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From Zero to Sixty

Author: Devan Mighton
Photographer: Anthony Sheardon
1 week ago
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The Ford Mustang is a global, multi-generational fascination. For six decades, Windsor has built the heart of the Mustang, and the Ford Essex Engine Plant and its operation have been a critical component to the success of this iconic car and the Ford Motor Company as a whole.

Introduced on Apr. 17, 1964, the Mustang was originally projected to move 100,000 units annually. However, in its first year, released only 16 days after the rival Plymouth Barracuda, the Mustang sold over fourfold its original sales forecast, becoming the most successful launch for Ford since the 1927 Model A. Then, Ford’s slick new car, derived from existing model lines, has since never fallen from favour and is popular among both the older and newer generations. In fact, to its credit, the Mustang hit a production milestone of 10 million cars in August 2018.

On Sunday, Apr. 14, Ford of Canada invited both Mustang enthusiasts and employees to drive their ‘Stangs to the Ford Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, home of the 5.0-litre and V8 engine, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Mustang. In all, over 300 Mustang owners attended and formed the number ’60’ with their cars for a series of history-making aerial photographs.

“I really liked the event; I was very happy,” says Darrell Ducharme, a retired Ford employee of 33 years and proud owner of a 1967 Black Mustang Coupe. “Everyone wanted to get into the six-zero formation. It took 26 cars to do it and there were about 300 cars there. They did it 10 times to get everybody through it. It was really inclusive. Most car shows, you just park your car and you walk around, but this one was dynamic and interactive.”

Three days later, Ford held a similar rally down in the United States, with an owner and fan event at the famous Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina.

“Mustang is an automotive and pop culture icon, and it has a long history in film, television, and music, as it symbolizes more than just a high-performance car,” explains Ford of Canada’s Scott Kuzma, vehicle line marketing manager. “We’ve sold more than 10 million Mustangs since the first one was sold in 1964, and, in Canada, we have sold approximately 700,000 Mustangs since the vehicle first launched in 1964.”

Ducharme calls his Mustang a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Having bought the ‘Stang in 1981 from his Great Uncle Clarence, when he was only 17 years old, for $1000 that he earned through his paper route, Ducharme has driven his beauty ever since, choosing to restore the car over replacing it. The Tecumseh resident says everything in the car is modern, with its four-wheel disk brakes, racing fuel cell, AC, power steering, fuel injection, and the engine and transmission straight out of a 1995 Mustang GT, the last year of the Pushrod 302.

At 60, born the same year as the initial release of the Mustang, he feels a close connection to the brand. “It was a game-changer when it was released in 1964-1/2,” he explains. “They called it a ‘pony car’. It had a long hood and a short deck. People also referred to it as a secretary’s car, but it was very different. It was made from Falcon parts—all of the suspension, the axles, and a lot of the componentry was from a Ford Falcon—which was a kind of an ugly car—but, I think, the attraction for people was that it was affordable, and it was cheerful. You could work on it yourself; you could improve it; you could always upgrade it and do things to it.”

As a Mustang lover and 33-year employee with Ford, Ducharme is a part of the Mustang culture. Not only do fans of the brand and casual car owners, alike, sweep these cars off the lot every year upon their release, but the aftermarket options for the iconic car are also  endless and a passion for many thousands around the world.

Windsor is at the epicentre of Ford Nation. The Ford Motor Company Windsor Engine Plant, located in the heart of Windsor, began production in 1923 and is the oldest facility owned by Ford Motor Company of Canada. The Ford Essex Engine Plant was built in 1981 and has been a major employer in the Windsor-Essex region ever since. From the opening of the plant until 2007, the factory produced a variety of V6 engines (3.8L, 3.9L, and 4.2L). At that point, the plant closed, but not for long. With assistance from both the Canadian and Ontario governments, the plant reopened in February 2010 to produce the new 5.0L V8 version of the Ford engine.

“For 60 years, Windsor has built the heart of the Mustang,” states Kuzma. “Its operations have been a critical component of the overall success of Ford Motor Company, currently providing engines for Ford’s biggest icons—including the Ford Mustang, Ford F-150, and Ford Super Duty—vehicles that have become a part of Ford’s cultural fabric with a huge loyal, global, and multi-generational following.”

With sixty years in the books, the Mustang is not slowing down. Newer, sleeker designs, ready to feed the consumer’s need for speed, while complimenting the traditions set forth by the brand since 1964, the Mustang is ready for its next chapter.

“The all-new, seventh-generation Mustang is the latest chapter for the icon, delivering looks, sound, and appeal,” explains Kuzma. “Whether convertible or coupe, V8 or turbocharged 4-cylinder, manual or automatic, the Mustang has options at multiple price points and performance levels.”

On Apr. 14, as those 300-plus Mustangs rode off into the horizon, and their motors roared off into the distance, down Lauzon Parkway, towards the 401 and E.C. Row Expressway, Windsor’s legacy as an industrial hub and a cornerstone of the automotive sector of North America was reaffirmed once again. A legacy that began in 1923, accelerated in 1964, hit top gear in 1981, and is cruising along to this day.

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