Enjoy The Drive: Cruising with Mustang With Maureen McDonald
Mustangs motor into memory lane
by Maureen McDonald
The Auto Channel
On an overcast, humid day thousands of cars, trucks and strange contraptions descended on Woodward Avenue just north of Detroit to celebrate the annual homage to all this motorized – the Dream Cruise.
An estimated 1.5 million people rode vehicles, new and vintage, in the day long parade or watched from the sidelines, buffing their classic cars, adjusting their binoculars and dreaming of owning a classic next year when the festival celebrates 25 years of existence.
This cruise belonged to Ford Motor Company that celebrated the 10 millionth Mustang produced since 1965, the first car officially hyped for the millennials of the 60s. It wasn’t just a launch, the car was intro’d at the 1964 Word’s Fair, starred in a chase scene in 1964 with Sean Connery’s James Bond in “Goldfinger,” and rocked the socks off racers as Steve McQueen drove one in the 1968 film “Bullitt.”
The original “Bullitt” Mustang and the revival car were featured in the Mustang booth at the Dream Cruise this year as hundreds took selfies of themselves standing next to these cars. Over the past couple months Ford has hosted parties for Mustang Club owners with small parades. As a native Detroiter, I’ve got to say, nothing is like the Dream Cruise. Ford took over the corner of Vinsetta and Woodward for a press party and aficionado fan club event with lots of cars to salivate over.
Ford Motor Company introduced a mat-gray Mustang with flight insignias to honor American fighter pilots who served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. The Eagle Squadron Mustang GT debuted at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, then auctioned off. It might be as fast as a 40s airplane with an engine delivering 700 hp from its 5.0-liter V-8. It boasts a tactical performance suspension package.
For me, it was the turquoise Mustang in the press viewing area that captured me whole. My boyfriend Henry had one of those “pony cars,” and rode it with panache along Woodward Avenue. I had a newer, ’68 Camaro with a yellow body and black racing stripe on its nose and a modest six cylinder under the hood. He had all eight horses in his ’65 Mustang and he could leave else everything flat from a stop light. A love of fast cars and men who loved cars was born in this era and never abated.
Woodward in the 2000-teens is a carnival of sorts. On Dream Cruise day the minions gather. People with minivans and SUVs sometimes crowd out the classic cars and ogle at the bystanders while the classic cars struggle to be seen. People dress up like Elvis or the Blues Brothers or Wilma Flintstone and ride around at five miles an hour while the street slowly churns.
In the late 1960s, the parade happened every weekend with real people wearing sideburns, big Leslie Gore flips, John Lennon wire glasses while spreading patchouli all over everything. Cars came in a peacock array of colors because the pastel car era land yachts were still in original service. There were pony cars everywhere. Baby boomer cars catering to a post-World War 2 boom of consumerism that invented vehicles for teens and 20-somethings. If we were rich, or we had a lot of float at the bank, we could own a swift car. At least a loud radio for car tunes.
Wilson Pickett sang “Mustang Sally,” a bluesy number that picked up the thrill of motoring and let women conquer the wheel. Best line? “I bought you a brand new mustang ’bout nineteen sixty five, now you come around signifying a woman, you don’t wanna let me ride.” Plenty more jingles followed. Rumor says that John DeLorean at the height of his career at Pontiac hired Ronny and the Daytonas to sing “Little GTO.” The Beach Boys came along with “409,” a love story to a Chevy engine, and Steppenwolf made every ride a little faster with that tune, “Born to be Wild.”
Just about every 1960s tune came jingling out of the car radios this scorching Saturday in August along with a bunch of new ones. Ford had more billboards for viewing than GM this year. They sponsored the Dream Cruise and the people appreciated the patronage. Once was a time when nearly everyone in Detroit worked for a car company, a subsidiary or a vendor of some sort. Mustang has endurance.
Indeed Mustangs, named for the wild horses that everyone wants to capture and tame, ride on and on. Wherever there’s asphalt there’s a desire to step on the accelerator, downshift and move ahead of traffic. This vehicle may be marketed by the masters, but it won’t be tamed.