Thunderbirds are go, Mustang still sexy at 50
Since its launch in 1964, Ford’s Mustang has been an affordable classic
The Ford Mustang’s $2,368 price tag in 1964 made it affordable to the horde of baby boomers that were just reaching driving age or heading off to college. Photograph: Reuters/Ford Motor Company
It’s weird to be jealous of your car. But I am. Men look at my car with such naked lust, their eyes devouring the curves and chrome, that I often feel I’m intruding on an intimate moment. Women like it, too. They sometimes grin and give it a thumbs up as it growls by, and one girlfriend fondly refers to it as “the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Goddess car.”
But the icon evokes a special feeling in men. It’s the Proustian madeleine of cars, stirring old dreams and new. Guys sometimes follow in the American beauty’s dreamy wake, by car or by bike, and leave mash notes on the windshield with their numbers, pleading for me to sell it.
I won’t. Even though it’s hard on the ego to chauffeur such an object of universal desire and even though I can rarely put down the top because I’m prone to sunburn, I love my ‘65 Mustang convertible. Still sexy at 50, it is midnight blue with a white top and white bucket seats. Bob Marley, ’60s French girl groups and, of course, Wilson Pickett wail from the CD player.
The pony car was launched at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 with a $2,368 sticker price, and some collectors look for “1964 1/2s,” as the first Mustangs off the Ford assembly line are called. But the debut cars were all designated 1965, and mine was produced in that first batch.
It quickly became the fastest-selling new car in history, landing on the cover of Time and Newsweek with Lee Iacocca and showing up in the James Bond movie Goldfinger . It sold even faster after Ford executives pulled a King Kong of a stunt in October 1965 and parked a pony on the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.
Once Ford engineers determined that lowering a car by helicopter onto the world’s tallest building would be too dangerous, they spent an hour cutting a white Mustang convertible into sections that would fit into elevators and then reassembled it on high.
Bill Ford Jr, the company’s executive chairman, great- grandson of Henry Ford and No 1 Mustang fan, replicated the caper on Wednesday for the first day of the New York Auto Show - this time disassembling a bright yellow 2015 Mustang convertible into five parts and reassembling it 1,000 feet above Fifth Avenue.
Later, after driving through the car show in one of Ford’s 1,964 50th anniversary, retro Mustangs that come in the car’s original Wimbledon white or Kona blue, the chairman reminisced about his first car, a 1975 electric green Mustang. “Mustang is my all-time favourite car,” he said, noting that it signified fun and freedom in an affordable package.