Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
August 1, 2009
Mustangs, Mustangs, everywhere! Even with nearly three days of walking we probably missed a few of them, but we did our best to capture 45 years of Mustangs in the following photos (and dozens more online!).

The Mustang started as a dream of one man, Lee Iacocca, who at the time was the vice president of Ford. The year was 1961 and he envisioned a small, sporty car with bucket seats, floor mounted shifter, seating for four, and weighing no more than 2,500 pounds. Oh, and it had to sell for less than $2,500 too. While the Mustang I concept of 1962 was nothing more than a styling exercise and to build excitement for the new car, the 1963 Mustang II concept was indeed a four-place vehicle and was actually built off of a pre-production '641/2 Mustang body.

While we often celebrate April 17 as the Mustang's "birthday," the date is technically the day the car went on sale-April 17, 1964-and also the day it was first displayed at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York. Truth be told, the first Mustang went down the Dearborn assembly line on March 9, 1964. The dealer showrooms were flooded with people wanting to be the first to buy Ford's new sporty, fun car (the fact that Ford placed ads for the new Mustang on all three major television networks the night before didn't hurt either). Ford sold more than 22,000 Mustangs on that day alone, more than 400,000 the first year, and more than 1 million in less than two years, a sales record no other single model of vehicle has ever been able to reproduce in the history of the automobile. It's why Ford had to open two other plants (Metuchen, New Jersey and San Jose (Milpitas), California). There's a reason it's one of Ford's longest running nameplates, only being preceded by the F-series truck.

Today the Mustang is still a strong seller and still being built in the Motor City (though the Dearborn plant has given way to the Auto Alliance Plant in nearby Flat Rock, Michigan). With the Mustang breaching 9 million sold units in April of 2008, there's no slowing down Ford's Mustang, especially when you consider the fact that for every two sports cars sold in the U.S., one of them is going to be the Mustang, the car that today is still "the car designed to be designed by you," just like it was 45 years ago

For every Mustang ever built there must be 100 Mustang stories out there for each one of them. When driving your Mustang, be it the weekly stop for fuel in your daily driver, or the weekend drive to the park with the family, think how many times you've been stopped with the "my dad drove a Mustang just like that," or some other memory from years past. Every time it happens to us it still puts a smile on our face and we can't help but stop and talk Mustangs with a total stranger.

One of the first Mustangs we laid eyes upon Friday morning is Dwight Becker's super clean modified '66 coupe. From the billet grille to the straight as an arrow body Dwight should be right proud of his project. We especially appreciated the effort made inside with the custom interior as well.

Have you ever wondered why this happens in your Mustang and not your F-150 or other vehicle? It's due to the never ending love for America's original Pony car. Others have come and gone, and still others will come in the future to compete against it for your performance car dollar, but the Mustang's longevity, affordability, ability for personalization, and performance are what consistently puts it head and shoulders above the rest. Owning a Mustang is like owning a Harley Davidson or a John Deere, it's a part of Americana and is known world wide and one of the reasons why the Mustang is still with us to this day and why we can celebrate 45 years of Mustangs.

Ford had an awesome display of historical Mustangs, from Trans-Am racers, drag racers, and more, to this multi-level display with all three model years of Cobra R's ('93, '95, '00) situated on the top level.

The sheer fact that Mustang enthusiasts world wide came together for one April weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, sharing a celebration with thousands of like minded owners past, present, and future, is a testament to the Mustang's strength. Owners from as far away as Australia came to share their love for Ford's perennial Pony car. If you're talking pure, hard numbers then try these on for size-more than 2,300 Mustangs and 52,000 spectators converged upon Barber Motorsports Park for the Mustang's 45th anniversary celebration this past April. Sponsored by the Mustang Club of America, Ford Motor Company, Ford Racing, Classic Design Concepts, Mustangs Plus, CJ Pony Parts, Kicker Audio, Heacock Classic Insurance, National Parts Depot, and several others, the event certainly took us by surprise. We've got five years until we hit 50 years of the Mustang and we can only imagine what the MCA and Ford will have in store for us then. The one thing we know for sure is that we'll be there, no matter where it's held, and you should be too.

We spent three days covering every inch of the Barber Motorsports facility, talking to many friends we've met over the years at other events, shows, and photo shoots. We also had the pleasure of meeting new Mustang owners (both classic and late-model) who were just getting started in the hobby. Suffice to say, we're sure we've missed a car or two with so many in attendance. We hope you enjoyed the celebration if you were there, and if you weren't there let our photo walk-through put you there virtually. Don't forget to check out our website for even more photos from the event that we simply didn't have room for here in our print story.

On the bottom of the multi-level display was Ford Special Vehicle Engineering's Super Stallion. Built in 1998 as a concept of possible future Mustang performance technology, it sports a supercharged 5.4L Four-Valve modular with twin throttle bodies, is bi-fuel capable, and makes 545 horsepower. It's been a long time since we've seen it in person and it was nice to see it out on display.

For A Good Cause
In celebration of Drake Automotive Group's 30th anniversary, as well as the Mustang's 45th, Scott Drake and the Mustang Club of America sponsored the ultimate Mustang restoration project, dubbed Pay it Forward. Dozens of MCA regional clubs submitted applications for the chance to win the '66 Mustang convertible project car and $10,000 in donated parts from Scott Drake to build the Mustang, which will debut at the 2009 SEMA show and subsequently auctioned off for the winning club's charity of choice. The winning club, announced at the 45th celebration, was the Mustangs of East Texas (www.mustangsofeasttexas.com) for its charity the East Texas Crisis Center (www.etcc.org). So far, Performance Automatic, Quantum Performance, and Kicker Audio have stepped in to help provide a transmission, an engine, and audio gear respectively. Pictured along with members of the Mustangs of East Texas are Mary Jean Wesche of the MCA (back row, fourth from left), Scott Drake (back row, fifth from left), Kenny Northum of Quantum Performance (back row, third from right), Craig Chesley of Mustangs of East Texas (back row, second from right), and Kevin Campbell of Kicker Audio (front row, far right).

45 Years From Dearborn
We'd made it 700 miles with only about 40 to go. It was dark out but we didn't have a full tank of gas or a half-pack of cigarettes, nor were we wearing sunglasses (which wouldn't have made a difference anyway because it happened too quickly). The highway gator that had been rejected from its semi-tire core was taking up residence in the left lane. By the time the headlamps reached it (no brights on here, as it was a well-used highway) it was only a second later before the '10 Mustang's fascia kissed it full face. A morning inspection revealed the lower leading edge had been severed, a likely gluable fix that would need to be done back in Dearborn. The motel's masking tape would hold the edge up until then so it wouldn't break off completely.

Step By Step

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Mdmp_0908_16_z 1963_mustang_ii_concept_45_years Front_view
Another mod motor'd classic we spied was this in-progress '67 convertible being built by SVP Unlimited for a customer. Modular of choice for the build is an '03 Cobra supercharged Terminator engine. The '67 also sports a full Griggs suspension, Baer brakes, and more goodies. It even has an '05 transmission tunnel modded into it for a custom interior.
Mdmp_0908_17_z 1963_mustang_ii_concept_45_years Front_view
Steve Saleen's new venture, SMS, was on hand in the main vendor area. While we were hoping to see the new SMS Mustang on display we were instead treated to a who's who of rare and special Saleen Mustangs, including one of each anniversary edition, Saleen Rangers, and more. Steve was on hand to sign posters and memorabilia throughout the weekend.
Mdmp_0908_18_z 1963_mustang_ii_concept_45_years Front_view
TMI Upholstery hits all the major Mustang shows so that potential buyers can see its products firsthand. Often TMI also displays prototype products and new items fresh out of the factory, such as this complete Fox Mustang Mach 1 interior setup. We're glad to see the company out and about, promoting the hobby and giving custom car owners new ideas.

At the beginning of our trek, the car had a total of 51 miles on the clock (making the aforementioned mishap with the errant glob of rubber gave even greater umbrage). Ford kindly asked that we take it easy the first few hundred miles to allow for a proper break-in period. Abiding by its wishes was not difficult, as, even though the great state of Ohio has many smooth, flat roads on which to allow a spirited run, the law enforcement end is a bit stringent on not allowing performance-intended cars like Mustangs to stretch their proverbial legs. Therefore, we lumbered along. Neither FoMoCo nor Buckeye's finest needed to worry.

As if to be a favorable omen, we encountered three test Mustangs making their way south toward I-94 only a couple miles from our starting point at the grounds of Ford WHQ. The two GTs and Shelby GT 500 had larger tailpipes and other additions that made them certainly differ from normal production. No matter how many times we see things like this in the Detroit area, it's always a cool sight, as you begin wondering just what else is different that you're not seeing.

Our '10 featured the step up packaging in the Premium format. Lighted sills, part of the ambient lighting group, greeted all at dusk and the Sirius satellite radio always kept any boredom at bay. A five-speed, seldom seen in these parts of the country mounted to six-banger Mustangs, peeked through the console and was certainly a welcome sight.

Mountainous terrain and a factory-fresh vehicle undoubtedly muddied the overall mileage variable here; we gleaned just under 28 mpg overall for each main leg. We're confident those numbers could be bettered on the flatlands of America with a carefully seasoned motor. We also encountered eight hours worth of rain on the return run, further hampering better numbers.

With 12 hours and almost 750 miles one way from Dearborn, we were not fatigued one bit. Seating is firm yet comfortable. A center dash power port easily held an iPod, if the need was felt, and in-console plugs provided inputs for any other technological appendages (yes, GPS units are wonderful things).

Power could be notched up a bit here, something Ford seems headed for with the EcoBoost powertrains set to appear in the near future in many vehicles. A minimum of 250 hp would surely be received with open arms of the standard-guise, non-GT Mustang buyer.

Overall, Ford's designers had a tough act to follow with the wild success of the current generation. The '10 is a well-balanced statement that proves that, while there might now be competition in the Pony car field, Mustang defined the segment and remains the car to which everyone can relate. Want more proof? We talked to people at the 45th Anniversary who hailed from Belgium, France, Aruba, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, and Slovakia. The car for everyone is as true today as it was four-and-a-half decades ago.Chris Richardson