By Steve & Tamami Laser
Fifty-one years ago today, Ford’s all-new 1965 Mustang officially went on sale following much fanfare generated during its introduction to the press in New York and Europe. April 17, 1964 is the day that’s engraved in the minds of Mustang lovers and auto historians everywhere as the “birthday” of the car. It was easier for automakers to keep secrets decades before millions of consumers began roving the streets equipped with cell phone cameras and the ability to post their pictures instantly across the globe.
Henry Ford II poses with the all-new Mustang introduced at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. (photo: Ford)
The first production Mustangs were already delivered to Ford dealers across the country where they were supposed to be kept under wraps until the official intro on April 17. Ford Vice President and General Manager Lee Iacocca, considered to be the “father” of the Mustang, delivered a speech to the media during a press conference on April 13.
Lee Iacocca introduced the Mustang to the media during a press conference packed with journalists in the Ford Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. (photo: Ford)
“Incidentally, I might point out to you that you are participating today in Ford’s first International Press Introduction of an automobile,” Iacocca told the media. “Here in New York we have newsmen from Canada and Puerto Rico, as well as the United States. And while we meet here, the Mustang is being introduced to press, radio and TV newsmen in 11 European capitals. Some 2,000 reporters, editors and photographers are attending Mustang showings in Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Portugal.”
The Mustang was available in both hardtop and convertible bodystyles during its introduction with the fastback following later. (photo: Ford)
“We can’t think of any product we have introduced – certainly in recent years, at least – that has generated more advance interest than the Mustang,” Iacocca said. “People in every state, and from as far away as England, Malta and Australia, have written to ask for more information about the car, and many were ready to order it sight unseen!”
This original press kit shows that details about the new Mustang were embargoed until the afternoon of the press conference on April 13, four days ahead of its official introduction. That gave journalists time to whip up a frenzy with the public via newspaper, radio and TV stories. (image: Ford)
Iacocca continued, “For instance, one man wrote from Virginia: ‘Are you going to build it? If so, when? I am ready to order.’ A cadet at the Air Force Academy wanted one for his first day as a first classman. A high school youngster from Louisiana promised to start a Mustang fan club. He wrote: ‘It’s better than Elvis or the Beatles.’ One customer we may have to disappoint. He wants a Mustang provided we can install a 427 high-performance engine in it. We’ve forwarded his name to Project Mercury at Cape Kennedy.”
Following the press conference, journalists moved to the Westchester Country Club for lunch. With the official press kit in hand, the writers set off on a 750-mile drive back to the Ford Product Development Center in Dearborn, Mich. The extended trip was designed to demonstrate Mustang’s durability while also generating plenty of attention for the new car. (photo: Ford)
The first retail purchase of a Mustang recognized by Ford wasn’t to an Air Force cadet, a high school student or an astronaut. A young woman walked into a Ford dealership in Chicago on April 15 and drove home with the first Mustang sold to a consumer – two days prior to the official on-sale date.
On April 15, 1964, Gail Brown was fresh out of college and looking for her first new car. Little did she realize that by the end of that day, she would become the first retail customer to buy a new Ford Mustang.
“When I walked in the door I told the salesman I wanted a convertible,” she said. “He said I have no convertibles on the floor but come in the back room with me, I have something special to show you. And in the back room under the tarp was this baby blue convertible. I said oh yes, I really wanted that one.”
“When I drove it out on the street, everybody was waving at me and flagging me to slow down,” she said. “I felt like a movie star. That’s how it was for quite a while. I was very popular – it wasn’t me, it was the car.” Perhaps the most amazing part of the story is that Brown and her future husband Tom Wise kept the car in their family for decades to come, celebrating the 50th birthday of the Mustang last year. And they know, better than anyone, that the Mustang’s birthday is April 15, 1964.
News source and photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company
Story (intro and commentary) ©2015 CarNichiWa.com