Saturday, April 13, 2019

Me And My Mustangs: Fifty Years And More

Fifty years ago this weekend — April 1969 — my parents and I went over to Brondes Ford in Toledo and found a gray 1965 Mustang 2+2 with a black interior, an AM radio, and a heater.  It had the 289 V-8 with a three-speed manual transmission, no power steering, and no power brakes.  They paid $1,500 for it.  Somewhere in my box of pictures I have one of me standing next to it, but for now this stock photo of one will have to do.

1965 Ford Mustang 2+2

Thus began my fifty-year love affair with the Mustang. In truth, though, I was smitten five years before when they were introduced with great fanfare at the New York Worlds Fair on April 15, 1964.  They took the world by storm, selling over 600,000 in their first model year, and when they introduced the 2+2 in September 1964 to go with the coupe and convertible, they made an impression on this twelve-year-old car-crazy kid: I wanted one.

By April 1969 I’d had my license for all of six months and drove either my mom’s 1967 Ford Country Squire (the seed of my affection for wood-grain-sided wagons) or my dad’s 1965 Ford LTD.  But I’d been bugging my parents for my own car and by April I’d worn them down to the point that even Mom liked the idea of me with a Mustang (although I can’t remember if she ever drove it).  Ostensibly the car was to be shared with my older brother and sister, but they were away at school, so for the first few months it was my car, and when I went off to college in Miami in 1971 (and thanks to an inattentive clerk at registration who didn’t notice that as a freshman I wasn’t supposed to have a car on campus), I took it with me to Miami.

In August 1973, in a fit of stupidity, I sold the Mustang to some kid for $300 and bought an F-150 pick-up.  Meanwhile, Ford kept making changes to the Mustang, including making it bigger and, to me, less attractive, and when they brought out the Pinto-based 1974 Mustang II, the love affair, as they often do, turned to indifference and even derision.  For the next thirty years I stayed away, dallying, as it were, with other cars including a Ford Granada, a Jeep Wagoneer, a Subaru wagon, and finally settling down with the Pontiac in 1989.  But the siren call of the Mustang was still in the back of my mind.  In 2003, when my mom, who had traded her 1979 Volvo for a 1995 Mustang GT convertible, V-8 5-liter Laser Red with white leather interior, sold it to me so she could acquire a Mini Cooper (which she still drives), all was forgiven and I was back in a Mustang.  The Pontiac went into the garage for a well-earned rest after 250,000 miles.

1995 Mustang GT — August 2003 – March 2008

I happily drove it from August 2003 until one fateful afternoon in March 2008 when another driver in Coral Gables tried to test the theory that two molecules can occupy the same space at the same time by making a left turn in front of me. His theory was disproved, and the Mustang was totaled.  I drove the Pontiac for a year, and then in March 2009 I took the insurance payout and, utilizing the internet, found a 2007 Mustang convertible, Wind Veil blue with gray interior and a black top and a V-6 at Maroone Ford in Fort Lauderdale. It had 34,000 miles and a full warranty.

2007 Mustang — March 2009 – present

Ten years later, it’s still with me, 100,000 more miles on the odometer, and likely to be with me for a while.

Like all love affairs, it’s not easy to explain.  After all, it’s just a car; a machine that takes you from one place to another.  But there’s always been a connection between me and this particular brand, and even though there was a long hiatus, I still get that feeling I had fifty years ago on the cold gray April afternoon when I drove my first Mustang off the lot in Toledo and learned, on the way home, how to drive a stick.  What can I say? Love is like that.

By the way, the Pontiac doesn’t mind.  It’s the one that wins the trophies at the car shows.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friends And Family Weekend Among The Rich

I’m heading out this weekend for the gilded shores and resorts of Boca Raton, home of the 13th annual Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance (and, by the way, some of the finest, if not most expensive, drug and alcohol rehab “spas” in the country.  Coincidence?).

A lot of my friends from here in Miami will be attending to judge these cars; this will be my thirteenth show as a judge and third as as “distinguished guest judge,” which means they put me up for the whole weekend at the very nice Boca Raton Resort and Club.  It is all for a great cause: the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County.

And I will be meeting up with my brother who flies in every year to join in the fun of looking over these amazing automobiles. So this is it for this morning, but I’ll have some pictures and stories to tell between now and Sunday, so check in as I infiltrate the upper crust.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Picture Of The Day

This photograph was taken last Sunday on Ocean Drive on Miami Beach as we were setting up for the second day of the car show as part of Art Deco Weekend.  A cool front was coming through — the same one that brought all that cold and snow up north — and with it came a band of heavy rain just as we got there around 8 a.m.


I’m not much of an art historian, but I know what I like, and to me this evokes the work of Edward Hopper: the grey skies, the damp and empty street, the wind pushing the flag to full extension, and the composition of the lines and colors.  It’s now one of my favorite photos.

It was taken by one of our club members who showed up to volunteer to help with the show.  I’ll respect his privacy so I’ll thank him in person.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Long-Term Relationship

Thirty years ago today — Thursday, January 5, 1989 — I flew from Denver to Traverse City, Michigan to pick up my new car, a 1988 Pontiac 6000 LE Safari that my dad had found at Hertz Car Sales. It had a little over 5,000 miles on it. The asking price was $12,700, but when Ernie, the salesman, found out the one-way airfare to come get the car was $200, he dropped the price to $12,500. I spent the weekend with my parents, then drove back to Longmont, Colorado, where I was living while teaching. As you probably guessed or already know, I still have the Pontiac. It has over 260,000 miles on it, and it’s been everywhere I’ve gone: back to Michigan for six years (1990-1995), New Mexico (1995-2001), and Florida (2001-now). It’s had its share of fixes and repairs, but all in all it’s held up remarkably well. In the picture, you’re seeing it as it was last weekend (I have photos for every major anniversary), and since it became an official AACA antique five years ago, I’ve taken it to a number of car shows, both local and national.  It’s won its share of trophies, but most often I get grins and nods from baby boomers and their kids who say they had one just like it growing up.

It may sound strange to get sentimental about a machine like a car, but a lot of people do (and Madison Avenue knows it), and the Pontiac is no exception. There are probably all sorts of psychological reasons for it, including memories of childhood — we had a 1967 Ford Country Squire with the same color scheme — but I’m not interested in trying to explain it. I have always loved cars and this one has been a true keeper. We have miles to go.

Bonus Track: A 1988 Pontiac promotion ad. In all 2:31, there’s not one 6000 LE wagon to be seen. Yeah, kinda figured there wouldn’t be.

Monday, November 26, 2018

GM Cutting 14,000 Jobs

Trump told us as recently as a week ago that car companies were opening new plants all across the country.

Maybe they are, but today General Motors announced that they’re closing three assembly plants in North America and cutting 14,000 jobs.  That includes the plant in Oshawa, Ontario, where my 1988 Pontiac 6000 station wagon was built in February 1988.

Changes in the auto industry are nothing new, and it’s less than ten years since GM went through bankruptcy and made some very big cuts, including dropping four North American brands, including Pontiac.  (Now it’s an orphan twice over.)  That’s the way things go in capitalism.

But now Trump has been telling everyone that the American auto industry is booming, plants are opening, jobs are being created, and he’s taking all the credit, of course.

Well, now, who’s he going to blame when the plants close, people lose their jobs, and the ripple effect rattles through the towns and cities that depended on the car plant to keep the grocery stores and the schools open?

He’ll find a way to blame Obama.  Or Hillary.  Or Robert Mueller.  Count on it.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Well, I’m Back

Sorry about the blackout yesterday and Friday evening.  The hotel blames it on the cable provider which also handles their wifi. Whatever.  I’m home safe and sound and happy to report that the Pontiac performed flawlessly; no runs, no drips, no errors.  I’ll post some pictures later after I download them, but here’s one that I took yesterday afternoon on the field showing the view that I usually have at a car show.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Showtime

I’m heading out with some friends this morning for Lakeland, Florida, for the MIDFLORIDA Auto Show and Lake Mirror Concours, so this is it for blogging this morning.  I’ll report in later today and tomorrow with photos and stories about our trip.

If you’re in the Lakeland area, the show starts Saturday at 10. I’ll be in the American Production section on Tennessee Avenue between Lemon and Main.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Small Blessings

Sometime scrolling through a news feed can be frustrating.  Trying to find something interesting to read that doesn’t have me reaching for a second dose of BP meds is difficult enough with idiots and racists running the government, but the sheer stupidity and hypocrisy of a lot of what passes for news as we ramp up to the midterm elections makes it even harder to find something to laugh at, which is why I chose that little piece of Chico and Harpo Marx tickling the ivories for ALNM last night.

This morning it wasn’t a whole lot better: Trump would rather do Nuremberg 2.0 in Pennsylvania than stay in D.C. to monitor hurricane relief, even though we know that’s just for optics because there’s not a lot he could do even if he was competent; that’s what FEMA is for.  Hillary Clinton said it’s time for the Democrats to take the gloves off and the right-wing Orcosphere goes nuts, but that’s their setting anyway anytime she says please pass the butter.  A stringer reporter disappears in Turkey at the hands of the Saudis and suddenly the White House doesn’t even know how to get in touch with the perps.  The Supreme Court is already showing their complete disdain for Native American voters in North Dakota; they can’t be real voters if they don’t have a street address like real Americans do in all the cul-de-sacs in Maryland where teens really know how to par-tay (right, Brett?).

So now what?  The mid-terms are in a few weeks, and so now we have to switch to the cable pundits wondering just how the Democrats will blow their lead just like they did in 2016.  It’s enough to make me turn off the TV and start Googling cheap retirement in the Caribbean.  But you have to balance it out.  There’s good stuff to be had, even if it’s small or seems trivial.  The Miami Metro Rail ran on time yesterday.  (Karma alert: the trains were messed up this morning.) My friends up in the panhandle checked in safe after the hurricane passed.  My friend Christopher got a great write-up in the New York Times about his play opening next month on Broadway.  Someone shot a Youtube of the Miami International Auto Show and included nice things to say about Memory Lane and my car.

So while the news may be depressing, aggravating, annoying, and laugh-so-that-we-may-not-weep, sometimes we just have to remember that there are small blessings, too, and it does put it all in perspective.  For a little while, at least.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Warning Lights

I learned long ago not to ignore certain warning lights on the dashboard.  Last night the battery light came on while driving home from a car club meeting — ironically, the guest speaker was our trusty mechanic — so this morning the Mustang is going in to see what’s wrong with the electrical system.

Posting will resume when I get back from the shop.

Update: It’s probably the alternator.  I’ll know this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ten Million Mustangs

1965 Ford Mustang 2+2

A bit of automotive history has been made.

When Samuel Crawford’s grade-school teacher asked her students what they wanted to do when they grew up, his classmates said they wanted to be doctors, lawyers and accountants. Sam said he wanted to build Mustangs, and his classmates laughed.

“The ’64 Mustang had just come out,” Crawford said. “All I could think about was that brand new pony car.”

Of his 31 years at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Crawford, has spent the last nine putting racing stripes on Mustangs. Today, he will join thousands of Ford workers celebrating production of the 10 millionth Mustang.

“I do what I said I wanted to do,” he said. “I didn’t know how they were built, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it. And I have worked on 4,000 or 5,000 Mustangs.”

The iconic vehicle has been America’s best-selling sports car in the last half century and the world’s top selling sports car three years straight.

[…]

The 10 millionth Ford Mustang is a high-tech, 460-horsepower 2019 Wimbledon White GT V8 six-speed manual convertible equipped with driver assist technology and built at Flat Rock. The first serialized Mustang (VIN 001) produced in 1964 was the same color and model with a three-speed manual transmission and 164-horsepower V8.

I’ve had three, so in some small way, I’m part of the parade.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Reading

“Mustang Means Freedom”  — James B. Stewart on why Ford decided to keep building the icon.

1965 Ford Mustang*

When Ford Motor all but eliminated passenger cars from its North American lineup earlier this month to concentrate on trucks and S.U.V.s, it turned the page on a long and storied history of now-defunct but once red-hot nameplates: the Model T, the Model A, the Galaxie, the Fairlane, the Thunderbird and the Falcon, to name several.

There was one conspicuous survivor: the Mustang.

“Get rid of the Mustang?” asked James D. Farley Jr., Ford’s president of global markets, when I asked him this week how the Mustang had survived. “The Mustang is like Rocky: It survived the 1970s fuel crisis, the glam 1980s, the move to S.U.V.s. It’s made it through every round of cuts.”

For me, the Mustang’s reprieve came as welcome news: I took my driver’s test in my mother’s 1967 turquoise Mustang notchback. On the rare occasions I was allowed to drive it, it conferred instant status and triggered unabashed envy among my high school classmates.

Wall Street probably would have been just as happy to see the Mustang go the way of the Fusion, Taurus and Fiesta, current models that Ford said it would phase out and which Mr. Farley dismissed as “commodity silhouettes.” (Ford says it will continue to make passenger vehicles, but they just won’t be in the shape of today’s sedan. The Focus, for example, will survive, but as a crossover S.U.V.)

That’s because in its last earnings report, Ford revealed for the first time that a relatively small number of products, including the hugely popular F-150 pickup truck series, accounted for 150 percent of its earnings before interest and taxes, with profit margins in the midteens. Another group was barely profitable. By contrast, Ford said its “low performing” products lost money, with negative margins of more than 10 percent.

Using Ford’s disclosures, Morgan Stanley automotive analyst Adam Jonas extrapolated that the low performing businesses accounted for 40 percent of Ford’s revenue yet sharply reduced the company’s earnings. Ford didn’t say which models fall into the category, but Mr. Jonas included North American passenger cars and Lincoln models. (So far, at least, Ford hasn’t altered its Lincoln lineup, which includes several passenger sedans.)

Mr. Jonas applauded Ford’s decision to drop most of its passenger cars, assuming the company actually follows through on it. “If a disproportionate effort is going into products that don’t make money and consumers don’t want, then what are they doing?” he asked.

Ford doesn’t break out financial results by model, but Mr. Jonas believes the Mustang is modestly profitable. The base hardtop starts at $25,845, but popular options can quickly drive up the cost. The convertible starts at $31,345. The most popular model, the Mustang GT fastback, can easily top $40,000, and the 526-horsepower Shelby GT350 starts at more than $57,000. A racing version of the Mustang Cobra can hit six figures.

“I can’t think of another car where some models sell for four times the base price,“ Mr. Farley said. “We sell a lot of Mustangs that are $70,000.”

The Mustang has continued to sell well. Ford said it sold nearly 126,000 last year in 146 countries and that it was the world’s best-selling sports car. (By contrast, the Toyota Corolla, the world’s best-selling passenger sedan, sold nearly a million cars.)

But the Mustang’s survival isn’t really about numbers. “Five years from now, whether Ford decided to keep the Mustang or not isn’t going to be a material factor,” Mr. Jonas said. “It’s more of an emotional thing. They’re trying to preserve the sexuality of motoring the way it used to be known.”

From the day it was introduced 54 years ago, Mustang was positioned as a stylish, affordable and practical alternative to expensive European sports cars. In various tests, the Mustang GT still compares favorably to the Porsche 911, which starts at over $90,000.

So iconic is the Mustang that it has been commemorated with a Postal Service stamp — twice. The latest one, in 2013, depicts a blue 1967 model bisected by two white stripes.

Mustangs have appeared in countless movies and television shows, becoming an indelible image of American culture. In “Goldfinger,” James Bond ran a white 1965 Mustang convertible with red interior off the road.

Steve McQueen drove a dark green 1968 fastback in “Bullitt,” in which Mustang emerged as a classic “muscle” car. This year Ford is selling a 475-horsepower Bullitt anniversary edition, complete with, in a nod to the original, a cue ball on the stick shift. The Bullitt limited edition sells for $47,495. (The first one off the assembly line sold at a charity auction earlier this year for $300,000.)

A souped-up 1967 Mustang fastback stars in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” But Mustangs aren’t all about high testosterone. A 1966 convertible is featured in “The Princess Diaries,” and Ford said 27 percent of Mustang buyers are women.

William Clay Ford Jr., Ford’s executive chairman and the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, is a Mustang fanatic, with 20 versions in his personal collection. Mr. Ford showed up at the company’s annual Mustang birthday party last month in a navy blue 1968 Mustang Shelby 500 convertible with a white top.

“I put it in the same category as the Corvette,” said Eric Minoff, an automotive specialist at Bonhams auction house in New York. The Mustang “is a cultural icon,” he added. “Even people who don’t know anything about cars recognize a Mustang.”

Next week, Bonhams is auctioning several vintage Mustangs previously owned by Carroll Shelby, the racecar driver and automotive entrepreneur who developed high-performance Shelby Mustangs in collaboration with Ford starting in the 1960s. A 1968 Mustang GT 350 and a 1969 GT 500 are each estimated to fetch $80,000 to $100,000 at the June 3 auction.

I found a turquoise 1967 Mustang notchback that looked identical to my mother’s car listed on the Hemmings vintage car site for $37,900.

Those are surprisingly high prices considering how many Mustangs were made. “After the car first came out, there was a saying that hot cakes are selling like Mustangs,” Mr. Minoff said. “They’re not exactly rare. But no matter how common they are, they’re very attractive cars, and with the V-8 engine and rear-wheel drive, they’re very sporty and fun to drive. The fastback editions, especially with all the options, command quite a premium.”

Mr. Farley described the Mustang as a “mind-set” vehicle. “When we ask people around the world what they think of Ford, they say Mustang,” he said. “Mustang means freedom. It means taking a road trip in a convertible down the West Coast. That’s what people all over the world imagine America to be. Why would we ever give that up?”

*I’ve had three: a 1965 2+2 like the one in the photo, a 1995 GT convertible, and my current one, a 2007 convertible.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on being reasonable with Trumpers.

We’re going to try something different today. Rather than pontificate yet again upon the motives of Donald Trump’s supporters, I’ll let a few of them explain themselves in their own words.

Here, then, is “Robert” with a comparative analysis of the 44th and 45th presidents:

“President Trump has accomplished more positive things for this nation in less than two years than the last three have accomplished in twenty plus years. After the past eight years of a Muslim Marxist in the White House this nation could not survive another demwit in the White House. … Could you please list one thing the demwit party has done for the black people in America other than hand out government freeies for their continued votes?”

And here’s “Gary’s” take on demographic change:

“[America] has a constitution which guarantees equal rights for all and yet people like you hungar for change that puts people like me in the back of the bus. You seem egar to know what it would be like to be in the driver’s seat. You need look no further than Zimbabwe and South Africa. When people like you started driving the bus, the wheels came off. That’s what terrifies people like me.”

This column is presented as a service for those progressive readers who are struggling with something I said in this space. Namely, that I see no point in trying to reason with Trump voters. I first wrote that over a month ago, and I am still hearing how “disappointed” they are at my refusal to reach out. So I thought it might be valuable to hear from the people I’ve failed to reach out to.

I’m sure some of you think those emails were cherry-picked to highlight the intolerance of Trump voters. They weren’t. They are, in fact, a representative sampling from a single day in May, culled by my assistant, Judi.

It’s still an article of faith for many that the Trump phenomenon was born out of fiscal insecurity, the primal scream of working people left behind by a changing economy. But I don’t think I’ve ever, not once, seen an email from a Trump supporter who explained himself in terms of the factory or the coal mine shutting down.

I have, however, heard from hundreds like “Matthew,” who worries about “immigrants” and “Gerald,” who thinks people of color have an “alliance” against him. Such people validate the verdict of a growing body of scholarship that says, in the words of a new study by University of Kansas professors David N. Smith and Eric Hanley, “The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders …”

Look, I get it. That’s a hard pill for those progressives who have kin or friends among Trump supporters. We love who we love, even when they — or we — are small, unkind or disappointing. That’s what family is about. We love who we love, and let no one make you feel compelled to apologize for that.

But at the same time, let us be clear-eyed and tough-minded in assessing what’s happened to our country — and why. How else can we salvage it from the likes of “A Trumper” who says Trump was needed to “get things back in order” after the “terrible job” done by President Obama?

He wrote: “We’re sick of paying welfare to so many of your brothers who don’t know what work and integrity mean. I hope you keep writing these articles and reminding my White Christian brothers that we did the right thing and we need to re elect Trump.”

I have two words for those progressives who think it’s possible to “reason” with that:

You first.

Doonesbury — One by one.