Today, April 17, was a famous day back in 1964. Ford introduced a new class of car, the pony car, so-called because that car was the Mustang, and it sold for a base price of $2,368.
Not that any Mustang got out the door for that price, which was bare-bones even then. That’s because Ford wisely made their little coupes and convertibles – known to car enthusiasts as 1964½ models because of their spring introduction although Ford sold them as 1965s – as build-your-own cars.
Sure, they came with sporty bucket seats and a floor-mounted three-speed shifters, but not much else. A V-8 cost extra, as did the automatic transmission, fancy interior and any number of comfort and convenience options. No two Mustangs seemed to be alike, having been tailored to their owners’ desires. (Unlike today, people special-ordered their cars from the factory in those days.)
On that day, I was an eighth-grader in an elementary school four miles from the nearest Ford dealership, so I missed the debut of the Mustang. That fall, however, I started high school in town, and that improved my car-worshiping life considerably.
The school was on the north side of town, just off the U.S. highway that served as Main Street. Prestwood Ford was on the south end of town, just before Main reverted to U.S. 27. Being a freshman with no license and no car, I would walk down Main after school with books in hand.
At the Ford dealer, I would drool over the new cars, especially the hot-selling Mustang, which gained a fastback model that fall. All the other dealerships were closer, and I stopped at them along the way. One, for instance, was a queer duck that sold Pontiacs, Ramblers and, if memory serves, GMC trucks.
At each stop, the salesmen tolerated me and countless other boys who dropped by with nothing but staring in mind. They knew we would tell our parents about the cars and the friendly salesmen. I sat in the new cars, ran my hands over the fenders and picked up the colorful brochures that told all about the cars.
All good things must end, however, and after getting my fill of sexy sheet metal, I had to find a way home. The school buses had stopped running by that time and no one was left at school to get a ride with, so I would start walking. It was a small town, luckily, so often I got rides from sympathetic area residents who were going my way, or part of it.
The brochure for the Mustang had a checklist of options, I recall, and mine spelled out a red fastback with V-8 and four-speed stick. I never got that car, but I held on to that brochure, and hundreds more about other years and makes so I could relive those high school days.
Then came the Flood of 1990, when those brochures turned to mush in our basement, just as my eyes do when I remember all my lost cars.