Search Results for "mustang"

At The Henry Ford: Motor Muster 2014

It’s not every weekend that a 1954 Kaiser Darrin and a 1969 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight consort with a 1947 Vernors delivery truck, but such was the case this weekend at Motor Muster in Greenfield Village. Across two splendid days, the automotive treasures of 1933-1976 took center stage at one of the only venues in America that could hold its own against such a wealth of history.

That history is central to the Motor Muster “Pass and Review” in which relevant experts explain the significance of cars on parade. Dividing by time period rather than segment or class, the Pass and Review thus provides important background on an automotive cross-section as would have existed on the roads of its time.

Kicking off with the cars of 1933-1949, Marty Bufalini and David Liepelt detailed the ins and outs of everything from a rare Dodge Luxury Liner DeLuxe to a massive Cadillac Series 75 limousine. A Harley Earl design, the Cadillac set the luxury benchmark of the era, while the Dodge was built to compete as a stylish but more efficient alternative to its Ford and Chevrolet counterparts. Continue reading

A Green Flag for Summer

ford-detail

Memorial Day, June 1, school letting out. It seems there are plenty of different dates that mark the beginning of summer for some people; the summer solstice on June 21 being far too late.

For me, summer has always begun with the flash of sunshine on chrome-heavy bumpers, the throaty roar of a high-performance engine, and the smell of barbecue tinged with a bit of exhaust – for me, summer begins on June 14 this year, and every year around this time, with our Motor Muster car show in Greenfield Village.

This event is the essence of summertime fun – distilled delight for all the senses. Just as novelist Ray Bradbury in his 1957 classic, Dandelion Wine, described the nostalgic summer wine made by the main character’s grandfather, Motor Muster is “…summer on the tongue…(it’s) summer caught and stoppered.” Continue reading

Mustang: The Birth of an American Icon

mustang

The 1965 Ford Mustang, the right car at the right time. (Object ID: 66.47.1)

Fifty years on, it’s almost impossible to imagine the American road without the Mustang. What would actor Steve McQueen have raced through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt? What would singer Wilson Pickett have regretted buying for “Mustang Sally?” What would the 11,000 members of the Mustang Club of America celebrate? The Mustang is more than a car. It’s an icon, an image and a lifestyle.

Of course, none of this was predicted when Henry Ford II unveiled the Mustang at Ford Motor Company’s pavilion at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964. Ford was taking a chance with an unprecedented concept pitched at an untested market. How and why the company took that gamble is a fascinating story of vision, determination and luck. Continue reading

The 1963 Mustang II: A Not-So-Missing Link

It’s probably no surprise that Motor Muster, our annual car show celebrating 1933-1976 automobiles, is spotlighting the Ford Mustang for 2014, given all the excitement surrounding the car’s 50th anniversary. Likewise, it’s no great shock that The Henry Ford’s 1962 Mustang I roadster and 1965 Mustang Serial Number One convertible will be in Greenfield Village among the approximately 900 registered cars. What will come as a pleasant surprise is the appearance of a third special Mustang, for one day only, on Saturday, June 14. The Detroit Historical Society is bringing its 1963 Mustang II concept car to the show, making Motor Muster the only chance this year to see Mustangs I, II and Serial Number One together in the same place.

The 1963 Mustang II (not to be confused with the Ford Pinto-based production Mustang II of the 1970s) surely is one of the most unusual concept cars ever built. Industry practice (and common sense) tells us that an automaker builds a concept car as a kind of far-out “dream car” to generate excitement at car shows. Most never go past the concept stage, but a few do make it into regular production. (Chevrolet’s Corvette and Dodge’s Viper are notable examples.) The Mustang II previewed the production Ford Mustang we all know and love, but the concept car was designed and built after the production Mustang project already was well underway! Why? It’s a case of managing public expectations. Continue reading

The 1963 Mustang II – A Not-So-Missing Link

Ford's 1963 Mustang II, the car that bridged the gap between the concept Mustang I and the production 1965 Mustang.

Ford’s 1963 Mustang II, the car that bridged the gap between the concept Mustang I and the production 1965 Mustang.

It’s probably no surprise that Motor Muster, our annual car show celebrating 1933-1976 automobiles, is spotlighting the Ford Mustang for 2014, given all the excitement surrounding the car’s 50th anniversary. Likewise, it’s no great shock that The Henry Ford’s 1962 Mustang I roadster and 1965 Mustang Serial Number One convertible will be in Greenfield Village among the approximately 900 registered cars. What will come as a pleasant surprise is the appearance of a third special Mustang, for one day only, on Saturday, June 14. The Detroit Historical Society is bringing its 1963 Mustang II concept car to the show, making Motor Muster the only chance this year to see Mustangs I, II and Serial Number One together in the same place.

The 1963 Mustang II (not to be confused with the Ford Pinto-based production Mustang II of the 1970s) surely is one of the most unusual concept cars ever built. Industry practice (and common sense) tells us that an automaker builds a concept car as a kind of far-out “dream car” to generate excitement at car shows. Most never go past the concept stage, but a few do make it into regular production. (Chevrolet’s Corvette and Dodge’s Viper are notable examples.) The Mustang II previewed the production Ford Mustang we all know and love, but the concept car was designed and built after the production Mustang project already was well underway! Why? It’s a case of managing public expectations.

Most Mustang histories start with the 1962 Mustang I, but devoted pony fans know that Mustang I was an entirely separate project from the production car. Ford built the “Mustang Experimental Sports Car” (its original name – the “I” was a retrospective addition) to spark interest in the company’s activities. Ford was going back into racing and looking for a quick way to create some buzz about the exciting things happening in Dearborn. The plan worked a bit too well. When Mustang I debuted at Watkins Glen in October 1962, and then hit the car show circuit, the public went crazy and sent countless letters to Ford begging the company to put the little two-seater into production.

At the same time Mustang I was being built, another team at Ford was working on the production Mustang that would debut in April 1964. Mustang I’s popularity created a problem: Everyone loved the two-seat race car, but would they feel the same about the four-seat version? The solution was to build a new four-seat prototype closely based on the production Mustang’s design.

Enter the 1963 Mustang II.

The new concept car wasn’t just based on the production Mustang’s design – it was actually built from a prototype production Mustang body. Ford designers removed the front and rear bumpers, altered the headlights and grille treatment, and fitted Mustang II with a removable roof. While the car looked different from the production Mustang, a few of the production car’s trademark styling cues were retained, including the C-shaped side sculpting and the tri-bar taillights. Mustang II also consciously borrowed from Mustang I, employing the 1962 car’s distinct white paint and blue racing stripes. Conceptually and physically, the four-seat Mustang II formed a bridge linking the 1962 Mustang I with the 1965 production car. Mustang II was a hit when it debuted at Watkins Glen in October 1963, and when the production version premiered six months later, there were few complaints about the four seats instead of two.

Fortunately, Mustang II is one “link” that isn’t “missing.” The Detroit Historical Society acquired the car in 1975 and has taken great care of it ever since. We’re grateful to them for sharing it at our 2014 Motor Muster, where visitors can see first-hand the Mustang’s evolution from I to II to Serial Number One.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

Race Days in Detroit

While others might welcome the start of summer with the Memorial Day weekend, those of us in the Motor City know that the season begins when racing returns at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. The early-June event just completed a successful third year since its 2012 revival, and the drivers, venue and city all shined. Several races took place over the three days, giving fans a chance to see IndyCars, sports cars, and even Baja-style trucks compete on the 2.36-mile, 13-turn Belle Isle circuit.

The Cadillac V-Series Challenge, a part of the Pirelli World Challenge Series, pitted production-based cars against each other in two races. Fans saw some of Detroit’s best compete with foreign marques. The Grand Touring Sport class featured Camaros and Mustangs against Nissans, Kias, and Aston Martins. The Grand Touring class put Cadillacs against legendary names like Audi, Ferrari, Lambroghini, McLaren and Porsche. The “home” cars did well this year. Dean Martin won the GTS events in a Ford Mustang Boss 302S, while Johnny O’Connell took the GT events in a Cadillac CTS-V.R. Continue reading

Ford Meets Disney at the Magic Skyway

Riders began their journey on the Magic Skyway by passing through a glass tunnel around the outside of the Ford pavilion (lower left), affording a unique bird’s-eye view of the fairground. (THF201987)

Some people called the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair the greatest fair ever, while others denounced it as a nostalgic look backward. Either way, no one could miss the mega-attractions that were staged by American corporations. Among these display “giants” was Ford Motor Company, who brought in Walt Disney to ensure that its corporate pavilion would be a blockbuster hit at the fair.

A Partnership is Formed

Ford and Disney both had their reasons for making a big splash at the New York World’s Fair.

Ford Motor Company executives wanted to tell their corporate story, showcase their products—including a special highlight on the new Ford Mustang—and provide a “unique and memorable entertainment adventure” that would outshine their competitors at the fair.

Walt Disney, by now internationally recognized for his success at Disneyland, was planning for the future. He looked to the fair as a place to try out new ideas and refine new technologies, obtain corporate funding to create new attractions, and test the receptiveness of East Coast audiences to his most recent dream—building a spacious new theme park in Florida. The Ford pavilion was one of four major attractions that Disney and his Imagineers at WED Enterprises would produce for the New York World’s Fair. (The other three attractions were Progressland for General Electric; Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for the State of Illinois; and it’s a small world for Pepsi-Cola.)

Henry Ford II and Walt Disney in 1962 with Model of the Ford Pavilion for the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair

Using this detailed model, Walt Disney shows Ford Motor Company CEO and Chairman of the Board Henry Ford II some of the features that he and his Imagineers had dreamed up for the Ford pavilion. (THF114505)

Ford recognized that Disney represented not only “the greatest pool of creative talent available” but also had years of experience with crowd movement and control. Indeed, when Walt Disney brought in architect Welton Becket from Los Angeles to design the Ford pavilion, he directed Becket to provide space for two simultaneous shows, queuing areas, and product displays—allowing for a capacity of 4,000 guests per hour. Ford Motor Company executives were particularly interested in their pavilion taking on a rotunda form, in keeping with their previous structures at world’s fairs and to commemorate the loss of their beloved, recently-burned-down Ford Rotunda in Dearborn.

Brochure Promoting the Ford Pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, "Ride Walt Disney's Magic Skyway"

This page from a souvenir brochure shows the two distinct structures that made up the Ford pavilion: the so-called “Wonder Rotunda,” inspired by previous Ford world’s fair buildings, and the building that housed most of the Magic Skyway ride. (THF114832)

A Ride on the Magic Skyway

Disney Imagineers brought to the Ford pavilion all the experience they had gained in developing attractions at Disneyland.

As guests entered the Ford pavilion through the monumental Rotunda building, they encountered a series of colorful exhibits focusing on Ford’s history, global influence, and current products. The topics were Ford-related, but the treatment of virtually every element had the unique Disney touch. For example, the miniature villages of the International Gardens display were reminiscent of the miniscule settings at the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction in Disneyland. Great moments in Ford Motor Company history were represented by several humorous, Disney-designed dioramas as guests took moving “speed ramps” to the upper level for the Magic Skyway ride. Near the ride queue, a Disney-created “animated orchestra” was comprised of ingeniously rigged Ford automobile parts.

International Gardens Display at the Ford Pavilion, New York World's Fair, 1964-1965

Representing Ford Motor Company’s global reach, the Disney-designed International Gardens display featured miniature buildings, landscapes, and settings of 12 countries. (THF114465)

Auto Parts Harmonic Orchestra

The “Auto Parts Harmonic Orchestra”—comprised of Ford automobile parts—really played music! (THF115025)

The climax of the Ford pavilion was, of course, the Magic Skyway ride—billed as “an exciting ride in a Company-built convertible through a fantasy of the past and future in 12 minutes.” It is quite possible that the idea of using real cars for the ride was Ford Motor Company’s, inspired by the “Road of Tomorrow” feature at its 1939 New York World’s Fair pavilion. There, guests had ridden in current car models along a “highway of the future.” But, this time, the cars were fixed in place, attached to a track that moved them along at evenly spaced intervals. Perfecting this ride track technology was, in fact, a major goal for Disney and his Imagineers at the fair.

Convertibles were chosen for the ride because they were easy to climb into and out of and because they afforded the greatest visibility for the show. Through most of the planning process, the choice of convertibles had included examples from all the regular Ford and Lincoln-Mercury lines—Falcon, Ford, Comet, Mercury, Lincoln-Continental, and Thunderbird. But, with mere months to spare before the fair’s opening on April 22, Ford realized the marketing potential in adding several of its new Ford Mustangs to the ride track as well.

Once settled inside their cars, guests used the push buttons of their car’s radio to hear sounds, music, and—after a brief welcome from Henry Ford II—the narration for the show in a choice of four different languages.

The ride began with the cars slowly gliding along outside the Rotunda building through a transparent glass tunnel. This idea, conceived by legendary Disney Imagineer John Hench, both afforded riders a perfect view of the fairground from the upper level of the pavilion and allowed fairgoers to glimpse the new Ford models from below.

Loading Area for the Magic Skyway Ride at the Ford Pavilion, New York World's Fair, 1964-1965

Twin tracks can be seen here in the loading area of the Magic Skyway ride, where friendly attendants helped guests quickly and efficiently get into the next available convertible. Story has it that the Ford Mustang was so popular that guests would wait out their turn until a Mustang came along. (THF114475)

Entering the Transparent Tunnel of the Magic Skyway Ride, Ford Pavilion, New York World's Fair, 1964-1965

Guests enter the glass tunnel overlooking the fairgrounds in anticipation of their “Adventure through Time and Space.” (THF67946)

Back inside the pavilion, the cars picked up speed and the ride truly began. Rainbow-hued strobe lights flashed past while sound effects created the illusion that riders were hurtling through a “time tunnel,” racing across millions of years toward a far distant past.

Emerging from this time tunnel, guests found themselves in “a dim primeval place of strange sounds and sights.” Their cars moved past several gatherings of “prehistoric monsters”—some engaged in mortal combat, others combing the rugged and swampy terrain for food. But, within moments, climate and plant life shifted and Man made his appearance. Groups of cavemen could be seen discovering fire, painting on cave walls, fighting off vicious beasts, using stone as a tool, and—in a final vignette—using the wheel.

Primeval Earth Diorama on the Magic Skyway Ride, Ford Pavilion, 1964-1965 New York World's Fair

Riders on the Magic Skyway intently watch this primeval scene from the comfort of their Ford convertible. (THF114507)

For the scenes of the primeval past, Walt Disney had wanted to create an adventure “so realistic that guests will feel they have lived through a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience.” To accomplish this, Disney Imagineers “brought to life” both the prehistoric creatures and the cavemen with their newest storytelling technology, Audio-Animatronics®. They had introduced this technology only recently—at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland in 1963, and they had much they wanted to refine on its details here at the fair.

Guests left these scenes behind and entered a second time tunnel, speeding past flashing, spinning, and twirling wheels that symbolized the progress of thousands of years. After their journey through time and space on a “Highway in the Sky,” they were dropped off at “Space City”—a “spectacular, impressionistic city of tomorrow.” Guests disembarked here, as the voice of Walt Disney—speaking through the car radio—invited them to enter a world “where tomorrow is created today.”

Returning to the real world of corporate exhibits, guests encountered five “Adventures in Science” displays, which highlighted Ford’s and Philco’s (a Ford subsidiary at the time) current research in the fields of space, electronics, power sources, fuel, and new materials.

Taking moving “speed ramps” back down to the first level, guests were encouraged to explore on their own the many Ford products and presentations on display in the elegant Product Salon. A final Disney-produced exhibit—featuring moving scenes of city and countryside—provided the backdrop for a Ford “Product Parade”—an “endless stream” of current Ford-built cars, trucks, and tractors.

After the Fair

The Ford pavilion and its Magic Skyway ride were, as hoped, a huge hit with the public and an unqualified success for both Ford and Disney.

For Ford Motor Company, millions of people riding the Magic Skyway experienced a ride in a Ford car for the first time. In addition, Ford’s idea to introduce the Mustang at the fair was a stroke of marketing genius, as the Ford Mustang would go on to become one of the best-selling automobiles in American history.

Advertisement for the 1965 Ford Mustang, "Exciting New Car from Ford Motor Company"

With its sporty look, reasonable price, and endless number of options, the Mustang hit a sweet spot in the market—appealing to a wide range of buyers. Ford was able to boast that it was a “show stopper” at the New York World’s Fair in this August 14, 1964 Time magazine advertisement. (THF77007)

With four top-ten attractions at the New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney established an impressive record working with large corporations. His Imagineers achieved in record time what might have otherwise taken years to accomplish. Their experiments with ride track technology would be further refined at Disneyland to become the WEDway People Mover, while their refinements with Audio-Animatronics® would find their way into many new attractions. inally, Disney knew that his dream for a new theme park in Florida could proceed as planned. But for now he was happy to bring back all three non-Ford attractions from the New York World’s Fair back to Disneyland.

The Ford pavilion almost came back to Disneyland too. Walt Disney proposed to Ford Motor Company a re-envisioned attraction that would house a 1,000-seat theatre with a new, product-oriented stage show employing Audio-Animatronics® techniques, as well as a showroom for corporate products. The real cars of the Magic Skyway ride would be replaced by the new WEDway People Mover, circulating through the interior of the pavilion on its route around Tomorrowland. Ford Motor Company debated the pros and cons of Disney’s proposal but, in the end, declined his offer.

Ironically, only the dinosaurs of the Magic Skyway ride survived “extinction,” taking up residence in the Primeval World diorama along the Disneyland Railroad in July 1966.

Donna R. Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

Report from the 2014 Keels and Wheels Concours d’Elegance

Earlier this month, I had the honor of serving as a guest judge at the 2014 Keels and Wheels Concours d’Elegance in Seabrook, Texas. As the name suggests, the event features vintage watercraft alongside automobiles. It’s a rare combination on the concours circuit, but one that works well in this balmy resort community on Galveston Bay. More than 160 cars and 60 boats registered for this year’s show, and the sunny skies ensured big crowds at the two-day event.

Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg, represented by this 1929 Auburn 120, were the featured marques.

Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg, represented by this 1929 Auburn 120, were the featured marques.

Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg were the featured marques for 2014, and fine examples from each were present. The celebrated Cord L-29 and Duesenberg Model J were both represented, but I was most taken by a 1929 Auburn 120 Cabriolet. It characterized Auburn’s glory years, when owner Errett Loban Cord brought the company to prominence by offering technically sophisticated cars at – for Auburn at least – comparatively modest prices.

The rakish 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal.

The rakish 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal.

Keels and Wheels always includes a nice selection of foreign makes. This year was no exception, with Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins and Jaguars all in attendance. Nothing was quite so exotic, however, as the show’s 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal. The futuristic coupe debuted as a concept car at Expo 67 in its namesake Canadian city. So great was the crowd reaction that the Italian automaker put the car into production. Some 3,900 units were built between 1970 and 1977.

Who can say how many 1968 Mustang fastbacks were repainted Highland Green in homage to Frank Bullitt?

Who can say how many 1968 Mustang fastbacks were repainted Highland Green in homage to Frank Bullitt?

The Mustang’s big five-oh was commemorated with no fewer than six ponies. The one that turned the most heads was a 1968 fastback repainted, reupholstered, and fitted with a 390 cubic inch engine, all in tribute to Steve McQueen’s iconic ride in Bullitt.

Some cars remind us of movies. Others, like this 1981 DeLorean DMC-12, are defined by movies.

Some cars remind us of movies. Others, like this 1981 DeLorean DMC-12, are defined by movies.

If the Mustang is a car that reminds us of movies (Goldfinger, Bullitt, and Gone in 60 Seconds for starters), then the DeLorean DMC-12 is a car that’s remembered primarily because of a movie. John DeLorean’s stainless steel sports car may have lacked horsepower, but its pop culture staying power is certain. Just ask the five year-old boy I overheard saying, “Look dad, it’s McFly’s car!”

"Woody II Shoes," a 1958 Chris-Craft Custom Sportsman. Not a car, but Michigan made!

“Woody II Shoes,” a 1958 Chris-Craft Custom Sportsman. Not a car, but Michigan made!

Wheels, of course, are only half the story at this concours. The Lakewood Yacht Club’s inner harbor was awash with classic watercraft, from sporty wooden runabouts to luxurious yachts. My favorite was a 1958 Chris-Craft 17-foot Custom Sportsman named Woody II Shoes. The boat was beautiful, but my choice was purely sentimental – Woody II Shoes was built at the Chris-Craft plant in my hometown of Cadillac, Michigan.

It's a La Salle... a 1684 La Salle.

It’s a La Salle… a 1684 La Salle.

The most unique vessel at Keels and Wheels was La Petite Belle, a one-half scale replica of a ship used by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687). The French explorer built the first sailing vessel on the Great Lakes, explored the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and met an untimely death by his own crew during an expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. Gearheads (and All in the Family fans) will recognize La Salle as the namesake of General Motors’ similarly ill-fated companion car to Cadillac.

Classic cars, wooden boats and beautiful weather. It’s a formula that’s made Keels and Wheels a success for almost 20 years. And really, what more could you ask?

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

50 Years of Mustang – A Birthday Bash Fit for an American Icon

The Henry Ford’s 1965 Mustang Serial #1 and 1962 Mustang I concept car were honored guests at a pair of simultaneous events honoring the pony car’s golden anniversary in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, Nevada. The four-day celebrations, hosted by the Mustang Club of America with close cooperation from Ford Motor Company, brought together cars, owners and fans from around the world to commemorate one of the most influential and enduring automobiles.

The Charlotte event, held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, opened in grand fashion on April 17. Fifty years to the day after Henry Ford II introduced the Mustang at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, current Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford unveiled the 50th Anniversary Edition 2015 Ford Mustang. Limited to 1,964 units, the 50th Anniversary car comes fully loaded but available in just two colors: Kona Blue and Wimbledon White – the latter something of a nod to Serial #1’s paint.

The 50th Anniversary Edition 2015 Ford Mustang. There’s a definite family resemblance to Serial #1.

The 50th Anniversary Edition 2015 Ford Mustang. There’s a definite family resemblance to Serial #1.

Other distinguished guests in Charlotte included Ford Board Member Edsel Ford II, Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, the 1965 Mustang Design Chief Gale Halderman, and current Mustang Chief Engineer Dave Pericak. Retired Chicago-area school teacher Gail Wise enjoyed a unique fame at the event. On April 15, 1964, she purchased a Skylight Blue Mustang convertible – making her the first Mustang buyer in the United States. She still owns the car today, which also makes her the senior-most original owner. Gail and her convertible posed for countless photos with Mustang fans over the four-day party.

The Henry Ford’s Mustang Serial #1 (left) sat next to Gail Wise’s Skylight Blue convertible in Charlotte. The “Mustang Garage” display area included pony cars from every generation.

The Henry Ford’s Mustang Serial #1 (left) sat next to Gail Wise’s Skylight Blue convertible in Charlotte. The “Mustang Garage” display area included pony cars from every generation.

I had the privilege of joining Serial #1 in Charlotte. As I spoke with visitors, nearly every one of them was familiar with the car’s story. In fact, many had seen Serial #1 before, either at The Henry Ford or at a previous show. My favorite reaction was from members of the Montreal Mustang Club. Upon seeing Serial #1 with its Newfoundland license plates, they immediately shouted “Captain Tucker! Captain Tucker!” – referring to their fellow Canadian, the airline pilot who inadvertently purchased the car in April 1964.

The sister celebration at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was even more international in tone. While Ford has never directly sold the Mustang overseas (until the 2015 model, that is), this hasn’t stopped the car from winning fans abroad. Our Mustang I concept car brought smiles to the faces of Mustang club members from Sweden, France, Switzerland and Brazil, among other nations. Special guests in Las Vegas included Ford Sales Zone Manager Henry Ford III, Ford COO Mark Fields (yes, the busy Fields visited both celebrations), and former Ford Special Projects Assistant Hal Sperlich. Along with Ford President Lee Iacocca and Ford Product Manager Don Frey, Sperlich is one of the key people who brought the Mustang into being 50 years ago. He was given a hero’s welcome by the fans gathered in Nevada.

Members of the Mustang Club of Switzerland pose with our 1962 Mustang I concept car in Las Vegas.

Members of the Mustang Club of Switzerland pose with our 1962 Mustang I concept car in Las Vegas.

Mustang owners and enthusiasts at both events enjoyed various activities. Souvenir stands sold Mustang merchandise of all descriptions. Vendors and swap meet participants sold parts for Mustangs from every vintage. Mustang historians gave presentations on the car’s debut and evolution. Owners with performance cars took laps around the tracks. And then there were the cars themselves – thousands of Mustangs filled and surrounded the venues in Charlotte and Las Vegas.

By the time each event wrapped up on April 20, new friendships were formed, the latest version of the pony car was revealed to the world, and a passion for the Mustang had been ignited in the young visitors who will take the car into its next generations. I’ll bet a few of them are already dreaming about 2064!

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

Stanley Tucker and Ford Mustang Serial Number One

It’s ironic – like, in the actual “opposite of what you’d expect” way as opposed to the “merely coincidental” way in which the term is often misused. The Ford Mustang is revered as one of the most “American” of all cars. Its name conjures up images of the Wild West. Its early logo incorporated red, white and blue stripes. The car’s very look is based on our country’s obsessions with speed and style. And yet Mustang Serial Number One, sold 50 years ago this month, went to a Canadian. Yeah, that’s irony.

On April 14, 1964, Eastern Provincial Airlines pilot Stanley Tucker walked into George Parsons Ford, a dealership perched on the eastern edge of the continent in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It was love at first sight. The sharp-looking Wimbledon White convertible jumped out at the 33 year-old pilot, and he knew he had to have it. We don’t know the name of the person who sold the car to Tucker – but the pilot must have been quite a salesman himself. Somehow, he convinced Parsons Ford to break street date and sell him the car three days before April 17, when Ford officially released Mustang to the world. He took serial number 5F08F100001 home and, for a short time, was the general public’s only Mustang owner.

Mustang Serial Number One should not have been sold on that early date. In fact, it shouldn’t have been sold at all. The car was one of approximately 180 pre-production cars built at the Rouge between February 10 and March 5, 1964. These initial cars served two purposes: 1.) They eased Ford into full production by familiarizing workers and supervisors with the build process, and 2.) They formed a batch of physical cars that could be shipped to every major Ford dealer in time for the April 17 launch. Logically, the first cars built were sent to the farthest dealers – hence Serial Number One wound up 2,180 miles from Dearborn in St. John’s. (Twelve of these pre-production cars, incidentally, went to the New York World’s Fair for use in Ford’s Magic Skyway ride.)

Serial Number One’s stamped vehicle identification number. (THF90611)

Serial Number One’s stamped vehicle identification number. (THF90611)

Being a pre-production or, if you will, “practice” car, Serial #1 has a few quirks not seen in regular Mustangs. Careful observers will notice that the hood’s fit is a little crooked. The door lock knobs have no grommets at their bases. The front grille’s color tends more toward gray than the bluish hue seen on regular production cars. The engine block is painted gray instead of the black on later Mustangs. Little details like these changed after full production began on March 9.

Not long after Capt. Tucker made his purchase, Ford tracked him down and asked to have Serial Number One back. Not surprisingly, Tucker declined the request. He spent the next two years putting some 10,000 miles on his pony car. By early 1966, when nearly one million Mustangs had been sold and the car’s status as a Ford landmark was secure, the Blue Oval called again. This time, Ford offered Tucker a worthy trade: in exchange for returning Serial Number One, he could have the One Millionth Mustang, equipped to his specifications. Tucker agreed and, when filling out the order, covered the entire option sheet with single large “X.” The only extra he didn’t take was the High Performance 289 engine – it carried a shorter warranty period.

Tucker came to Dearborn on March 2, 1966, met Ford President (and Mustang father) Lee Iacocca, and posed for photos with his new Silver Frost 1966 Mustang convertible. Meanwhile, Ford reclaimed Tucker’s much-loved Serial Number One and soon donated it to The Henry Ford. Seventeen years after the trade, when Mustang Monthly magazine caught up with Tucker, the pilot expressed some understandable regret that he’d let go of Serial Number One. As we celebrate 50 years of Mustang, though, we can be grateful that 5F08F100001 is preserved for all to enjoy. Many of our visitors, upon seeing the car in Henry Ford Museum, get that same gleam in their eyes that Stanley Tucker must have gotten all those years ago.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

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