50 years after its debut, Ford's Mustang is still kickin'
The first Ford Mustang rolled off a Michigan assembly line 50 years ago Sunday. The News-Gazette's PAUL WOOD talked to some committed 'Stang fans to find out what endears them to the iconic car.
Peter Alexander of Peter B's Automotive in Urbana owns a Mustang 2011 California Special and is redoing a 1967.
"It's amazing they've kept the name going since 1964 and are still going strong. When I got my Mustang, it was something everyone could relate to. I've known people who had one back in the 1960s, and now that they're older, they want to buy another. You could pretty much rebuild one" with widely available components for sale. He recommends against buying one from the 1970s.
Tom Anglin of Champaign has a 2007 Roush Ford Mustang, his fifth one. He once got his Mustang up to 135 mph on an off-road course.
"The first was a '66, the first car I ever owned. I like the continuity of how the car looks over the years. The 2015 sounds interesting."
Allen Thomas of Thomas Bros. Racing in Ludlow likes fast cars. He said he's a GM man but makes an exception for the Mustang. Among his favorites: a 1966 model "with a great big old six-cylinder engine — 200 cubic inches."
Rick Ridings owns a Monticello Ford dealership, as well as a 1966 red Fastback.
"I like the fact that you get so much bang for the buck with horsepower and handling. When it originally came out, you could get a high-performance sports car without spending a fortune."
Ed Scharlau of Busey Bank met his wife, Carol, after admiring her Mustang back while his was in the shop in 1967 — "the meeting of Mustangs," as they call it. They fell in love, and both love their Mustangs. She's now considering a 2015.
"Everybody likes the classic sporty look," he says. "You drive by a high school, and kids give you a thumbs up."
STAR OF MOVIES AND MUSIC ALIKE
The Mustang is much celebrated in movies and song, especially from its early years in the 1960s.
— Its first big role was in 1964’s “Goldfinger,” starring Sean Connery as James Bond.
— Wilson Pickett had a major hit with “Mustang Sally” in 1966. All she wants to do is ride around, Sally; ride, Sally, ride. Wilson’s complaint: “I bought you a brand-new Mustang/A nineteen sixty-five, ha!/Now you come around/Signifyin’ now woman/You don’t wanna let me ride.” His complaint seems justified.
— Later, lesser songs include T-Rex with “Mustang Ford” (“It’s all put together with alligator leather”) and the unforgettable and unforgivable Vanilla Ice with “Rollin’ in My 5.0,” rapping “... zero to 60 four seconds don’t play/It’s not a joke/And you can see the smoke/I’m burnin’ rubba ...”
— The definitive car chase of the 1960s starred a 1968 GT390 Fastback (actually two) in “Bullitt.” The seven-minute car chase has inspired countless movie scenes since; it follows cop Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) chasing a Dodge Charger on the suspension-straining streets of San Francisco.
— More recently, a police-car-shaped Decepticon was played by an S281 Saleen Extreme in 2007’s “Transformers.”
— Opening next weekend, “Need For Speed” features a custom wide-body 2014 Mustang GT driven by Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad.”
BY THE NUMBERS
— April 17, 1964: Introduction. Earliest 1965 models also known as 1964 1/2.
— $2,320: Original price at its debut.
— 607,568: Number of 1966 models sold, marking brand’s peak.
— 1974: After years of getting bigger, a return to original dimensions.
— 1983: First convertible Mustang since ’73.
— 2015: 50th anniversary Mustang debuts. “The team engineering the 2015 Ford Mustang spent quite a bit of time in the wind tunnel, not only to improve fuel economy, but also to reduce wind noise and buffeting,” Motor Trends reported.