It doesn’t happen very often. In five decades, only about a half a dozen times by my count. But when it does, it’s big news to car enthusiasts: the reveal of a new Ford Mustang.
And this time, the uncovering of the next version of the car that originally defined affordable sportiness was a global effort. Somewhat simultaneously in Dearborn, New York, Barcelona, Sydney, and Shanghai, the wraps were pulled off the 2015 Mustang in front of the media, and the world.
And, right here in our own backyard, a similar ceremony took place on Hollywood Boulevard as hundreds looked on. Everyone from Henry Ford III to racing legend Parnelli Jones took in the sleek new car in the forecourt of the Chinese Theatre.
Ideally, Ford would like to recapture the excitement for the original Mustang, a 1965 model that debuted in April, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. That car was an instant sensation, with some 22,000 Mustangs being sold in the first weekend alone. By mid-way through the 1966 model year, 1,000,000 examples had been churned out of three assembly plants trying to keep up with demand.
And with a hit on Ford’s hands, other makers scrambled to introduce their own “pony cars” as the segment had been labeled. General Motors introduced the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird in late 1966, Plymouth turned up the wick on its Barracuda, and even American Motors brought out a competitor called the Javelin.
Keeping the Mustang competitive meant continually refreshing and upgrading it, but by 1971 Ford’s small, sporty car had become decidedly less small and less sporty. The bloated Mustang of 1973 was replaced by the trim Mustang II for 1974, just in time for the first OPEC oil embargo and tightening emissions regulations.
The awkward Mustang II did well for Ford (sales doubled from 1973 to 1974), but by the end of the decade a new generation of Mustang arrived with a much more svelte and international look. The 1979 Mustang ushered in an era of resurgent performance, really hitting its stride by the mid 1980s with the venerable “5.0” model.
In 1994 the Mustang got a new suit of clothes, while still retaining much of its chassis from the previous generation. But in 2005, an all-new car arrived, wearing a striking design that paid tribute to the Mustang’s earlier years. That shape is now getting a little stale, and competition from the re-introduced Chevy Camaro means it’s time for another new Mustang.
Ideally, Ford would love to have put the 2015 Mustang on sale next April, on the exact 50th anniversary of the original car. But these things aren’t easy to time, and development work has set the new Mustang’s projected on-sale time as late 2014. Oops.
In the meantime, the Camaro has been outselling the Mustang in recent years, so Ford decided to show off their new one really early. Perhaps some of those shoppers who are passing over the current Mustang for a new Camaro might wait another year for the newest Mustang.
So with a huge buildup, it was announced that the whole world would see the next Mustang on the same day. A few photos did leak out early, but even so, there was so much interest in the Mustang last Thursday that Ford’s media web site crashed by mid-day.
Why show it off around the world? Because it’s going to be sold around the world, exported from the United States. Ford is making a big push to officially market the car in Europe, China and other places this time. They will even, for the first time, build the Mustang in right-hand-drive for countries that use the left side of the road like Australia and England.
At the Hollywood event, the car was treated like a movie star. Mustang enthusiasts brought their vintage examples, which lined Hollywood Boulevard. Music blared and cameras flashed as the 2015 Mustang came out from hiding. And, in a tribute to its locale, the car’s tire tracks were imprinted in concrete for posterity.
This latest Mustang has quite a year ahead of it, helping Ford celebrate the golden anniversary of the car that wrote its own chapter in the history of the automobile.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunz