It’s difficult, if not impossible, to think of another vehicle that’s had a bigger impact on American culture than the Ford Mustang. As we celebrate the magnificent horses that inspired the vehicles (and remind people of their very real danger at the hands of BLM), Horse & Rider Living is exploring the unexpected and fascinating history of the Ford Mustang.
When you hear the word “Mustang”, what hits your brain first – the beloved four-legged equine known to grace our public lands, or the idolized, iconic, four-wheeled ride produced by Ford?
If you say the four-wheeled version, we won’t hold it against you. After all, the images that come to mind hold many memories. For me as a teenager, flying in a friend’s white Mustang, wind blowing her blond hair and my brunette ponytail while she outran a highway patrol car (not a good idea). Yes, we were horse people growing up – but the Ford Mustang was loved.
The Mustang is still loved here in the present day! The evolution of body styles has not diminished the pride of owning one of Ford’s most popular designs. Introduced April 17, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair, Henry Ford II showcased the car in New York, while dealers across the country also debuted the car in their showrooms.
The Ford Mustang quickly became a trendsetter, selling 22,000 immediately after its debut. It began to make appearances in music (“Mustang Sally”), films (Steve McQueen in Bullitt), on the race track, and more. A standing ovation for Ford; the Mustang set the pace for automakers everywhere.
But wait – what you may not know is this wasn’t the very first Mustang to be introduced. Or that there was a Ford Mustang pickup truck, and before that, a Mustang Motorcycle.
The Mustang Motorcycle
In 1936 Howard Forrest designed a 315 cc (19.2 cu) 4 cylinder water-cooled engine. Forrest then built a motorcycle in 1941 to complement it. As an employee of Gladden Products Corporation located in Glendale, California, Forrest road the bike to work during WWII. Gladden Company President and CEO John Gladden had Forrest and a co-worker named Chuck Gardner design a commuter motorcycle based on Forrest’s original design. Council Tucker, a graduate of USC and Georgia Tech, assisted. The Mustang Motorcycle Corp Corporation became a division of Gladden Products.
The Mustang horse was inspiring automakers as far back as the 1930s; the Colt was the very first vehicle to bear the Mustang name. Prototypes featured Villiers 191 CC Double Century Engines which became unattainable by the end of WWII. When production began, they used a 125 cc Villiers, downsized the frame, and added 8 inch wheels. Only 235 of the Colts were produced when the engine could no longer be obtained.
From 1946 to 1965 they produced a motorcycle titled the Mustang. A second motorcycle, the Mustang Model II, was produced in 1947 and featured the first ever telescopic fork to be manufactured in the United States. The Mustang II featured a Busy Been motor, a 3 speed Burman transmission, and wheels upsized to 12 inches.
In 1948 a 3-wheeled model known as the DeliverCycle was produced for commercial use, with police departments using it to enforce parking. This model was upgraded during its years of production, and evolved to a 9.5 HP Pony and Bronco. The model 4 Special evolved into the Stallion with a 10.5 Hp engine, 4 speed transmission, and two tone paint,
The DeliverCycle was discontinued in 1956 due to lack of interest. A low budget second Colt was produced, said to be a stripped down version of the Pony.
The Thoroughbred was introduced in 1960 and The Trail Machine in 1961. Both models presented new and different features, with The Trail Machine powered by a Briggs & Stratton 5.75 HP engine.
With sales beginning to decline in 1956, Forrest’s employment was terminated and he was replaced with Gardner. Finally, due to supply issues, competition, and internal management problems, production of the Mustang motorcycle line ended in 1965.
1948 Mustang, Mustang Engineering Corp
According to performance.ford.com, the first original Mustang was introduced decades prior, in 1948. A banquet event was held, and attendee Russ Wilcoxson of Tacoma, Washington told PFC that he had a surprise for them, and departed with the promise of an email providing more information.
And he delivered, offering information that made the Mustang enthusiasts hold onto their seatbelts: he revealed that the 1964 debut of Ford Mustang…was not the Original Mustang!
The Original Mustang was designed by Roy C. McCarty. A former Lincoln Motor Division service manager, McCarty was located in Dearborn, Michigan; the Mustang was produced by Mustang Engineering Corp. in Renton, Washington.
The prototype looked absolutely nothing like the Mustang produced by Ford in 1964, but is still a cool car. Shaped like a backwards tear drop, a forward-facing whale or part of an aircraft, the specs were aluminum skin over a tubular frame with a 102-inch wheelbase. It seated six, with bucket seats in the front and a bench in the rear. The four-cylinder Hercules motor was located under that rear seat, a water cooled engine with a Warner three-speed transmission. Apparently Fiat had offered an almost identical car named Multipla, though it was said one was not designed with the other in mind. (In my mind, based on the main photo used in the OM ads, the front looks much like a Volkswagen van.)
PFC reached out to the McCarty family for more information; the box had been opened, but questions remained. No response was received.
Later, BangShift.com provided more information regarding the original badged Mustang.
Apparently they too approached the McCarty family, and Tracy McCarty responded in depth, providing newspaper ads for the Original Mustang with detailed photos describing the aerodynamics of the design. Creative advertising was needed due to the oddity of the newly designed car; among other things, a band called – yes, you guessed it – The Mustang used the OM for transport as a form of advertisement while playing different venues.
According to BangShift, the company was claiming fuel mileage of 30 to 35 MPG. The vehicle was noted as weighing a mere 2,200 pounds.
Even though stock certificates were issued, and McCarty sought funding to expand, the company was unable to continue due to finances. Only 12 OMs were produced.
It was stated that McCarty later sued Ford for $10 million. Whether it was for using the Mustang name or another issue, no one seems to be sure.
So…where are the 12 OMs originally produced?
Another unanswered question.
Anyone and everyone knows Ford’s contribution to classic cars, with the Mustang often being titled the “Ultimate Classic Car”.
The Ford Mustang was introduced in April of 1964 at the New York World’s Fair and over fifty years later it is still being produced and still desired by thousands, even though the MSRP has changed considerably along with the design. The original price in 1964 was $2,368…now a 2022 starts at over $27,000, and that is the standard model. Start looking at some of its siblings – the GT, the Shelby, convertible, etc. – and you’ll start adding tens of thousands to the bottom line. But that’s no different than the Mustang’s competition.
It is debated how the Mustang name was chosen. Some say it was named after an aircraft; others say Lee Iacocca preferred animal names and decided on the Mustang horse as its namesake. Nicknamed “The Pont”, Iacocca made a wise decision, as that silver badge became a symbol that has only grown in status.
The first generation of Mustang ranged to 1973, and continued on to become a celebrated piece of history.
A Mustang Pickup Truck? Really?
Just when you thought you’d heard it all, another little-known fact about the Ford Mustang: in 1966 someone had the bright idea of making a Mustang into a pickup truck, known as the Mustero. Yes, really!
Beverly Hills Ford of California conceptualized the modifications that would turn the Mustang into a pickup truck. The deck lid, the C Pillars, and back bench seat were removed, and then the remaining cavity lined with molded fiberglass. Bed rails were added to further define the vehicle as a truck, and windows were designed and added to fill in openings.
The Mustero was expensive compared to the vehicle that gave birth to it, and was not well received. It is said that there are four of these trucks known to be in existence.
In 1964 the Ford Mustang was introduced and the film Goldfinger, the third in the Bond series starring Sean Connery as the MI6 agent, was released.
What do they have in common other than release dates? Silver screen credits!
In Goldfinger, Bond encounters Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) on the Furka Pass in the Swiss mountains while chasing Goldfinger in his Rolls Royce. He slashes the tires of Tilly’s 1964 Mustang with a wheel spinner to force a meeting (of course using special effects). A striking white convertible with red interior, this was a major debut for the Ford Mustang, propelling it to stardom in its own right.
Ford Mustang made another appearance in Thunderball, where James Bond – who is hitchhiking after being stranded on the beach in the Bahamas – catches a ride with Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) in a light blue 1965 Ford Mustang convertible. A car can be as sexy as its driver, and Bond went for a fast ride.
This was how the Ford Mustang became as inextricably linked with the James Bond franchise as Sean Connery and martinis – shaken, not stirred.
Steve McQueen and Bullitt
There are both Steve McQueen and Ford Mustang fans out there that would be appalled if no mention was made of this Iconic duo; we wouldn’t dare to leave them out!
Bullitt was a 1968 film that starred Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Jacqueline Bisset. Based on a 1963 novel Mute Witness, by Robert L. Fish whose pen name was Robert L. Pike, the screenplay was created by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner.
McQueen’s company Solar Productions made the film, with his partner Robert Relyea as producer. Warner Brothers released the film in 1968, and its debut was a huge success. Bullitt is known for its car chase, which was composed of – you guessed it – Ford Mustangs. For this unforgettable scene, two 1968 V8 325 HP Ford Mustang GT Fastbacks with four-speed manual transmissions were purchased; the brakes, engines and suspensions were then heavily modified by Max Balchowsky, a veteran race car driver and technician.
One of these cars showed up at Mecum auctions in 2020 and sold for $3.7 million dollars.
The Bullitt chase scene also included two 1968 V8 375 HP, 440 Magnum Dodge Chargers that were left unmodified (that hardly seems fair). Originally Ford had sent two Galaxie sedans to be used as opposing chase cars to the Mustangs, but they were too heavy for the San Francisco hill jumps. It was also thought that a Ford on Ford battle was not a good idea.
The Mustang Fastbacks used in the film became known as Bullitts, further increasing the Mustang’s visibility starpower – not that it was needed by then.
In 2007 this iconic film featuring the now equally iconic Ford Mustangs was selected by the United States Film Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and is preserved by its institution. Well done, Steve and Ford Motors!
The Mustang horse has been used as a symbolic badge for one of the most iconic cars in the world for decades; their likeness and spirit have made billions of dollars for Ford, and have left an indelible print on our cultural history and the future of motor vehicles.
That spirit is not going to be found in the BLM’s holding pens. As of now they are holding approximately 50,000 horses in pens across America. Recently a mysterious equine flu broke out at one location in Colorado infecting over 70,000 horses; at this writing over 100 horses there have died.
We cannot let the BLM continue with this atrocity.
We at HRL submit that it’s time for those reaping the rewards of this iconic horse to give back to those wild spirits. I am asking the current CEO of Ford Motor Co, Jim Farley, to step into the fight and leverage their significant visibility and resources to stop the harm being done to Ford’s spiritual namesake.
So what about it, Ford Motor Company? Are you in? We’d love to hear from you.
Dear readers, stay tuned.
Stay vigilant. Stay persistent with your representatives.
Stay loud, wild, and free – especially as a voice for the magnificent creatures who cannot speak to save themselves.