Winnipeg Free Press

Rag doll

by Larry D'Argis . Jul 15 2016

When Ford introduced the Mustang in New York at the World’s Fair in April 1964 as a 1965 model, it had more than just a hunch the car would be a marketing success.

The failure of the Edsel led Ford to be more reactionary in its vehicle introductions and with the influx of new youth buyers, it needed a game changer.

Mustang had to meet the market in a hurry and based on the successful Ford Falcon, it’s uni-body chassis and economical components helped bring the car in at a reasonable cost. The long hood and short rear deck styling often associated with a sports car had the public lining up to take delivery.

Since then, there’s been no looking back as the Mustang has continued to be a sales winner for Ford and has become a driving passion in the car culture.

Corinne Caruso of LaSalle carries many fond memories of her father Peter Caruso’s red Mustang coupe. Purchased in 1964, it would be the car that Peter and his wife Hannah would bring Corinne home from the hospital in.

While other cars came and went in the family, Corinne always intended to find the car and restore it one day. After saving for many years, she started looking for the red coupe in 2010.

“I found the fellow my father had sold it to, but he had sold the car three months earlier because it was just rotting away in his garage,” says Caruso.

Unable to track it down, she began to look at other suitable Mustangs and in November 2012, spotted an ad for an unrestored, original 1966 Mustang convertible in Dauphin. Later that day, Caruso went to show her husband, Richard Nitchie, the car she found, only to see the ad had disappeared. Luckily, she had written down the telephone number and made the call. The seller had changed his mind about selling the car and had pulled the ad. Caruso says, “I called a couple of more times and after they found I was seriously interested, they agreed to let me see it, and I bought it.” Unfortunately, after getting the car home, the first snowfall of winter came, leaving the Mustang to sit in the garage until spring.

By March 1966, Mustang had sold more than one million units. Doing it in less than two years, the Mustang made history by reaching the number quickly. It created some problems for Ford. The popularity of the Challenger 289 cubic inch V-8, had Ford struggling to produce enough engines to meet demand.

In order to shift more interest to the six-cylinder Mustang and celebrate the “millionth Mustang” sales figure, Ford introduced a special edition model called the Sprint 200. Essentially a Mustang powered by the 120 horsepower, Sprint 200 cubic inch, six-cylinder engine, they were often decked out with many of the options buyers looked for. Sales continued to climb and dealers across North America were ordering their own versions of the Sprint 200. Along with the standard features in 1966, that included, front bucket seats, pleated vinyl upholstery, a sports-type steering wheel, five dial instrument cluster, full carpeting, heater and defroster, left-hand door mirror, back-up lamps, rocker panel mouldings, courtesy lights and full wheelcovers, the dealer added options really put it over the top.

With an April 28 build date, Caruso’s Mustang is what is believed to be a Canadian Prairie Ford dealers interpretation of a Sprint 200.

Finished in Silver Frost, the colour was used on less than three per cent of Mustang production for ’66 and was most often paired with black upholstery, instead of the red seen on Caruso’s convertible.

Under the hood is that 200 cubic inch, six-cylinder engine, with optional Cruise-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, power convertible top, two-speed electric windshield wipers, tint-banded windshield and whitewall tires. Along with new radial tires, there’s also the addition of a ’70s vintage Phillips AM/FM town and country radio with rear speaker.

Caruso is the car’s third owner. An original Winnipeg car, it was sold in 1966 by either Dominion Motors or Gelhorn Motors. It registers 139,000 miles on the odometer and still has the original paint, upholstery and top. There are still the original ’70s-era Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers decals on the side quarter windows. The only changes and repairs done since she purchased the car is a tune-up, fixing a few engine gasket leaks and installing ’67 Mustang wheelcovers.

Easy to find parts for and a joy to drive, the convertible is a solid investment.

Caruso has been a member of the Manitoba Mustang and Ford Association since 2013 and is thoroughly enjoying her car. “I drive it whenever the weather is good, and you’ll probably never see it with the top up,” says Caruso.

The club’s 21st annual Henry Ford Birthday Car Show originally scheduled for Sunday has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond the club’s control. The event will be rescheduled at a later date.