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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE PONY

It’s hard to imagine, but over 10,000,000 Ford Mustangs have rolled off the production lines since that fateful day — April 17th, 1964 — when Lee Iacocca and his entire team stood proudly in the New York World’s Fair Pavilion and unveiled the car that would change the industry.

Brought to an eager market as “an affordable ‘sporty’ coupe,” the suggested list price was an attainable $2,368, which fueled the long lines around Ford dealerships across the country. The automotive press — who had been teased and tempted as part of the historic launch event — flooded newspapers and magazines in every city and every small town with star-struck accounts of the car that was stunning … and affordable.

To meet the demands of rushing the Mustang to market, off-the-shelf components from both the Falcon and the Fairlane were pulled in to serve.  So intense was the pressure to have the car ready, the steering wheels fitted to the first cars off the line would reveal a “Falcon” insignia … if the Mustang overlay were pried off.

Orders poured in for the 2.8 Litre, 101 horse powered car that originally came as a coupe and a convertible. Later in the year, the “Fastback 2+2” was added to the product line as “sporty” became more and more the Mustang signature.

Through up-sizing, adding luxury, and finally realizing that the goal should be “speed and power,” the Mustang has morphed and changed. Through 55 years of continuous production, the car has outlived several of the rival machines that attempted to cash in on the “pony car” craze. Gone are the Firebird, the Javelin, the Barracuda with only the Camaro and the Challenger remaining.

The “speed and power” goal has been fully realized in the latest iteration of the Mustang.  Compare the original 101 horsepower rating — utilizing the stock engine from the Ford Falcon, to the 480 horsepower 5.0 Litre V-8 available in the 2019 Mustang. Quite a change.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Legends vary (as they so often do) on who settled on the “Mustang” name.  For years, the popular notion was that Executive Stylist John Najjar, who admired the style of the World War II fighter plane, the P-51 Mustang brought that style vocabulary into the new car design.  Najjar worked with Philip Clark in bringing the first production Mustangs to market.

Others look to Robert Eggert, Manager of Market research for Ford who was a horseman who had become enthralled with the wild horses of North America — the Mustang.

Whichever tradition is preferred, the name quickly became synonymous with the exhilaration of the open road, accessible to the great mass of car lovers.

It may not be appropriate to sing “Happy Birthday” to an automobile marque, but a polite wave, even a flick of the lights might be an appropriate way of celebrating 55 years of undeniable success. Those who have attended the Skip Barber Racing School know that the racing machines that sport our red, black and white livery are Ford Mustangs.

The pony prances on.

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