Everyone from H.G. Wells to Robert Zemeckis has dreamed of traveling through time. Although I don’t spend much time worrying about the possibilities of time travel, I occasionally wish I could visit the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair for a day. To me, it was the last gasp of a truly optimistic America, one that painted a future filled with gadgets to make one’s life easier without once considering the potential ramifications of that goal. In the late summer of 2019, I considered making this Mustang my time machine.
I have no intention of recounting the history of the World’s Fair, or how it was not recognized as such by the Bureau of International Exhibitions, or how many people considered it a failure. I will briefly discuss how much I love everything about it. Instead of an exchange of world cultures, the fair was an exchange of manufacturing and technology, with corporations such as General Motors and Ford taking the place of the countries of the world. IBM, Dupont, and Coca Cola created vast pavilions in an unmatched display of American Exceptionalism. Even if you know it was arrogant, any fan of American industrial history, and cars in particular, can’t help but love it.
Of course, nobody thought much about the effect that all that easy livin’ might have on the environment, the earth’s resources, or our waistlines; but that’s a discussion for another day.
One of the central attractions at the fair was Ford’s “Magic Skyway,” a ride designed by Walt Disney to whisk fairgoers through an “animatronic” version of humanity’s past and bright future. The rides themselves were current model year Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln automobiles, specially prepared for the job of being pulled on a track for six months. A lucky few fairgoers rode in a new Mustang, a car that was famously introduced at the World’s Fair itself. Only four Magic Skyway Mustangs are known to still exist, including our feature car.
It was advertised on the Northern Michigan Craigslist last summer for $19,900. The seller is known for owning and restoring another of the four remaining Skyway cars, and he clearly stated in his advertisement that this car is rusty and will need a complete restoration.
The car itself is definitely a Magic Skyway car. The VIN matches the records compiled by “In Search of Mustangs.”
This undercarriage bracket that was used to pull the car along the Magic Skyway itself serves to authenticate the minor celebrity status that those in Mustang circles have bestowed upon these cars. There were actually two groups of Skyway Mustangs, 12 for each season. Those used for the 1964 season were 260-powered, while the 1965s got by with the base 200-cubic-inch six cylinder. This car is numbered among the latter.
It’s obvious that this Mustang was treated like a normal car rather than a collector vehicle. The stained carpet is evidence of time stored outside, and Mustang cowls rotted almost immediately; after all, they were left nearly untreated by the Rouge plant in 1965. A rotten floor on a Mustang convertible leads to one thing – body sag. Rusty Mustang convertibles are a problem.
As a guy with some experience with rusty Mustangs (see my family heirloom above, mid-refresh in 2009), I know what their repair entails. Therefore, there were a few strikes against my enterprise from the beginning.
- I am not a perfectionist and would probably not own a 100-point restoration even if I were rich.
- The Magic Skyway car probably deserves a full restoration.
- The asking price was attainable, but probably not when one considers the amount of money I’d spend on it.
- I don’t like doing ground up restorations. They take up a lot of time and, more importantly, space.
Even with those realities guiding my decision making, I continued to keep an eye on the car, which was also advertised on Hemmings. The price over the last six months was reduced to a far more appealing $12,900, which is still a lot of money to spend on a rusty six-cylinder Mustang convertible. The car either sold or the owner decided to pursue other avenues, because the advertisement was very recently pulled.
It’s bittersweet for me, because I considered buying the car as something to work on when I eventually retire and perhaps have more garage space for my growing collection. I could see myself frustrating the Mustang community by doing a driver restoration on the car and using it for fun. It wouldn’t be cheap, but I’d like it a lot better. I could even leave the things that make the car special intact, such as the leaded seams shown above.
Of course, when I was finished, I’d have another 1965 Mustang (but with a six-cylinder engine rather than my coupe’s 289) on which I would have spent $30,000 or more, perhaps much more, in total. That kind of money buys all kinds of Saab 96s, early Rivieras, Volvo P1800s, and who knows what else I’d love to own someday. As much as I love the history, it just didn’t make much sense.
Let’s face it. As of this writing, I could buy a decent one of these for not much more than the asking price of the Skyway car.
At any rate, I hope it finds a good home with someone who will bring it back so I can see it somewhere. Early Mustangs are great collector cars with a lot of charisma, and this one has a backstory that can’t be matched by most. The theme of the World’s Fair was “Peace Through Understanding,” and I hope I don’t beat myself up too hard for making sense this time.