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Milestones

The Year Ahead

Larry Jewett - December 05, 2013 10:00 AM

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There was plenty to celebrate in the year that is winding down (if you are reading this before December 31. If not, then change the words to “last year”). Some significant anniversaries are coming up in 2014.

Easily the one that will draw much of the attention is the highly anticipated 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. Plans have been in place for years for the gala event at Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as satellite events like Mustangs Across America. It may be a sign of old age, but it seems like only yesterday when we were gathering at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama to commemorate the 45th anniversary and that was a big deal.

A trip down memory lane by way of a photo disc brought to mind one activity at the 45th that was going to be connected to the 50th. At the Alabama event, visitors were invited to sign one of three Mustang hoods. These hoods were going into storage, only to come out again on the 50th anniversary.

It’s almost time to pull those hoods out of storage. Of course, a lot has happened since 2009, so hopefully someone remembers where they are.

The year starts off with the anniversary of another Ford memory, but it is one that transcends the automaker. On January 5, 1914, 100 years ago, Henry Ford began offering $5 per day for eight-hour workdays and 15,000 job seekers applied for 3,000 jobs at the Model T Plant in Highland Park, Michigan. The previous pay rate was $2.34 per day for nine hours. Just like that, there was some new-found spending money for the lucky ones. Soon, the other automakers, as well as industries not connected with building cars, found themselves in a place where they had to make these changes to keep their workers.

When February 20 rolls around this year, it will mark the 60th anniversary of the unveiling of the Ford Thunderbird. The car was shown to the public at the Detroit Auto Show, which was making a comeback after the war and post-war hiatus. The new Studebaker Starliner coupe was among the other hot offerings featured that year. Visitors to the show in 1964 saw a mermaid perched on a new-for-1964 Barracuda (which came out two weeks before the Mustang) and a featured attraction included a car that was customized for George Barris for the TV show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which had peaked the previous year.

One of the biggest displays often found was that of Oldsmobile. Sadly, we commemorate yet another anniversary as 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of the decision to close the division. Founded in 1897, it made it 107 years before its demise, producing over 35 million cars with many iconic rides along the way. It brought Rocket 88, Toronado, Cutlass and many, many other names to driveways across America.

There are many other anniversaries that will be celebrated, including some of companies that have been founded for producing products for performance, restoration and modification. These companies have weathered trying times in the industry and stand strong to represent the needs of their customers. If they’re still here, they’re here for a reason.

The majority of these anniversaries are long term because the industry went through a period when there wasn’t much to celebrate. We would be remiss if we didn’t include the fact that 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the minivan. Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager had a profound impact on the automotive culture of the day and have been transporting soccer teams to games on time ever since.

Happy New Year.

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