Jesus Garcia/ The Paisano
I’m probably the millionth person to write about Ford’s golden boy, the Mustang, but I felt I should throw my hat in the ring since April 17, 2014, was the day that America’s Pony turned 50 years old. Ford hosted a huge birthday bash for the Mustang and every auto magazine wrote about the history of the car and how great the new 2015 model looked. The Mustang is comparable to a bottle of Coca-Cola. People that love Coke will freak out if a restaurant does not serve it; people that hate it will pour coke down a sewer drain to make room for Pepsi. But, everyone knows what a bottle of Coca-Cola looks like.
The Mustang has done what the Model A did during the 1930’s: it has given a new generation a fun yet affordable mode of transportation. What separates the two cars is the impact they have on young people. It took the Model A 20 years to accomplish what the Mustang did for America’s youth. Model As achieved legendary status the day a returning WWII veteran decided to remove the fenders and add another carb to the flathead V8, but the Mustang achieved this status the very second it was introduced in 1964 at the World’s Trade Fair in New York City.
The 1960s were America’s rebellious, adolescent phase: The election of JFK, a cold war, the Beatles starting a new wave of British fueled rock ’n’ roll, the Cold War coming to a peak before cooling off as the Vietnam war heats up like a napalm drop, the sexual revolution . America was an awkward teen discovering new changes that it never had to deal with before and in the midst of this psychedelic era, FoMoCo introduced a new sports sedan for the everyman, which jumpstarted yet another revolution for the history books- the Mustang
The variety, along with a humble price tag, meant that a family of four could each have their own custom tailored Mustang. There was the white, V8 powered 3-speed manual for Dad, the baby blue straight-six automatic for Mom, a red convertible for Sally who’s going off to college, and in later years, a GT fastback for little Billy who likes to race on the weekends. The Mustang allowed the American consumer the luxury of buying a car not seen since the Dusenburg, which at the time was limited to the higher social class. The Ford Mustang (after the 1963 Pontiac V8 powered Tempest but before the 1964 GTO respectably) started the famed “Pony Wars” later known by fans and historians as the “Muscle Car Era”- an era I think all Gearheads, regardless of preference, are thankful for. The Mustang even gave tuning legend, Carroll Shelby, a blank canvas to create some amazing Shelby-branded ponies in the mid to late 60s and early 70s.
Although the Mustang stumbled during the 70s and 80s with the Mustang II, it soon found redemption with a new body style in 1979 and a new engine in 1982. The Fox body mustangs, named after the fox platform they were based on, was a facelift on the aging prince of FoMoCo. The European styling stuffed with a brand new 5.0 V8 was a combination beloved by both hot rodders and law enforcement, which all used to satisfy their acceleration addiction.
Fast forward to the turn of the century. The Mustang came full circle when it reignited the Pony Wars (once again after Pontiac released their GTO). The 2005 Mustang set the trend for retro styling muscle cars that gave a new generation their own chance to live through a muscle car era as well as giving the baby boomers a blast from the past to the “good old days”. It inspired Chevrolet to redesign their Camaro and Chrysler to bring back the Charger, Challenger and the Dart back from the dead. Even Mr. Carroll Shelby- may he rest in speed- had a chance to leave his final stamp of approval on the 2013 Shelby GT500, which boasted the more powerful V8 production engine at over 600 horsepower.
Some Gearheads might argue that Mustangs are overrated and slow compared to other cars, and they are right to a certain degree, but they have to look at it from a different point of view. If you’re a teenaged Gearhead looking for your first set of wheels, you want three things: something easy to wrench on, a huge selection of aftermarket parts and looks halfway decent are a must. When it comes down to buying a car with all three qualities you usually end up with three options: a pickup truck, a Honda Civic and the good old Ford Mustang.
I love first generation Mustangs and a 1970 Mustang Boss 1 is on my to own. Mustangs have a soft spot in my heart. If it wasn’t for the Mustang creating lines at Ford dealerships, who knows if all our other favorite muscle cars would have ever made it to production. The Ford Mustang is a car that changed the idea of a car can be. It gave the idea of premium performance and styling at a base price.
Let’s all take a moment to give thanks to Ford Motor Company and their Detroit Stallion for impacting our hobby in one form or another, whether in a showroom or at a streetlight. Happy 50th birthday Ford Mustang! May your wheels never stop rolling.