Lee Iacocca’s brainchild, the Ford Mustang, is considered by many to be the car that secured Ford’s future. It was a bold, brave departure from its previous offerings, and Iacocca himself had to fight tooth and nail to get it built. It was worth the fight though. Ford speculated that first year sales of 100,000 would be good. The Mustang smashed it by selling over 400,000. It was the car that truly popularised the ‘pony car’ market of small, affordable, fun, sporty cars. It became an icon, a symbol of youth America, a car associated with freedom and adventure. That’s not something every car can boast.
As the years rolled by, the Mustang evolved and changed before becoming the car you can walk into a dealership and buy today. And true to those early cars, you still get rear-wheel drive and V8 power. And on that journey to today, the Mustang has been in some amazing places, it’s done some incredible things and it’s been the bedrock of many a great story. And with that in mind, here are five of our favourite Mustang moments from the last fifty-five years.
1) Empire State Of Mind
Ford wanted to make a splash when it launched the Mustang, which meant Ford’s marketing team had to come up with some big ideas. Few came bigger than the notion of putting a brand-new Mustang atop the Empire State building. It sounded silly, but Ford bosses loved it. The only problem was that there was no way to get a Mustang to the observation deck of the world famous building. As such, Ford engineers took a new ‘66 convertible and cut the whole thing into sections so it would fit in the elevators. They then reassembled it on the observation deck. Bonkers, but it worked.
It was a clear demonstration of Ford’s marketing power – no other manufacturer dared dream of doing something so big. The stunt didn’t only prove useful as a marketing activity, it also made its way into the headlines of national papers. You can’t buy press like that. And it was such a success that in 2014 Ford did it again with the current generation car, this time a yellow convertible. Brilliant.
2) The Disgustang
For many, there is only one Mustang that can call itself the ultimate, and that’s the ‘69 Mach 1. Despite this ultimate status, the fact remains that, as with any car, it was just an old car at one point. And as such, countless Mach 1 Mustangs were left to rot in junk yards. One such car is the Mach 1 as owned by David Freiburger of Roadkill fame. He and co-presenter, Mike Finnegan, pulled this forgotten relic from Colorado Auto and Parts where it had been sat languishing for decades. Beaten and forgotten, the Disgustang as it quickly became known was full of animal faeces, mold and dirt. But the guys weren’t put off, and they wrenched and power-washed the old car back to life.
Over the last couple of years, the Disgustang has gone from strength to strength, and now houses a new, big-power V8, completely new suspension, the rotten floors have been expertly repaired by the guys at Hot Rod Ranch and it even has a kicking stealth sound system! The body is still tired, wearing its hard-earned patina with pride, but make no mistake, this now daily driven Mach 1 is one of the greats. It could have sat forever, but now it’s back and smoking the rear tyres.
Credit to Roadkill/Motortrend for images
3) The Bullitt Mustang
The 1968 Ford Mustang GT500 used in Steve McQueen crime thriller, Bullitt, is of course an icon because of its starring role in one of cinema’s most exciting car chases. However, that’s not why it’s on this list. We love the silver screen link, but the car’s own story is the stuff of legend. Mainly because for decades, experts and fans alike were confident that the car had met its demise early on. However, that wasn’t the case. In 2018, the owner of the car went public, and unveiled the car in ‘as used’ condition. Tired, a bit battered, and still with welded-on camera mounts, it was a time capsule of epic proportions. The owner, Sean Keirnan, inherited the car off his father, Robert, who bought it shortly after filming. With the car, Sean presented signed letters from McQueen himself, who was desperate to get the car back.
Keirnan didn’t buy the car for movie reasons though. Far from it. It was just a cheap car and made for decent family transport before being retired and stuck in a barn. As the years rolled by, speculation grew as to the fate of the car. Only two were used in the production, this one and another for heavier stunts. The second car resurfaced, but was a wreck. A year later, this car broke into the limelight and the motoring world went nuts. To such an extent that when the car was sold at auction last year, it fetched a record-breaking $3,400,000. Incredible.
4) Gone in 60 Seconds
No, not the terrible film with Nicholas Cage. We’re talking about the original, low-buck, high-octane B-movie from 1974, written by and starring stuntman, H. B. Halicki. Why does it make it onto our list? Because this was a film-making process like no other, that’s why. For starters, Halicki did all his own driving, which is impressive. But then there is the car itself, a ‘71 dressed to look like a ‘73. For the whole film, the whole mammoth car chase, there was one Mustang. It was the result of 250 hours of labour, it was webbed with a roll cage and stiffening, the transmission was chained in, the underside was plated, it had a first aid kit on board and of course, camera mounts. The car was battered beyond recognition, but did indeed do all the stunts.
The gritty production nature of the film did bring with it some element of disaster. The famous scene in which the Mustang hits a pole at 85mph was a real accident and seriously injured Halicki. On rushing to the car, the first thing medics were asked was ‘did we get coverage?’ Then, there is the final jump, in which the car was launched some 128 feet before crashing down and crushing ten of Halicki’s vertebrae. And you’d think that would be it for the car, but amazingly, it still survives and is now a museum exhibit. Ironically, the second Mustang that was used for ‘beauty’ shots was apparently crushed not long after filming wrapped.
5) The 2015 Mustang
It might not have been on the silver screen, it might not have been rescued from a junkyard, it might not have been a stunt car and it certainly isn’t a classic yet, but the 2015 Mustang and those built afterwards deserve a place on this list. Why? Because this was the generation of Mustang that, finally, we could enjoy here in the UK. This was the Mustang that came to us in right-hand drive and allowed us to live out our muscle car fantasies. But it wasn’t an afterthought from Ford. The current Mustang is a well-engineered, evolved, brilliant car. Plus, it has to be one of the most handsome new cars you can go out and buy, surely?
We get the Mustang in 2.3 turbocharged flavour, which is decent enough. But we also get the option of a muscle car spec 5.0 V8 complete with a manual six-speed transmission. You can even buy a Bullitt Edition model, as we tested last year. And let us tell you, there is nothing wrong with living out Bullitt vibes in Bognor Regis. It’s a car that will be a future classic, make no mistake. And it’s a car that has been more than worth the wait. Finally, us UK muscle car lovers have the Mustang.