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Destination: Las Vegas

Mustang 50th Anniversary Celebration

Story Jim Smart / Images Jim Smart and Ford Motor Company - July 08, 2014 01:15 PM

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The vast parking area at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway complex made the location perfect for showing off Mustangs.

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The generations sat side by side, giving showgoers a chance to see something different with early car they passed.

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Hooray for the red, white and blue. Just like the 45th celebration in Alabama, the 50th anniversary party included lining up this pleasing color display.

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The first pre-production Mustang was part of the many displays offered in Las Vegas.

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Lee Iacocca’s personal 1965 Mustang was on display.

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The Mustang I concept car made a rare appearance.

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A Cobra corral popped up for the performance enthusiasts.

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Some lucky contestant could end up on the winning end of a Mustang sweepstakes like no other.

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While the rain may have hampered Charlotte, it was cruising weather in Las Vegas.

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Track time was offered at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and many took advantage of this perk.

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Sometimes, things happen. This unfortunate owner had to deal with a mishap, but in the spirit of the weekend, kept the car on display. Repairs can happen later because this is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

 

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Mustang historian Bob Fria, writer of Mustang Genesis and owner of the first Mustang hardtop, addressed the gathering.

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Ron Bramlett was the executive director of the 50th anniversary committee that put it all together. Bramlett’s many hats include owner of Mustangs Plus in Stockton, California.

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Ford and the Mustang Club of America celebrate an American icon in Sin City

The Mustang’s 50th Anniversary has been coming for a half century. If you were to have asked anyone at Ford in 1964 if we’d be celebrating Mustang’s great success in 50 years, few would have believed it. Mustang was a calculated gamble only a few thought would sell and, at that, they predicted 80,000 units at best.

Las Vegas seemed a fitting place to celebrate since the creation of the car was a gamble. Mustang proved to be the paydirt story to end all paydirt stories. Not only did it pass 80,000 units, it busted through more than a half million units in 18 months and 1 million in the middle of its second model year. The Mustang was not only the “The Unexpected…” for Main Street America, but also for Ford insiders who never expected the insanity to follow.

Ford Motor Company and the Mustang Club of America decided to throw the biggest Mustang bash in history in two places — Charlotte, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, Nevada - in order for nearly everyone to be able to celebrate. In Las Vegas, it was a grand birthday party that stretched from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway due south down the Las Vegas Strip to Mandalay Bay and Shelby American’s new facility.

Mustang old timers and insiders were in Vegas to celebrate not only the Mustang’s 50th, but also the rollout of an all-new Mustang for 2015 due out toward the end of this year at your local Ford dealer. The Mustang’s first product planner, Hal Sperlich, spoke to the crowds about the greatest moment in his career 50 years ago. Mustang historian Bob Fria briefed showgoers about the Mustang’s original production launch early in 1964. Lee Iacocca’s assistant, Norma Saken, spoke warmly about her boss and his regrets about not being about to make the festivities. Lee Iacocca will be 90 in October.

Las Vegas witnessed its landslide share of Mustang enthusiasts from all over the world and from as far away as Europe and Australia. Mustang enthusiasts from France lined up rental Mustangs in Red, White, and Blue. Some had their personal Mustangs shipped in from across the pond from as far away as Australia. It can easily be said the greatest enthusiasm came not from Americans, but from enthusiasts from a host of countries from around the world who came to this once in a lifetime event. It can also be said we will likely never see anything like this again.

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