Early unrestored Mustangs highlight Allentown museum exhibit

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Ron Hermanns 1964 1/2 Mustang featured in the exhibit | AOW Museum photos

The Ford Mustang marked the dawn of a new era in the American automobile business, creating not only a new niche but a new mind-set that would become an indelible part of American life. Mustang was “fast, fun and affordable,” and quickly became a public sensation.

To compete in this new segment, other manufacturers introduced such cars as the Plymouth Barracuda, Chevrolet Camaro, Mercury Cougar, and Dodge Challenger. But the category was known as Pony Car because of the Mustang’s strong head start. These pony cars were affordable, compact and highly stylized with a sporty image, and sometimes with performance that lived up to that image.

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This car retains its original interior

Lee Iacocca, the Ford executive behind the Mustang, is from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and that city’s America on Wheels Museum celebrates its ninth anniversary with a display highlighting the Mustang and the cars it inspired, including the recent revivals of the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger.

“The exhibit will showcase original Pony Cars as well as Modern Retro Pony Cars,” Alan Gross, the museum’s exhibit committee chair, said in a news release. “Our visitors will have an opportunity to compare vintage and modern technology and design side by side.”

The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through October.

Among the cars featured are two unrestored and very early Mustangs.

On loan from the Detroit Historical Museum is the 1963 Mustang II concept car. The Mustang II concept unveiled by Ford at the 1963 U.S. Grand Prix race at Watkins Glen, New York. The car was the first representation of an affordable, 4-seat sports car that targeted young buyers and bridged the gap between the first 2-seat Mustang I sports-car concept and the 4-seat production Mustang made available to the marketplace on April 17, 1964.

On that very first day of sales, then 17-year-old Ron Hermann saw a light blue convertible Mustang rotating on a platform at Barr Ford in Philadelphia. He put a $100 deposit on the V8-powered car, but had to wait until May 14, 1964 to take delivery.

At the time, Hermann’s car was used as a regional show car and was displayed at several Philadelphia dealerships. Until he was able to take possession, he only could watch over it at the various dealerships, where he asked would-be customers to please keep their hands off his car.

In one case, a man offered to buy the car at a higher price than Hermann had paid, but the teen declined and, for the last 53 years, has continued to care for his 1964½ Mustang.

“This is the first-time Mr. Hermann’s unrestored ‘launch-day’ 1964½ Mustang convertible will be seen by the public in decades,” said Linda Merkel, executive director of the America On Wheels Museum.

The car has been driven only 17,084 miles and still wears its original paint, convertible top and even its original Firestone tires. The car has been preserved, never restored.

“Unrestored vehicles like this Mustang are exceedingly rare and are an important part of American’s automotive heritage,” said Mark Gessler, president of the Historic Vehicle Association, which is trying to determine if Hermann’s Mustang is the oldest surviving unrestored example of the breed.

Also on display at the museum are 12 other cars, among them a 1967 Camaro Indy pace car, a 1970 Dodge Charger, a 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda, and a 2008 Shelby Mustang GT500 “King of the Road” 40th Anniversary special edition.

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