09 Aug 2018
The ford Mustang – an iconic American brand and a symbol of cool – will reach a major milestone Wednesday as the 10 millionth vehicle rolls off an assembly line at a Detroit-area plant.
The car celebrated in American song and film, and recognised the world over as an iconic American cultural export, will get a big party at Ford’s Michigan headquarters.
It’s a turning point for the carmaker, which is banking on the Mustang’s wide appeal to help it grow global market share.
US sales of the Mustang are dropping, but they are accelerating overseas in markets such as China and Germany.
To celebrate the Mustang milestone, Ford is appealing to the sense of nostalgia for what is seen as the original “freedom vehicle” that exemplified Americans’ love of the open road. After all, the car was named after a horse that roams free in the American West.
“I can think of no other American car that captures the love affair with the automobile that Americans have had... like the Mustang,” automotive historian John Heitmann of the University of Dayton told AFP.
“It is as American as one can have an American product.”
A ‘freedom vehicle’
The Mustang once germinated an entire subgenre of cars.
From a technical standpoint, the original 1965 Mustang was not meant as a muscle car intended to attract those who gravitate to fast wheels.
It was in fact one of the original so-called “pony cars” – a smaller, affordable, practical sibling of flashy sports cars intended to appeal to young professionals, including women.
But the Mustang became an icon almost from the start, in no small part thanks to marketing that would rival a modern-day iPhone launch.
It debuted in the spring, at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, far before other companies announced their latest offerings in the fall. It was hyped up in advance and automotive industry journalists were on hand.
Automotive historian Bob Merlis, at the time a teenager, witnessed the World’s Fair launch.
“It was almost like pandemonium. People were so excited about this car,” Merlis said.
“It was sort of a counterpoint to the very square, staid station wagon ethos that Americans grew up with in suburbia,” he recalled.
“It represented some kind of a freedom vehicle. It embodied that.”
Wilson Pickett immortalised the car in Mustang Sally, a rhythm and blues classic of 1966.
Two years later, the American film star Steve McQueen drove a Mustang in the thriller Bullitt – cementing the car’s cool factor.
It even captured the public imagination overseas, appearing in the 1966 Oscar-winning French film A Man and a Woman by Claude Lelouch.