50 Years of Classic Ford Mustang. Fifty years ago, the automotive landscape changed forever. On April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang premiered as part of the World’s Fair in New York City. The era of the pony car had begun. The new Mustang hit a sweet spot in the market.It was marketed squarely to baby boomers at a time when that generation was just beginning to get behind the wheel. They wanted something more stylish than their parents’ chrome-laden sedans, but they didn’t have the time to tinker with cars from Europe.
The Mustang featured the long, sporty hood and short trunk of a foreign coupe, but it had enough room in the back to carry the kids. Best of all, rather than set an exclusive-level price,Ford offered a long list of options. The base model could still be the affordable “secretary’s car,” while more expensive (and profitable) Mustangs could offer real performance from a 289 V8.
Owners who wanted to have a little fun on the track found a variety of battles. The Mustang could powerpast MGs, Triumphs and Porsches on the straight bits, but its humble Falcon origins meant the Europeans could run longer and faster in the corners. When Carroll Shelby worked his magic on these Mustangs, they were SCCA В Production powerhouses.
This weekend-warrior ability was exactly how Ford sold the Mustang. Advertisements showed 9-to-5 people whisked away on an adventure every Friday evening that would last until the car brought them back to work on Monday morning. This pony’s sates were so good right out of the gate that Ford increased the number of production plants from one to three, and a million examples sold in the first 18 months. The company was on top of the world, literally: It celebrated the Mustang’s first-year success by placing one on the Empire State Building observation deck.
Over the next five decades, the Mustang grew and shrank depending on what the market needed from a quick and stylish American sports car: It has always had the uniqueability to find a niche in this market. (Even the smaller Mustang II, which is somewhat misunderstood today, set sales records when it was new.) The model’s icon status has gone uninterrupted for generations of enthusiasts, so Ford had to celebrate the Mustang’s golden anniversary properly.
Ford kicked off a tribute to a half-century of success just as it had celebrated its first year: with a trip to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Placing a car on the observation deck is harder than it may seem. Since no crane or helicopter can access this area, the Mustang must ride on the elevator like every other tourist.
Where the original car was split into three pieces, the larger and wider 2015 Mustang was cut into six parts before being reassembled high above Manhattan. The yellow convertible was only on display 40 hours between April 16 and 17, creating an interesting situation as the observation deck on Wednesday night was as busy as Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
The real celebration forMustang enthusiasts was across the river. Exactly five decades after the Mustang’s public reveal, owners of all previous five generations were welcome to join the new 2015 model at the World’s Fair. This was far more than just the local car clubs paying homage to where they first laid eyes on a future classic. Ford’s design director, Moray Callum, and head designer for the Americas, Chris Svensson, arrived at the ceremony after retracing the original Mustang press drive route from Detroit to New York. Callum drove his personal 1967 fastback, Svensson his 1965 convertible.
The full diversity of the Mustang was instantly apparent as a packed crowd at the World’s Fair surrounded the iconic 140-foot Unisphere globe. Today, a race-winning GT350 can be worth close to $1 million, and a four-cylinder Fox-body can be picked up for less than a grand. Still, on this milestone day, the common thread between all of these cars was clear: An original idea can keep a passion burning for 50 years.