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Manly Mustang

Manly Mustang


By Lance Lambert

Let me begin by apologizing to my friends in the Mustang community. I assure you that you’ll only be upset with me for a short time. Apologies should also be extended to Falcon owners, high school dropouts, women and “manly” men.

The car world was given a friendly slap in the face on April 17, 1964. That was the introduction date of Ford’s Mustang and, as the cliché goes, the rest is history. I, however, was not impressed. To my eyes the design was just a modest Falcon in silk stockings and the car was too “girly”. Even Ford referred to it in an early magazine ad as the “Sweetheart of the Supermarket Set”. You can’t apply current attitudes and sensibilities to the year 1964; this meant to me that a Mustang was a car for a woman.

The very first Mustang sold in my hometown of Tacoma was driven by a high school classmate, Sue Elrod, adding to the perception of the car not being manly enough for a mastodon of manhood such as my 17 year old self. A mass of metal 1954 Oldsmobile transported me about town and, dang it, that was a real car. It was not some dainty little thing that the Mustang appeared to be in my eyes. Then something, actually two somethings, happened that resulted in an appreciation of the new Mustang; young love and the threat of violence.

Frank Olmstead, a classmate and close friend, had been pursuing young Marla Richards despite the fact that another young man was under the impression that she was already spoken for and that he was doing the speaking. This young man, let’s call him Vince, was a Stadium High School dropout that looked and acted like all of the dropouts in the old juvenal delinquent movies in the 1950’s and 1960’s; greasy slicked back hair, turned up collar and a cigarette continuously hanging from his lips. Every high school had at least one student like this walking the halls or one former student hanging out in the parking lot. Vince was our token greaser and he did a fine job of playing the part.

Vince decided to challenge Frank for Marla’s affections. The word spread that the two love struck competitors were going to fight on Friday night behind the mutually agreed upon Signal gas station. Frank and his friends arrived at the appropriate time and waited for Vince’s arrival. It was a brisk evening, Frank was ready for action and his pals were all there to insure that the fight “was fair” and that neither participant got hurt too badly.

Here’s where, perhaps, I begin to win back the favor of the Mustang crowd.

In the distance we heard a low rumble that could only be emitted from a high performance car. The sound was followed by the arrival of what, to this day, is one of the most impressive automotive visuals that is stored in my noggin. Vince drove up in a new 1965 Mustang GT fastback. This dark green rumbling menace slowly emerged from the darkness and pulled up to the crowd. What happened next was not expected; we forgot about the fight and, instead, stood frozen while admiring the car. I’d only seen the fastbacks in magazines but had not yet seen one that could actually be touched. This car was beautiful and, in the context of the situation, a bit fear provoking. The crowd was no longer excitedly anticipating a victory for either opponent. It was mesmerized by the new “fighter” that had entered the ring. The term “muscle car” had not yet been coined but this car definitely enhanced Vince’s muscles. The trance was broken and the crowd approached the Mustang to take a closer look. For the moment Frank was forgotten. Vince sat for a short time staring at Frank while Frank stared back in admiration and, perhaps, fear. Frank had just lost the fight.

Vince knew he’d gotten the best of Frank so he slipped the Mustang into gear and drove off into the darkness.

Epilogue: Frank told Marla that he’d marry her if she broke up with Vince. She did but the Marla & Frank romance didn’t even last until the next year’s Mustangs were introduced.

Did this event change my opinion of Mustangs? There’s one in the garage, two in my past and, hopefully, a few more in the future.