Ford Mustang galloped into the consciousness of classic car enthusiasts throughout 2014 as the original pony car celebrated its 50th anniversary, and was featured as the centerpiece for many major events held coast-to-coast.
The official birth date was proclaimed as April 17, 1964, which marked the sports coupe’s unveiling to wild acclaim at the New York World’s Fair. To commemorate that day, thousands of Mustangs of every ilk took part in a pair of coinciding cross-country drives – one drive wouldn’t be enough – that took the herds to thunderous Mustang festivals in mid-April.
Although Mustang stole most of the glory, there were a number of other significant classic car anniversaries to crow about during the year, though for American drivers, none of them had the cultural significance of the first Mustang.
At a more global level was the 100th anniversary of Maserati, one of the world’s greatest racing and sports-car brands. The official Maserati Centennial gathering happened in Italy, naturally, with hundreds of vintage and contemporary models gathering in Cremona – where Maserati set a major speed record in 1929 – during a drive from Modena to Turin.
But Maserati also was celebrated worldwide with high-end car shows and concours d’elegance events choosing Maserati as honored marque and bringing out rare and historic examples of the high-performance cars for the public to marvel at.
That wasn’t the only important anniversary for Maserati. In May, the Indianapolis 500 honored the 75th anniversary of Maserati’s historic win of the 1939 race by Wilbur Shaw driving the Maserati 8CTF “Boyle Special.” The sleek race car, which Shaw also drove to victory in 1940, was back on the track before the Indy race as veteran race driver Johnny Rutherford took the restored beauty for a parade lap before the roaring crowd.
Dodge also hit the century mark during 2014, setting the date when the Dodge Brothers rolled out their first automobile in November 2014. The yearlong celebration seemed pretty low-key overall, although there was a major corporate party in July at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills, Michigan, with a fine assemblage of vintage Dodge cars and concepts.
Also marking the occasion were 100th Anniversary Editions of the Charger and Challenger
Along with the Mustang, another significant domestic fun car celebrated 50 years. It was the groundbreaking 1964 Pontiac GTO, widely regarded as the muscle car that set the tone for the horsepower wars between American brands through the ’60s and early ’70s. That, as well as becoming an enduring subject for rock ‘n’ roll songs.
Sadly, Pontiac is no longer with us, so the celebration took on something of a muted tone. Although there was at least one big birthday party, held during the 2014 convention of the GTO Association of America car club in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
A remarkable piece of America ingenuity also celebrated its 50th this year, the Meyers Manx dune buggy that was hand-built by Bruce Meyers from fiberglass and VW running gear in his Newport Beach, California, garage. The simple Manx was the first of its kind, which many others copied, and it became emblematic of the 1960s California beach culture.
Manx’s anniversary was officially celebrated in Washington, D.C., during the Historic Vehicle Association’s inaugural Cars at the Capitol automotive heritage celebration in May, when the iconic dune buggy became the second automobile entered into the National Historic Vehicle Register of the Library of Congress (the original Shelby Cobra Daytona race car was the first).
And speaking of Volkswagen, the Beetle marked the 65th year since its introduction to the United States in January 1949. A Dutch businessman became the first importer for VW, and only two of them were sold that first year. But Volkswagen of America established its headquarters on the East Coast later in 1949, and within just a few years, 10s of thousands of beetles were plying American roads.
One of the greatest sports racing cars of the 1950s, the Jaguar D-type, made its debut in 1954 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it roared to second place overall. For its 60th anniversary, the magnificent D-Type is remembered not only for its race-winning performance but for such innovative features as monocoque construction and disc brakes.
Finally, another European automaker celebrated an important milestone during 2014. For Swedish automaker Volvo, it was the 70th anniversary of the unveiling of its seminal compact car, the PV444, shown in prototype form in Stockholm during World War II. The automaker’s first unibody design, the PV444 would begin production in March 1947 and paved the way for Volvo’s legacy of sturdy, safe and well-conceived automobiles.