Sometimes, I envy the Chevy guys. Just about anyone can build a Chevrolet and for not much money. Parts are easy to find and with good interchangeability. You can make a lot of power with a Chevrolet without spending a fortune. It is a proven successful formula that has worked for more than a half century. The small-block Chevy V-8 has been around since 1955, which is before a lot of us were born. It remains the most popular engine ever produced with interchangeability unmatched anywhere in the world. The new GM LS V-8 is yet another Chevy loved for its simplicity and ability to make power.
Consider the poor Ford guy for a minute keeping Chevrolet’s small-block and LS V-8s in mind. When I was in the USAF, we used to joke about the small-block Chevy. We called them “belly button motors” because everybody had one. It was then I concluded Ford guys aren’t like the rest of the crowd. Ford guys are unique because we’re very committed to the blue oval for better or worse.
We ride the winds of change at Ford and would never dream of doing it any other way. We’re a close knit network of committed people who talk to each other, share ideas, and build some of the coolest hardware out there. However, Ford has never been easy – not for the performance enthusiast nor the buyer. Ford is notorious for running engineering changes that drive enthusiasts crazy. The Blue Oval is also well known for obsoleting parts, dropping models, and disappointing service at the dealer level once you’ve plunked down the cash. What makes us Ford loyalists and why?
Ford isn’t like the other car companies because it has a history like no other. How many other domestic automakers went to LeMans and kicked Ferrari’s ass and could have easily done it again given Ford remaining in racing? How many races have you seen with Ferrari’s crossing the finish line and Mustangs sitting squarely on their tail panels? And what about Shelby’s ability to spank Corvettes with great consistency in SCCA B-production competition with hot Mustang fastbacks? What other automaker still has solid family involvement the likes of Ford? Who besides Ford knows how to get the media’s attention with memorable and sparkling introductions?
Do you know why Ford has such an extraordinary history? Raw burning passion…
Do you know why Ford has such an extraordinary history? Raw burning passion… Ford went to LeMans not necessarily because it was seeking respect in the global motorsports arena, but because Enzo Ferrari backed out at the last minute when Ford attempted to buy the exotic Italian automaker, which made Henry Ford II very unhappy. It was HFII’s white hot demeanor that won LeMans. His fury was the rocket fuel that drove racing professionals like A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney to march across the Atlantic, race for Ford, and win. Ford was going to beat Ferrari at its own game and did.
What keeps us committed to Ford is both its past and its present. Ford’s past as an automaker and racing competitor is well documented. There will never be another car company like Ford in our lifetime. If you examine American automotive history, find me another automaker that has done so much in its history. Can you think of an introduction that even comes close to Mustang’s 48 years ago?
Mustang madness was something great historians will be writing about hundreds of years from now. Buyers who slept in their Mustangs before the check cleared. A truck driver so mesmerized with the new Mustang he drove through the showroom window. Dealers had bidding wars. People bought Mustangs as third and fourth cars just to have one. And Mustang broke all the rules too. Ford’s marketing people had this car pegged as a young person’s ride, yet every part of society bought these cars from the very young to the decidedly old. Ford planned 100,000 units the first year and wound up selling more than 600,000. In the first two years, more than one million Mustangs were sold.
Lets take this insanity a step further. Falcon blew the doors off of everything when it was introduced in the fall of 1959, with roughly one half million units sold that first year eclipsing Corvair, Rambler, Comet, and Valiant. Falcon was a solid little compact car with a great start. Falcon only got better with time until Ford phased it out in 1970. And what a phaseout. On the tail fins of Falcon came Ford’s all-new Maverick. Maverick outsold Mustang and Falcon its first year with more than a half million units sold. Key was a successful marketing campaign and a base sticker price of $1995.00 – well below Volkswagon Beetle and other comparable compacts. People lined up to buy Maverick because it was a smoking deal as a second or third car or for baby boomers headed to college.
Pinto was another remarkable chapter in Ford history certainly outperforming Chevy’s troubled Vega. A smashing success story years later was the Ford Taurus, an unbeatable front wheel drive sedan and station wagon baby boomers with growing families came to love.
What makes Ford an integral part of our hearts is its underdog/comeback kid status. Ford launches incredibly successful vehicles, then manages to mess up a good thing as time passes. Mustang roared out of the gates as a car everyone loved and had to have. Ford quickly moved away from the Mustang’s core audience trying to make the car all things to all people, which was never possible to begin with. What hurt Falcon sales in time was again moving away from what the car originally was. It took on weight and became a lackluster ride before being replaced by Maverick. The same can be said for Thunderbird, which sold well when Ford gave it a rear seat and it evolved into one of the sexiest personal luxury cars ever. Why Ford felt Thunderbird needed a majorly unpleasant makeover in 1967 is beyond me. It became one of the ugliest personal luxury cars ever before the ultimate insult Bunkie Knudsen beak in 1971.
The great appeal of Ford Motor Company is its undying staying power despite all odds. When the economy came crashing in around our heads in 2008, it looked like the end might be near for Dearborn, which was frightening because I couldn’t have imagined our world without Ford. While Washington threw GM and Chrysler lifelines in order to remain afloat, Ford declined the gesture choosing to find solutions on its own under the great leadership of Boeing CEO transplant Alan Mulally. What has emerged from this crisis has been a new lean and efficient Ford Motor Company poised for greatness as we cruise down the road. Ask me again why we stick with a winner.