David Phillips
David Phillips
Automotive News Online Managing Editor

For '15 Mustang, deja vu high above Manhattan

For '15 Mustang, deją vu high above Manhattan

The 1966 Mustang on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York in 1965.
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If it suddenly feels like 1964 and 1965 all over again, you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’. Again.

As the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of the Mustang in New York nears, Ford Motor Co. has rediscovered its old marketing playbook and using it to herald the occasion.

The company said today it will place the redesigned 2015 Mustang on the 86th floor observation deck of the famed Empire State building -- no small feat -- replicating a marketing stunt it did with the original pony car back in 1965.

The 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Mustang at the New York World’s Fair in April 1964 will be marked next month during the New York auto show.

The 1964 unveiling of the first pony car was accompanied by an unprecedented marketing blitz. Ford bought 30-minute advertising slots on three major networks on April 16 to preview the coming Mustang. The car, along with Ford division chief and Mustang champion Lee Iacocca, appeared simultaneously on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazine.

The Mustang was featured in countless newspaper ads and billboards in more than 170 markets. Ford arranged to have the car on display at 70 high-traffic metropolitan locations, 15 major airport terminals and in 100 Holiday Inns nationwide.

The marketing of the 50th anniversary and 2015 Mustang have been underway since last fall, with Ford blanketing social media, four continents and every major auto show with some Mustang dust.

Big birthday celebrations are planned next month at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., and at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Mustang frenzy


In 1965, Mustang frenzy was still going strong. Robert Leury, vice president and general manager of the Empire State Building, marveled at the pony car's spectacular sales and wanted a piece of the buzz.

In fall 1965, Leury invited Ford division merchandising manager William Benton to meet and discuss how to pull off a headline-grabbing spectacle. What happened was one of the most outrageous examples of 1960s-era advertising moxie.

Portable cranes still can’t reach the Empire State Building’s 86th floor. And Ford says the spire towering above the building’s relatively narrow deck rules out a delivery by even today’s most advanced helicopter.

So just like they did in 1965, Ford engineers will use what everybody else does to get to the top of the landmark -- the elevators.

In 1965, a prototype Mustang convertible was sliced into three main sections, in addition to the windshield, and hauled up the building in elevators.

“Like all good craftsmen, our team is measuring twice and cutting once to make sure we can get this Mustang up in the elevators,” Dave Pericak, chief engineer for the 2015 Mustang, said in a statement. “Like the team that did this in 1965, the current crew visited the Empire State Building before starting and took careful measurements of its new elevators and doors before cutting up the car.”

But the 2015 Mustang is nearly 7 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the 1964 original, making the task this time more challenging.

Ford says the team charged with prepping the Mustang for display relied on computer engineering data to locate the optimal spots to make cuts so the car can be loaded onto custom-made racks and rolled onto the elevators.

Once all the parts are uncrated and transported up 86 floors, Ford says technicians will have less than six hours to reassemble the Mustang.

Visitors to the Empire State Building’s observation deck will be able to see the redesigned 2015 Mustang convertible for 54 hours from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on April 16 and 17.

No word yet on what colors will illuminate the top of the building on the two big nights.

You can reach David Phillips at dphillips@crain.com.

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