10 Million Mustangs

Yesterday, somewhere in the Detroit area, Mustang No. 10,000,000 rolled off the assembly lines at a Ford manufacturing plant.  In a vehicle world now dominated by oversized pickup trucks and high-end sport utility vehicles, the Mustang is one moderately sized passenger vehicle that has held its own, and Ford is making a big deal of the milestone.

51rkn5udqhl-_uy462_A lot of car models have come and gone since the Mustang was first introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.  As its perfectly chosen name suggests, the Mustang was a “pony car,” designed to be a smaller, more affordable sports car that would appeal to both men and women.  Indeed, women were a prominent target audience for Ford’s advertisements for the initial Mustangs.  And with its iconic grillwork and front end, adorned with the silver wild horse running free, the Mustang was an immediate hit.  Its popularity has endured.  Although sales of the car have lagged here in the U.S., its sales have been strong overseas, where car buyers no doubt associate the car with the classically American concept of the freedom of the open road.

In the more than 50 years since the Mustang was introduced, countless other cars have been introduced to great fanfare, only to end up in the dustbin of automotive history.  The Mustang is one of the few cars to achieve iconic status — but it, too, has changed over the years.  It seems like the designers at Ford just can’t resist fiddling with it.  Over the years, the Mustang has progressively gotten a lot bigger — the Mustang Mach I of the early ’70s, for example, was a true muscle car — then downsized; when I was in high school in the ’74-’75 ear, Ford introduced the Mustang II, which was much smaller and less powerful.  I drove a red Mustang II with a white vinyl roof, and it was a great car.  (At least, it was until my sister got her hands on it, but that’s another story.)

But through all of the design changes, and all of the changing tastes of the car-buying populace, the Mustang has retained its ultimate allure.  When you think about it, ten million vehicles is a lot of cars.  Mustang Sally would be proud.

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Leisure Suits, Disco, And The Ford Granada

Lee Iacocca and the 1975 Ford Granada

Lee Iacocca and the 1975 Ford Granada

I’ve been amazed by the steady show of interest on my prior post on crummy Ford cars of the 1970s. Interestingly, all of the attention has been to one particular car — the Ford Granada. We get data on what searches have been used to find our blog, and every week there are multiple searches specifically for the Ford Granada.

Why is this so? What is it about the Granada that continues to attract people like moths to a flame, more than 30 years after the first Granada was sold, lumbered clumsily down American roads, and immediately began to rust? It there something in the boxy shape that is intrinsically appealing to the American psyche? Are some American drivers just constitutionally opposed to aerodynamic qualities in their cars? Or, did drivers like the wide-eyed headlight design with the oversized grille that evidently served as the model for the Family Truckster that Clark Griswold was talked into buying in National Lampoon’s Vacation? Maybe it is the “Ghia” design package which — as on the shiny blue and chrome model that Lee Iacocca is posing with — consisted mainly of the cheap, pebble grain plastic cover on the roof of the car that immediately faded in the sunlight and cracked?

The interior of a Ford Granada

The interior of a Ford Granada

What about the interior of the Granada? Did its design elements satisfy the same high standards that Ford met with the body and exterior? My recollection is that the inside of the Granada could be summarized in one word: velour. The attached photo suggests, but cannot fully capture, the stunning amount of velour used on the seats and along the doors. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of driving a car with a velour interior on a hot summer day, you need only know that the velour interior of a Ford Granada captured and radiated heat with extraordinary efficiency and also managed to become both sticky and smelly when the outside temperature exceeded 70 degrees. The seventh circle of hell may involve driving a Ford Granada while wearing shorts on a muggy August day. The interior also featured lots of rubbery plastic, usually in “earth tones,” oversized dials outlined in plastic on the dashboard and, in my case, an 8-track tape player. Let the party begin!

Finally, there was the actual driving and handling of this awesome machine. My Granada was horribly underpowered, so there was no thought of impressing your date with a little rat racing when the stoplight changed. The Granada did not exactly hug the corners as you turned. Instead, it was likely a stately steamship trying to modify its course, leaving driver and passenger alike with a sick, “here we go” sense of drift until the massive front end cleared the corner and pulled the rest of the car after it. And, the Granada’s fundamental lack of aerodynamic design ensured that the billboard-sized grille would be plastered with the pulverized remains of every kind of bug native to the Midwest, and occasionally small birds as well.

So, why are people still interested in this dismal example of the American auto industry’s hubris during the 1970s? Perhaps for that very reason, or perhaps because the ’70s are in right now, and no car epitomizes the decade more aptly. It was a time of bright plaid leisure suits, bad haircuts and long sideburns, white loafers with gold buckles, disco music — and the Ford Granada.

Real Lemons

The Ford Granada

The Ford Granada

I saw this article on MSN today, about the biggest automotive flops of the past 25 years, and it got me to thinking of lemons I have driven. Most of them were Fords from the ’70s, because Dad was a Ford dealer and the ’70s was when I started driving. These were cars like the Ford Granada, pictured above. The Granada looked like a cereal box on wheels, and combined the worst features imaginable — absurdly bad handling, dismal appearance, grossly underpowered, poor gas mileage. It was not a car that you wanted to drive to impress a girl on the first date. There were many other Ford busts from that era — the gnome-like Ford Maverick, which could easily have been manufactured by a country behind the Iron Curtain, and the stylish Ford Pinto, which handled like Bambi on icy road conditions and was later associated with rear-end explosions, and the Mustang Ghia, with a roof coated in a pebbly white plastic substance that presumably was supposed to look like a convertible but instead quickly became brittle and broke apart after its first trip through the car wash.

Well, what the heck — they were free thanks to Dad, and as my grandmother was fond of saying, You get what you pay for.

More on the Ford Granada:  Leisure Suits, Disco, and the Ford Granada