Car Show Classics: The 50th Anniversary Mustang Celebration, Las Vegas

1st shot

Hey folks, welcome to all from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of the sites for the Mustang’s 50th Anniversary celebration. Although it’s tough to spot in this picture, the Soul Survivor (my 1974 Mustang II) sits in this row of Mustangs right next to the entry tent. In order to highlight each of the Mustang era, we parked cars from each era here, allowing attendees to see several examples of each generation. Since there were only three Mustang IIs at the event, the Soul Survivor received one of these primo parking spaces.

I hoped to find many Curbside Classics here at the show, but top-trim line Mustangs with big engines dominated the show. The typical car came with  multiple spoilers and fancy options, or represented the golden era of Mustangs from 1965 to 1970. For example, from 1979 until 1993, Ford installed a 2.3 four cylinder engine in the Fox body. Despite that, I did not see a single Fox body with a (normally aspirated) 2.3 four.

Still, I found many interesting cars, and can share them here with you, on the final day of the event. Enjoy!

1 Mustang

First, the Grandfather of the Mustang. This 2 seat concept car first appeared at the 1962 US Gran Prix in Watkins Glen NY. It shared its name with the Mustang, but very little else. I should also note the car mounted a Taunus V-4, the forerunner of the Cologne V-6 that provides motive power in the Soul Survivor. There were a few other concept cars at the event, but none of them matched the cachet of this little Mid-engine sports car, so I’m moving on to production cars.

65 with 260

For simplicity’s sake, let’s start our review in 1964 and move ahead year by year. As the “260” badge on the fender indicates, this little red convertible is one of the “1964.5” early models. Looking at this car, it’s easy to see that Ford caught lighting in a bottle with this car, and just like you I’d be delighted to take this one home.

65 survivor

Here’s another ’65 car. I wanted to share a fastback with you, and the windshield sign declaring this car a “survivor” indicates its made it through 50 years of use without a restoration- Very impressive indeed. (not original wheels, though- ED)

65 original paint

But not as impressive as this ’66 coupe, which brought its original paint job to the party. Up close, the paint showed signs of age, and some blotchiness on the top surfaces, but overall, it has held up very well. I’d be interested to know the owner’s paint maintenance procedures.

65 wagon

I’ve shown you the convertible, coupe, and fastback versions of the ’65/66 car, but someone brought this 1st generation wagon as well. As you can see, it uses the coupe’s window openings, and finessed the back glass by simply going the sedan delivery route.

65 wagon.2

They also used flat glass for the tailgate, which helped simplify the rear design. The roof line shows strong similarities with the Falcon wagon, and someone nearby (who was not the car owner) thought it used a modified Fairmont wagon tailgate. I’m not signing off on either theory, but I am impressed with the quality of the metal work. You can love it or hate it, but it is well constructed.

67 GTA

I said at the top we would all love to have that 260 powered convertible. If that isn’t enough juice, how about this 1967 GTA ragtop? The big block delivers the power, the drop top says fun in the sun, and the automatic equals effortless cruising.

68 High Countries

In this picture, you see four 1968 High Country Specials, and a Shelby KR500 (King of the Road). These cars all belong to some friends of mine from Colorado, home to the High Country Special.

68 High Country

Ford’s Denver sales office put together the High Country Special package back in the day (much like the California Special Mustangs that sold in the Golden State), and it consisted of the side scoops with badging seen here, and the Shelby style tail lights and ducktail spoiler shown below.

68 High Country.2

I’m no expert in these cars, but the cars here in Vegas had several engine packages, so it appears the buyers could check the option sheet and buy their preferred engine to go with the High Country visuals. It also appears that Ford assembled coupe, fastback and convertible High County Specials, but the only fastback in this lineup is a Shelby.

69 Twister

The Kansas City District Sales Office also got a regional specific vehicle the Twister Special. I know NOTHING about these cars, beyond the fact that they were offered, and this on is a 1970.

70 conv

Speaking of 1969/70 cars, there were a couple of very original models at the show, including this ’69 convertible with -get this- factory wheel covers! The lack of aftermarket or factory mag wheels guaranteed the inclusion  of this car in Curbside Classics.

70 Cobra Jet

This ’69 is also extremely stock, but also extremely rare. It’s a 428 Super Cobra Jet coupe, with the drag pack option. With those sort of options, this car could compete with COPO Chevelles and Camaros at the drag strip.

70 Mock 1

This baby blue fastback also appears in our 1969/70 section. The owner was not around, but the car included very unusual markings, that were NOT factory trim parts.

70 Mock 1.2

As you can see, the stripe and the C-Pillar badge both read “Mock 302”. I’m not sure what the owner meant by these markings, but they went lot a lot of trouble to come up with trim that looked very factory, so I’m sure there’s a story behind it.

70 coupe

To wrap up our 1969/70 section, let’s check out this blue ’70 coupe. Once again mounting steel wheels, the car is complete and unmolested. I just wish it came with a 6 cylinder engine, since very few early generation cars using the base power plant showed up for the celebration as well.

71 Boss

This 1971 Boss 351 is notable as a one year model. Ford brought it out in an attempt to maintain some momentum in the muscle car market, but this compromise splitting the difference between the elephant motors and small blocks could not carry forward the banner, and Ford dropped it in 1972.

71 convert

The Mustang convertible was also dropped in the seventies. This ’73 example represented the last one until Ford re-introduced the drop top in 1983.

79 King Cobra

Some say this 1978 King Cobra represents the rarest Mustang model ever built by Ford. Also a one year model, it was only one of three Mustang IIs at the show.

79 Cobra

If you don’t remember the 1979 Cobra, I’m not surprised. Not a lot of buyers bit on them, and the 1979 to 1983 Fox body cars are in a bit of a black hole- The engine choices were under whelming, and the Fox body didn’t really begin to wake up until the 2 bbl H.O. 302 v8 engine arrived in 1982. I do like the color choice though- a nice transitional shade from the disco seventies to the exuberant eighties.

79 Pace Car

You may better remember this pace car model- Ford built a ton of them, and many owners salted them away into storage for future profits. The value hasn’t skyrocketed, and clean examples are often available for purchase on E-bay and the like.

Well, that pretty much wraps up the Curbside Classic era. I did photograph a couple unusual Fox bodies built after 1982, so I’ll just share those photos below without comment. Now that I’ve got some free time again, I’ll try to clean out my CC photo queue, and post some articles in the near future.

85 GT350 conv

1984- Second year of the Fox convertible!

85 GT

’85 or ’86 GT

85 SVO

Early SVO

85 SVO.1

Turbocharged and Intercooled 2.3 Four Cylinder

86 SVO

Later SVO with flush head lamp assemblies

87 CHP car

Genuine CHP Car

87 LX 5.0

Mustang LX 5.0