There is probably no other performance car in the world that is as iconic as the Ford Mustang. And no other automobile has had a birthday celebration as grand and expansive as the Mustang's 50th.
And why not? In the last half-century the Ford's pony car has starred in at least 15 blockbuster films, had over 50 songs written about it and 9.2 million examples were sold over five generations. Numerous books, millions of T-shirts and memorabilia have been produced as well.
During our trip to Los Angeles for the first drive of the 2015 Ford Mustang last year, we were treated to perhaps one of the best assemblages of Mustangs at the Petersen Automobile Museum. Entitled "Mustangs Forever: 50 Years of a Legend", the special exhibit spanned all five generations of the Mustang including special models, performance versions and competition cars like Danny Thompson’s 200-mph Bonneville race car and the 1967 Malco Gasser.
Two of the most interesting cars in the display were two examples from the first two generations of the Mustang. The first one is a 1965 Mustang convertible in Arcadian Blue that was actually used by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan when he toured the state of California during his 1966 campaign for Governor of the state. The other one is a well-preserved 1974 Mustang II Coupe was only acquired days prior to the opening of the exhibit. It had a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood, which doesn’t make the EcoBoost 2.3-liter on the 2015 Mustang sound so strange now.
The well-curated collection featured performance models like the Shelby GT350R, Shelby GT500, Mach 1, Boss 302, GT "California Special", Saleen Mustang Parnelli Jones Edition. Another unique model is the 2009 Hertz Penske Shelby Mustang GT A custom Mustang GT Retractable Hardtop build by Galpin Auto Sports. The car is finished in pearl orange for the 2010 SEMA Show and is considered to be perhaps the only one in existence that has undergone an expensive conversion yet it didn’t seem to attract customers when it was officially offered by Galpin.
One particular car that caught our attention was the Iacocca Silver 45th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang. It was one of 45 limited examples dedicated to automotive legend Lee Iacocca, the man considered to be the father of the Mustang for his role in designing and engineering it when he was at Ford. The anniversary model is a collaboration between Iacocca, designer Michael Leone and Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters. It features a bespoke exterior and interior as well as performance modifications, Iacocca badges, and finished in a signature silver hue.
The star of the night was, without a doubt, the 2015 Ford Mustang in its 50th anniversary form featuring iconic details that pay homage to the original 1964 model. It was displayed on the Penthouse Terrace of the Petersen Museum. Four years in the making, the new-generation Mustang will be a global model and for the first time, it be offered with a factory-built right-hand-drive version for foreign markets.
To show the colorful history of the Mustang's exciting timeline, exhibit designers also made it a point to put up a chart showing every color offered as standard for the Mustang. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have viewed this exhibit and also become one of the museum’s last visitors before they began a major reconstruction that will last until December of this year.