It’s still convertible season in the Northern Hemisphere for a little while longer this year. Summer can sometimes feel too hot to have the top down, where closed windows and air conditioning might be preferred. (Some will even cruise with the top down and the air on, which I have experienced firsthand.) Even an unusually warm spring day can still feel just a bit too cool for open-air motoring when a gust of wind will remind you that the temperatures aren’t quite up there yet. It’s fall that seems absolutely perfect for enjoying your convertible, with temperatures still warm enough to relish the feeling of being outside while in a car, but cool enough and less humid to where you’re not sweating and can’t also taste the air.
If I had a convertible and a covered, secured garage in which to store it year-round, I would probably enjoy three-season cruising any weekend I felt like it, especially if I owned a nice example of one of the first two model years of Ford Mustang, one of the United States’ favorite convertibles. It was a different time in the U.S. market when the original Mustang was first introduced, but it still amazes to me to think that over 174,000 Mustang convertibles were sold for both the 1965 and ’66 model years (including almost 102,000 alone for extended first-year ’65), where only about 81,000 Mustangs of all stripes were sold in 2020. Just to put another number out there, almost 1,289,000 Mustangs were sold during its first two official model years, starting in April of 1964.
I present four different examples of early first-generation Mustang convertibles I photographed while they were being actively enjoyed around Chicago: three ’65s and a ’66, and with three of them as photographed in autumn and one in spring. I realize that it’s possible, especially with classic Mustangs, that some have been restored or slightly modified from their original form from the factory to suit the owners’ tastes, but I did my best with the information available to me to positively identify the model year and official color name of each example. If the rear quarter panel trim on the above example is an accurate indicator, it is a ’65 finished in Phoenician Yellow. Photographed in the Andersonville neighborhood in Chicago’s north side on Saturday, May 10, 2014, this was on an unusually warm spring day, with temperatures topping out at 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celsius).
This Silver Blue ’65 was spotted on Saturday, September 21, 2013 in the arty Wicker Park neighborhood. The high was 66F (19C), and it was partially cloudy. I had been on an assignment that day for a now-defunct magazine for which I had been hired as a photographer. I didn’t enjoy everything about being on someone’s payroll (deadlines, formatting issues, the business end, the time that it took, etc.), but that experience taught me a lot about what actual working photographers deal with regularly, even if my my assignments were only on a monthly basis. I remain very grateful for all of what that opportunity had granted me. When I saw this scene, I especially liked that this looked like a father-son afternoon activity, when I saw a kid’s hair peeking out over the upper edge of the door.
The image of this ’66 convertible in Silver Frost spotted in Lakeview combines so many things I love in just one frame. This sighting was on Sunday, October 13, 2013, and the high was a sunny 64F (18C). I just returned from Las Vegas with friends earlier this month for my first trip there since 2019, and it occurs to me that I seem to give myself permission to do delicious things like eat at IHOP only when I’m on vacation. I blame my own vanity, but I’m often torn on such trips between choosing to eat everything I want, whenever I want, or continuing my normal, healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits in an attempt to look (and yes, feel) good by the pool.
Now that I’ve been a teetotaler for over a year and a half, I reasoned that all of the calories I otherwise would have consumed in alcohol form with my friends may now be “spent” eating things like a stack of pancakes drenched in maple syrup, with a side of bacon. (Bless you, Denny’s on Fremont Street.) At first I had thought this Mustang to be a GT, but it’s missing the “GT” badge on the front fender and the “MUSTANG” lettering within the lower-body stripe. The Silver Frost color was introduced for ’66, and the hue of this car definitely isn’t the Silver Smoke Gray that was offered for ’65. This entire scene including a classic A-Frame IHOP, but with me behind the wheel instead of this gentleman, would be something out of the road trip of my dreams.
This final example, a ’65 finished in Ivy Green, was spotted on Sunday, October 12, 2014 just a few city blocks east of Wrigley Field. The high that day was a familiar 64F (18C), and what I remember most when getting a series of photos of this car was that this family seemed very friendly. The driver actually slowed down just a little bit to allow me to get my shots, and I also remember the young daughter actually thanking me for taking their picture! It was a casually life-affirming moment in so many ways, just to see a nice family spending time together and enjoying the lovely fall weather in a classic Mustang.
I’m definitely a “summer guy”, but I’m getting all my familiar, cozy, fall feels as leaves continue to change and fall to the ground in beautifully random, dotted patterns on the sidewalks in my forest-like neighborhood. There are probably only a handful of days left for top-down driving this year, but I hope that people will get out and enjoy their convertibles as they are able. It’s going to be a little bit of a haul before spring 2022 is here. I had once owned a Fox-body Mustang, and I saw that car as being the ticket to inclusion into the club of Mustangers across the nation, even if it will not go down in history as being particularly memorable. It was good-looking, efficient, comfortable, and practical. Perhaps most importantly, it was mine. I loved that car. Here’s to celebrating a make and model that has brought so many different kinds of people together simply by its very existence.