flames is way down on the list of possibilities


Paul
1965 Mustang 2+2
1989 Mustang GT Convertible
MCA #27261
MCA certified judge for 65's and late models
 

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This story gets old after a while. The thing I don't understand is how the danger of the tank went unknown for so many people. It is so easy to see and contemplate, how a rear-end collision could be fatal. Just by lifting up the trunk mat, you can see the tank, and exactly how it can split open. And anyone who knows anything about their car should know that there is nothing to stop the gas from entering the passenger compartment. The people on this forum love their cars, and they know them better then anything else. I don't understand how people could not notice this great fault in the vehicle.
The other thing which annoys me are the people who seem to complain about the car being unsafe because of the tank...what about the bad defroster, lack of a rear defroster, horrible steering, bad braking, and so many other things which plagued all cars of this era. To drive these cars safely, you need only to respect them.
 
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I just installed tank armor last weekend. It weighs about 30 pounds and sits on top of the tank so logically should offer at least some protection. Cost about $160 and took less than two hours to install--even with my fat fingers it's a simple bolt-in installation. For that much money and man hours, the peace of mind is worth it.
 
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