One of the auto industry's most iconic muscle cars turns 50 today.
Ford Motor Co. unveiled the Mustang at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964, and the vehicle will be celebrated at the New York International Auto Show, which runs April 18-27 at the Jacob Javits Centre in NYC.
The Mustang caused a sensation when it was introduced, with 22,000 orders for the sporty vehicle taken on the first day of sales. It was priced at $2,368 US.
Canadian airline pilot Capt. Stanley Tucker managed to buy the first Mustang to roll off the production line in Dearborn, Mich. Tucker, somewhat accidentally, bought a preproduction Mustang convertible with serial No. 1. However, the Wimbledon white convertible was never intended for sale.
'I just refused to give them the car back.'- Stanley Tucker, owner of the first Mustang
According to Ford Motor Co., "preproduction models were supposed to be used for internal testing and promotional purposes only."
Tucker told CBC News in 1989 that he was just driving down the street one day and "noticed quite a crowd standing around one of the Ford dealerships."
He eventually bought the historic car.
"He should've never have sold the car in the first place," Tucker said in 1989 of the salesman. "It was a demo model ... sort of a prototype that had gone all over the states and Canada to various dealers as a PR campaign.
"And he was supposed to send it, being the last on the list, back to Dearborn, Michigan. But I said I'm sorry you've cashed my cheque and I've got the car and I'm very happy with it and I just refused to give them the car back."
Ford eventually gave Tucker a new 1966 convertible Mustang — the one-millionth Mustang produced — in exchange for the original.
The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn now houses the famous car, along with the 1962 Ford Mustang I Roadster Concept Car, which eventually became the Ford Mustang.
Christian Overland, executive vice president of the Henry Ford Museum, calls the Mustang "an American icon in the American culture."
“It’s the idea of buying a sports car at an affordable price and taking it on the road. That’s the dream of North Americans everywhere,” said. “The landscape in North America is an incredible landscape for driving whether you’re driving through Ontario or driving through Montana or driving through Manitoba.”
2015 Mustang tops Empire State Building
The Detroit automaker will be involved in celebrating the Mustang's history beginning today at the New York International Auto Show.
Ford intends to cut a 2015 Mustang into pieces and reassemble it atop the Empire State Building. It is to be be on public display when the observation deck opens at 8 a.m.
Ford pulled off the same promotional stunt in 1964. Engineers say the 2015 model is bigger, longer and wider than the original 1964 version. It must fit through an elevator door that is one metre wide.
For Mustang project manager Prakash Patel calls today's stunt "a significant challenge."
Ford staff has been practising the feat for weeks.
On Thursday, Ford will host an event at Flushing Meadows, Queens, where the first Mustang was unveiled.
“When Mustang was approved for development more than 50 years ago, I don’t think anyone imagined it would spawn such a dedicated base of fans around the world and still be in production today,” Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., said in a media release.
"We are thrilled to be here in New York — where Mustang was first shown to the public at the 1964 World’s Fair — to re-create that historic event for today’s Mustang enthusiasts.”
The Mustang unveiled in 1964 is widely regarded as the model year 1964½. The first full year of production began in 1965.
Dan MacIntyre of Windsor, Ont., owns a 1965 Mustang convertible. The twilight turquoise vehicle was made in Dearborn around May 26, 1965. He bought it from a seller in nearby Chatham, Ont., in 2000.
“When the Mustang was introduced, it was shortly after my 17th birthday and I was a real motor head,” MacIntyre said.
He and his friends wanted one badly in 1964. As kids, they stood and stared at Mustangs on a Windsor dealer's lot.
“Even though we couldn’t afford the car … we looked at the car and I fell in love with them. I thought Ford really had something,” MacIntyre recalled. “It was affordable, but not for a 17-year-old."
MacIntyre wouldn’t say how much he paid for his 1965 Mustang.
“My wife fell in love with it, I fell in love with it, and we negotiated a good price,” MacIntyre said.
He estimates it’s worth $20,000, less than what he has invested in repairs.
“It needed a lot of tender love and care mechanically,” MacIntyre said.
1,964 limited edition 2015 Mustangs on sale
To commemorate the car, Ford is also building a limited-edition Mustang GT to honour the pony car's 50th anniversary.
The company will only build 1,964 of the cars, honouring the year the Mustang first went on sale.
The 50 Year Limited Edition will come in one of the two colors of Ford's logo: white or blue. Buyers can choose a manual or automatic transmission.
There are special chrome highlights around the grille, windows and tail lights.
“Chrome trim was much more prevalent on cars in the 1960s than it is today, so we added some discreet highlights for the grille, side glass and tri-bar tail lamps,” Ford vice-president of design Moray Callum said in a release.
The Limited Edition will also be the only 2015 Mustang with a faux gas cap badge on the rear, where the original cap sat.
“The 50 Year Limited Edition adds details that set it apart from other Mustangs, while hearkening back to the 1965 original," Callum said.
Limited Edition cars will be among the first built when 2015 Mustang production begins later this year.
One of the vehicles will be on display at the New York auto show, but pricing hasn't been announced.
The special edition also has a Canadian connection. The V8 engines are built in Windsor, Ont., at Ford's Essex Engine Plant.
Chris Taylor, the president of Unifor Local 200 which represents Ford workers in Windsor, said the Mustang put Ford on the map in the sixties when it came to muscle cars.
Taylor said the power of the Mustang continues to attract customers.
"Nobody goes into a Mustang not wanting to spin some tires and lose some tread off their tires," said Taylor. "The Windsor site couldn't be more proud to be part of it, especially on the 50th anniversary."