Mustang World's Fair
Mustang Launch: The Grand Introduction
Many activities are planned. … These exposure programs will put the Mustang in the spotlight before millions. - Chase Morsey, Jr.
It all began with an inauspicious statement.
“Ford Division confirmed today that it will introduce a new line of cars this spring,” said the press release issued Feb. 6, 1964, by Lee Iacocca, vice president of Ford Motor Company. “The new line of cars will be called the Mustang … no further details on the new car line will be revealed until the time of its public introduction.”
What followed was one of the largest automobile and product launches in history. Officially under development since 1961, the Mustang was introduced through billboards, television specials, commercials, and most importantly in-person contact. The Mustang’s grand debut came on April 14, 1964 for the press and April 17, 1964 for the general public. The official unveiling took place at the largest exhibit at the New York World’s Fair, the Ford Pavilion also known as the Wonder Rotunda.
At the Fair, the Mustang was on display in and around the Wonder Rotunda, and visitors could ride in an all-new Mustang convertible on the Magic Skyway ride. This ride was designed by Walt Disney and his staff to be “a fantasyland of the past, present and future.” The convertible would take visitors through a nearly half-mile, twelve-minute ride depicting “millions of years of life on Earth.” The almost 15 million visitors who took the ride were thus able to inspect the Mustang’s interiors and familiarize themselves with its many available options and accessories.
To honor the Mustang’s first birthday, Ford executives including Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca, and Don Frey, returned to the Wonder Rotunda at the World’s Fairgrounds. This celebration coincided with festivities across the country to honor the many accomplishments of the Mustang and its growing community of owners. The Mustang set the industry record for sales during the first year with more than 418,000 units, breaking the previous record set by the Ford Falcon in 1960, and more than doubling the expected sales total of 150,000 for the Mustang. During the celebration at the Wonder Rotunda, the Mustang received the Tiffany Gold Model for Design Excellence and the Industrial Designers Institute’s bronze medal. The Mustang was the only car honored by Tiffany and one of only four honored by the IDI.
The Mustang’s astounding success was not just due to this historic grand entrance and marketing campaign, but also the car’s affordability, performance, innovative look, and spirit of fun and freedom. The base model of the Mustang began at $2,368.00, making this first “pony” car accessible to many drivers. Multiple available options and accessories allowed the Mustang to be upgraded toward sportiness or luxury depending on the owner’s desires. This tradition of broad appeal, sportiness, and accessibility, has not only helped the Mustang thrive for the past fifty plus years, with over ten million Mustangs sold, it has made it an enduring American icon.