Welcome to Little Car in the Big City, where I highlight fascinating cars I found walking around a town that is known for being bigger than everything else, but where every car is fighting to stand out: New York, New York.
1968 was an auspicious year for the Ford Mustang. Born in 1964 (and a half, like any true toddler), by 1968 it had finally matured into its own. While I get what the Mustang was going for when it was first born, something doesn't seem quite right to me about those early 'Stangs. They almost look a bit too skinny, a bit too gangly, like a newborn giraffe. The roofline is a bit too boxy, the hood and front end looked a bit too squashed.
Don't get me wrong, early Mustangs are definitely pretty. But they still had a ways to go.
By 1968, though, the shape had filled out. It had a more square stance, with a chiseled jaw and a barrel chest. In fastback form, it looked especially great. It was also available for the first time with the iconic 302 cubic inch "Windsor" V8, which put out 230 horses. And that wasn't bad in a car that's relatively light, by today's standards.
Of course, 1968 was also the year that Steve McQueen used a green Stang with a 390 V8 in Bullitt, which, despite being generally a crappy movie, had fantastic chase scenes throughout San Francisco.
The Mustang I saw here on Fifth Avenue is a great example of the model year for two reasons. The first is that it's in a fantastically great shade of red, and it's amazing that it's not covered in rust or something because of the hideous New York winters. The other is that, despite being the base model, it's surprisingly un-retouched. Not many Mustangs have survived completely unmodified, especially the base models, simply because they're capable of so much more. A lot of people see that, and nearly 50 years later, the temptation can be strong.
Especially when you consider the fact that it only came with a piddly little inline-six engine. Ford called it the "Thriftpower," and not just because it was cheap. It was remarkably thrifty with how little power it put out – only 115 horses. Which is sad, in a pony car. I know they were originally meant to be more of a style thing, but even then. 115 horses, in 1968?
If only Ford had saved that sad little figure for after the Oil Crisis.