(Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)
Everyone I know has either owned a Mustang or knows someone who did.
By the time Ford unveiled the first mass market sports car in 1964, the last year in which joining the boomers' club was a demographic birthright, a youthful generation of 83 million strong was emerging whom Ford could target as customers.
CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS OF MUSTANGS THROUGH THE YEARS
The first regular production Mustangs rolled off the Dearborn Assembly Plant line in Michigan on March 9, 1964. According to Sam Abuelsamid, Mustang editor at Global Team Ford communications, the initial media preview of the Mustang took place at the New York World's Fair on April 13, and the official on-sale date was April 17, 1964.
Ford originally forecast fewer than 100,000 sales in the first year. Instead, more than 400,000 were sold.
In the ensuing 50 years, more than 9.2 million Mustangs would be produced and sold, most of them originating close to Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.
I've owned two Mustangs, both used. My first was a Vintage Burgundy, 8-cylinder hardtop that I drove to college in upstate New York. When I moved to California, I bought a black Mustang convertible.
Both cars became associated with my deepest regrets. The first because I traded it in for $200 toward a new powder-blue, feel-the-road-on-your-fanny, no-pep Pinto when the Mustang needed $300 of transmission work. My Mustang soon would be known as a Classic, easily worth $10,000. The convertible turned out to be a Lemon Classic that left me repeatedly stranded from Route 101 to the Santa Cruz Mountains. (I should have known something was afoot when a day after driving the car off the lot, black smoke began pouring out of the tailpipe.)
The first time I saw a Mustang up close was as a youngster waiting to board the Ford Magic Skyway Ride at the World's Fair. It made more of an impression than the concept cars on display at the other end of the ride like the Aurora, "station wagon of the future," though not as much as Disney's Audio Animaltronics dinosaurs seen from the ride itself.
The last time I rode in a Mustang was on a Michigan test track during a press junket for the first dealer-installed MiniDisc player in an American car - a 1994 Mustang. Ironically, neither myself nor an editor from a rival magazine could accept Ford's invitation to get behind the wheel. Neither of us had learned to drive a stick-shift. (Where's that Cruise-O-Matic when you need it?)
Mustang owners have a habit of naming their automobiles. A coed I dated at college called her lime-green hardtop "Boone's Farm" after her favorite brand of fruity jug wine. When a fan site asked, "Does your 'Stang have a name?," replies included: Bessie, Jillian, Demona, Daisy, Miranda and Moneypit.
So, what will future generations of Mustangs bring? Heads-up displays? Touch-screen controls? Self-driving cars? (The latter could prove useful to millions of us fairly soon.) Will Mustang mavens at the end of the road wish to be buried in a hardtop after public viewing in an open convertible?
These and other topics will likely be discussed at twin birthday celebrations April 16 - 20 to mark 50 years of Mustang. Ford describes the event as "so large it will be held at two locations - Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway." It's open to enthusiasts from around the world and will feature a range of activities from car cruises to live bands.
For more information, go to the Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration website or the Mustang Club of America site.