The Mustang: 50 years on the Road

I’m probably the millionth person to write about Ford’s golden boy, the Mustang, but since April 17, 2014 was the day that America’s Pony turned 50 years old, feel it’s my turn to speak my peace. Ford hosted a huge birthday bash for the Mustang and every auto magazine or automotive writer wrote about the history of the car and how great the new 2015 model is going to be. So all summer long I sat on the sideline watching the feedback everyone was saying in regards to the car and it made me realize something. The Mustang is like a bottle of Coca-Cola. People that love coke will freak out if a restaurant does not serve it, people that hate it will pour it down a sewer drain to make room for Pepsi, but everyone knows what a bottle of Coca-Cola looks like.

The Mustang has done what the Model A did during the 1930’s, which was giving a generation a fun yet affordable means of transportation. What separates the two cars is the impact they had on pop culture, because it took the Model A another 20 years to accomplish what the Mustang did for America’s youth. The model A’s achieved legendary status the moment a returning WWII veteran decided to remove the fenders and add another carb to the flathead V8, but the Mustang achieved it the second it was introduced in 1964 at the World’s Trade Fair, New York City.

If America’s history could be measured in the lifespan of a human, the 1960’s would be the awkward and rebellious years between 13 and 16 years old. The election of JFK, almost starting a nuclear war with USSR (Russia for you younger readers), the Beatles starting a new wave of British fueled rock n roll, the Cold War coming to its peak just before cooling off as the Vietnam conflict heats up like a napalm drop, and the sexual revolution that became as the result of the new created birth control pill. America was an awkward teen discovering new changes that it never had to deal with before and in the mist of this psychedelic era FoMoCo introduces a new sports sedan for the everyman which jumpstarted yet another revolution for the history books.

The option list, along with a humble price tag, meant that a family of 4 could each have their own Mustang tailored to them: You have the white, V8 powered 3-speed manual for dad, the baby blue straight six automatic for mom, a red convertible for Sally who’s going off to college, and in later years, a GT fastback for little Billy who likes to go draggin on the weekends. It gave the American consumer the luxury of optioning a car not seen since the Duesenburg, which was only limited to the higher social class. The Ford Mustang, (after the 1963 Pontiac V8 powered Tempest, but before the 1964 GTO respectably), started the famed “Pony Wars” later known by fans and historians as the Muscle Car Era. An era I think all Gearheads, regardless of preference, is thankful for. The Mustang even gave tuning legend Carroll Shelby a blank canvas to create some amazing Shelby branded ponies in the mid to late 60’s and early 70’s.

Although the Mustang did stumbled during the 70’s and 80’s with the Mustang II, and awful four cylinder powered cars, it soon found redemption with a new body style in 1979 and new engine in 1982. The Fox body mustangs, named after the fox platform they were based on, was a facelift on the aging prince of FoMoCo. The European styling stuffed with a brand new 5.0 V8 was a combination beloved by both hot rodders and law enforcement, which they used to satisfy their acceleration addiction. Some of you readers, who are umm let’s say vintage enough, can remember seeing certain members of the highway patrol cruising around interstates in police interceptor Mustangs used for high speed pursuits.

Fast forward to the turn of the century and the Mustang came to a full circle when it reignited the pony wars (once again, after Pontiac released their GTO). The 2005 Mustang set the trend for retro styling muscle cars that gave a new generation their own chance to live through a muscle car era as well as giving the baby boomers a blast from the past flashback to the, “Good old days”. It inspired Chevrolet to redesign their Camaro, Chrysler to bring back the Charger, Challenger (and technically the Dart) back from the dead. Even Mr. Carroll Shelby, may he rest in speed, had a chance to leave his final stamp of approval on the 2013 Shelby GT500 which boasted the more powerful V8 production engine, at the time, at over 600 horsepower!

A lot of Gearheads would argue saying that Mustangs are overrated and slow compared to other cars, and they are right to a certain degree, but they have to look at it from a different vantage point. If you’re a teenaged Gearhead looking for your first set of wheels that is: easy to wrench on, huge selection of aftermarket parts, and looks halfway decent. When it comes down to buying a car with all three qualities you usually end up with three options: a pickup truck, a Honda Civic, and the good old Ford Mustang. (Yes, I understand there are plenty of other cars that fit the bill, I am just making a point that Mustangs are “overrated” for a reason.)

In my humble opinion, I love first generation Mustangs and a 1970 Mustang Boss 1 is on my list of must own. That being said, I prefer other muscle cars to the Mustang and any Mustang that is not v8 is not a muscle car! Nevertheless, Mustangs have a soft spot in my heart, mostly because my dad loves them and I respect them as an automotive pioneer. I say that because if it wasn’t for the Mustang creating lines of people at Ford dealerships, who knows if our other favorite muscle cars would have ever made it to production. The Ford Mustang is one of those cars that changed what the idea of a car can be, much like the Volkswagen Beetle and Lamborghini Miura. It gave the idea of premium performance and styling at a base price.

So let’s all take a moment to give thanks to Ford Motor Company and their Detroit Stallion for impacting our hobby in one form or another. Whether in a showroom or at a streetlight. Happy 50th birthday Ford Mustang, may your wheels never stop rolling.


The Speed Demon without a Cause

The urban legend behind the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder that James Dean drove on the day of his tragically fatal accident has since obtained ghost story status. Mostly because nobody knows where the remains of the car ended up, it was last reported being transported and the car, truck, and driver were never seen again. Also because of the series of rumors and stories of people getting seriously injured or killed by being in contact with the car or using parts off it. The phrase, “If the car could talk…”, is what I used when I wrote this short story. What if the Spyder was here to tell its story, the world might never know but I wanted to take a crack at it. This is the story behind the mystery of the Little Bastard, told by the speed demon that took America’s Rebel.

Some say I was cursed, others say I was designed by the devil himself, but most have never seen me. My name is Porsche 550 Spyder and I was born in 1955, but my first owner used to call me “The Little Bastard”. He was a young man, tall and blonde with movie star looks. Apparently he was a Hollywood big shot, least that’s what I heard from the people at the speed shop when they dressed me with pinstripes and race numbers. I remember the day he saw me in the showroom floor; his eyes were fixed in a trace when he saw my gorgeous curves. He had a friend with him that day, but I did not care for him because he kept telling my owner that if he drove me he would be found dead in a week. Dean is what they used to call him, James Dean, and I was the last car he ever drove.

It was a beautiful day, and Dean was handling me well as we ripped through the two lane blacktop. Up ahead I could see a Ford, one of those mutants called, “Hotrods”, being driven by an even younger man coming in the opposite direction. I saw that he was trying to across our lane so he could turn around, and that I would reach him in no time at the speed I was running. I never knew if Dean saw it coming, or his friend in the passenger seat, maybe he didn’t see the Ford. Maybe it was too late for him to react when he realized I wouldn’t engage my brakes, but what I do know is that I freight trained that Ford dead center in the it’s ugly face. I felt no pain, just the chill of my drive train beginning to cool down, what was left of it, but the same could not be said about my owner. I heard his last breath escape from what was left of his body as his friend, Bill Hickman, was holding him in his arms. Who knows how long it was before Hickman was able to sleep at night.

I was a complete wreck, but I was far from death, the same couldn’t be said for my two passengers. George Barris, the nice man who painted me, purchased what was left of me for a hefty sum of $2,500. When I arrived at his shop one of his mechanics was looking at me in an ugly way and I didn’t care for that at all. I became enraged and began to rock n roll and slipped off the trailer that was carrying me. I threw myself on that mechanic, breaking his leg. That’ll teach him for looking at me ugly…

Barris gave me a once over and instead of fixing me, he takes away my engine and drivetrain! I’m a fine piece of German engineering, a rare work of art, and he treats me like some parts car at a junkyard? I was furious and was determined that whatever piece of me was sold, I would go along for the ride.

My parts were sold to these two racers who used them on their own race cars, I felt like a prostitute. The two racers would end up competing against each other and wouldn’t you know it, they both had accidents. One of them mysteriously lost control and flew off the track hitting a tree, which killed him instantly. As for the other, he escaped the devil’s hearse, but not before I maimed him when his car suddenly locked up on a turn and sent him off the track in a rollover. Barris then sold my only two good tires to some kid who was going to use them on his daily driver. He would later be watching his life flash before his eyes when both my tires blow out simultaneously making him run off the road. Dean must have been really famous because one night two hoods broke into the garage to try and steal yet more parts off me. One tried to steal my steering wheel and tore open his arm when he tripped and cut himself on one of my jagged fenders, the other was stealing my blood stained seats but I managed to tag him with a fender as well.

Poor Barris was feeling guilty of all these “accidents”, but when the California State Police showed up asking to borrow me for some road safety exhibit he just sent me away, like a common Chevy, the nerve of him! With all that had been taken away from me, I was reduced to a twisted shell of a once prime example of automotive genius. The thought of my hideous appearance boiled in me like an overheated radiator as I sat in the impound garage. My sheet metal began to twist and bend with anger as I sat there staring at a gas can across the room from me, each passing moment becoming more and more engulfed with rage. I stared at that gas can until it too began to dent and twist like my sheet metal and within minutes the whole garage was bathed in a blaze of hell fire. I sat there through the night as everything around me melted into the earth with a sizzle and a bubble. I was the only survivor, the flames never touched me, I guess fire can’t burn what has been already dammed.

The State Police must have wanted revenge when they put me up on a stage at some high school so everyone could see my disfigurement and mock me for being an example of highway danger. I reached my breaking point when a teenager came up and began to blame me for my owner’s death, I rock n roll myself loose and fell on him breaking his hip. I wonder when I will be able to run again…

I wish I could be restored and be driven again, being transported everywhere makes me jealous, seeing all those inferior cars being able to cruise around and I’m stuck looking like a wreck. My jealously turns to fury as I start to rock n roll. I feel the truck starting to loose traction as I kept shifting my weight around, and soon the truck jackknifed. As the truck begins to roll I see the driver being injected from the cab, and I feel myself letting go of the flatbed and flying across the air straight for him. A familiar sense of satisfaction overwhelms me as I feel his bones crush beneath my frame and a cooling sensation as his blood splashes over me like a fresh coat of paint.

I think the state police have grown tired of me, and I hear they are sending me back home to Mr. Barris. I will not go back to being treated like a savage yard! My fury reached new heights that day while being transported to Barris and since then nobody has seen me, the flatbed, or the driver. Some say I vanished, other say I was stolen. But I am here to ease your worry, as I am safely back at home with my new owner. He is a strange man, always red in the face and wearing a suit, but we do have a vast similarity in personality, and he has restored me to my original perfection. He even changed my name from the “Little Bastard” to, the “little Devil”.