Photos by Howard Koby
In 1964, the base price of a two-door Ford Mustang hardtop with standard equipment — the original pony car — was $2,368.00, half the price of a Chevrolet Corvette. Gas cost an average of 30 cents per gallon.
The advertising slogan at the time was “Can the unbelievable happen when you meet a Mustang!”
Lee Iacocca was vice president of Ford Division, dreamt up and participated in the design of the Mustang many years before its debut to the public at the New York World’s Fair at the Ford’s Pavilion on April 17, 1964, the same year the Beatles made their American TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show (which I saw!).
More than one million Mustangs were produced and sold within 18 months and the car enjoyed success throughout the 1960s; in fact, it was the best-selling Ford since the Model T.
By 1971, the Ford Mustang Boss 351 was Ford’s final high-performance Mustang of the muscle car era.
Fast forward to April 16, 2014, Ford reveled the new 50 Year Limited Edition (1,964 will be built) 2015 Mustang Convertible on the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York City, just as it did in 1965 with the first Mustang. The car had to be disassembled into five pieces for the journey up the elevators and reassembled at night for the presentation the next day.
In the last 50 years, more than 9.2 million Mustangs have been produced and sold, which now leads to Generation 6, the newest Mustang penned by Moray Callum, brother of Jaguar designer Ian Callum.
On May 3, 2014, a Mustang Madness weekend at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles included a Mustang rally from Galpin Ford in suburban North Hills to the museum, a Mustang car show and many other activities that were a prelude to the Mustang Forever: 50 Years of a Legend exhibit that runs at the museum through mid-October.
The exhibition features examples of every generation of the pony car, as well as Mustang race cars, factory specials and customized vehicles.
The list of Mustangs in the exhibit includes:
Generation 1 (1964½ to 1973):
- 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible, used by Ronald Reagan during his 1968 campaign for governor of California
- 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350, a barn find
- 1967 Ford Mustang MALCO Gasser, the first gasser to run the quarter-mile in under nine seconds
- 1968 Mustang California Special, one of 111 fitted with a 390-cubic inch big block engine
- 1968 Shelby GT500KR, “King of the Road” featuring a 428 Cobra Jet with Ram Air Induction
- 1969 Ford “Four Engine” Mustang Mach IV Dragster
- 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
- 1970 Shelby GT500 428 Cobra Jet
- 1971 Ford Mustang Mach I
Generation 2 (1974 to 1978):
1974 Ford Mustang II (first year the four-cylinder was available, and the only year that there was no V-8)
Generation 3 (1979 to 1993):
- 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra SVT
Generation 4 (1994 to 2004):
- 2000 Ford Mustang Cobra R, one of 300 made in 2000
Generation 5 (2005-2014):
- 2006 Shelby GT-H, marking the 40th anniversary of the original Hertz “rent-a-racer” program
- 2007 Saleen Mustang, Parnelli Jones Limited Edition
- 2008 Ford Mustang FR500-C Bonneville Racer, which went over 252 mph at Bonneville in 2008, giving it the distinction of world’s fastest Mustang
- 2009 Ford Mustang Iacocca 45th Anniversary Silver Edition, one of 45 built
- 2011 Ford Mustang GT Retractable Hardtop, customized by Galpin Ford
Additionally, the Petersen showcases several Mustangs in its Hollywood Gallery:
- 1965 Ford Zebra Mustang by Barris, driven by Nancy Sinatra in “Marriage on the Rocks” (1965)
- 1971 Ford Mustang Fastback “Eleanor” driven in the 1974 movie “Gone in 60 Seconds”
- 1991 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 Convertible own by Francis Ford Coppola
- 2013 Ford Mustang, featured in “Need for Speed” (2014)
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.Petersen.org.