If you're a car fan, you know that this is a big year for Ford's Mustang. Half a century ago, the car blew into town and changed a business dominated by American land yachts with fins, heralding a posse of competitive "pony" cars. Actually, the Mustang is probably named after the World War II fighter plane of that name, not a horse.
In addition to being America's most famous car, it has been a licensed merchandise juggernaut for the Dearborn, Mich. automaker. Under the aegis of its New York-based licensing firm Beanstalk Group (once owned by Ford, now by Omnicom), the nameplate has been on apparel, memorabilia, cologne, nail polish, watches, die-cast cars, toys, and probably a million other products.
But this year Ford's pony car cornucopia will have more symbolism than just the logo on a product made in China. In a kind of "medium is the message" approach, the 50th anniversary program will bring in non-endemic products from manufacturers who themselves have a symbolic relationship to the car or at least American manufacturing. The Mustang watch, for example, is actually made in Detroit by Shinola, a specialty shop in a downtown factory loft, that also makes bicycles, artisanal leather goods, and paper goods. Ford says only 1,000 of the watches will be sold.
“The beauty of industry is still alive and well in Detroit,” said Jacques Panis, Shinola’s director of strategic partnerships. “We are excited to be a part of a growing movement toward American-made products.”
The company has tapped 49 other companies to make products carrying Mustang 50 Years logo inked by by Ford designer Michael Thomson. Among the anniversary products will be die-cast models, video games, and apparel.
One of the manufacturers is Union, N.J.-based apparel company Schott NYC, established the year Ford started making the Model-T, an a manufacturer of bomber jackets during WWII, including for the Tuskegee Airmen. The jackets became famous when the Hell's Angels took them from the bombers they flew in the war to the motorcycles they rode after. Ford says later this year, Schott NYC will produce a limited-edition commemorative Mustang leather jacket.