Ford's Mustang - 10 Million Cars and Counting Plus Lot's Of Memories
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By Martha Hindes
The Auto Channel
If you wanted to prove you’re on top of the world, there are some prime ways to prove that. Among them go sky high, in numbers and in altitude.
Ford Motor Company, parent of the legendary Mustang “pony” sports car has managed to do both.
First, it cut a splashy yellow Mustang into a half dozen pieces and reassembled it on top of the Empire State Building, taking nearly every visitor’s attention away from the vista view of Manhattan, New York, and turning it toward the “Stang” tucked neatly into the corner of the skyscraper’s observation deck. Lines of potential visitors didn’t stand a chance of getting to the top without an hours-long wait. Those who had managed the two elevator ascension to take photos and selfies with the auto shimmering in the blazing spring sun simply weren’t in a hurry to leave.
We stood on that platform at the time, and watched enthusiasts repeatedly begging for a chance to skirt the barrier tapes, get inside and take that precious shot. No one – other than a few credentialed media – were able to succeed.
That was back in 2014 when the Mustang, now at middle age, had reached its 50th birthday.
But the only American branded pony car never taken out of production like its competitors from General Motors and Chrysler, hadn’t finished proving its worth.
On Wednesday, August 8, it reached an unheard of ranking for a specialty car – or for nearly any car for that matter – by reaching the10 million mark in production. A plantwide celebration was held at the assembly facility in Flat Rock, Michigan, near Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan headquarters.
A couple of decades ago it didn’t look promising for pony – also known as muscle -- cars in general. Pontiac’s Firebird was gone and so was the long-lived Chevy Camaro. Over at Chrysler’s Dodge country the Charger and Challenger had bitten the dust.
But faced with the prospect of exiting the category, Ford honchos had a second thought and decided to keep the Mustang around, even if the market seemed to be going elsewhere.
The term “pony” car that has stuck through the decades wasn’t actually named for the horse that helped open the American West in the 19th Century. According to Ford, it was named for a World
War II fighter plane and the pony name stuck for the Ford car as well as the competitive vehicles, establishing a new category of sporty auto.
Love for the Mustang shows no signs of ever fading. And Ford has made sure even those without hefty wallets aren’t left out by offering moderately priced daily driver versions with automatic transmissions and six-cylinder engines, but always as a coupe or convertible. That’s in addition to the high powered 8-banger muscle versions with a short-throw manual trans. (Think Carroll Shelby’s GT, Mach 1, or Cobra versions if you want inspiration.)
Undoubtedly the most famous Mustang ever made was the 1968 Highland Green “Bullitt” coupe Mustang featured in the movie of the same name starring macho man Steve McQueen. In one of the most famous car chase scenes – if not the most acknowledged one – in movie history, McQueen was pitted, actually driving in many of the scenes, against Hollywood stuntman Bill Hickman in a Dodge Charger. The chase scene was filmed in action, with non-stop cameras rolling as the cars sped through San Francisco in a pre-planned chase route that included two-wheel cornering and going airborne at times. Of course the Mustang won.
After decades, McQueen’s actual Bullitt Mustang was finally found and authenticated by the Historic Vehicle Association that came into being in 2009 to preserve historic autos the way buildings are protected and preserved by the National Register of Historic Places, according to Hagerty magazine. In respect to McQueen’s on road actions they labeled him a “bad ass on wheels.”
Once confirmed to be the original, the Bullitt Mustang was shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, presented by McQueen’s granddaughter to a mob of cheering enthusiasts.
As Mustang has continued its relentless pursuit of the top, the car that is revered worldwide has gained countless clubs and fan groups who hold regular meets and shows and are guaranteed to keep it in the spotlight.
Not bad for a little pony that first charged out of the corral back in 1964.
Copyright 2018, Martha Hindes, Automotive Bureau. All rights reserved.