Two Mustang Owners Mark Iconic Ford Model’s 60th Anniversary

WOLCOTT, CT – Paul “Buddy” Musso of Cheshire and Gene Fercodini of Wolcott have known each other for decades. They’re golfing buddies and each owns a 1966 Ford Mustang. Musso’s six-cylinder Mustang hardtop is red with a white vinyl top. Fercodini’s eight-cylinder convertible is black with a black top. Both cars have automatic transmissions.

The two men share an affection for the Mustang that goes back to their youth as well as extensive knowledge of one of the most successful models in automotive history. “I was 11 years old and I remember when it came out,” Musso recalled last week. “Actually, I saw the first one at the World’s Fair in New York in 1965.” 

Gene Fercodini, left, and Paul “Buddy” Musso and their 1966 Ford Mustangs

It was 60 years ago – on April 17, 1964 – that Ford publicly unveiled the Mustang. The reveal took place at the Ford Pavilion, known as the Wonder Rotunda, on the grounds of New York’s World’s Fair in Queens. Ford’s exhibit featured a Magic Skyway ride and enabled fairgoers to inspect the Mustang, which was released as a 1964½ model.

Musso got to study the Mustang further in 1966 when his sister got a 1965 convertible upon graduation from high school.

See a video of the two owners and their Mustangs…

Fercodini’s introduction to the Mustang came in 1965 when, at age 20, he took a job at Crestwood Ford in Watertown. He soon purchased a 1965 Mustang hardtop with 289-cubic-inch V8 engine and three-speed manual transmission.

Fercodini worked in parts and service for Ford stores up until 2000. He even owned a company in Waterbury for five years in the 1980s called U.S. Mustang that sold Mustang parts and accessories. 

“Having worked for Ford and having been there all these years, I can tell you that the people who owned Mustangs, they were teenagers, they were middle-aged, they were older people,” he said. “It didn’t make a difference. If somebody wanted an economical car, they would buy a Mustang.”

Musso agreed. “It was a very, very popular car and it was done at a very good price. Price point was good on the car, so you could do like a basic six-cylinder automatic fairly inexpensive,” he said, “or you could so something with a bigger motor and four-speed that attracted a lot of kids. They did the fastback, the 2+2 fastback. They had some good variations on the car – convertible, hard top.”

Some digging on the websites of Ford and The Henry Ford museum reveal just how popular the Mustang was back in the mid-1960s. Within four months of its release, more than 100,000 Mustangs had been sold. Approximately 420,000 were sold in the first year and on March 2, 1966 – less than two years after its debut – the one millionth Mustang rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Mich. 

It was the New York ad agency J. Walter Thompson that suggested the name Mustang because “it evoked open spaces, the American West and untamed freedom,” according to The Henry Ford museum. 

Other names that were considered included “Monte Carlo” (before Chevrolet used it), “Monaco” (before Dodge did likewise), “Torino” and “Cougar,” which was later used for sibling brand Mercury’s answer to the Mustang. Even “Bronco” and “Colt” got suggested.

The Mustang conceived by then Ford executive Lee Iacocca, but it was another exec, Hal Sperlich, who suggested using a Ford Falcon chassis for the Mustang, which saved Ford hundreds of millions of dollars in development costs and made the model possible. 

Paul “Buddy” Musso’s 1966 Ford Mustang

Not only was the Mustang affordable with an original base MSRP of $2,368, the model was versatile. “Hertz took ’em on for rentals, which became a big thing. (Designer) Carroll Shelby decided he was going to do something with the Mustang. That became a big thing, so the Mustang kinda really took off,” Fercodini said.

Musso has had his Mustang for 18 years. It was passed down from his father who bought it 35 years ago. “Everything is original on it. The only thing he did was have a vinyl top put on it. Other than that the car is all original,” he said, although it is currently lacking interior door panels.

It doesn’t get that much use. “I drive it a few times a year; take it to a few shows. I don’t drive it a lot. I have a bunch of cars. I can’t drive ’em all,” Musso said.

Paul Fercodini’s 1966 Mustang

Fercodini’s Mustang arrived 45 years ago, but hasn’t been out on the road since 1996 when it was driven in Wolcott’s Bicentennial parade. It does get started regularly, and was driven out on to the street so that photos could be taken for My Ride. 

“I parked it in the garage and there it sat. One of these days I’ve got to make up my mind, I’m either going to drive it or sell it. Probably leaning more toward selling it now because I have another Mustang that I drive every day,” he said, referring to a 2005 Mustang convertible that was parked in his driveway.

The 1966 Mustang has been restored and modified somewhat. It has dual exhausts, wire wheels, and a wood-grain interior.

That the Mustang made a splash upon its debut isn’t surprising given its sporty looks. In addition to the high profile reveal at the World’s Fair, Ford also rans print ads for the model in 2,600 newspapers nationwide and TV ads in the prime time series “Hazel” on NBC, “Perry Mason” on CBS and “The Jimmy Dean Show” on ABC that reached more than 29 million viewers.

The result was instant “Mustang Mania.” For enthusiasts Like Musso and Fercodini who remember the model’s debut, the Mustang’s luster hasn’t faded. 

(Photos by Bud Wilkinson)

(A version of this story originally appeared in the “Republican-American” newspaper on April 20, 2024.)

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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