A Father And Son, An Imported 1968 Ford Mustang Coupe, And A Sicilian Ghost Town
Photography by Armando Musotto
There is something wonderful that connects cars to people. An invisible but strong thread that unites our human experiences and emotions with otherwise lifeless alloys and composites. But people are a prerequisite for the existence of cars—that goes without saying—but it’s worth remembering.
Like many of you, I’ve pretty much always been into cars. My memory does not stretch far enough back to a time when that wasn’t the case. Enthusiasm for cars and motorsport is all but wound into my DNA, but this specific passion has helped me to branch out into so many other interests that I may not have found through a different avenue.
“People make cars.” I remember reading this caption below a small drawing from an Italian specialist car magazine, and this short and simple but sincere sentence still echoes in my mind. To throw my own platitudinous hat into the ring, I might say that if we are what we eat, we are also what we drive. Maybe there is a more eloquent way of putting it, but I think none of us can deny that the cars in our lives say more about us than our dishwashers.
I have met a lot of people, and a lot of friends, thanks to chasing cars and light, and since the very start of my photographic endeavors I’ve always been moved the most by the personal stories, the ones where the human element goes beyond “I liked it, so I bought it.” A special car in a vacuum is still special, in a beautiful but hermetic sort of way. Lots of the people I have met have dedicated their lives to their machines, pursuing that childhood dream that led us from Matchboxdom into the real thing (while still amassing more and more 1:64 versions along the way). Their stories are unique but bound to a common core made of dedication and love.
Among all the various characters I’ve had the good fortune to meet, there is a category that I positively envy: the fathers and sons. To me there is nothing more beautiful than being able to share your true interests with your family. I have always been really drawn to the stories that include multiple generations, they speak to the romantic and sentimental side of me, and I hope to you as well.
In the case of this Mustang, it’s a tale of two Italians infatuated with the American ideas of motoring. I don’t remember exactly which edition of the Giro di Sicilia it was when I first met Elio and his son Fiorenzo, but I remember making my way down the festively decorated Via Libertà in Palermo, a corridor of people among the cars on display before departure, and being stopped in my tracks but a C3 Corvette.
It’s not the rarest of cars to show up to a weekend get together in the US, but any Corvette is atypical in the context that I found this one in. Imposing, aggressive, loud, and a lot more powerful compared to the much smaller Mille Miglia-era barchettas it was surrounded by. A big stingray in a pond of small fishes, you could say.
In that moment, totally enraptured by the beauty of that car, I approached and made the acquaintance of Elio and Fiorenzo. The black shirts with the Daytona effigy don’t lie about their passion, and I already knew we would have to meet again.
We kept in touch over the years since our first encounter, trying several times to find an agreeable slot in our schedules, but to no avail. At the end of lockdown in Italy, I contacted Elio again, who told me that he would soon have a 1968 Ford Mustang. It was one of the cars he and his son had long dreamed of owning, and once they finally found the right example, the car was packed up for a long journey across the Atlantic.
Much like a Corvette, a Mustang in Sicily is a rare and beautiful sight, so I wanted the location for this shoot to be connected to the car in its new home. I chose a magnificent place in the Sicilian hinterland, outside of Palermo: Borgo Borzellino. An abandoned village—a “ghost town” according to Google—near San Cipirrello, I landed on this location because to me it has always seemed very “Texan,” or at least it has always reminded me of my conception of cowboys and the plains. It’s as perfect place for a pony car here as there ever was. The yawp of its big V8 is the perfect accompaniment to the scene constructed of dust and the disused buildings, and the splendid metallic blue paint seems to melts in the sun, a piece of the nearby sea, evaporating in the heat.
As I shoot, Elio and Fiorenzo tell me the story of their car, rattling off details and moments from the already deep pool of memories they’ve made. Elio gets me up to speed on the history and engineering of the Mustang from its inception through to their 1968 model, and Fiorenzo, who is a car designer, points out the aesthetic differences over the period. The styling remained a clear hallmark of the first Mustangs, but in the 1968 version, the front end is slightly more curved, and the whole line of the car appears more fluid and dynamic, even with the rather large dimensions.
I could go on about the car itself, but that’s not the point. I’m not going to be able to tell you anything new about one of the most documented and revered cars out there. At this point, it’s more interesting to find out what kind of lives these cars are living more than half a century after their construction; who owns them, where are they, what purpose do they serve?
To these two Sicilians, this car represents the culmination of their dreams. For Elio, who has always been obsessed with the large-capacity American-made engines, and with the lifestyle that we so often attach to them. Having brought this Mustang to Sicily was an act long in the making, and now that it’s here, Elio and his son have the opportunity to play out their daydreams of V8s, wide roads, big tires, roaring exhausts, and bold attitude in real life—well, perhaps not the part with the wide roads…
“People make cars,” whether we’re talking in the figurative or literal sense. Cars are cultural artifacts, but also ongoing expressions of the human capacity to blend style and function. Some of us create them, more of us simply love them. During this period of time when the sweeter moments are less common, it was a pleasure to be reminded of the joys we can still share together during my day with Elio and Fiorenzo. Much of life is on pause right now, but it doesn’t stop us from sharing the good stuff that we can still find with each other.