Happy 50th to an American icon

Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.

The Ford Mustang is 50 years old. It deserves a celebration, and I am sure Ford is planning an appropriate party.

It came into the U.S. market like a storm. It set sales records in its first 24 months. It survived a near-death experience several years ago, saved by some Ford engineers who understood that its value to the company far exceeds any dollar amount.

Carroll Shelby built his own version of the car, giving it success on the race track, as well as in the showroom. His cars command huge prices today.

One nameplate, 50 years. That doesn't happen often in the U.S. auto business.

Like many other people, I remember when I saw my first Mustang. It took my breath away. All for $2,368, an unheard-of value at the time.

The Mustang had many fathers, even more as its success grew. Engineers such as Don Frey were certainly important, but the guy whose name is forever linked with the Mustang and who rode it to a successful career is Lee Iacocca. He was the head of Ford Division and later became company president. He was, no doubt, a master sales and marketing executive.

America loved the Ford Mustang from the start. If you didn't own one, you wished you did. It was the original pony car.

For 50 years it has been a success at the drag strip, on the road course and at the shopping mall. For the Mustang to have survived 50 years with millions sold is quite an accomplishment. It's remarkable that it is still fresh and exciting and still has buyers of all ages lusting after it.

In America one other icon, the Chevrolet Corvette, has survived and prospered for more than half a century. But great as it is, the Corvette never sold like the Mustang.

The Mustang started out as an inexpensive car built with lots of components from Falcons and other off-the-shelf pieces. But it was the design that made it an instant hit. That first year, 1964, they couldn't build enough to satisfy an insatiable demand.

The new Mustang has the same excitement. Fifty years and still going strong.

Like everyone else, when I was a kid I wanted one. Like everyone else today, I still want one.

It is really fun to be able to celebrate an American automotive icon.

You still look great. Happy 50th birthday, Mustang.

You can reach Keith Crain at



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