No Japanese Mustang
As it happens so many times, the idea for my July 1987 Hoofbeats came from the panic of realizing that I hadn't come up with anything to write about for my monthly editorial column. Then someone handed me a copy of the April 13 AutoWeek
that reported on Ford's plans to drop the rear-wheel drive Mustang and replace it with a Mazda-based front-wheel drive platform. Bingo! I had my editorial.
It started out, "As much as I try to rationalize the whole deal (ordeal?) and attempt to bring my thought processes into the 1980s and beyond, I just can't force myself to accept Ford's intended future for the Mustang. Call me old fashioned or sentimental or just plain stubborn, but a Japanese car, even one built in America, is a Japanese car and I'm not prepared to see a Mazda with the Mustang name and running horse affixed to its fenders."
Noting that some Ford executives were not sold on the idea, I recalled Hot Rod's 1968 write-in campaign that resulted in the Cobra Jet Mustang. I suggested the same type of enthusiast response to the idea of a front-wheel drive, V-6 Mustang and provided Ford president Donald Petersen's address at Ford World Headquarters. I suspect some responded to the AutoWeek article, but in Bob McClurg's book, Mustang: The Next Generation, John Coletti credited my editorial with 30,000 letters swamping Ford World Headquarters. As we know, Coletti spearheaded the skunkworks operation that became the '94 Mustang. The front-wheel drive, Mazda-based car became the Probe.
Sidenote: Credit for the write-in campaign actually goes to reader Michael Perih, whose letter in the April 1987 issue complained about Ford's plans for the Mustang. He suggested that each reader send a letter or postcard to Ford. He also asked for an address. We happily obliged. For my July editorial, I merely expanded on Michael's idea.
I still have Tom Corcoran's letter of introduction to inform me that he was a freelance photojournalist in Fairhope, Alabama. He mentioned Jimmy Buffett album covers and articles in Playboy and Esquire so I wondered why he was contacting Mustang Monthly. But he also owned an early Mustang and wanted to write for us.
After several years as a contributor, Tom joined the staff as editor in 1987. His writing skills and simple yet majestic Mustang photography added class and entertainment value to the magazine. However, it was his April 1990 Hoofbeats editorial that still has longtime readers talking today.
Tom wrote, "In Ypsilanti, investors thought they were buying the future open-stall ‘flea-market' type shopping barn. It was those fortunate folks who, eight weeks ago, discovered 550 unsold, untouched '64½ Mustangs in a ramp-accessed basement. The documentary proof in several of the cars (including a Hi-Po fastback built a full 15 months before Ford unveiled that bodystyle and a GT built two years prior to the option's debut) indicated they were produced and stored prior to December 1963."
Then he went on to imply that the cars would be sold at an auction.
Most readers never got to the end of the column. Many hurriedly called newspapers in Detroit in an attempt to find the cars. In fact, so many people called that the Detroit News reported on Tom's column. By then, they knew the truth, as indicated in Tom's last line: "It's news that leads us out of winter and headlong into April Fools' Day."
Sidenote: Since leaving Mustang Monthly in 1994, Tom Corcoran has written a number of Key West mystery novels as part of his Alex Rutledge Series. You can find them at www.tomcorcoran.net. The main character, Alex Rutledge, is known to drive a Shelby Mustang.