A few weeks ago, my mom came to visit me here in Chicago. It was a wonderful time, filled with just enough culture, tourism, neighborhoody things, candid conversation, and just plain, ol’ couch time to make it all very memorable. I had only a little bit of time after our visit to be sad, as the ensuing week was then filled with after-work visits with friends, but I sill miss Mom being here a little bit, at this writing. I had always looked forward to when my mother and late father would make their annual trip to the Windy City to see their middle son.
This got me thinking about the amount of time I’ve lived in Chicago, which is now over a third of my life and also closing in on the number of formative years I spent living in my hometown of Flint, Michigan. I have now lived in Chicago for over fifteen years (approaching sixteen), a number which would almost exactly parallel the length of the run (fifteen model years) of the third-generation Ford Mustang (1979 – ’93). This realization blew my mind.
All of a sudden, here we are in 2019 – the fortieth anniversary year of the foxiest Fox, which seemed to remain in production for an eternity. When the ’79 Mustang made its debut in the fall of the previous year, I had just “graduated” from my purple tricycle to learning to ride my beloved, baby blue Schwinn equipped with training wheels. By the time the end-of-the-line ’93 Mustang was on its way out, I had just started my sophomore year of college, by which point I had owned an ’88 Mustang LX 2.3L hatchback (pictured above). The Fox Mustang and I had grown up together.
One thing that has always irked me just a little bit was that throughout its run, the Foxstang was (for the most part) either visually chic with middling performance (excepting the 5.0L-equipped ’79s), or the best performance deal available on the market with looks that, while attractive, were very stale by the end. To me, a Mustang had always traditionally (with a few exceptions) had its looks together, with performance also available, simultaneously.
Hindsight is 20/20, and I (again) really find the third-generation Mustangs really attractive and desirable, but by ’93, the only Ford pony that really seemed to possess my ideal combination of looks and performance was the ’93 Limited Edition convertible in Chrome Yellow (with the white or black interior) with the chrome “Pony” wheels. The beautiful, memorable SN-95 generation that followed for model year ’94 made my jaw drop in awe the first time I saw one in person (at a Stuckey’s parking lot in Florida), and as would be with a Fox in great condition, I wouldn’t kick a nice, pre-facelifted SN-95 out of my garage.
Getting back to growing up in lockstep with this generation of Mustang, I was a young professional in my late 20s when I had moved to Chicago in the early-/mid-Aughts. Full of optimism, pep and verve to start my new life in the big city, I’m sure I felt a lot on the inside like the ’79 Pace Car replica pictured toward the top of this essay looked on the outside at the time it first appeared. It’s inevitable that any significant amount of time spent in one place will bring, over time, its share of both triumphs and heartaches. After the end of my first, significant dating relationship, I might have been feeling a bit worn-but-presentable, like the above latter-day, red convertible. After some time had passed after that point, I was again capable of having (and being) a good time.
At the end of a five-year relationship last June, I was feeling certifiably broken for much of the rest of 2018. This black GT hatchback in my neighborhood had been in pristine condition when it first arrived to the curbs of Edgewater maybe five years ago. And then the center caps on the wheels went missing, and I thought, Wow – they’re always the first to go. Stupid thieves. Then the paint started to fade. A front parking light / turn signal got broken (and not fixed).
The rear bumper cover started to sag, and the weather stripping around the flush rear quarter windows started to chalk. Then huge dents appeared in both doors (not pictured above). I don’t want to say anything that might potentially sound critical of its owner, but pride of ownership of even my most meager possessions was something ingrained in me at a young age, and I can’t imagine letting such a once-fine specimen of one of the hot cars of my teenage years go to seed in such spectacularly fast fashion.
Even as the run of the Fox Mustang and my previous, long-term relationship ultimately had to end, there was and is life afterward. Charting the course of the different model years of the third-generation Mustang has been a fun road map to the parallel changes in my own life that had taken me from pre-school to college. And like the success that was the ’94 Mustang which followed (which, at 137,000 units, represented a 20% increase in sales over the prior year), I have so many reasons to believe that while the most semi-recent chapter of my life brought some significant personal challenges, the next chapter – still in the process of being written – will be every bit as memorable and exciting. The Mustang has endured. So will I.