Ford Mustang marks 60th birthday with 800-car party in UK

Mustang day crowd
Mustang day crowd

Whichever kind of Mustang lights your fire, it was on show

Every country has its car: Mini, Volkswagen Beetle, Fiat 500, Renault 5 – each bound up intrinsically with the heritage of its respective land of origin, and in certain cases nearly as long-lived.

The US could claim a few, but it’s arguably the Ford Mustang that stands proudest as the automotive embodiment of Americana, with its fusion of affordability, cachet and performance propelling it to become one of the country’s – and the world’s – best-selling cars of all time.

But who would think it had such a huge and fanatical following in the UK, where it’s been sold officially for only the past seven years?


Some 800 cars turned out to celebrate the Mustang’s 60th birthday at the British Motor Museum last weekend, which would feel like a commendable turnout had it been held in Ford’s home state of Michigan, let alone Oxfordshire.

The variety of cars on show was testament to the Mustang community’s inclusive and accepting nature, which is clearly reflective of the everyman appeal of the car itself.

Topfuel funny cars rubbed wings with well-worn, scrappily painted, ‘grandpa-spec’ cruisers and ground-scraping drift weapons; concourse-spec museum pieces – seemingly fresh of the Dearborn production line – parked next to comically modified examples adorned with bullet-hole stickers and famous cartoon characters; and even the less well-loved iterations of the Mustang, such as the 1980s Fox Body and its SN95 successor, were well represented.

Perhaps it goes without saying, though, that the infamous Pinto-based Mustang II – emblematic of America’s lesser-celebrated Malaise era – was less overtly celebrated. The new-generation S650 Mustang, which is just a few weeks away from being launched officially in the UK, took centre stage.

But it was flanked by an immaculately restored 1966 car and a freshly registered Mach-E, both of which commanded a good deal of attention from enthusiasts young and old – somewhat reassuringly, in the case of the Mach-E.

There has been much talk since the Mach-E’s 2020 launch of its place in the Mustang family tree (namely, whether it deserves one at all).

From its representation and reception here, though, you sense that it’s finally been folded into the ranks – perhaps lending credibility to Ford’s ambitions of one day extending the nameplate yet further to encompass a whole range of models, à la Seat’s Cupra or Volvo’s Polestar.

The electric crossover cut a faintly anonymous and bland figure in this context, particularly considering the garish outlandishness of some of the ‘real’ Mustangs on display, but clearly it is not without its fans.

While it might not snap necks by virtue of a crackling V8 or a beefy bodykit, there was intrigue afoot here – perhaps doubly poignant, given this particular crowd’s inherent predilection for burnouts and whopping-great V8 motors.

How long before kilowatts replace cubic inches as the measure of credibility in the queue for the hot dog van?

For now, though, the biggest huddles formed around the likes of mechanic Simon Day’s brilliantly faithful tribute to Lightning McQueen from Disney’s Cars movie – a perfect example of the Mustang’s inter-generational appeal – and the jaw-dropping 1965 Fastback brought along by Car SOS star and self-confessed Mustang fanatic Tim Shaw.

But just as you could have spent hours gawping at the quality of some of these restorations, or marvelling at their owners’ commitment to originality at all costs, there was just as much delight to be had in the neighbourly sense of familiarity and friendliness that pervaded this event.

While some long-running car models have attracted a somewhat cynical and adenoidal gaggle of gatekeepers at the forefront of their followings, the Mustang seems to have steered clear of that exclusivity, instead soldiering on into its seventh decade with its people-pleasing attributes of value and charm firmly intact.

Our must-have Mustangs

Seemingly by genuine coincidence, Mustang Day fell on the same afternoon as the Grand National at Aintree, but it was even harder to pick a favourite from the approximately 800 ponies on display at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon.