Ford Mustang Turns Forty - 40 Years Of Mustang Milestones
These Things Have Kept The Mustang Running Strong For The Past Four Decades
October 6, 1963:Mustang II Debuts At Watkins GlenWith the decision made to name the four-seat car Mustang, Iacocca faced a dilemma: The public associated the name with the two-seater concept sports car from the previous year. To bridge the public's perception, a Mustang II show car was built from a preproduction Mustang prototype. It retained the four-seat configuration, but also featured some of the Mustang I's styling cues and paint scheme-white with blue racing stripes. Fiberglass nose and tail pieces, along with a modified roofline, gave a sleeker appearance than the production Mustang to come. The Mustang II debuted almost exactly a year after the Mustang I at the same Watkins Glen venue.
March 9, 1964:Mustang Production BeginsThe first production Mustangs rolled out of the Dearborn Assembly Plant right on schedule. Although there is still some debate about whether it came off the line first, serial number 5F08F100001, a white convertible, has been recognized by Ford as Mustang No. 1. Many of the first cars were shipped to distant dealerships, like George Parsons Ford in St. Johns, Newfoundland, where Mustang No. 1 was mistakenly sold to airline pilot Stanley Tucker. Like Mustang No. 1, many of the first production Mustangs were intended to serve time as showroom display models.
April 16, 1964:Media Blitz BeginsAt 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, 1964, Ford aired Mustang infomercials simultaneously on the three major television networks, where some 29 million viewers got their first glimpse of the new Mustang. The blitz continued the next morning and through the weekend with articles and ads in some 2,600 newspapers. Iacocca and his Mustang even appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek at the same time. Three days previously, the Mustang had been introduced to the press at the New York World's Fair, where Mustang convertibles were also used, along with Galaxies, Fairlanes, and other Fords, to transport visitors on the "Magic Skyway" through the Ford Rotunda, which featured a number of Disney exhibits.
April 17, 1964:Mustang Goes on SaleThe media blitz obviously worked. When Ford dealerships opened their doors on Friday morning, they were swamped with people anxious to check out Ford's new Mustang, either the economical hardtop or the sporty convertible. The stories are legendary: the man who slept overnight in the Mustang he purchased while waiting for his check to clear the bank; the dealer who couldn't get a Mustang off the wash rack because so many people were around it all day; and police being called and dealers locking their doors to control the rush. Ford had produced some 16,000 Mustangs during the six weeks of production prior to the car's official introduction. By the end of the day on April 17, Ford was already 6,000 cars behind.
May 30, 1964:Mustang Paces Indianapolis 500As if it needed the additional publicity, the Mustang was chosen as the official Pace Car for the '64 Indianapolis 500. To commemorate the honor, Ford produced a number of Pace Car replica hardtops for top-performing Ford dealerships. Approximately 190 were built, with 105 going to the best dealers at a special celebration in Dearborn, where Iacocca presented the keys himself. The replicas were white with blue interiors, with a blue racing stripe over the center of the car (some stripes were placed toward the driver side due to a press photo that had the stripes placed incorrectly). For actual race duties, three '6411/42 convertibles were prepped by Holman-Moody. Another 35 convertibles were prepared as "dignitary cars."