Ford Motor Co. got it right with the venerable ‘Stang

Few in the automobile industry have resumes that compare with former Chrysler Corp. and Ford Motor Co. President Lee Iacocca, who is credited with leading the former company back into the black after bad cars and worse management had all but driven it into ruin.

While at Ford, the visionary Iacocca oversaw development of several memorable vehicles, including the Mustang, which passed 10 million in production recently. It’s the best selling sports car of the past 50 years and an iconic symbol of an American automobile industry at its best.

One must be of a certain age to fully appreciate the hubbub the Mustang caused when it first rolled off the assembly lines in 1964-65. Putting it simply, there hadn’t ever been anything like it before. It was sporty, fast and projected a modern image. And — one can argue, most importantly — it was affordable at around $3,400 for one that was nicely appointed.

They drove off dealership showrooms about as fast as the company could produce them. Years later, Iacocca said he recalled seeing a breakfast place’s sign in the Detroit area during the period that said, approximately, “Our hotcakes are selling as fast as Mustangs.” It was a slogan that would be repeated all over the country.

According to The Associated Press, the car’s first home belonged to Gail Wise.

“Ford says that I am the first person to buy a Mustang,” the Park Ridge, Illinois, resident said recently while standing next to her prized possession outside Ford’s office complex.

Then a 22-year-old school teacher, Wise strolled into Johnson Ford in Chicago on April 15, 1964, and left the owner of a brand-new car — one that still resonates with so many.

“Fifty-four years ago I bought a car, (and) we’re still talking about it,” said Wise, who bought the baby blue Mustang for $3,447.50. “I said I feel like a movie star at 76 as well as I did at 22.”

So it is with great pleasure that we tip our hat to the Ford Motor Co. and its venerable Mustang. When you next see one drive by, keep in mind you’re witnessing history in action.