Mustang MonthlyNews & Views
Ford Mustangs and Baby Boomers - Hoof Beats
This one is for the old guys, of which I am one. And by "guys," I mean all the boys and girls who grew up in the 1960s and, in various ways, took their love of Ford's Mustang to an enthusiasm level rarely enjoyed by other cars. For without us baby-boomers, there would be no Mustang.
In the early 1960s, Lee Iacocca and his Fairlane Committee discovered baby-boomers (born between 1945 and 1964) as an emerging economic force and developed a sporty compact car that we embraced along with television, rock and roll, and mini-skirts. The elders among us were old enough to buy a new Mustang, while those born later, like me, had to wait a few years, either for our first driver's license or the funds to purchase a Mustang, new or used. We drove the heck out of them, using them as work and school transportation, street racers, weekend cruisers, and dating cars, although the back seat was never much good for anything beyond cramming in another couple for double-dating.
In the 1970s, we tolerated the mid-decade fuel crisis by snatching up older Mustangs for cheap as owners traded them for more fuel efficient cars. Many of us, myself included, purchased a Mustang II as a daily driver while maintaining an older Mustang for fun and play, which often included participation in events staged by the founders of the Mustang Club of America and Shelby American Automobile Club. Back then, we stayed up all night for Mustang bench-racing sessions in hotel parking lots. Older and wiser by the end of the decade, we noticed that our old Mustangs were becoming coveted as collector cars.
In the 1980s, our old Mustangs did become collectible and even valuable, especially the Shelby, Boss, and Cobra Jet models that rode the rising tide of renewed musclecar popularity. The resulting restoration boom led to the emergence of a huge Mustang parts industry incorporating both reproduction and mail-order companies. At the same time, Ford gave us exciting Mustangs again—GTs, 5.0L LXs, SVOs, and the return of the convertible. Hot new Mustangs were everywhere as the generation behind us sounded off with Flowmaster mufflers and the hiss of purging nitrous oxide on drag strips across the country.
In the 1990s, we hit the road in our Mustangs, old and new, to participate in the hundreds, if not thousands, of events that catered to our beloved ponycar. In addition to MCA, SAAC, and other club shows, we saw the emergence of Fun Ford Weekend, National Mustang Racers Association, and the World Ford Challenge. There was something to do, somewhere to go, nearly every weekend of the year. We flocked to the first major Mustang anniversary show, to celebrate the 30th, at a huge event hosted by the MCA and Ford at Charlotte Motor Speedway. More than ever, we embraced the SN-95 Mustang that debuted for '94, a "What it was and more" design that recaptured the styling of the original Mustangs from our youth.
In the 2000s as many of us approached or vaulted past middle age, we watched in amazement as the old Mustangs we had dumped in the past sold for huge sums at high-profile collector car auctions. To sooth our remorse, Ford's Team Mustang targeted our age group once again with the vintage-themed Bullitt and Mach 1 before launching the even more retro S197 for '05. All of a sudden, there were more new Mustangs at the shows than old Mustangs.
So here we are in the second decade of the twenty-first century, not quite as spry as we were in the 1960s (and definitely not bench-racing late into the night) yet still fanning the flame for our favorite car. Fifty years after the introduction of the Mustang, the hobby and industry that sprang up around the Fairlane Committee's creation is just as strong, if not stronger, than ever. We baby-boomers can't take all the credit. But without us, there wouldn't have been a Mustang in the first place.