It’s only January 2013 but I can’t help but feel a certain urgency. Fifteen months from now, the Mustang will celebrate its 50th anniversary. It’s going to be a Big Deal, not only for those of us in the hobby but also for the entire automotive industry and even the mainstream media. You’ll probably read about it in USA Today and maybe even see a Sunday night segment about Mustangs on 60 Minutes.
The Mustang is one of America’s great success stories. No other American vehicle—perhaps no other vehicle in the world, at least from my research—can claim 50 years of uninterrupted production. You might say, “Ah, the Corvette was introduced in 1953 and it’s still around for its 60th anniversary.” Yes, the Corvette almost gets the prize—except for the fact that Corvette skipped the 1983 model year when redesign delays prevented Chevrolet from getting the new car out in time.
The main reason that the 50th anniversary will attract so much attention is because nearly everyone, especially those of us in the U.S., can relate to the Mustang. From the very beginning, it was designed to be more than just another car. With a long list of options, buyers could choose from a sporty-looking economy car with a six-cylinder, personal luxury car with woodgrain-trimmed Décor interior, or fastback muscle car with a Hi-Po 289. By 1969, Ford had pushed the concept to the max with the Mustang E, Grande, and Mach 1. Nearly 50 years later, Ford is sticking to the same basic idea, only better with a 31 mpg base model, a powerful GT, and a Shelby GT500 with outstanding performance as well as luxury.
I learned early on that there was something special about the Mustang when my grandfather purchased a new ’66 Mustang GT. Suddenly, he was a celebrity in the neighborhood. And suddenly I wanted to ride everywhere with him just to be seen in his Mustang. Funny, I was never interested in his previous Falcon, basically the same car but with a totally different image.
Everyone has a Mustang story, as I’m sure every reader can attest. Mention your Mustang interest to a new acquaintance and you’re sure to hear about the Mustang that A) the person once owned, B) the Mustang a relative once owned (see above), or C) the Mustang a neighbor owned or currently owns. Sound familiar?
With the 50th anniversary just around the corner, we have the opportunity to not only promote the Mustang but also to promote the Mustang lifestyle. Like the Mustang itself, you can tailor your hobby to your needs and interest. Many owners enjoy car shows, everything from Friday night cruises at the local Burger King to all-out, down-to-the-correct-nuts-and-paint-daubs concours competition at Mustang Club of America national events. If you’re into driving fast, Mustangs—old, new, and Fox-body—are a favorite for drag racing and open track events. Others simply enjoy working on Mustangs, with some achieving satisfaction by handling routine maintenance and repairs, while others get their kicks from ground-up restorations. There’s an entire industry for street performance and appearance modifications, which have been popular since 1964. People who like Shelbys and Bosses are in categories all their own.
And the Mustang lifestyle is so much more than just the cars. There are plenty of garages, man-caves, and even living rooms decorated with Mustang signs, posters, and memorabilia. For many, club meetings and events are the highlights of their social calendar. Enthusiasts also collect sales literature, die-cast cars, plastic models, and Christmas tree ornaments. Heck, Bob Perkins collects oil filters.
Why do we do it? Because we enjoy it. Because we’d rather be out in the garage working on our Mustang than out on the golf course knocking little white balls into lakes. Or chasing women (or guys) at bars. Or losing money at the slots. Of course, I know some people who are pretty good at juggling all four of those hobbies.
With the 50th anniversary, we have an excellent opportunity to tell the rest of the world about our favorite pastime. We know the Mustang is and always has been a great car; we just need to let everyone else know that the Mustang hobby/lifestyle is just as great.