Pascal’s Pony, err Mustang, is Named Steve
Photography by Laurent Nivalle
Pascal owns a pony. A “pony” car that is. The birth of the original first-generation Ford Mustang ushered in a new classification of automobile, and it went by the name “pony”. The term is derived from the Mustang line, and although the Mustang was not the first–the Plymouth Barracuda went on sale two weeks earlier–the Ford Mustang went on to become the best known and best selling of the pony cars. Ford’s Lee Iacocca and his product manager, Mr. Donald Frey, were responsible for getting the first Mustang from conception to production in a record eighteen months. Their efforts paid off, and the Mustang became a huge sales success, selling over 22,000 units its first day, far eclipsing Ford’s expectations, and consequently the term “fish car” never caught on. Owning one of these uniquely American cars meant the possibility of a large and powerful engine in a relatively small bodied, and light platform–an enticing combination to be sure.
Mr. Steve McQueen was the biggest star in Hollywood in 1968. He had just completed filming on The Thomas Crown Affair with Faye Dunaway, and signed a contract with Warner Bros. The first and only product of that arrangement was Bullitt. Whether or not McQueen specifically requested his character drive a Mustang is unclear, and most likely a product placement arrangement between Ford and the studio is the reason for the Mustang’s inclusion in the film, but four decades later, can anyone really imagine any other car in the role besides a Mustang fastback?
Pascal, the owner of our featured cream-colored 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback GT certainly can’t. His Mustang has the 302 cubic-inch V8, not the 390 cubic-inch that McQueen’s character, Lt. Frank Bullitt, drove chasing two mafia hitmen in the film’s signature car chase through the streets of San Francisco. And perhaps sacrilegious for some, Pascal’s fastback is also equipped with the optional 3-speed automatic transmission instead of the 4-speed manual. But Pascal doesn’t seem to mind, and has even nicknamed his car “Steve”. A coincidence? We think not.
Interestingly, if you’re thinking of buying a fastback just for the sweet sounds the car made in Bullitt, don’t. Some say after that the movie’s completion that the drivetrain sounds of Bullitt’s Mustang were overdubbed by recordings of a Ford GT40. It seems to be controversial though, so decide for yourselves.
The 1967 model year brought major changes for the Mustang as this was the first major redesign of the original model which was produced from 1964-1966. The pressure from cross-town competition at GM and Chrysler meant that Ford had to further elevate its game, and make the car more powerful. The installation of a big-block V8 engine, however, meant that the overall size of the car had to increase. Hardtop, convertible, and of course fastback body styles were again offered, and exterior trim changes included concave taillights, and side scoops. The following year, chrome was added, as well as square rear-view mirrors, and new wheel and gas cap changes. Ford also introduced its new 302 cubic-inch engine (based on the 289’s Windsor block), like the one in Pascal’s car, which would eventually supplant the venerable 289 V8, and produced 230 horsepower. Heady stuff in 1968. Safety was not overlooked either, and a two-spoke energy-absorbing steering wheel, along with newly introduced shoulder belts made their way into the Mustang’s cabin. The redesign lasted just two model years, from 1967 to 1968, before the first generation Mustang was redesigned yet again.
2014 marks the Mustang’s fiftieth anniversary and the introduction of the sixth generation. Through the years, the car has been pushed, pulled, and stretched every which way. Engines have gotten bigger, as well as smaller. Everybody has their favorites, and some models are more coveted than others. Bullitt did wonders for Mustang sales, of course, but probably didn’t do the Dodge Charger any harm, although if you’re a bad guy driving a Charger, watch yourself. It usually never ends well. Ford offered a limited edition anniversary “Bullitt” Mustang for model-year 2001, but for Pascal, there is no substitute for Steve, his ’68 Mustang.