The Ford Mustang turns 50 years old this week. Ford’s financial wizards projected that it would sell 100,000 to 125,000 units in the first year. Even though the car got good advance reviews from the trade press, Ford’s bean counters were unenthusiastic about the Mustang because they feared the Mustang would cannibalize sales from other Ford models. The Mustang sold 418,812 units in the first year, earning Ford over $1 billion in profits. The smash success of the Mustang established the reputation of the Ford marketing man who had pushed the project against the company’s apathy: Lee Iacocca. Well, that may be one thing we can regret about the Mustang.
Here’s a quiz I give my environmental studies students: Have a look at the first picture below, of a 1969 Mustang, parked in a driveway with the motor off. The second picture is a 2013 Mustang, roaring down the road at 60 mph. Question: which one gives off more air pollution? (Answer below the photos.)
If you’re very clever (or keep up with Matt Ridley), you’ll know the answer is that the parked 1969 Mustang gives off more air pollution, in the form of unburned hydrocarbons evaporating through the old-school carbuerator and unsealed gas tank caps (among other places). A good object lesson in the advancement of engine technology. And the fact that the real heroes of environmental improvement were engineers with pocket protectors more than hippie environmentalists.