I remember distinctly the first time I saw the movie Bullitt.
It was on television and the reason it was being shown was to help promote the brand new 1994 Ford Mustang.
I believe the only sponsor was Ford and all the commercials were for the Mustang.
Thanks to Youtube I can rest assured that I am remembering this correctly:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9BuyB6JyME
I, a lad of fourteen about to turn fifteen, with a very healthy interest in cars was quite excited about the return to form for the Mustang. Even though my only mode of transportation at the time was a Raleigh mountain bike, I somehow felt I was vested in the future of the Mustang.
Now that I think about it, as exciting as I was at the time, to this day (I’m now thirty-two) I have never driven a fourth generation Mustang.
I’ve driven lots of fifth generation Mustangs (2005+), as they are my rental car of choice, but never a fourth. The fourth, although exciting on that evening in late 1993 against the backdrop of the 1968 Bullitt Mustang, fell at a point in my life where I was too young to appreciated it as a new car purchase and then it was also too new for me to appreciate it as an adult as an old car purchase.
At the same time they were showing Bullitt on TV I had a job before and after school working at a gas station. That now seems foreign to me as today teens are pretty much full time customers at the bank of mom and dad until, at least, high school – if not later. But back in my adolescence we all had jobs and one of my earliest ones was at this gas station. To date myself even further it was a full service gas station – I checked people’s oil.
I was the youngest kid working there – although not by much. Most everyone else was at least in high school and some were just out and wondering what to do next. I thought everyone who worked there was so cool. I was at that impressionable age where the ability to drive and stay out past ten PM made you a god in my world.
There was one guy who worked there who drove a fairly beat-up silver ’84 Mustang. He and I worked together a lot. He was only seventeen and looking back now he was a little geeky but to a fourteen-year-old without a license he was so cool. During his shift, usually in one of the wash bays, he was always doing something to that car. Most of the time it was stereo related – like the time he came in with a new sub box that took up the entire back seat. I mean it – there was only about five inches between the top of the sub box and the roof of the car. Again, at thirty-two my car tastes have matured past subs and amplifiers but at the time they were hallmarks of cool cars.
I only rode in this car a few times in my life but I remember one time distinctly: This fellow, who I realize in hindsight, was a new driver, was horsing around, lost control and almost accidentally sent us sideways through a power pole right in front of the gas station one slippery December eve. Thankfully friction made an appearance at the last second.
I didn’t realize this car held a place in my heart until, as an adult (read: lately), I started to notice these fox-bodied Stangs in traffic, parking lots and used car ads. Even just the other day a friend was saying something derogatory about the fox-bodied Stangs and I found myself getting my back up a bit and coming to the model’s defense. Of course, any argument in defense of these cars is entirely based on the 5.0 Cobra T-top iteration. I think even then you have to be wearing white jeans and a silk shirt unbuttoned down to your navel for that argument to be taken seriously. Any defense beyond that is irrational especially one built around a soft spot for the inline six non-T-top version. Call me irrational then.
The 1994 Mustang was unbelievably cool in late 1993. It was an exciting time in a childhood that didn’t have a lot of exciting times related to new cars. Notable exception is the Viper at around the same time. The Viper was something else – completely out of this world – but it didn’t have same sense history as the Mustang. The other thing was the Viper wasn’t coming to my little town anytime soon. Like the Countache a decade before the Viper was unobtainium.
I have a cousin who, at fourteen in 2008, I know felt the same way about the third generation Dodge Challenger. These are high watermarks in male adolescence; up there with girls and music. REM’s Automatic for the People probably wasn’t one of the greatest albums of all time but it was a great album of my childhood. The three prettiest girls (read: the three pretty girls) in my junior high graduating class of thirty probably didn’t hold a candle to the prettiest thirty girls I knew at university but those are the three I remember most fondly. It’s an impressionable age – a lot gets written directly to the hard drive.
As kids becoming kids who are new drivers we get not the best of the new at that time but what we can afford or what our parents can afford for us to wreck. Tragically in my family it was the K-car relative: the Plymouth Acclaim. This is another story; but my brothers and I have personally driven several Acclaims to early graves.
Only the very lucky get brand new iron but most of us get what we get and those cars we drove and hated or just the cars that were around end up being the cars we love now seventeen years later (Plymouth Acclaim excluded). That silver fox-bodied Ford was not the coolest car but the coolest car in my universe at that very impressionable time and, moreover, it was, for the first time in my life, driven by someone who was just like me – a kid.
I’ll never be a kid again and if my wife has her way I’ll probably never drag home a 1984 Mustang. But when I see them I remember that one beat-up silver one and I smile.
I was too young for it to be my first affair with a car but it was my first peck on the cheek.
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