Elvis. Marilyn Monroe. Air Jordan. The Liberty Bell. The Big Mac.
There’s no shortage of American icons. Pick a genre, a sport, an era … create a category any way you choose, and it has an emblematic high point. A person, place or thing against which all others are measured. It has a best.
For many auto enthusiasts, the best model of all time – at least, the most influential – burst onto the scene at the 1964 World’s Fair. Its phenomenal success was not about quality construction. Not about remarkable functionality. Not even about the lusty 271 horses in its “K-code” high-compression, solid-lifter, four-barrel, 289-cubic-inch heart (the strongest of several available engines back in ’64).
This not-too-distant cousin of the tiny Ford Falcon (which bequeathed both engineering concepts and its Dearborn, Mich., birthplace) actually had only one major thing going for it: It was a total knockout, the sexiest thing on the road after the Queen of Sleek herself, the Corvette.
The Mustang, an aptly named rejuvenation of American iron, was wrought specifically to appeal to Baby Boomers with newly minted driver’s licenses – a younger generation that wanted nothing to do with Pop’s old buggy. And boy, did it work: With Ford still working out the kinks, the ’65 Mustang (including coupes, fastbacks and convertibles) became one of the top-selling models of all time, with more than a half-million orders.
By the time Steve McQueen chased bad guys out of San Francisco in 1968’s “Bullitt” (their ’68 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum was no match for Bullitt’s ’68 Mustang GT Fastback, or McQueen’s steely cool), the Mustang had merged into the American mainstream. More than that, it had permeated the national bloodstream, pumping excitement into American drivers the way the Mercury Cougar, the Pontiac Firebird and other competitors never could.
Through up years and down years, the Mustang has endured. Ford’s show pony now ranks among the world’s elite performance cars, Mustang’s heart is stronger than ever (the latest GT-500 achieves a dizzying 530 HP) and retro styling recalls the model’s earliest days.
“It’s an affordable sports car that hit a niche,” says Sal Rivela, Hassett of Wantagh’s Pre-owned manager. “It was the definitive muscle car of the ’60s. It outlasted the Challenger and the Trans Am.”
The modern Mustang’s fantastic dependability is one of several major selling points. “Ford’s quality has surpassed Toyota and Honda, as far as reliability and mechanical operation,” Sal notes. “These cars just hold up better than ever.”
And when Ford opted for that retro look a few years ago – the sharp angles never looked hotter – it only fanned the flame. “It brought back all the people who wanted to drive the ‘Bullitt’ car,” Sal says, estimating that Hassett moves upwards of 10 used Mustangs a month and as many as 150 new ones annually.
Today, there are more Mustang options than ever – from V6s to V8s to convertibles to that monstrous GT500 – and Hassett carries them all.
“Of course!” Sal says. “Hassett Has It.”