People waited in the Fargo lot to see the next Ford Mustang come in, and 300 did, different generations from many eras and their owners, all for the 50th Anniversary celebration at Luther Family Ford.
GM Joel Bechtold expected a few hundred people. Nearly 1,000 came. “We had the wildest promotion in the 30 years I’ve been in the business. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
Coinciding with the April 17, 1964 New York auto show release date of the 1964 1/2 Mustang, Family Ford put on a three-day event with gift drawings, cake, T-shirts for owners and a show floor full of classic pony cars. Young and old, people turned out, prompted by newspaper stories and special inserts, and television broadcasts on Fargo’s stations.
Visitors and newspaper readers enjoyed full color keepsake brochures with vehicle photos, specifications and astounding sales numbers. A number of people asked for two or three copies to save them. No doubt, the car made its mark in history, reaching more than a million units in its first two years of production and 607,000 more in its third year, 1966.
Bechtold, whose father worked for the Ford dealership in Minot, N.D., remembers when the original Mustang made its first appearance there. He was seven. “I do remember going up the night before to see the car before everybody else … and the next day having donuts,” he said.
Everyone has a Mustang story, the GM explains, some of them going back to the original. He met the man who bought the first Mustang in Fargo/Moorhead, on April 21, 1964, for $2,350. He has the window sticker. Another was featured in the Fargo Forum with his 1964 1/2 model.
Variations from every year since were on hand, and the show floor was transformed into a dozen car Mustang museum, courtesy of the Northstar Mustangs car club. Among them was a 1969 Shelby GT 500 convertible valued at $150,000 to $200,000, a yellow Mach 1 model and a Mustang II, the downsized version produced in the mid-1970s. One brought his Mustang dragster to show.
The store didn’t leave people guessing on the car’s history. It printed a multi-page brochure highlighting the generations and specifications of Ford’s affordable performance vehicle. The Fargo gathering complemented major 50th anniversary events in North Carolina, Oklahoma and Las Vegas. The Vegas event drew 2,400 Mustangs, Bechtold explains.
Many prizes were awarded and, even with extra Mustang items on hand, all were sold out by end of the events.. “You go outside and it was like Disney World here. The front of the building was full of people,” said Bechtold.
Saturday’s traffic introduced many new people to the store and some came from as far as 60 miles away. Many thanked staff members and knew it wasn’t a sale event, said Bechtold. “They said no one else (a dealer) had done something like this.”
People showed up at 7 a.m. on Saturday, waiting for the event start at 9. “Mustangs are very well loved,” the GM said.