Ford Mustang 50th anniversary celebrated in South Africa







Published by Gerald Ferreira Date: April 14, 2014
Categories: Ford, Ford Mustang

  • South African Mustang fans celebrate iconic model’s half-century
  • Classic and modern models on display at historic venue in Cape Town
  • 50th anniversary makes way for South African release of next Mustang

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PRETORIA, South Africa, 14 April 2014 – On Thursday the 17th of April 2014, the Ford Mustang will officially celebrate its 50th birthday around the world. To mark the occasion, Mustang fans in the Western Cape gathered this past Sunday, April 13, to celebrate the iconic pony car’s half-century.

Fans were treated to a display of more than 60 of the legendary sports coupés at the historic Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town.

The gathering, arranged by the Mustang Club of South Africa’s Western Cape chapter, saw Mustang models from 1965 all the way through to 2013 on display. The models represented a selection of cars that were sold in South Africa, as well as modern models that hard core enthusiasts have made an effort to import.

This celebration is just one of many around the world marking the birthday of the historic Stallion.

When the father of the Mustang, Lee Iacocca, first showed off his 18-month-long secret project to Ford employees in Dearborn, he couldn't have anticipated the product’s imminent success. Nor could he have anticipated that 50 years later his sports coupe - a lightweight, two-door car with seating for the whole family, as well as performance credentials in the form of a four-speed stick shift and a V8 under the hood - would be celebrated as a global icon.

The Ford Mustang was publicly unveiled on April 17 at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, and within a year it was shown to the South African public at the 1965 South African Grand Prix in East London.

That same year, the Mustang started its South African racing career. With local drivers, Ford South Africa entered two Mustangs to take on the competition, and the Mustang won the South African Saloon Car Championship in both 1966 and 1967.

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It wasn't just on the racetrack that Ford’s unexpected hero was rising through the ranks. Legends has it that Henry Ford II promised Iacocca a fate worse than being fired would befall him, should the Mustang project fail. Fortunately, the car went on to sell 1-million units in just two years - figures that are respectable, even today.

Some of those two million cars came to South Africa, too, where the left-hand drive Mustang was officially on sale in Ford dealerships. The original 1964 Mustang was not available here, but waiting a year meant that local enthusiasts were offered engines with a little more oomph than those in the debut models.

Buyers had a choice of three models - a hardtop, fastback 2+2, and convertible, with a selection of four engines. The base power plant was a 3.3-litre V6 that produced 89kW, while the V8 offering was available in three states of tune. The 4.7-litre (or 289 cubic inch) eight could be had with a two-barrel carburettor that developed 147kW, or a four-barrel carburettor and higher compression for a meatier 167kW. A high performance model saw the compression ratio raised even higher to eke an impressive 202kW.

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A selection of gearbox options included a three-speed manual, 3-speed automatic, and an optional four-speed, close-ratio manual gearbox. Other equipment included a choice of 16 paint finishes, vinyl trim for the hard top, front disc brakes, air conditioning, electric wipers, a deep-dish steering wheel, dual sun visors, and the famous, Mustang-badged centre-fill fuel flap on the rear of the car.

After its launch the Mustang quickly became a household name, both internationally and in South Africa. However, the joy was short-lived - at least in Ford’s official capacity. In the early 70s, with both the oil crisis and sanction from international governments, the Mustang story came to an early end.

While die-hard enthusiasts have been able to be part of the Mustang story by importing models, both old and new, a new generation of Mustang fans will soon join their ranks. In 2015 Ford’s flagship will officially return to South Africa in full force, with a suitably updated range to carry on the legacy.