I have been thinking recently about taking time off from work. What used to be referred to as “vacation time” is now usually referred to as PTO, an acronym that stands for “paid time off”. This is just as well, since I’m still feeling a bit uncertain about traveling anywhere I can’t go by foot at present, barring any major medical breakthroughs amid the current pandemic. In years past, I have dreamed of a nice “staycation” in Chicago, as much as there is to do here, even in the northern part of the city where I live, near Lake Michigan. One problem is that the beaches are still closed, I still really don’t feel like eating out, and many entertainment venues like the Music Box Theatre, where I like to watch classic or foreign films, now require advance reservations in addition to other safety precautions. Escape into fantasy currently seems to require too much reality.
I’m sure I’ll be back at the Music Box at some point this year. It’s just that I’ve accrued all of these PTO days at work and haven’t taken any at all since this year began. I haven’t even been back to my home state of Michigan since last August, which will make for the longest stretch of time in which I haven’t back to the Mitten in well over a decade. My employer allows for only so many days to be carried over to the next year in a use-them-or-lose-them policy, so I’ve got to do something.
I have friends who have made nonessential trips by plane, car, and I’m sure a few other means. I’m just not there yet. I don’t want to go down the proverbial rabbit hole of discussing when it might be reasonably safe to travel for leisure again, but I mention all of this only because I recently came across these pictures I had taken while on a quick weekend trip to Michigan, and they triggered some memories and wishful thinking.
It was January 2015, and I had traveled back to my hometown of Flint to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It used to seem like the easiest thing in the world to bring my overnight bag to work on a Friday morning, then walk less than ten minutes after quitting time to Union Station in downtown Chicago’s West Loop district to catch the Blue Water Amtrak train for a lazy, five hour ride back to Flint. I would then take an 8:30 AM bus on Sunday from Flint to Battle Creek (which left an hour later than the train departing from Flint), where I would transfer to the Wolverine train from Detroit that would carry me back to Union Station by mid-afternoon.
I really miss long-distance train and bus travel. I have tried to nap before while en route, but it’s a struggle to do so unless I have a sleep mask for my eyes. The metronomic click-clack of the wheels on the track, combined with the muted sounds within the hermetically sealed train cabin provide the perfect amount of soothing ambient noise to promote dozing or napping. It’s just that I’m naturally curious about how other people live and find it hard to let all of the passing, beautiful, slice-of-midwestern-America vistas simply whizz by without wanting to inspect every little detail that catches my eye. This same principle was at work when I was a young boy riding in the family car at night, inspecting passing cars to catch a glimpse of a nameplate or other telltale detail.
The Illinois-Michigan train and bus trip is a visual feast of peaceful pastures, economically depressed areas (both urban and rural), industrial fortresses, and pretty small-town side streets. It’s a heartening and beautiful thing to observe in a single train trip that a certain joie de vivre seems to exist, at least from my external observation, within different kinds of people in dissimilar environments. Often times, I think I want to know something personal about these people from walks of life that are different than my own.
I want to know what kind of work they do, how they came to live there, what it’s like to swim in their above-ground pool mere yards away from the train tracks, and what they would think of me, or of someone like me, at first meeting. If they perceived me as being somehow significantly different than them, would they still be a friend if they sensed that I come in peace? Assumptions can fail us where only appearances are involved.
Downtown Battle Creek, Michigan.
Part of my observations includes the kinds of vehicles I see on the road at different points between downtown Chicago, through northwestern Indiana, through central and mid-Michigan. On country roads that look straight out of the pages of National Geographic magazine, American brands are the norm, and pickup trucks are king. In and around the college towns of East Lansing and Kalamazoo, Michigan, there are a higher concentration of imports and SUVs.
It was in the “Cereal City” of Battle Creek, Michigan that I spotted a beautiful, blue ’67 Mustang notchback, after I had deboarded the coach bus from Flint to make my transfer to the train back to Chicago. We were informed that the return train from Detroit would be delayed by an hour or so. Aside from previously having made transfers at this station, I had never spent time in Battle Creek, and I know little of its history aside from it being a cereal capital of sorts. Both Kellogg and Post appear to still be major employers in the area. In fact, a cereal plant sits directly across the tracks from the train station.
I decided to leave the station and take walk with my camera around the main street downtown, Michigan Avenue. I felt a certain sense of déjà vu, even though I had never been to downtown Battle Creek before. There was a beautiful tower in the Art Deco architectural style, now called The Milton (pictured above), not that far removed in appearance from the Mott Foundation Building in downtown Flint. There were the same kinds of storefronts, some of them empty, with commercial facades that appeared to originate from the 1960s and ’70s that pointed to what might have been a prosperous past. Nothing looked too far gone for me to imagine what a vibrant stretch of Michigan Avenue would look like in present day.
One of the things I have long admired about the Mustang’s first restyle was how well it adhered to the basic look, feel, and identity of the first edition and yet still seemed to genuinely improve upon it. There’s an instant familiarity in looking at a 1967 or ’68 model that make it unmistakably a Mustang. I had always assumed that because the ’67 restyle looked a bit more substantial than the ’65, with its more deeply sculpted front grille, body sides and rear panel, that it must have weighed more than the original. The increase in weight didn’t really start until ’69, as the three bodystyles of ’67s (notchback, fastback and convertible) very closely mirrored the base weights of the ’65s.
The horsepower ratings of the standard 200 cubic inch six cylinder and two optional 289 V8s were the same for the Mustang’s first three years of production, so if unless you wanted the 320-hp 390-V8 that was newly available for ’67 and would be happy with the 289, your choice of model year could simply be one of aesthetic preference. Regardless of what that preference would be, I can imagine that my first impression of the ’67 Mustang when new might have been not unlike meeting a person who resembles and reminds me of someone else I know and like, where I already have a mindset that I am going to like that person (or the new Mustang) simply by own positive association. Overall Mustang sales dropped by 22% for ’67, to about 472,000 units, though I do prefer the style of the ’67, even if not 22% better than the ’66.
And what about the owner of this Mustang? Michigan winters are notorious for being cold, snowy, wet, and with lots of salt on the road, and cars like this one usually don’t come out of the garage until April or May. Still, it showed pride of ownership, with its shiny, medium blue metallic paint and custom wheels. Maybe the owner was there to pick up his or her significant other from the station upon their return from Chicago. As I boarded the train after my own brief layover in Battle Creek, I thought about how nice it had been, even if only for a short while, to feel like I had just made the acquaintance of a car and downtown area I had never “met” before. The world is a mighty big place, even outside of the hundreds of miles of pavement and train track between Illinois and Michigan.
Battle Creek, Michigan.
All photos are from Monday, January 18, 2015, except for –
Amtrak station: Monday, November 19, 2012; and
Blue Water train: Monday, March 26, 2012.
My favorite Mustang of all time. The ‘67 refresh was just about perfect, keeping the essence of the car while making subtle improvements throughout. Was surprised that production was down 22% from ‘66, though 472K is not too shabby. Had a friend who bought a tired one in the mid ‘70’s. It was a base coupe with the rare 390, automatic, AM radio and the cool turn signal indicators on the hood. No power steering or brakes. Recall it ran pretty well, but then the gas crisis hit and it’s 11 mpg didn’t cut it.
It’s actually kind of amazing that sales were only down by 22%, given that Camaro, Firebird and a new Barracuda all hit the market that year, as well the white-hot sales figures of 1966 that had to be unsustainable in any event. Also, the general new car market softened in 1967. Had the Mustang been anything like a normal car, sales would have probably been down 50% or more with all of these headwinds.
This is a great point, JPC. Just the other day, I remember reading a comment from PN regarding pure sales not necessarily telling the whole story, and your comment also echoes this. Given the increased competition and the car market that year, that Mustang sales fell by only 22% for ’67 speaks to this car’s appeal.
I am with you on preferring the 67-68 Mustang to the original, if only by a little. I have a tough time deciding between the two – I like some details of the 67 (grille, steering wheel) and some of the 68 (side scallop trim).
I am trying to figure out the color on this one though – it looks like they mixed up Brittany Blue and Clearwater Aqua, then poured them together before spraying. Oh well, probably another example of someone’s semi-successful attempt at an obsolete formula.
And isn’t it true that the world looks so different through the window of a train than from on the street where we spend most of our time.
I am always impressed by your eye for color, Jim. You have a gift. Either that, or just extra rods and cones and a great memory.
I’m with you on the 67-68, slightly preferring the 67 with the fake side scoops to the plain look of the 68; much like I prefer the ’66’s side trim to the original ’65.
I also like the look of the heftier ’69 with the “four-eyed” look, but from ’70 on, not so much. Apologies to the fans of the later years here. Truth be told, I don’t think I’d kick any ‘stang out of the garage if I had one. Even, dare I say it, a Mustang II. Although admitting the latter, they may take away my club card. (If I actually HAD a Mustang Club card, that is. ;o)
My “color eye” is better on some things than others, but I am pretty good on 67 Fords because I owned one and used to look at all the colors of the other ones on the road wishing that mine had been painted like theirs instead of the Lime Gold Metallic on mine – which I hated at the time, but have mellowed on. Give me about 15 minutes and I could have all those 67 Ford color names memorized again – like I did after buying a 67 Ford paint chip folder at a swap meet about 1977 or 78. 🙂
That’s a pretty nice car to be out on a wet, winter day. Several years ago, I was headed to a school event in the middle of the mitten, and I saw a really nice ’65 E-Type Jag coupe pushing through the salt and slush. I couldn’t believe it. The driver was an older gentleman, and I wondered if he had just received some bad news or something and said, “Screw it! Last ride!”
I hope you get to get back to Flint soon, Joe.
Thanks, Aaron. Like you, I have very rarely seen other examples of really nice, older cars out in nasty weather, and I immediately think of the scenario under which that came to be. Did someone else borrow the Camry? Was there an emergency? And more importantly, on the way to getting the classic home, will the owner / driver stop at a self-service wash to give it a once-over?
“ I want to know what kind of work they do, how they came to live there, what it’s like to swim in their above-ground pool mere yards away from the train tracks, and what they would think of me, or of someone like me, at first meeting ”
A man of substance, I would hope, Joseph. Everything you’ve shared here on CC has intelligence and intellect written all over it. I’m still bummed I left Chicago and our neighborhood before I could split a pie at Gino’s with you. I know for certain I’d enjoy that throughly.
Thanks very much, Cjiguy. I still occasionally mull over possible venues for a “Chicagoland chapter of CC” gathering when that stuff is again possible.
Great pictures, Joseph, as always.
I’m not surprised this car is out on a winter’s day. This car is obviously well loved, and if you wash it often, as I am sure this person does with their baby, It can handle the occasional salt. And it looks like the owner at least waited for a rainy day in winter, when presumably the salt was washed away until the next storm.
I really like the ’67, and whether or not this color is accurate as JPC mentions above, it is still period perfect. I’d almost like to see what one of those looks like in the turquoise ’61 Impala color that Mr. Cavanaugh shot a while back.
I think part of the reason I like my “RetroStang” so much is that it was obvious that the 2005 thru 2009 first sub-generation of the S-197(s) were inspired by the 1967-1968.
I’ll spare you the exterior pictures for comparison, as we all know by now what my ’07 Mustang looks like, but even the interior of the car is so inspired.
Molly’s head is in the way, but even the steering wheel is a close representation, but look at the dash of the two cars… Close, huh?
Even the gauges are almost the same, right down to the font…
RetroStang Rick, thank you, and it was only this past weekend when I noticed a same-generation-as-yours Mustang parked on the street in my neighborhood and remarked to myself just what a great design it still is. I loved the ’05 then, and I love it now and could totally see myself in one. The ’67 / ’68 inspiration was apparent from the get-go. One of J Mays’ greatest hits, for sure.
I grew up in Michigan when it was at or near the top in everything. One of my teachers in elementary school, Grace Geraldeau, made sure that we knew that Michigan could exist as an independent state because it produced nearly everything people needed for daily consumption from agriculture to machinery.
Going back is always a little sad.
The Music Box is amazing! The Wilmette Theater is excellent, too. And, the little Italian restaurant next to it is a great place to dine, before or after a screening.
Verabalkowitz, thank you for putting the Wilmette Theater on my radar. I see that it’s not too terribly far from the Linden terminal of the Purple Line, or from the Wilmette Metra station. Once I’m more comfortable with public transit, I’ll need to check it out. It looks like a very cool place.
Chicago is one of our favorite vacation destinations. A few nights at The Drake, trips to the theaters, used bookstores (Myopic is a favorite), dining at Tempo Cafe, Hendrickxs Belgian Bakery, and True Food Kitchen. Wow, do I miss that.
This car, with its apparently non-stock turquoise paint and alloy wheels, really pops for me in a way so many Mustangs of similar vintage do not. This picture was a heck of a catch on a cold, wet winter day.
Thanks too for highlighting a part of of the world I have had little opportunity to visit. While my career took me to all but one of the 50 states (North Dakota is the exception) and many places abroad, much of outstate Michigan is something of a void for me. Thanks for showing me what I have missed!
I highly recommend North Dakota. We took a vacation there about 15 years ago, and spent a week traveling all over the state. People would react strangely when we said we were going to North Dakota for a week (“No, we don’t have family there, we’re just going to visit… Yes, really!”), but it was one of our most memorable vacations. A great way to spend some PTO.
This particular thread has reminded me that I still hold out hope for taking a road trip at some point. Maybe I should start doing some research about landmarks I’d like to see and photograph, and the most interesting routes to get there. In quarantine, I’ve got plenty of time to do so!
I agree that the ’67 is the best-looking Mustang, and that the styling refresh made it look more substantial. (I may be a bit biased though, since my wife used to own a ’67 Mustang, though before I met her.)
For me, the single biggest improvement is the inward-sculpted rear panel. When compared to these ’67s, the original Mustang’s rear almost looks like a late-stage styling exercise… close to a finished product, but not quite there.
I like that you mentioned the rear panel. When I was adding the pictures to what was close to the final draft of this essay, the taillamp clusters jumped out at me. The three, individual bars of the ’67 & ’68 models look much nicer and more finished than the bisected units of the original.
Granted, I still love the style of the ’65 & ’66, but as a “details” person, the ’67 adds just the right amount of polish on an already-great, overall style.
Great pictures, and a great story to go along with it. I ponder the same sort of things when traveling. Well done sir
Now there’s a first hearing a 67 Hardtop called a notchback when the 79-93 Coupes were the real notchbacks.
How were these not real notchbacks? That’s a first for me to hear that the ’79-’93 were the first real notchbacks.
While many cars have the three box design and in theory could all be called notchbacks it wasn’t a term American makers used at that time which I’m sure you know. As for the 79-93 Fox body being called notchback that is part of Mustang trivia of which there is a godawful amount. No early Mustang owner, I am one, I have ever heard an early hardtop called a notchback.
I’d put it right up there with another retro term such as old school used today by a younger crowd. Then there is my young son addressing me as Bro which got him sent to his room for the night to learn the error of his ways. Now I am not advocating that Joseph be sent to his room though…
Notchback referring to 79-93 Foxbodies has always been unofficial slang, Ford never referred to them as such, as much as they never referred to them as ‘Foxbodies’ or ‘five-oh’. There’s no rule saying you can’t retroactively call older Coupe bodystyles notchbacks, nor is it inaccurate, as it has nothing to do with being a hardtop or a post body, but refers to the more upright notch shape of the back window.
Someone I talked to at a cruise night referred to my Cougar as being like a notchback Thunderbird, he wasn’t wrong.
How old was the person who referred to your Cougar as being like a notchback? Same age for calling your Cougar an insane looking car?
it wasn’t a term American makers used at that time which I’m sure you know.
I’m not sure who used it first, but the Vega sedan was officially advertised as a notchback. It’s a generic body style description, not a trademarked name. Did Ford actually use it for the ’79 Mustang coupe?
Apparently the term was used in England already in the early ’50s.
Ford simply called the bodystyles 2-door and 3-door in 1979. At some point they started calling them 2-door hatchback and 2-door sedan.
Ford never officially used the term in regards to the Fox body Mustang so it seems to have just evolved by people referring to it as one and it became part of Mustang lexicon. The VW Type 3 2dr coupe in 1961 was referred to as the VW 1500 Notchback. Then there is your Vega example which it seems Chevrolet used. Those made no impression on me since they disappeared so fast and I saw precious few in San Diego but tons of Pintos and saw Pintos into the 80s.
We’ve been going out on short trips in our van; was at the coast this weekend. Drove up a forest road to find a place to pull over and camp. A little while later a rental Versa drives up with three young guys from Pennsylvania, who flew out to take a trip down the Oregon Coast and the Cascades and Crater Lake. I gave them a few tips.
I’m a calculated risk taker. If I were young, I’m pretty sure I’d risk getting on a plane to take a vacation. Everything in life is a constant stream of risk management. I’d say the risk is pretty low on a flight, but of course it’s higher than being in a van. It’s a calculus everyone has to make for themselves. But these guys, on their first trip out west, were really loving it. I hate to think of young people missing out on new experiences.
Thanks, Paul. Calculated risk management is what I do for work and what pays my mortgage. It’s true that I’m probably more risk averse than most. 🙂 Murphy’s Law doesn’t play around! Still, it helps to think of potential travel in this same way. I’m learning to be okay with deferring some goals for later. (Ask me again in the winter when I can no longer spend extended periods of time outdoors.)
When I was between jobs a couple of years ago I took some train trips just for something to do, I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to miss out on seeing things because you are asleep. I was just starting to enjoy these trips and then reality came back like it was always going too, with a job.
1967 Mustang Fastback is my favourite Mustang, the white one in the brochure for me.
Thanks Curbside Classic! This is such a wonderful site. I am a long time follower but not a poster.
I am old enough to remember when the early Mustangs got to New Zealand, and here the ‘hardtop’ has always been the ‘notchback’ right from the get go as far as I can recall. Everyone wanted a notchback Mustang, there were very few fastbacks around (in fact there were very few Mustangs of any sort around in NZ in the ’60s!)