Priceless Mustang I Concept Almost Damaged in Car Show Incident

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

Full gallery here

If you go to enough museums and car shows around Detroit, sooner or later you’ll get to see the Mustang I concept of 1962, normally on display at the Henry Ford Museum’s Driving America exhibit, and the Mustang II concept of 1963, which is owned by the Detroit Historical Museum. For example, the Mustang I was part of Ford’s display at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. Though the Historical Museum’s building doesn’t have much space for car displays, its own proto-Mustang is frequently loaned out and just a few weeks before these photos were taken, the car was on display in Flint at the Sloan Museum’s Auto Fair. Since I’ve shot the Mustang II concept a couple of times before, when I was at the Sloan show, I didn’t bother taking any photos of it that day. However, because the two cars are owned by different institutions, getting a chance to see and photograph both of the first two Mustang concept cars together is a rare thing. Getting to see both of those cars together, along with an early short wheelbase two seat Mustang show car that Ford adopted and renamed the Mustang III, may have been a unique experience. The “shorty” Mustang III only started being shown again, after almost a half century, in 2013, so this may well have been the first time these three cars were displayed together.

1962 Mustang I concept car. Full gallery here

All three Mustang concepts were on display at the Ford Product Development Center Employees’ Car Show held on the grounds of the PDC in Dearborn. Babysitting the Mustang I was Matt Anderson, who is the transportation curator at the Henry Ford Museum and a representative of the Detroit Historical Museum was there to keep an eye on the Mustang II. The Mustang III has been in private hands ever since the original owner bought if from Ford’s insurance company after the car had been stolen by its designer to save it from the crusher and was later recovered.

Mustang III (AKA Shorty) concept car. Full gallery here

That’s a great story, but it will have to keep for another day because this post is about how my grandson almost damaged a priceless piece of automotive history.

1963 Mustang II concept car. Full gallery here

Anderson wasn’t the only babysitter there that day. I typically watch my grandson Aryeh at least once a week. He’ll be three years old next spring and sometimes schedules conflict and I end up having to take him to some kind of car event like the battery and EV expo last year or the PDC car show, which is held on a weekday. It usually works out. I use his stroller as a camera cart and since he’s a fairly well mannered child, he usually doesn’t fuss much. Besides, he likes cars and trucks. As cute and charming as he is, owners of cars on display will often let him sit behind the steering wheel. As a result, I have a series of photos of Aryeh in the drivers’ seats of a variety of cars, some of them fairly exotic. When he’s old enough to drive, he can tell his friends that he was once behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo Montreal.

The Montreal was just one of the vehicles at the PDC that Aryeh got to sit in. There was a 1955 Ford four door that had had the roof removed in a conversion to a Coca Cola themed soda shop and a couple of vintage tractors. Aryeh even got to sit in the tub of a Formula SAE racer. Like I said, he’s a charming kid.

“But how will you hydrate during the race with that thing in your mouth?”

He’s also a quick leaner, though in this case, he learned the wrong thing, that it’s okay to touch cars at a car show.

Matt Anderson and I have a very cordial working relationship and I make it a point to greet him when I notice that he’s at an event that I’m attending. At the corral of historic Mustangs I started to talk with Anderson and then had a discussion with the historical museum’s representative about the status of the city of Detroit owned museum’s car collection vis a vis the city’s financial bankruptcy. One of the issues of that bankruptcy has been the status and disposition of the Detroit Institute of Arts billion dollar plus collection, also owned by the city. I’ve written about the possibility that the six dozen or so historically significant cars that the DHM owns, cars with unparalleled provenance, might have to be sold off to satisfy the city’s creditors and I wanted to know his opinion. While we were engaged in conversation, Aryeh walked over towards the cars and it wasn’t until he got past the rope barrier and started to climb up onto the Mustang I that we noticed where he was headed.

Very little of the Mustang I concept made it to the production car. The Mustang I was a mid-engine two-seat sports car with a V4 engine, not a “secretary’s car” as many of the first generation production Mustangs were, nor a V8 powered muscle car, into which the Mustang developed. However, one styling feature on the first Mustang concept made it to the production car and it continues to be found on the latest Mustangs, the coving on the car’s flanks. The Mustang I’s coves, though are much deeper than on the actual Mustangs, there’s about a 4 inch wide shelf in the fiberglass.

Just as we spotted him, Aryeh put one foot on the cove shelf and, using the frameless window glass of the speedster styled roadster as a grab handle, he hoisted himself up onto the car. We could see the one-off window start to flex. Matt and I dashed towards the car and I gently lifted my grandson from it before he managed to damage anything. It’s a good thing that the Mustang I was a fully engineered, operational automobile, built to at least withstand the rigors of test track driving, because the door and window appear to be a bit more substantial than what you’d find on a “pushmobile” concept.

To be honest, I know that Anderson is a nice man but I was surprised at his equanimity. The car may not belong to him but he was responsible for it and I’m sure that if it got damaged while under his supervision there’d be consequences. He took his handkerchief out and wiped some smudges off of the window glass.

A couple of weeks later I ran into Matt while he was the reviewing stand’s master of ceremonies at Greenfield Village’s Old Car Festival. I thanked him for being so kind to my grandson, saying that I could see the owner of some mundane 1964 1/2 Mustang screaming at Aryeh and going off on me for a toddler just touching their car. The museum curator laughed and said that the only damage was some “tiny fingerprints”.

Thus my grandson avoided becoming a footnote in automotive history and I got a story to tell you.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

Ronnie Schreiber
Ronnie Schreiber

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, the original 3D car site.

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  • Grivetti Grivetti on Nov 09, 2014

    Having fourteen grandchildren - four children, who apparently have the same hobby as I do, I can vouch for the chick magnet appeal of the little darlings. My latest is just a year old, and attracts people who would never normally even look at the old guy. I highly recommend renting one, but try to keep it under eighteen months. otherwise the talking can out you.

  • Bachewy Bachewy on Nov 10, 2014

    I had a similar incident with my little niece. Last January my family went to Vegas with my brother in law's family. One mandatory visit was Shelby American at their new location. We walked around inside a bit and noticed the roped off area with special bits of cars lying about - a lot of the building was still under construction so no cars were out there yet. My cute little niece went under the rope and dashed over to, and on top of, a special painted hood that, I believe, bore Carroll's signature. The little squirt was so fast we could only shriek, as manly as possible, as she planted both feet on top of the hood. We screamed at her to come back while a nice Shelby employee came out, chuckled, and went back inside the garage. We were sure we'd end up paying big bucks to repair the hood. Lucky she didn't weigh much and her sneaker didn't scratch it any.

  • Carson D I hadn't seen a second-generation Courier with a Mazda engine before. I've seen a few with Ford engines. There was one at the Cox Driving Range that they used to collect golf balls. Golf would definitely be more entertaining to watch if they used moving targets.
  • Tassos ooops, Tim, you missed this one. Would make a lovely "Tim's used car of the day". It satisfies all the prerequisites except the wildly overpriced bit.
  • Tassos ASTON AND BOND BY A MILE. While Aston Martin sells a TINY FRACTION of what even the rarified Ferrari and Lambo sell, it is unbelievably well known. Credit the idiotic, but hugely successful and sometimes entertaining James Bond Movies.
  • Tassos 1988? Too young for me. It's all yours, Tim... BAHAHAHAHA!
  • Gray Awesome. Love these. But, if I had the money for a Fox-body, there is a clean '84 GT 350 here for little more than half the price.