New Film, 'A Faster Horse,' Takes You Where Few Get To Go

Before Henry Ford built the Model T, he asked people — I'm guessing it would have been over a jug of cider in the barn, rather than a polished table in a conference room — what they wanted most when it came to transportation. The answer: “A faster horse.” Well, as we all know, he decided to stay out of animal husbandry, and give people something else entirely.   

“A Faster Horse” is the somewhat paradoxical title of a new documentary about Ford's — his grandson, Ford II, that is — most famous car, probably more famous than the Model T. It’s an ironic title on many levels. The Mustang was a faster “horse” that turned the automotive world on its ear in when it went on sale in 1965 or so, but it's also not really what people were asking for then, either. Certainly not what Ford — the company — thought people were asking for. What the company and its leader gave the people was the (ahem) Edsel, a dreadful looking thing with a name that matched its nasal aspect perfectly. Even if the car was named in honor of Hank the Deuce's father. 

Around that time, the guys working on the Mustang, including Lee Iacocca, who was Ford division general manager and ended up running Ford (until HF2 gave him the ultimate go-by), were taking a gigantic risk, because you could argue that Americans most certainly did not want that horse; at the time, people were driving land yachts, and they were selling just fine, thanks. 

The movie, directed by David Gelb and produced by Henry Ford's great-great-grandson, Alessandro Uzielli, who runs Ford’s brand and entertainment division,  tells parallel tales: first, the 1964 Mustang, which, as soon as it was out of the gate in 1965 became a monster, Ford’s biggest hit since the Model A, and a car the company simply couldn't build enough of. A car that has gone on to account for 9 million units across its 50 years of life, creating an entire segment out of nothing in the process. A fun, fast set of wheels that was affordable and had chutzpah; the Rocinante for American windmill-jousters everywhere. 

Second, the story of the 2015 Mustang team, led by chief program engineer Dave Pericak, saddled with the extra pressure of having to make the 50th anniversary pony car, and a Mustang that, for the first time, would be truly global, a car for a 120-plus country market. We follow Pericak into meetings that nobody, and I mean nobody, has sat in on before who didn’t have six badges and a lot of clout. Thanks to pull from the producers, these guys got the entrance key, and it is clearly uncomfortable for some of the folks being filmed.  

Besides a lot of great quotes from current and past Mustang designers and engineers, my favorite being something along the lines of,  “A great car is one you actually want to wash,” and (again, paraphrased), “Designing a beautiful car is the easiest thing in the world. Building it, on the other hand, is incredibly difficult” is the revelation that it is a deeply personal endeavor. And the six teams who designed the six generations of Mustang are part of a very small, exclusive club.

And one thing I got from the film that I might not otherwise have appreciated, is the almost religious quality surrounding the project. As one of the designers said in the film, quoting an executive who was busy making him feel the gravitas: “It's bigger than Ford. Don’t screw it up.” You almost get the feeling that the unfortunate team that fails the Mustang also, in some way, fails the country. And failure, in this case, is anything less than a home run. As one person in the film put it, even the domestic competitors root for the success of Mustang.

1 comment about "New Film, 'A Faster Horse,' Takes You Where Few Get To Go ".
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  1. Karl Greenberg from MediaPost, April 22, 2015 at 4:04 p.m.

    Good point. At this point they are just doing the festival circuit. The next step for them is to get a distributor, which is what these festivals are all about. As soon as they do, I will put that note out there on my internets

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