Don Woerz has been a fan of Ford cars — Mustangs in particular — as long as he can remember.
He and his wife own two Mustangs, a Rangoon Red 1965 hardtop and a Candy Apple Red 2008 GT convertible. He counts himself among hard-core Mustang enthusiasts and is a former president of the Northeastern Ohio Mustang Club.
And Woerz is looking forward to Ford’s official unveiling today of the redesigned 50th anniversary Mustang. Photographs of the 2015 Mustang have been leaking out online the past couple of days prior to today’s announcement.
Ford sold the first Mustang as a “1964½” model in April 1964, single-handedly creating the iconic American pony car genre.
“I guess I’m not keen on a lot of changes,” said Woerz, 76, a retired Ohio Edison lineman and foreman who lives in Tallmadge. He hopes the new design incorporates a lot of traditional Mustang cues, including the distinctive front grill and rear taillights.
“As long as it’s rear-wheel drive, and it’s supposed to be,” Woerz said. “They’ve done a good job [over the years] with the Mustang.”
He’s far from the only person looking forward to what Ford has decided to build and sell starting next year.
Derek Moore actually got to drive what many believe is the very first Mustang, with a serial number ending in “01,” to come off the production line.
The Wimbledon white V8-powered convertible is part of the collection at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
Moore previously worked at the Henry Ford Museum and is now curator of transportation history with the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland.
“In some ways it was a game-changing car,” Moore said of the Mustang. “It’s a new idea. ... It is one of the cars that is a legacy for the company.”
Moore said Ford will have done a lot of homework in designing the 50th anniversary Mustang, including getting a lot of input from current Mustang owners.
“It has become such a legendary car for [Ford]. It is one that they pay a lot of attention to,” he said.
Moore expects the 2015 Mustang car will retain a lot of “throwback” styling while moving forward with new technology.
“It probably is going to be a huge hit,” Moore said.
Former Ford vehicle designer Patrick Schiavone, widely credited with saving the Mustang from extinction with the redesign of the 1994, or fourth generation, model, expects the new Mustang will do well.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting car. I think it’s going to look pretty cool,” he said.
Schiavone, an Akron-area native and 1976 graduate of Walsh Jesuit High School, for years was one of Ford’s top vehicle designers. He now is global vice president of design at Whirlpool Corp.
He recalled that when he took part as a young designer in an unofficial “skunk works” competition in 1989 to rethink the Mustang — the projects require lead times of years — he did not realize he was going to be part of saving the automotive icon.
At that time, Ford was anticipating killing off the Mustang and replacing it with the new, front-wheel drive Probe coupe. Mustang fans from around the world inundated Ford with pleas not to kill the car, he said.
Schiavone said he and others were largely left alone to redesign the Mustang.
“None of the bosses were there. We just did the car,” Schiavone said. Among the inspirations for his team was a large blow-up poster of the late actor Steve McQueen and his 1967 Mustang from the thriller movie Bullitt, he said.
His design, which incorporated the original 1965 Mustang’s side scoops, won — and his subsequent presentation to Ford’s board of directors and Ford family persuaded the company to keep making the car.
“They gave us the money, a couple hundred million,” Schiavone said. “It became a real program. We saved the Mustang. ... It’s had a tough life. It’s pretty neat that it’s still alive.”
Schiavone said he might end up buying the new Mustang.
As for Woerz, he’s happy with his ’65 and ’08 models. He said he and his wife regularly take trips in their ’08 convertible while driving the ’65 just locally, primarily to venues where enthusiasts show off their vehicles.
Woerz said he has put only 5,300 miles on his 1965 Mustang since buying it in 1991.
He also expects fellow members of the Northeastern Ohio Mustang Club will be extremely interested in the unveiling today.
“I hope they don’t go too far from the original” with the redesign, Woerz said.
Check out Ford’s video introducing the new Mustang at http://youtu.be/4YzdTldKvoE.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.