Tuesday, December 17, 2013

To a Car Guy, the Fiftieth Anniversary is...Sheet Metal

1963 Mustang concept car

There are serial snowfalls on the ground, so it's the time of year to plan a trip to someplace inviting and warm.  We discovered some years ago that San Francisco in the summer is definitely the first but definitely not the second.  So it may be Napa again, but it has to be a standout because it will be our 35th anniversary.

Anniversaries and birthdays are, of course, such convenient excuses for spending and living large.  Things so justified are easier on one's conscience.  This year is also a big anniversary, the 50th, for two iconic autos: the Porsche 911 and the Ford Mustang.  Since only a few auto companies last that long, producing one model that does is exceptional.  How the Mustang survived its Mustang II years without total public rejection, however, is something of a mystery.

For its sixth generation and anniversary iteration, Ford plans to launch the new Mustang worldwide --with some trepidation -- trying to appeal to the different tastes of Europeans and Asians (only a few are sold yearly in Africa).  I understand the Swedes are crazy about old American cars, so they may cozy up to this too since it has retro cred as much as anything.

I've heard that Ford adopted the name for the product when new in 1965 in reference to the fast, deadly and sexy P-51 Mustang fighter of late World War II fame, but its logo is a galloping pony, the wild mustang horse of the West.  But it was not the first Mustang car.

It seems a former Ford executive designed a slow, nonsexy aluminum-bodied vehicle with that name and made one prototype of it in 1949 in Seattle, using an empty Boeing building as factory.  It was to have sold for $1235, had a small 4-cylinder engine producing all of 59 horsepower coupled to a 3-speed manual transmission.  There was also a Mustang motorcycle made in California in the same year, and a Mustang truck made by White, but it's the car that is of interest, especially considering which company the former executive worked for.

In 1956, Fiat of Italy introduced the Multipla, which looked very much like this poor thing.  Had they known of it, and if it was not a coincidence, why in the world would they have copied it?  One too many bottles of wine at lunch, maybe.

You can see why they only made one.


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