FLAT ROCK, Michigan — Three P-51 Mustangs strafed Ford’s sprawling factory here southwest of its Dearborn headquarters as the 10-millionth Mustang car rolled off onto the parking lot. Jim Farley, president of Ford Motor Company’s global markets had just explained how the Ford Mustang always has been named after the American fighter plane from World War II “that freed the world.”
Ford Mustang number-10 million is a Wimbledon White GT convertible (not a standard paint color on the configurator) with black interior, echoing Ford Mustang number-one, which was on-loan from The Henry Ford museum. While the 2019 Mustang GT has a 460-hp 5.0-liter GT, the 1965—or ’64-1/2, as some would call it—Mustang has a 164-hp 260 cubic-inch (4.3-liter). The original was built with a three-speed automatic transmission while the new one was built, not with the 10-speed automatic you’d expect, but with a six-speed manual. There’s hope for us, yet.
Based on a price list in the “Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975,” we’d estimate that the 1965 Ford Mustang convertible, number-one, had a sticker price of roughly $3,450. The 2019 Ford Mustang GT convertible would sticker for more than 13 times that price.
Such arcane Mustang trivia was in the air Wednesday, beginning with a gathering of more than 60 of the iconic Ford sports cars on display at World Headquarters in Dearborn, which proceeded to the assembly plant in a police escorted parade.
“Isn’t it interesting that today, when you think of the Mustang, you think of the car, not the horse?” posited Ford CEO Jim Hackett at World HQ. Unfortunately, he missed Farley’s tutorial later in the morning. To be fair, early Ford Mustang advertising featured images of galloping horses behind photos of the car, not images of sleek WWII airplanes.
Hackett said he had bought his wife a Mustang convertible, which she worried was too loud for their new suburban Metro Detroit neighborhood.
“I said, ‘honey, that’s the point.’”
Hackett’s own Mustang GT is, he said, “my happy place.”
An early Ford Mustang coupe, black vinyl over dark maroon, is a happy place for Bob Shrader of Harrison Township. He’s the third owner of the car, equipped with a 260 V-8 and three-speed automatic, built June 15, 1964, the 66,539th off the line.
Alan Young, of Harrison, Michigan, was there with one of three Mustang IIs, his a 1974 Ghia. Although this was the “luxury” trim Ford Mustang II, his white vinyl over green example has manual steering, mechanical brakes, the 2.3-liter I-4, four-speed manual gearbox, and yet it also has factory air conditioning.
“I’ve spent the last 12 years getting parts,” he said. Not as much a problem for the pre-Mustang II or post-II Fox-body examples (no Probes showed).
The second of two Hunter Green ’68 Mustangs that Steve McQueen drove in “Bullitt” was on hand, as was Chris Terry, who bought her ’65—okay, ’64-1/2—Mustang convertible two days before Lee Iacocca officially unveiled the car on April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair.
Total production of that first Ford Mustang was 121,538 coupes and convertibles for that short 64-1/2 production according to the “Standard Catalog,” and another 559,451 were produced for the full 1965 model year, which puts “the world’s most popular sports car,” as Jim Farley calls it, in perspective.
Sports cars, even the ones with rear seats, are not mass-market cars, especially in the age of sport/utility vehicles. Even with the Ford Mustang sales recently expanded to world markets, that’s an average of about 185,000 cars per year. And the number has been falling for years, with just 81,866 sold in the U.S. in 2017, and 42,428 for the first half of this year. The good news is that Ford understands the showroom draw value of this icon, and this American sports car has a bright future, with the Shelby GT 500 due next year, and a hybrid Mustang due in 2020.