Rounding up the most read and the most anticipated Mustang tales of the year.
12-25-09: Every year the world's press takes a look back and writes the retrospectives. Things are no different here at TMN. In fact we hold it as a tradition to look back over the year and pick out the top stories that were baked into the Mustang realm to become Mustang history. 2009 has been an eventful year in every corner of the American fabric. The Mustang had its share of ups and downs too. Here they are.
#1: The 2010 Ford Mustang (photo above)
The long awaited and read about 2010 Mustang finally arrived in the spring with the 2010 Shelby GT-500 coming in early summer. We talked, rumored and guessed about the “Twenty Ten” for three years before it finally arrived. How fun was that? In April at the MCA 45th Anniversary Celebration the first owners showed up in their cars, proud as can be. The Mustang Owners Club of France showed up in a fleet of over two dozen rented 2010 Mustangs in French flag red white and blue. While the sight had Ford marketing’s fingerprints all over it, our sources claimed it was purely “organic”.
The 2010 Mustang brought few new things under the hood but had a great new interior with higher quality finishes and a more upscale look and feel. The styling while still giving credence to the retro vibe has a decidedly more modern theme which is welcome. Tuners were fast to market with their own hotted up versions. Roush landed at dealers first with Steeda, Saleen, and SMS showing off their packages at the SEMA Show last November.
#2: Mustangs Across America 45th Anniversary Drive
Having gained world-wide fame in 2004 with the Mustangs Across America documentary that still airs on Discovery HD Theater, the MAA 45th Anniversary Drive gained record breaking numbers of participants for 2009. The event garnered 648 Mustang drivers from over 30 states and 28 countries to take the Mustang Drive Of A Lifetime, a planned 5-day road trip across America from Las Vegas, NV to Birmingham, AL to participate in the big Mustang 45th Anniversary Celebration.
The event gathered 45 years of Mustangs from 1964 ½ all the way through 2010 with the official event pace car being a 2010 Shelby GT-500 provided by Ford Motor Company. With snowy weather extremes in the west and mild sun the rest of the way, the hundreds of Mustangs took in sights along Route 66 and Interstate 40 across the plains and into the green welcoming South. And as the event coordinator for MAA, I have to say I am very proud of the achievement and efforts by the many Mustang clubs, volunteers, and participants who made the event one for the record books.
#3: Mustang 45th Anniversary Celebration
Mustang Club Of America and Ford teamed up to put together one of the best Mustang shows that has ever been. The excitement and passion of tens of thousands of Mustang owners met the paradise setting of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL. Expectations were high and expectations were met as the event was well organized and executed, providing lots of open parking areas for display, exhibitions from Ford and Mustang vendors, and best of all a rip roaring open track spectacle.
Vaughn Gittin Jr and drifting pals were there with tire shredding finesse all day, every day showing off their amazing talent. Ford CEO Alan Mullaly and the top brass at Ford were also on hand to rub elbows with the Mustang elite. The latter would be the many Mustang owners and enthusiasts who made the trek from near and far to be one with the Mustang for three days. It was an event to remember and to behold. It is a trophy to the efforts and talent of many, and to the credit of Mustang Club Of America.
#4: New Mustang Engines
Hitting the press all year long was the rumor mill of the new engines destined for the Mustang. Many watched the new Camaro and Challenger hit the lots with 400hp plus V8’s and frowned at the 2010 Mustang’s measly 315hp 4.6. While the bench races were getting swiped away from Ford lovers we knew that the next volley would be good. We had been hearing about the return of the Mustang Five-Point-Oh. Yep, the long lost legendary 5.0 was returning to us to save us from embarrassment and renew our pride.
But this time, the 5.0 comes with cams, variable valve timing and a host of other modern tech goodies to crank out over 400hp in naturally aspirated trim. With a forged bottom end, the sky is the limit for modders who will surely be looking for a blower at first blush. Mustang V6 owners will no longer be ashamed of their ponies either. With a new fire-breathing 305hp 3.7 liter mill with the same high-tech features that Mercedes, Infiniti, and Lexus owners brag about this new base Mustang is more powerful than the first SVT Cobras, the 1969 BOSS 302 and 1966 Shelby GT-350. So there!
#5: Saleen vs. Saleen
Steve Saleen created his own company SMS Supercars while the company he left, Saleen Inc., reformulated, got bought out and became Saleen Performance Vehicles. Both companies unveiled their own version of the 2010 Mustang this year, both of which have been met with adoring praise by enthusiasts. The problem is that we have two companies and two Mustangs with the Saleen legacy behind them. It has created confusion by many as to what is a real Saleen. In some quarters it has caused divides among the Saleen owners and enthusiast elite who struggle to take sides or choose whom to stand with.
In the corporate sense there is no confusion. The two companies could not have a more competitive if not contentious existence. Steve Saleen filed a lawsuit against Saleen Performance Vehicles alleging they cannot use his name on their products. Whether that legal argument wins out or not, he made the statement that he certainly does not stand behind their products even though his name appears on them. His own creations under the SMS Supercars brand are the only true “Saleen” Steve puts forth. Only time will tell how this battle will turn out. Whatever the case, we will be watching.
#6: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro
While the Challenger had made it out in late 2008, the coming of the Camaro was a big story in Mustang circles this year. Hitting dealer lots in late spring, the Camaro did not take long to begin outselling the redesigned 2010 Mustang at a significant margin. Embarrassingly so, we are talking thousands of unit’s a month outselling while Mustang sales dropped even with an all new car to offer. Ford had told us early on that the Camaro would get a lot of attention initially being the new kid on the block. But did we really think it was going to smash Mustang in the teeth on the showroom floor?
Camaro is an all new car and there had been pent up demand for some time, allowing Chevrolet dealers to command $5000 to $10,000 over sticker for a while even in this crashed out economy. The 2010 Mustang with its measly 315hp V8 and wheezing 210hp V6 was hardly competitive in the market. But as stated above, that is all about to change for the 2011 model year. We expect to see Mustang owners who have been holding out for more horsepower turn the tide.
#7: Lee Iacocca Edition Mustang
Lee Iacocca, the “father of the Mustang” stepped back into pony car history in 2009. Up in years, the former President of Ford who shepherded the Mustang into production in 1964 wanted to create a special edition of the modern day car in his image. With the help of Galpin Auto Sports and a metal crafter the "I Legacy" Mustang came to life based on 2009 models. Considered his 45th Anniversary present to Mustangdom, only 45 of the 2009 ½ Iacocca Edition Mustangs were to be created.
The dramatic metalwork is what sets this car apart from body kit specials. It has a custom created front fascia with deep headlight eyebrows that mimic Lee’s in a very succinct way. The rear flank of the car has a true fastback roofline that harkens back to the first generation Mustangs. And yes, that is real metal craft you’re looking at. The fifth copy sold at Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas for $352,000
#8: Mustang, Camaro, Challenger At Grand Am
The Mustang made waves this year on the road courses of the Grand Am Koni Challenge. Winning the series championship and taking 3 of the top 5 slots in the season points total wasn’t the only big news. In the final race of the season for 2009 the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro took to the road course at Virginia International Raceway to compete with Mustang for the first time in decades. It was a great photo op for enthusiasts of all three cars indeed. So how did it work out? The Camaro didn’t finish and the Challenger didn’t fare all that well either. They will both have to step up their game in 2010.
#9: Mustang Enters NASCAR
Whether dubious or not, the Mustang will be coming to the NASCAR racing series for 2010. The Nationwide Series will host Mustang and also said to share the track with a stickered up version of the same car in Camaro and Challenger livery. Jack Roush announced the first entry into the field last fall with a car from the Roush-Fenway racing team to be driven by new driver Colin Braun, number 16. Other cars will follow to be campaigned by Roush-Fenway.
While it is really nothing more than a shallow marketing exercise as the cars share nothing whatsoever in common with the street versions, it will be met with some enthusiasm somewhere. Granted, I am not really a big NASCAR fan myself, but know well that NASCAR fans will welcome the pony car into the fold.
#10: Ford Rebounds
Of the Detroit Three automakers, Ford has been the heroic comeback story for 2009. The company who’s stock price has been as low as $ 1.50 in the past year has steadily come back from the gallows to hit over $10 per share just this week. The recovery includes the first positive sales months in years this fall, the first profitable quarter in years, all driven by a growing line up of award winning new products like the new Fusion, Edge, Flex, Transit Connect, F-Series, and Taurus.
In addition to the all new vehicles across the board, Ford has gained market share in the worst economic period in decades due to a more positive image. That image is bolstered not only by the products themselves, but the fact that Ford did not go to the tax-payers with their hand out for a bail out. They didn’t file for bankruptcy either. Much of this goes to the credit of the steady handed leadership of Ford CEO Alan Mullally who took no prisoners. But it also goes to the great many engineers, designers, marketers, and sales people at Ford who plowed through the tough times to make it all happen. Congratulations Ford. You are our American Pride!