By Brent Snavely
Detroit Free Press
Fifty years ago, Ford flooded the airwaves, newspapers and magazines with news about a new affordable sports car called Mustang.
This week, Ford is driving the iconic pony car to New York, where it will saturate the media world’s hub with a series of events celebrating the car’s golden anniversary and the redesigned 2015 Mustang.
“It’s a thank-you to all of our friends who have made Mustang what it is over the years and to celebrate all that Mustang represents,” said Steve Ling, Ford car marketing manager.
Few nameplates in automotive history have been in production for 50 continuous years. Ling said the Mustang remains an affordable, performance-oriented sports car.
The original Mustang was unveiled April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair.
On Wednesday, Ford will cut a 2015 Mustang into pieces and reassemble it atop the Empire State Building, where it will be on display for the public when the observation deck opens.
At about the exact same time, Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields will speak across town at the New York International Auto Show. Wednesday night, Ford will throw a party at the Empire State Building.
On Thursday, Ford will host an event at Flushing Meadows, Queens, where the first Mustang was unveiled.
There also are four-day gatherings for Mustang owners in Charlotte, N.C., and Las Vegas. Ford expects more than 80,000 people will attend the two events with about 25,000 cars.
Automotive superstars Hal Sperlich, who was the product planner for the Mustang, and legendary race car driver and team owner Parnelli Jones will attend the four-day events along with members of the Ford family.
Don’t be surprised if Ford unveils a special-edition Mustang as the New York show opens Wednesday morning.
“We are doing all of this to really play proper tribute to all of the Mustang owners and fans,” Ling said.
The new Mustang is unlikely to garner anything close to the attention or sales that the original generated. Ford had hoped to sell 300,000 Mustangs during its first year but wound up selling more than 1 million over the first 18 months, Ling said.
“Baby boomers were coming of age, and here came along the car that was sporty, it could fit four comfortably, and it was affordable,” Ling said.
Today, the market for muscle cars is much smaller. Last year, Ford sold 77,186 Mustangs, Chevrolet sold 80,567 Camaros and Dodge sold 51,462 Challengers.
Even so, the new design will likely enable Ford dealers to exceed last year’s sales.
“Clearly, it’s a product-driven segment,” Ling said. “These sorts of cars are products that people want, not cars that people absolutely need.”
Ford’s 2015 Ford Mustang, the first one designed to be sold worldwide, will go on sale this fall. Pricing has not been announced, but it could start under $25,000.
Buyers will be able to choose from an entry-level V-6, a premium 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine or the performance V-8. The 2015 Mustang also has a new suspension and independent rear axle.
“Back in the 1960s, the Mustang was kind of the best of America and represented that feeling of independence,” Ling said. “It’s not a secret formula, but it’s a formula we continue to follow.”