I hate conformity, at least in cars. It is funny how the car that conformed the least to the extablished order of things in 1965 has become one of the most conformist old cars out there. In 1965, you conformed by listening to the Beach Boys and driving an Impala. For those who would not conform, there was the Beatles and the Mustang. OK, it was the teenaged-kind of non-conformity, where everyone gets to not conform, but does so together in a big group.
Today, “I like early Beatles and have a restored classic Mustang in the garage” is about as conformist as you get among the baby boom demographic. But we have to give the devil its due, and the reason that the Mustang has become the most collected car in the universe is because it struck a chord with so many people.
There was nothing mechanically interesting about the Mustang. What was interesting was the concept. The Corvair Monza may have been the first to dip a toe into the market for affordable sports coupes (as our beloved Editor in Chief never tires of reminding us) but the Mustang was the first one to pull the package together in a way that was attractive to almost everyone.
Think about it. For the practical: it was essentially the reliable and affordable Falcon. For the style-conscious: it was fresh and beautiful. For the young: it was hip and cool. For the more mature: it made you feel young without making you look silly. For the driver: it was quite a good handler. For the dragster: it had a potent modern V8. It didn’t matter whether you were young, old, male, female, Republican or Democrat, you could see yourself in a Mustang. In short, within its basic package and its almost limitless combination of optional equipment, it was as close to becoming all things to all people as any car of the modern era.
The car taught us another lesson, although one that has been oft-forgotten many times since: a car can be inexpensive without being (and looking) cheap. A strippo Mustang with the six and three-speed looked almost exactly like a loaded-up V8 model from the outside. Even the basic Mustang got bucket seats, a floor shift, and full wheel covers. The Mustang rewarded those who spent more, but never embarrassed those would didn’t.
Sometimes exactly the right car comes to showrooms at exactly the right time. In the ’50s, it was the Chevy V8. In the ’80s, it was the minivan. But in 1965, it was the Mustang.