Pick of the Day: 1968 Ford Mustang ‘Bullitt’ custom

The Ford Mustang has been restored to look and perform like the one Steve McQueen drove in 'Bullitt'
The Ford Mustang has been restored to look and perform like the one Steve McQueen drove in ‘Bullitt’

How many times have you watched Steve McQueen romping over the hills of San Francisco in the movie Bullitt and said to yourself, “I gotta get a Mustang just like that”? Plenty of times, I’d bet.

The best-known car chase in movie history – some might say the weirdest, what with the chased Dodge Charger losing about seven hubcaps and the cars roaring through the same intersection a number of times – focused lovingly on the sharp-looking Mustang, which roused longing and lust for the pony car in an entire generation of gearheads. Continue reading

Pick of the Day: 1969 Mercury Cougar

The Cougar has been enhanced with performance upgrades
The Cougar has been enhanced with performance upgrades

Mercury Cougar was Ford Mustang’s higher-achieving but less-successful sibling. Basically, it was a decked-out Mustang with suitable luxury trim and signature features – including hideaway headlights and sequential rear turn signals – for the more-upscale Mercury customers.

Cougar never reached Mustang’s level of sales, nor its iconic image, not by a long shot, which makes it rarer than the ubiquitous Ford pony cars, although generally not as valuable nor as high profile. Continue reading

Mecum heads for Harrisburg for third annual collector car auction

A 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 fastback headlines the Harrisburg sale | Mecum Auctions photos
A 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 fastback headlines the Harrisburg sale | Mecum Auctions photos

Mecum Auctions rolls into central Pennsylvania for its third annual Harrisburg sale July 21-23 featuring an estimated 1,000 vehicles on the docket.

Mecum sold about $21 million worth of collector cars during its inaugural Harrisburg auction in 2014, and $20.6 million at last year’s sale (Mecum results do not include buyer fees). Continue reading

Fused Mustangs showcased at Inventors Hall of Fame Museum

Split personality: 2015 and 1965 Ford Mustangs combined to showcase technology | Ford photos
Split personality: 2015 and 1965 Ford Mustangs  showcase technology | Ford photos

Fifty years of Ford Mustang history will be displayed in a unique side-by-side show car that on permanent display at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, which is located on the campus of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia.

The display fuses the driver’s side of a 1965 Mustang with what appears to be the passenger’s side of a 2015 model but is actually the driver’s side of a right-hand-drive Mustang as sold in the UK, Australia and several other markets. Continue reading

Pick of the Day: 1966 Ford Mustang GT

The 1966 Ford Mustang GT coupe has been rotisserie restored, the seller says
The 1966 Ford Mustang GT coupe has been rotisserie restored, the seller says

Coming down from the dreamscape of the Arizona collector car auctions, many of us are craving something we can actually buy without taking out a second mortgage, especially something that’s all ready to drive and enjoy. Nothing fancy, just a solid car that will deliver plenty of pleasure with a minimum of fuss.

The Pick of the Day could fit that bill, an attractive 1966 Ford Mustang GT coupe in Lakeland, Florida, that is said to be totally restored from a car that was rust free and never in an accident. Continue reading

It’s the Petersen’s turn to celebrate Mustang’s birthday

Eleanors from both Gone in 60 Seconds movies will be at the museum | Petersen photos
Eleanors from both Gone in 60 Seconds movies will be at the museum | Petersen photos

The big celebrations at the New York Auto Show and at speedways in Charlotte and Las Vegas may be over, but festivities staged to observe the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang continue.

This weekend, May 3-4, the Petersen Automotive museum presents Mustang Madness which will include:

  • An all-Mustang car show.
  • A look at the next-generation 2015 Mustang that doesn’t arrive in Ford dealerships until sometime this fall.
  • The unveiling of the museum’s Mustangs Forever: 50 Years of a Legend exhibit.
  • Live interviews with various “Mustang Heroes.”
  • A visit Saturday morning by Mustang RTR creator and world drift-driving champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. and one Sunday morning by Beau Boeckmann, president of Galpin Auto Sports (Galpin Ford is the sponsor for the special weekend Mustang celebration at the Petersen).
  • Additional appearances by Bob Fria with the first Ford Mustang, by Hollywood Hot Rods’ Troy Ladd with his custom Mustang, and by Pure Vision’s Martini Mustang.
  • A “Value of the Mustang” seminar Sunday afternoon by experts from Hagerty Collector Car Insurance.
  • Screenings of both the 1974 and 2000 versions of the movie, Gone in 60 Seconds, with the Eleanor Mustangs from both movies on display.
  • Food tents, live music and a play area and scavenger hunt for children.
  • A special museum rooftop Mustang Lounge.
It will be all-Mustangs at the show
It will be all-Mustangs at the show

Speaking of the all-Mustang car show, there will be prizes awarded, and Henry Ford III will present a special Ford Heritage Award.

For more information and a time schedule, visit the www.petersen.org website.

 

Happy 50th, Ford Mustang

A classic Mustang convertible arrives in Phoenix on cross-country drive | Larry Edsall
A classic Mustang convertible arrives in Phoenix on cross-country drive | Larry Edsall

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. Well, at least it’s the anniversary of the car’s official unveiling, which took place April 17, 1964, with Lee Iacocca at the podium in the Ford pavilion at the New York World’s Fair.

Actually, however, it was about a month earlier that the public got its first and very unofficial look at the stunning new Mustang.

That happened when Henry Ford II’s 20-year-old nephew, Walter Buhl Ford III, borrowed one of the super-secret pre-production pony car prototypes and drove it to lunch in downtown Detroit. Guess what: The car was spotted by a reporter for the Detroit Free Press. The next day, the newspaper published its scoop and the public got its first glimpse of Ford’s revolutionary sporty car.

And the Mustang was revolutionary. It didn’t look like the other cars on American roads, and especially not like the Ford Falcon, with which it shared much of its mechanical underpinnings. Like the Falcon, the Mustang was compact, but with its long hood and short rear deck it looked more like a European sports car than anything that might have been designed in or produced by a Detroit automaker.

To say the car was a sensation is gross understatement. Not only was it on the cover of the automotive buff books, but of Time and Newsweek, albeit sharing both of those covers with Iacocca’s mug. And the car sold like hotcakes!

Lee Iacocca introduces vinyl-roofed Mustang at World's Fair in 1964 | Ford
Lee Iacocca introduces vinyl-roofed Mustang at World’s Fair in 1964 | Ford

Pity “hot” wasn’t a term to describe its performance, although that word did describe the reaction of the engineering team responsible for the hottest of all Ford cars and for the concept car that first bore the Mustang nameplate.

That hottest of all Fords was the GT40, the car that ended Ferrari’s winning streak in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The engineering team saw its mission as two pronged: the GT40 for the track and the slightly tamer Mustang, named after the American fighter aircraft, for the road.

In the fall of 1962, they had debuted their Mustang concept, a rear-engine (Ford of Germany’s compact V4 was the powerplant) two-seat roadster, with racer Dan Gurney driving exhibition laps just before the start of the U.S. Grand Prix race at the Watkins Glen (N.Y.).

If the 90-horsepower V4 sounds less than exciting, consider that the original 1964 1/2 production Mustang came with a 101-hp inline 6. Consider also that the Mustang unveiled by Iacocca at the World’s Fair news conference had a vinyl roof.

Sure, you could get the car as a much sexier convertible, or even with its hardtop roof painted, not upholstered, and you could opt for a 164-hp 260cid V8 or even a 271-hp 289 power plant. But, basically, the Mustang was a pony, not a race horse.

Lee Iacocca called me and said, ‘You have to help me make a sports car out of the Mustang’.”

— Carroll Shelby

 

It may have been the pace car for the 1964 Indianapolis 500, but it wasn’t going to win the Kentucky Derby, let alone the Woodward Avenue stoplight drag race or anything else.

At least not until Henry the Deuce called Carroll Shelby and, as Ol’ Shel’ recounted the story to me, “Lee Iacocca called me and said, ‘You have to help me make a sports car out of the Mustang.’

“I really didn’t want to do it,” Shelby continued. “We were busy racing and building Cobras. But he talked me into it.”

So Shelby and his crew tweaked the engine, changed the suspension, enlarged the brakes and removed unnecessary weight, things such as the back seat. The result was the GT350, a succession of victories in sports car racing and, once General Motors and Chrysler and AMC did their own “pony cars,” we had the Trans-Am series and some of the best racing anyone’s ever seen.

Of course, we also had the Mustang II of the 1970s, which really wasn’t a Mustang but a gas-sipping economy car with the galloping horse badge — lipstick on a pig, I think they call it. Fortunately, we’ve also had more Shelby Mustangs and Roush Mustangs and even Saleen Mustangs.

I was at AutoWeek magazine when Steve Saleen, whom I first knew as an Indycar racer and team owner, started modifying Mustangs. One day he called and invited me out to his shop to test drive an early prototype. The car was, well, let’s say it was sort of cobbled together and as I drove down a Detroit-area expressway with Steve riding shotgun, I wondered how to respond politely when he asked me what I thought.

I don’t recall what I said, but what I thought was that I hoped the doors wouldn’t fall off right then and there, and how quickly could I drive this thing back to his shop?

Now I must add that Steve’s shop has come a long way since then. I’ve been back in Saleen Mustangs and they’re wonderful to drive, fast and safe.

I thought about that early Saleen recently when I spent part of an evening photographing the Mustangs Across America tour that was heading from California to Charlotte for one of the two big birthday parties this weekend.

Among the 550 or so Mustangs in that herd were one-owner 64 1/2s, one of those original vinyl-roofed versions, coupes and convertibles and fastbacks, Saleens and Shelbys and Roushs and their owners, owners from around the world.

I was a Mustang owner once. As sort of a graduation-from-college present to myself, I bought a brand-new 1969 Mustang — fastback, Indian Fire paint, 302cid V8, automatic, high-back bucket seats. I don’t know what tires it wore, but I remember replacing them with Goodyear’s newest Polyglas GT rubber. The tires were terrific, well, at least in the dry. Trying to maneuver on icy roads in Michigan was another story.

Those grippy tires and something Mario Andretti once told me may have saved not only my life but those of my bride and a co-worker and his wife one evening when we were going out for pizza and a guy ran a stop sign and hit us just behind the driver’s side door. We spun but kept the rubber-side down, the policeman said, probably because I was wearing a seat belt and kept control of the steering wheel.

I’d only recently started wearing my seat belt (it was optional back then). But one day I was at Michigan International Speedway watching Indy car practice when Andretti smacked the wall. As I recall, there was a small fire after the crash so the car was literally and figuratively “toast.”

I rode out to the scene with the track’s general manager and was talking with Andretti and asked him how he could walk away with nothing more than a scratch on his nose. He pointed to the safety belts in the race car. I buckled up on my way home that day.

(You can share your 50th birthday wishes for the Mustang in the comments section below. Or, if you still have that special Mustang, tell us about it via the “Share yours” box in the upper right-hand corner of the page.)

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