Archive for Thursday, April 12, 2007

Strange Mustang recalls long-legged memories

April 12, 2007

Driving Monday from Eudora to De Soto I saw a four-door Ford Mustang. Or at least I would swear I did. It was lime green making it really stick out.

It was going west in a hurry and I was driving my usual leisurely pace east.

I remember reading something about a possible four-door Mustang, so I assumed what I saw was such an abomination.

But as I look around the Internet I found such a thing was never built, at least for production. In fact, Ford once released a statement saying they would never make a four-door version of the 2+2 icon (In auto lingo, 2+2 means buckets up front and backseats fit only for preschoolers with stunted legs).

I was relieved.

I have some familiarity with the backseats of Mustangs, having first sat in the back of a 1966 2+2 fastback shortly after a local Woodbine farm kid bought it with his share of the family's wheat crop. Although there's been many flashier models built since, that 289 cubic inch, four-speed remains to me the coolest Mustang not stamped with Carroll Shelby's name.

Four years later, two of my closest friends bought new Mustangs. One went all out, purchasing the Mach I with the shaker hood scoop sticking up through the hole in the hood. The other friend's Mustang had the same 351 cubic-inch motor but without the Cleveland heads included on the Mach 1's performance package, which probably means nothing to anyone who wasn't around in the late 1960s and early 1970s when muscle cars ruled.

Anyway, those two cars had a lot more cachet than my hand-me-down Rambler Classic. But then, what didn't? The designers at American Motors apparently came up with the car's design by placing a box of matches on a package of cigarettes. In that I was probably lucky, as anyone who ever saw an American Motor Merlin would attest. That matchbox on a cigarette package was given a fastback to make it look flashy. It didn't work.

They also had air conditioning and eight-track tape players (the early '70s were primitive times). So there was a lot of cruising in the two cars, sometimes with five large guys loaded per car. If you got stuck in the back in one of those rides, you became very familiar with your knees.

One of those rides I now look back on as one of those "I was lucky to survive my teen years moments." It was a race between the two cars on the twisting old-75 highway, now called Lyons Creek Road. When it came to an end at the gas station owned by one driver's family, we all unloaded laughing and exhilarated. I don't remember even being concerned during the wild ride. Now I'm the worst kind of backseat driving, stabbing the floor for a non-existing brake and clutching the arm rest.

That was the high-water mark. The friend with the Mach I fell in love, married for a short time and lost the car in a divorce. The other traded his in for a Thunderbird. Then the gas crunch hit and suddenly the cars like the Rambler made sense despite its lack of sex appeal, especially if you lived in central Kansas and wanted to visit your friends in such far-off places as Salina and Hays.

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