How many products can you name that have been produced for 50 years? What products, if any, came to your mind? How many of those products are still popular five decades later? And how many of them have throngs of club members whose numbers are continuously growing?
The 1960s gave birth to a bumper crop of fresh products, trends and movements. Star Trek began filming its pilot episode, The Cage (The Menagerie); the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show; the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane took the air; and the GI Joe action figure was introduced.
And, on Friday April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang was born.
Like a leggy foal, the Mustang was galloping soon after Lee Iacocca introduced it at the New York World's Fair. The Mustang quickly inspired a new generation of sports cars and American muscle cars, some of which also came to be known as Pony cars. The model became so popular that it attracted enthusiasts from around the globe. Mustang clubs popped up everywhere, even in far flung countries like Iceland and New Zealand.
The Mustang has appeared in over 3,000 television shows and movies, so many that it's got an IMDb (Internet Movie Database) page. Films like Bullitt, Gone in Sixty Seconds, I Am Legend, Need For Speed, War Of The Worlds and multiple James Bond roles are just a few.
Ford in conjunction with the Mustang Clubs of America organized and hosted twin city celebrations for the original Pony car in April. Celebrations were hosted in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and in Charlotte at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Literally thousands upon thousands of Mustangs took to U.S. roads. Many of them met in the center of the country to join caravans that headed west to Vegas, or east to Charlotte.
The celebration in Charlotte featured track activities, tons of Mustang "centric" vendors and a huge Ford display which included examples of every Mustang model ever built. One of the Ponies on display was the very first Mustang Ford produced. The Charlotte Motor Speedway was also awash in a sea of Mustangs that were parked around and inside the huge NASCAR track.
I filmed and edited a documentary titled, "The Mustang at 50." The Mustang at 50 features key Mustang designers and engineers such Gale Halderman, Jack Telnack, Neil Ressler and Art Hyde. They tell behind the scenes stories about the creation of the original Pony car. Capacity crowds enjoyed little known stories like how the Mustang was once badged the Ford Cougar.
Throughout the week long event, I found myself in the right place at just the right moment. One example is the morning I was preparing to film, when I noticed Gale Halderman, Jack Telnack and Neil Ressler sitting together just before they spoke. There they were, three important figures who were responsible for several generations of the Mustang, casually reminiscing. Having presence of mind, I quickly grabbed my camera, and captured this moment. This is but one of several special moments presented in the documentary.
The Mustang at 50 also features interviews with Mustang owners from all over the U.S., including Mustang customer number one, Gail Wise. I also interviewed Mustang owners from Brazil, New Zealand, England, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Belgium.
Passionate enthusiasts are the reason the Mustang is poised to charge into its sixth decade. For many, their Mustangs are more than cars. Simply put, these machines have become family members.
Tell everyone your Mustang story in the "comments" section below the video player on my YouTube channel and share the video with your friends. If you like The Mustang at 50, please subscribe to my YouTube channel (it's FREE), and enjoy some of my other videos.
Will the Mustang reach 60? If the attendance for the 50th anniversary, and the response to the all-new 2015 Mustang is any indication; the answer is a resounding yes.
To watch THE MUSTANG at 50, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPfvSNHWEio
Larry Cornwell is an automotive journalist based in Charlotte.
Early edition Mustangs line up on a rainy day in April at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Photo by Larry Cornwell).×
Charlotte was one of two major hosts — Las Vegas being the other — for Mustang’s national 50th anniversary celebration in mid-April (Photo by Larry Cornwell).×
Freelance automotive writer Larry Cornwell filmed and edited a documentary on Mustang’s history from 1964 to the present (Photo by Larry Cornwell).×