ON THE STREET | Alliterative Tires Edition


Look at all that trim.

This one was parked here this morning, but I didn’t have time to stop, and it was crowded in with Boxsters and Explorers and other stupid cars. Thankfully, it was still there as the sun was headed down.

What I first just wanted to see because it’s an oddball, unloved-year Mustang turned out to be more.

There’s something about this combination that, seeing it 40 years later, says so much more than I think even the designers could have anticipated.

First, the color: it’s gold… ish. But there’s something off about it. Like fruit that’s sat in a fruitbowl a little too long. Then, there’s the big one: the vinyl roof. The “feature” that came to define so much of car design in the 70s.  And not just the black vinyl– the finishing touch of the plated emblem on the C pillar: Grande. Yessss, Mustang. You were grande. And that hip-to-shoulder– it presages all of the giant GM bloatmobiles to come, but somehow does it better. It’s what the Buick Riviera would become, but it signed the guestbook first.


Take the ever-growing body of the 1970+ Mustang, and add a vinyl roof and some sweeping buttresses (beating the Jaguar JXS to the buttress game by five years or so), and maybe the undeniably badass ’71 Boss turns into a civilized coupe that suburbia would buy into…

Or maybe not. It’s too contrived. This is the era of Mustang defined by GM defectors Larry Shinoda and Bunkie Knudsen: a Mustang growing too fast to contain engines soon to be killed thanks to oil crises and catalytic converters, the market of Midwestern suburbia already at capacity for muscle cars, and compounded with a marketing department dictating that design for cars like these needs to address ‘personal luxury.’

This is the result.

Take a good look at that first picture. The Mustang II actually did a pretty good job of scaling down to a much-smaller platform. And time, I think, has been kinder to those love-to-hate-‘m Mustangs than it has to this one. At least the Mustang II had the luxury of landing right when OPEC closed the taps.

Corporate legacy. Engineering dinosaurs. Design directors who were behind the times. Design departments that actually were first in predicting the coming era– and it was not an era of optimism, headed their way. Whether that’s because of their daily environment, or a greater awareness of zeitgeist, the result’s the same. Something that you can’t really love.

But from here, 40 years later, there’s a lot to: a compromised design that’s been cared for despite its origins.




My favorite part of this isn’t the exhaust. It isn’t the suspension. It’s the tires. The fronts say Winston Winners. The rears say Cooper Cobra.


Can’t do much better than that.


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