In 2011, I marked the 50th anniversary of Britain’s most iconic car, The E Type Jaguar. It seemed only fitting that I did the same for what is probably America’s most iconic car, The Ford Mustang.
There are several stories surrounding the origin of the name, it is most likely that The Mustang was named after the World War II fighter plane, the P-51 Mustang by stylist John Najjar. What we know for sure is that it was introduced on 17th April 1964 and is one of the most successful and iconic cars of all time. Now in its fifth generation it has appeared in countless films. If you look on the Internet Movie Cars Database, you will find 152 pages of listings for the Ford Mustang. There are surprisingly few iconic appearances for the car, but there are a handful of truly iconic ones.
I have written in the past about Goldfinger (1964) and how James Bond became associated with Aston Martin and the DB5, what I have never written about was the other side of the DB5’s best seen in Goldfinger. In the book Tilly Masterton drove a “dove-grey Triumph TR3” by the story had made it to the screen Triumph had been replaced by white Pre-production Ford Mustang convertible. It wasn’t the last time the mark would be seen in a Bond film. Fiona Volpe “takes Bond for a drive” in a Mustang convertible in Thunderball (1965). Sean Connery’s last appearance as Bond is also the last notable appearance for a Mustang in the film series. Bond drives Tiffany Case’s Ford Mustang Mach 1 in the Las Vegas car chase scene from Diamonds Are Forever. One of the better moments (despite the infamous continuity error) of a week film.
The most famous mustang in its most famous and iconic movie. The 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT Fastback driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968) as he chases a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T through San Francisco. Like anything associated with McQueen, the movie is the epitome of cool, a fact that isn’t harmed by a fantastic scene. It starts with the bad guys following McQueen, they lose sight of him. Then we see the Mustang appear in the rear view mirror of the Charger. The cars prowl around the city to Lalo Schifrin’s fantastic score, until: There is a click of a seat belt, the music cuts and is replaced by squealing tires as the Charger makes a run for it. For the next 8 minutes, there is no music, no dialogue, just screaming tires and roaring V8’s.
No list would be complete without a mention for “Eleanor”. The climactic final car chase in Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) features a 1971 Ford Mustang (masquerading as a 1973) and accounts for about a third of the movies runtime. The scene was recreated in the 2000 remake Gone in Sixty Seconds. Bigger, bolder and slicker but not necessarily better, this time “Eleanor” is played by a 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. The original Eleanor is referenced in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007) both verbally by Kim (Vanessa Ferlito) and visually in her car, a 1972 Mustang LeGrand.
And the future: Need For Speed (2014) features a 2014 Ford Mustang claiming to be a special unfinished Carroll Shelby special edition. The car features in some pretty good chase scenes across America in the movies second act. It ends with the as yet not released 2015 Mustang.