CC Capsule: 1966 Ford Mustang Notchback- Parked In

029 - 1966 Ford Mustang notchback CC

Prior to this sighting, it had been a long time since I had seen a classic, early first-generation Mustang parked on the street like this, exposed to the elements of Midwestern winter.  While it is true that these cars are relatively plentiful as old cars go, it is still a classic Mustang, and inherently desirable for that.  Covered or enclosed parking in Chicago can still be pretty expensive, though, depending on the area.  If I was moving to Chicago from another state, had money for only one car, and had to choose between street-parking my prized ’66 Mustang or trading it for something else, I’d probably be like the owner of this example.

032 - 1966 Ford Mustang notchback CC

It has been brought up in the CC community in posts and comments how this first Mustang’s styling cues have been recycled often, with varying degrees of success.  The beefed-up ’67s were shown some love last year, and I feel the current generation (introduced for 2015) is a gorgeous piece of rolling sculpture.  I’ll also give a nod to the still-fresh 2005 through early-’09 generation which, to my eyes, represents the best combination of modern technology (save for the live rear-axle) and cleanly-styled, vintage Mustang flavor.  The “favorite Mustang” conversation could go on for days.

What I realize, though, in reading many of the comments regarding the direction of the current Mustang’s styling is that there hasn’t been any truly all-new design language or groundbreaking reinterpretation of what “Ford Mustang” is supposed to mean perhaps since Jack Telnack’s new-for-’79 model.  I acknowledge that the team of stylists responsible for each generation of Mustang had been given the (very) formidable task of creating something new while incorporating old themes.  I think that with most redesigns, they had done a commendable job over the years, given these parameters.

1979 Ford Mustang print ad, property saturated CC

For me, though, Mr. Telnack’s clean-sheet stylistic approach with the Fox-body at the very least yielded a design that while not exactly breathtaking like the original, was certainly modern, elegant, and very much in the spirit of the first cars.  The handsome notchback was an outstanding return to form.  Visually, the new ’79 was a much more low-key and perhaps “intelligent”-looking choice than its GM F-Body rivals which I concede were, by then, in their tenth year of production.  Before any Camaro or Firebird fans call for the revocation of my CC card, I’d just like to remind readers that I still really like and would want a nice, late second-generation Camaro.  My point is that it was to the third-generation Mustang’s advantage that its new looks weren’t overly dripping with machismo.  In its initial form(s), the Fox-stang seemed athletic and admirably quiet about it.

1994 Ford Mustang brochure CC resized

Since ’94, we’ve been treated to a succession of Mustangs with tri-bar taillamp clusters, side-scallops (except for the most recent generation), and for many of those years, a wide-mouthed grille with a chrome pony in it – all elements which harken back to the first cars.  The Mustang’s basic look and proportions have resonated with buyers in the United States for over fifty years – so much so that with the exception of the aforementioned Fox-body, it has never strayed too far from its well-established look.

What’s familiar can be comfortable, but the sense of novelty and genuine excitement that I imagine the original cars generated has long-since evaporated.  Admittedly, no idea can be completely new more than once, and that time for the original “Ponycar” was about a decade before I was born.  Still, I’d love to see a daring, new-style Mustang that is as much a departure from the current car as the 1970 Chevrolet Camaro was compared with the preceding model.  (Sadly, the ’69 Camaro’s styling themes also appear to be stuck on repeat, though the ’16 model is still a good-looking car in my eyes.)

035 - 1966 Ford Mustang notchback CC

Like our subject ’66, trapped in an embankment of February’s ice, slush, and snow, I’m fairly certain the cues we have all come to associate with the Mustang aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  I’m not saying this is awful by any means, as I love the current car – in both fastback and convertible form.  The early Mustangs came to define a new market segment (even if the Plymouth Barracuda beat it to market by sixteen days).  I still lament, though, that it has been since all the way back in the fall of ’93 that I’ve laid eyes for the first time on a new-generation Mustang and gasped with some of the amazement and excitement that I imagine my mom and her fellow Baby Boomers did in the 1960’s.  Who knows?  It could still happen again.

Ravenswood, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, February 12, 2011.

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